Thursday, June 28, 2007

Enfant Terrible - Poem One

When I was younger
an older woman said to me:
“Go down on me.”
She then turned the light off.
It was dark,
I could barely see anything
so I put my hands on her body
and followed its line downwards
until I felt her thighs -
Her cunt was hairy,
its smell was heavy,
like I’d never smelt before.
She opened her legs
before taking the back of my head
and pushing it down into
her thick tuft
of pubes.
They were long and
and I had to search around in them
like an explorer
trying to find a lost relic.
She then instructed me to eat her cunt
as if she were instructing
someone to drive:
“A little to the left.”
“More central.”
“Slow down, don’t rush.”
“Speed up, speed up.”
I then pushed my finger in -
She grabbed the back of my head
and tugged my hair tightly as she shuddered -
this really hurt.
A strange noise then came out of her mouth
before her body relaxed as if she died.
And then there was nothing but silence.

Matthew Coleman

The Martial Art of Cupboard Living

Little Joe smuggled some
evil ketamine (100%)
out of Cambodia in an eye-drop case.
When he went there
to pirate-like plunder
the girls,
the firm teenage
hopeful smiles,
you could buy it in chemists.
At that point
he was using needles,
for the
stopped him sinking
into his boiler room
and the noose.
Well, he did used to live
in a cupboard
with pictures of heavy weights
(Buk, Dos and Celine)
to keep him company
and candles and tissue paper
when he got that nasty itch.

So, he cooked it up
and we snorted it
in a clinical white room
in Bangkok.
Teemu and Crazy Marcus and
Joe and me,
damned in our glorious fantasy
that is Asia.
Sniffing and lying
back on the slow bed,
it hit,
Joe grabs my sweating hand
and in we go…
Snow I became
and the floor, a sofa,
My friends were primal gods,
The blood of all
the slain in the Apocalypse,
dripped through the ground
and our molecules were cleaned, mean
and dry, like the coming ice age.
I scuttled to the toilet on my hands, l
egs akimbo.
Then suddenly,
gravity hit,


Just a faint echo of the drug,
grinning in
our reptilian hindbrain.
Walking home at an early hour,
feet not touching
the ground.

Jason Michel

45 Caliber

Drunk on wine and empty on life
I drove the car up to the lake
and watched couples fucking
in the back seats of cars
imagining how it must have felt
for Christ of all of those years ago
staring into the open legs of Mary
and just
drowning, drowning, drowning.

Mark Vanner


a guy at work asked me how I picked up women.

I told him, "I tell them I'm a writer."

"really?" he asked surprised.

"yeah," I told him, "I play the tortured soul, the guy who
writes poetry. some girls really fall for it."

"wow," he said, "I would have never thought of that. do you
read them poetry too?"

"no," I said, "I never read girls poetry."

"well," he said, "you do not seem like the type of guy who is
good with women but you do have a way."

"yeah," I said, "it's great, but there is one bad side to it."

"what's that?" he asked.

"well often times these girls actually fall in love with me."

"nuh, uh"

"yeah, really, they get all weird and pathetic and want to take
walks on the beach and sit on my lap and sing me love songs."


"yeah, really, so now when I am out trying to pick up women I
just tell them I'm in sales. this way they know I'm only in it
for a good time."

Mike Meraz

These Things Happen

Take this girl – Michelle. Perfect case study. At Barnsfield High she was phenomenal, the ignition of a thousand bang-off fantasies. She was also in the top sets for everything, which disturbed the town’s bizarre sense of zero-sum justice – people who are beautiful shouldn’t be intelligent, people who read books shouldn’t be any good at pool, the genius must not be allowed to tie his shoes. Yet Michelle was one of Barnsfield’s all-rounders.

She had been protective of her growing desires. Recalled the strategic loss of her virginity, in a hotel room at Manchester Airport after the prom and to a man who was not the ones she was particularly into but seemed like he should be the first – good-looking, sporty and precise. This restraint had been a mistake. Rather than killing time until the rest of her life began, she had allowed high school to become the peak.

Every year there were less and less people in the town. She recalled being a name of the pink ladies, the shining ones, and everyone else being a mass of unwanted desire specific only be deformity or aberration. Now all the geeks and salivators and outsiders – they were on six-figure incomes. They had gone away and become barristers or artists or web designers. They had gone through Oxbridge or Edinburgh and were now living in London or Fallowfield or Los Angeles. And she had stayed, reluctant to let go of the kingdom. Except that the kingdom had still fallen.

It had never occurred to her to leave town, despite the predicted grades and the pleadings of her sixth form teachers. University, it don’t mean anything, Ben had said. Ben was then her boyfriend, an exciting older man who had his own car and had dropped out of Manchester Met after one semester of business studies. They were in the Shiloh Arms one Saturday night talking about this. Everyone’s got a fucking degree these days, they expect to get a fantastic job out of it but it’s bollocks, the government should try n discourage people from going. He then said, You can learn more out a honest work than you can from books, and then leaned back with a smile curling at the ends of his lips. It had struck her that Ben had felt the remark to be one of profound wisdom.

She felt now that there was at least something you could learn from books that you couldn’t learn from the StuporStore. She had been at the StuporStore for years now, and felt she’d pretty much got to the end of what could be learned from it. Stock supervision required only a finite skill set.

Michelle walks from there now, with the kit from the mini-Boots. On her way to and from work, she saw people from her year, the shining ones who had stayed, and every time they shone a little less, weighed down with children and money’s absence. And there were fewer of them every time.

Back then Ben had been the answer to all her problems. The urge back then was an urge to get together with someone, to be settled down. It was a race against time. And looking back on it, it was weird that the thing that X Factor and the Pussycat Dolls called love never seemed to come into it. Of course, Ben always said that you shouldn’t get your head in the clouds about that stuff, but in the search for a life mate it seemed like lust never came into it either. In her rare free moments, she thought about that. Wasn’t lust what made the world go round? The reason we were all here?

So meeting him had ceased this anxiety which was so strong it bordered on the masochistic. Twenty years old, with a job and a guitar (nothing more than a personality prop, she later realised; he had never played the instrument in his life) it was what you needed.

So she had been married, then pregnant. Third one from her year. She liked to update the FriendsReunited page, but after a while she ran out of milestones and it got too painful, having nothing to report and having to read the adventures and achievements of the free, single men and women whom she had ignored and mocked as a child.

And now she gets home to an empty house. She has learnt to treasure the silence: they are currently lodging with Ben’s parents near the Railway, the property bubble has forced them out for at least the next two years. Ben’s parents will be at work until half six and the kid is at Sandy’s youngest’s birthday party. Turns on the telly out of reflex, and while she heats and eats a tin of Big Soup she took from work watches this thing about Iran. Voiceover says that in Iran women are enslaved, they have to be covered up at all times and aren’t allowed to go anywhere unaccompanied. Apparently they can be beaten and jailed for noncompliance. Shots of girls walking around in black sacks. Amazing. Couldn’t happen here, though.

She goes into the bathroom, takes the kit out and goes through the procedure, praying for nothing. Ben goes to church. He does not believe in termination. So nothing is the best hope.

After a while the line appears in the tube. She looks at it for a full moment. Then to the mirror. Eyes red from the Baileys at the Shiloh Arms and the half-bottle of rosé wine she needs daily, and settled in the dark sunken pouches of interrupted sleep. Hair washing out and graying at the temples. Lips chapped and peeling. There is a bruise on one cheekbone from the carpet that she hadn’t cleaned last night. There are lines in Michelle’s forehead you could roll coins down. They remind her of the machine slides in the penny arcades that her dad took her to when she was a little girl.

Stress, abuse, lack of sleep, a skewed work-life balance did this to her. But also marriage, motherhood, the pointless sacrifice of all she was and could have been. Michelle looks down at the line, then up at the trenches on her face. She closes her eyes. She is twenty-three years old.

Max Dunbar

Lovebytes #4

Oh yes, I remember when we sat there, where that couple are sitting now. I didn’t know then that you were going to kiss me later that night. Mind you, I didn’t know that that was just what you did. I felt so special. I wrapped that feeling around me and walked around with it for days.

I wonder now, if I had known how the story ended, would I have started it? I mean, knowing you now, knowing that the kisses and caresses just were, and nothing more.

But given the right combination, usually wine and moonlight, I still open my lips to you and let you stuff them with your cotton candy. While I try to distil it for the special that the first hit induced.

Lisa Payne

Dead Eagles Don't Fly (I Don't Know Why, They Didn't Die)

she is speaking as if she lives
in Toyland.
I can only give her the words I wrote

she is sitting on the stolen barstool
everyone used to sit on.
back in the day

(I stole one; its in my house now)

inadvertently I make her
bare her feet and
unexpectedly I feel good.
my feet are bare too

(always are at home)

as she is driving she can only
taste wine from my lips.
she does

we’re having coffee in the garden.
I smoke trying to keep
the smoke from her muddy pool eyes

inadvertently she is sighing delicately
smiling laughing naturally

so do I.
my dark cloud mocked
by deep muddy pool eyes

later on the sofa I’m holding her.
she says ‘old men out there!’
and asks me to close the blinds

Ford Dagenham

Waiting For My Girl

The wild garlic smelt faintly of piss and the small grass mound he was using as a chin rest seemed to be crawling with insects. But then Simon was on a mission to catapult himself into the heart of a girl that never noticed him, a girl that seemed even to make a point of avoiding him. He knew that she walked her dog through the woods, down the path where he had strategically positioned himself. He also knew that love could be attained through the grand gesture.

Simon was hidden beneath ten square metres of Hungarian military camouflage webbing that he had bought at the army surplus shop from a man with thick glasses and dirty finger nails. The webbing was surprisingly heavy. The black, brown, green and yellow leaves of fabric intertwined with the thick-set cord webbing had only just fitted into his school backpack. The pinch of the straps on his shoulders had burst some blood vessels; his pale flesh stained by pinprick red dots.

The path through the woods was a busy one. Simon counted the pairs of shoes as they crunched across his eye line, trying to ignore the dampness that was moving from the earth into his trousers through a slow osmosis. Thirty people had passed by since Simon had set up position at the path side, each one glancing bemusedly over the strange mound of camouflage webbing, wondering what purpose it served. The delicate lime green fauna and clumps of wild garlic were of an entirely different shading to the bold pastels favoured by the Hungarian army.

Three hours and forty seven minutes had passed and still he hadn’t seen the one pair of shoes he cared about. The anticipation was dizzying and Simon wasn’t sure if the dull ache in his belly was from the Kendal mint cake he had found encrusted with clumps of fluff in the pocket of an old waterproof coat, or the first contractions of true love.

Then he saw them, the two dainty red shoes shimmering above the dull grey dirt, followed shortly by four canine feet. Simon, careful not to disturb the form of his hopelessly ineffective camouflage, positioned himself up onto his feet with knees bent. And then he pounced, throwing the webbing up and over his head.

He heard her scream and watched in awe as her eyes focussed on his and quickly dilated. Then a foot connected with his chest and he fell back and passed blissfully into unconsciousness.

“Who the hell was that?”

“I don’t know, dad. I’ve never seen him before in my life.”

Simon eventually regained consciousness close to midnight and beneath the cold shards of the stars relived those earlier scenes, the eye contact, and the recognition over and over until he was warm enough to head home.

Thomas Spooner

Sunshine Underground

There are big blue beads around her neck
clanking up and down
as she jumps barefoot

he leans over her with
a digital camera
taking pictures as she lay
in his lap

his skin, far eastern smooth golden brown
hair shimmers bright in the light
of her delicate cheeks

she touches his knee
stroking his jeans and
downy forearms
in late afternoon shadows

and on this Sunday in June, twenty six degrees
couples link arms
bellies full of food,
I wish that you were here with me

and I know you’re only five minutes walk
away from where I sit
overlooking felled trees
on the way up to Nunhead

and I wish I could pick up the phone
and bring you right here
make you roll in the grass
kiss the nape of your neck

but like everybody says
it’s good to have some space
sit under oak branches
reflect upon you
and the foxes we watched
when we broke through the fence
smoking Golden Virginia
over moonlit ponds

how you wanted to
throw me down by the waterfall
Japanese Maple
tear off my clothes,
chase me round the walled garden
picking lavender for my room

but that was last week
and now I watch clouds
in a sleeveless shirt
seeing your face in cumulous skies

lovers surround me
talking up dreams
and you are in my dreams
and I wish you were here.

Adelle Stripe


It was the gifts that gave us away. I wonder now if gifts are always corrupt. If something is always required in return; gratitude, a favour, friendship, influence. Can a gift be given without asking for something for back?
I like presents. Always have. What difference does it make if it is a mutual exchange of some kind? Aren’t all relationships mercantile? A little give and take?
It started with a pair of shoes, fashionable and brown leather. Then cds, a Parker pen with a gold plated nib, perfume, even a portable telly for my room. We went for long drives, got MacDonald’s burgers to eat in the backseat, we talked – he listened. It is natural to want to return small kindnesses, isn’t it?
He never hurt me. Love isn’t always picture perfect. It doesn’t follow rules. Being disapproved of seems to be the biggest test of a love affair. We had a love affair, what can outsiders know? I loved to be kissed.
The telly gave the game away. My mother said ‘Why would HE of all people want to buy you a telly?’ I couldn’t lie, I mean its wrong to lie and so I told her the truth. She took me off the pill and called the police. And that was that, no more presents.

Heidi James
Heidi James' novella 'The Mesmerists' Daughter' will be published this summer on Apis Books. Her novel 'Carbon' will be published on Wrecking Ball Press later this year.

Tunnels Between Islands

Blackpool, South Shore
Sunday, 18 August 1997

The first thing Lee remembers seeing were her eyes, pale pink and blue, looking his way but elsewhere, unexpectant. Like him, she often passed out with them open. It was a good party trick. They were entitled to strange dreams.

One cheek rested against her hands, on the carpet, her neck strained at an angle, and Kieran was behind her, in his croupier shirt and waistcoat, face set with an expression Lee won’t think about, fucking her hard, gripping the dress bunched around her waist. Lee tried to speak but it was barely even slur, tried to stand and couldn’t. All that they’d done in the night returned to him, and he struggled to find the energy to look around him: for Sam, safety, for somebody to stop this.

On the carpet next to him were some trainers he recognised, leading up to a pair of jeans, and Lee turned enough to see Sam, brushing the hair out of his face, leaning in to get a closer view. ‘Sam,’ he tried to say, ‘stop’ he tried to shout, and then it was the next day and Lauren wasn’t there. Sam was out cold on the other end of the sofa, Kieran on the floor.

Lee ran to the toilets and was sicker than his seventeen years had believed possible. The smell and stain of scorched tinfoil, the steady slap, the unreadable eyes: they formed a landmark, the end of a journey, of childhood. He spewed them up, flushed them away.

Sun was coming in through the bathroom window. The seagulls were screaming outside. He opened the window and looked out; no one was on the streets, it must’ve been early. He checked the bedroom for Lauren. Frank was asleep in his bed with girlfriend Lydia, his gear on the bedside table. No Lauren. (How long had she spent looking into Lee’s face for some recognition before she’d given up? And Sam’s? Before she resigned herself?) Back in the living room, Lee looked down at Kieran. His head rested on hands joined together in pretence of a sweet sleeping kid. That was the end of him for Lee. There was no regret in the decision, except that it hadn’t been sooner. He wanted to step back, take aim and score a penalty with his sick fucking head, but Kieran had it in him to do something far worse to him. He was a twisted fuck. Lauren wasn’t going anywhere near him, he’d see to that.

It was Sam who was the problem. Her boyfriend, his best friend, surrogate brother – his singer. He remembered the eagerness on his face, the absence in Lauren’s. What he thought he’d seen. Thought. They’d never tried it before – it gave you vivid dreams, that was all. Nightmares. Lee looked tenderly at Sam. His fringe was covering one eye; he was hugging a cushion to his chest, his leather jacket thrown over one shoulder. Who’d covered him up? It had slipped down a bit and Lee straightened it, covered his bare arm. He could see him having another fit soon – he should wake him, get him out of here, away from Kieran and Frank. He should ask him what had happened. Lee felt sick again. He should find Lauren. He had to get out of there. It was real.

He put his coat on but paused again as he walked past Frank’s room. He could see the bag on his bedside table. He looked back to the living room. He could see the end of Kieran’s legs, still wearing the shiny black shoes of his uniform. He hadn’t even taken them off. Lee gritted his teeth and tried to smile. He stepped slowly into Frank’s room, took the bag from the table and put it into his pocket.

He opened the door quietly and let himself out. It was a senselessly beautiful morning, pure blue and crisp. The sun warmed his face but the wind made him shiver. The road was empty except for a street sweeper chasing a Mars Bar wrapper with a pair of tongs. Lee nodded at him and walked past, made his way down to the seafront. The tide was in. A tram came. He got on, made the rickety way home. He’d go and find Lauren at hers later. She’d be all right, he told himself, gazing out the window across the sand at the sun mirroring in the sea. This never happened.

Luke Brown

Blowjob Jill

is the only person in the pub
besides the barman
and me.
She is something
of a legend.

Corpulent to the point
of side-show freak,
with an ass like a spacehopper
stuffed with leather gloves;
face the colour & texture
of a minor asteroid;
and not-quite-all-there either,
according to reports –
she was once seen in town
wearing a denim jacket
with a hanger still inside.
But there weren't many lads I knew
who hadn’t taken her
to the bandstand
a back alley
or the Multi-Storey on Osbourne Street.
The rumour was
she gave the best blow-job in town,
that she could suck
the red paint
off a fire extinguisher.

I go over with my pint,
a gin and tonic for her,
and sit down opposite.
Up close, her eyes
are actually
almond-shaped, hazel
and rather lovely.

She smiles, sighs, and asks
where we are going to go
for the inevitable.
But I just ask her why she is
the way she is.
How can she have so little

She tells me she never
has to buy a drink for herself.
She is more sought-after,
more popular
for at least a short time
than the prettiest girls
in all the pubs.
“And the moment they come in my mouth”,
she says, “I know they'll
always compare every other girl
to me, and it'll never be as good.
That’s power.”

But by then her voice
has dropped to a whisper
and her eyes
are everywhere else.

Miles J Bell

Things Are Gonna Slide

It was the cruellest of wake-up calls. Floating blissfully downriver, the clockwork stars clanking into place far above him. And all the while, the cigarette was burning down in the corner of his mouth, glowing with each laboured sleeping breath ‘til it met and, in a fraction of a second, flash-seared his lips. He bolted forward in the seat in the white light of pain, spitting the butt, and the ash that had gathered on his chest, onto the carpet with the wordless caterwaul of the wounded animal. It was some time before he composed himself, shook off the urge to throw-up and remembered who he was.

The night before was a century away. She was a bitter mistress, the single malt. The record was still skipping a Tourette’s mantra on the turntable. A skylight, curtainless, shone the piss-weak light of a winter’s day down on the empty bed. Cracked plates and bottles were scattered about like a mad woman’s shit. A fish, the wrong way up, was slowly circumnavigating the bowl. How he got back to the flat was a mystery, staggering, eyes closed no doubt, some strange internal radar guiding him home as always.

It was late in the day. He could feel it before he even looked out over the rooftops. Hadn’t rained in weeks, the clouds swamping the streets. In the old days they’d read them for signs, messages, witness god’s psychosis as the sky cracked in lightning storms and hurricanes. They’d divine the future from cloud formations, flocks of birds, the flight of arrows, scatterings of dust. It was all a crock of shit of course. Nothing was predestined. God was gone. The future was only how far you could outrun the past before it catches up. Still he had a lingering feeling of dread, one worse than usual. He caught a glimpse of a mirror as he left, an old man looked back.

The café light was flickering, humming like a trapped insect. He took a seat at the back. A woman was gazing absent-mindedly into the cigarette smoke, looking for portents. There was a small sign above the dumb waiter, “Persons are forbidden to enter this lift/enclosure.” There’s a story behind that he thought, some idiot’s demise. The waitress placed the plate in front of him. He knew instantly he couldn’t eat any. His stomach was tied in a shroud knot. He nudged the food around, went through the motions of chewing, then finally pushed it away.

Night was falling early. The clocks had gone back without telling him, winter was in full advance. A plane came in to land out on the horizon. Three lights rotating in the dark; the father, son and the holy ghost. He took the first few blind steps into the bar, nodded to the barman as his eyes accustomed to the dark. Draping his coat round the back of the stool, he unfolded the paper from under his arm knowing he wouldn’t read it. A scattering of empty heads sat around the place, some stuck in blathering orbits, some exploring the sullen mysteries of the solitary drinker. You wonder what went on in the head of another, but that way lies madness. You barely know what goes on in your own.

Someone told him once, you pass the day you will die every year. An antichrist birthday. God knows who it was, another name gone into the ether. But they had a point. April Fools. All Souls. New Years Day. Or some dull Tuesday. Made you wonder. He knocked back the double, felt the familiar burn then the glow then the sink.

The kid was gone. He’d been giving him the evil eye across the bar. Tried to place him but couldn’t. Something familiar. Unsettled him. He’d felt his eyes burning into him. On the way to the bogs, he even swore he’d muttered something to him. When he returned, thank Christ, he was gone.

His head was fucked, memories all misplaced. What did he do last night? Where did his years go? Yet there were some things he could not forget.

He toasted his ghosts across the table. To hell with every last one of you. He ordered another. Make it a treble. Such thoughts wouldn’t unthink themselves.

When he ran out of scrap he belatedly left. Beneath the gloam of the streetlight, he was rummaging through his pockets for smokes when something stirred behind him.

“D’you remember me?”

He turned, focused. It was the kid.


“Do you fuck! But I remember you… CUNT!”

He held his hands up, “Listen, whatever it is…” but gave up without finishing. And he knew, without precognition, that in this minute, in this street, before the kid even slide the bottle down from inside his sleeve, that things would not go well for him. He’d run out of road. Things catch up.

Darran Anderson

Thank You

I'd like to thank you

Thank you for helping me feel like a whore since that's what this is all about

I like it

I wanted to feel like a whore

It makes me sexy

So thank you for all the times you've told me to put on my southern accent because it's "cuter"

Why don't I make you a nice glass of lemonade and a sandwich and give you a blowjob?
After all, you did say, "please" as you pushed my head down

And thank you for taking your pants off and putting on that condom "just in case" even though I told you I didn't want to sleep with you

Thanks for helping me realize I really did want it and my "no" was a "yes"

Thank you for reminding me immediately after we've finished that this doesn't change anything, you still don't want to be with me

Thanks for falling asleep grabbing my breasts and then turning away when I tried to kiss you.

And thanks for those times you're unsure how to comfort me so you just have sex with me

Thank you for renaming my time of the month 'blow job week'

Thanks for saying I'm the best you've ever had as I lay there and take it

Thank you for telling me you still 'beat off' to me instead of the girl you dumped me for

Thank you for not noticing the nice underwear I wore for you saying, 'it doesn't matter what you wear, baby. It will all end up on the floor anyway.'

Thank you for telling me that you prefer I swallow every time

Thank you for never wanting to leave the lights on

And thank you for never noticing my eyes are green

Thanks for putting your hand on my ass after telling me you have a girlfriend

Thanks for continuing to put your hand on my ass as we talk about your girlfriend

Thanks for warning me that I'm going to get you in trouble because you find me attractiveI wasn't aware that you couldn't control yourself

Thanks for reminding me to shave my legs more often

Thanks for stopping me on the street at night to say, 'damn, look at that ass.'

Thanks for assuming all Americans are easy

And thanks for shoving your hand down my pants uninvited in public

Thanks for the excuse "I was drunk, I couldn't help it."

Thanks for asking me if I had been 'claimed yet for the evening' - I didn't realize I was waiting to be claimed

Thanks for coming up behind me on the dance floor and rubbing your hard penis all over me until my friends pull me away because you're ugly

Thanks for never showering and then telling me a bit of make up never hurt

Thanks for telling me you have a girlfriend and then asking me to come home with you. I wonder if she knows that you're 'not that serious'

Thanks for sticking it in me the moment I open my eyes in the morning

Oh and thanks for grabbing my hand and making me feel how hard you are as we walk down the street

Thank you for buying me dirty lingerie for my birthday that I can only wear for you and when you tell me to

Thanks for pointing out that I was "asking for it" because of the skirt I was wearing

Thank you for knocking on your car window because obviously I was just waiting for an invitation to get in

Thanks for deciding you do want to be with me after all, but that you reserve the right to change your mind

And thanks for cumming on my face while I'm sleeping because it's funny

Thank you for waking me up in the morning by slapping me in the face with your cock

Thanks for pretending to be interested in my art because you think it will help you get laid

Thanks for calling me just another winging female

Thank you for following me and my sisters into a record store masturbating

Thank you for leaving the naked photos your new girlfriend sent you on my computer

Thank you for leaving open the email where you wrote to her how much you love her. And then thanks for wanting to have sex with me when things weren't working out with her

Thanks for telling me she's just a filler ‘til I get back

Thanks for making me realize that I'm just your filler

Thanks for being a minute man and then asking me if I'm one of those girls who can't orgasm

Thank you for telling me you could never love me but that you want to know what it feels like to be inside me

Allison Papuga

Low Cluster

Paula was late. But that was ok, yeah? I mean – Paula was always late. Late was just what Paula did. Late was Paula’s personal little black dress that shimmed resiliently through every season. Late, from Paula, was exactly what you’d expect. I ordered in a bottle with two glasses and snared a table. She didn’t keep me hanging too long. Only a third of the way down my first drink when she flitted in and I was just like: Oh. My. God. Paula was dressed like Peaches Geldof. Paula, you must remember, is thirty one years old.
She spies me and coo-ee’s across with a finger wave before tottering over and I stand so we can air kiss “mwah” around either cheek. As we sit back down she’s saying it’s outrageous to see me again and I’m like, oh yeah. Totally. Double taking at the Merlot, she gasps Ooo..drinkies! But then lets it slip that she can’t stay for long. There’s a rave on at some Christ-awful sounding hovel in New Cross. Paula’s eyes suddenly burst alive in boggles. I should come, she tells me. Oh yeah. It would be a riot. Like, completely riot.
I’m not sure. You know. It’s a long way. It’s perhaps not my thing. I have work tomorrow. The office.
Paula is all, like, well, just kind of fuck the office. Fez is going. Fez, she confides, has scored these great pills and enough toot to wake up the House of Lords.
Oh fab. I mean, that’s so selling it to me. I’ve met Fez twice before, you see. The first time, he was, like, totally bongoed and tried to stroke my ass. The second, he was actually Planet Bongoed, completely failed to remember having met me before, and then tried to stroke my ass again.
I shake my head and sip my wine. Don’t you think we’re a bit old for that scene? I ask. It’ll be packed with kids. You won’t be able to hear yourself think.
Paula coaxes that I should live a little. It’s going to be like totally a cool crowd. Let go and just give it up, yeah?
I nod and we continue to drink. Paula manages three glasses to my two. I talk about my boss. She tells me I so need a man and then shrieks that oh my God I just have to meet Fez’s friend, Tonto. He’d be, like, just perfect for me.
I tell her anyone called Tonto wouldn’t even get the time of day.
She shakes her head. He’s totally buff. Buffed right off this planet. Apparently, I’m missing out.
I mention my re-mortgage. Paula smiles and thinks about something else.
Later, on the pavement outside, she moves to make the Tube. I say again that I can’t come. My work. I’ve got meetings. I need to go home. She looks at me and for, like, just a micro-second, I see her like I used to see her, when we were teenagers bumming cigarettes off the older boys for French kisses, the Jordon Knight fantasies topped with uncertain hairstyles and an inexplicable, raging sulk against the boredom of our surrounding world.
Paula kisses me on the cheek and tells me that we’ll have to meet up soon.
The street smells like the night used to long ago - like possibility, like wonder. Before hailing a cab, I take the time to watch her walk away.

Mark Colbourne


Getting out of bed I step on
a used condom; a feeling like
walking through knee-high wet grass,
not knowing where to step or stand
without making matters worse.

My MP3 player is still hooked up to your
laptop, batteries now fully recharged;
the track we got tired of, paused
before the second chorus.

To make the half-light brighter
I take a swig or two of rancid wine;
no matter, last night we couldn’t taste it
let alone feel our tongues.

Fumbling for my boxer shorts
hung on the corner of your desk,
I see you use empty stamp booklets
to mark your place in ... books.

Someone’s making coffee elsewhere
in your house, I gag on the smell as
you wake up and frown, thinking;
the last time you’ll ever see me is now
retching into your waste-paper bin.

CJ Underwood


I have just placed a £2.36 bid on Ebay for Al Pacino's voice. It has been burned onto CD. The cover of the CD is a montage of iconic Al Pacino stills. The CD will be posted out to the lucky winner; first class. My bid is currently winning. I am being cautious. I am checking my bid repeatedly. I am adding an extra 2p to my bid. My bid is now £2.38. I am 8 minutes and 34 seconds away from owning Al Pacino's voice.

I am reading the description of Al Pacino's voice, again. I am closing my eyes and I am hearing the street wise syllables of this Italian-American. I am imagining him stood behind me; he is whispering sweet nothings into my ear. He is so cool. He is Al Pacino. He is better than you and me. He is an Academy Award winner. And he has the coolest voice, ever.

My bid has been beaten. It has been beaten by someone who goes by the name of alpacinoslover1982. I imagine alpacinoslover1982 is probably a bit like me. She is from a town just like the one I grew up in. She brushes her teeth as aggressively as I do. She has bitten away all the skin around her nails, it is pink and sore, she is biting them particularly aggressively now, she is apprehensive that I will beat her bid. I am bidding £2.68. I have placed 10p more than her bid.

She has made her finger bleed.

I am picturing Al Pacino as Carlito Brigante. He is playing pool. I am stood by the jukebox in the corner of the room. He is throwing looks my way. He is calling me "his girl".

I am making space for Al Pacino's voice on my bedside table. The space is next to a signed photo of Pacino. I have drawn a thought bubble on the photo. He is thinking about me.

I am getting scared that alpacinoslover1982 is going to beat my bid. I increase my bid to £16.98. There are only 3 minutes 14 seconds left until I can call Pacino's voice mine.

I am thinking about lying in bed and listening to Al Pacino sending me to sleep. I am enjoying his intonations, his clarity, and his charisma. I am holding my picture of him tight to my chest. I am apologising for not realising how amazing he is sooner. I am vowing to make up for lost time.

There is only 1 minute and 23 seconds left to bid. I am winning. My palms are sweaty. I am gazing at the monitor with a look of longing. My screensaver is a still from Heat, it is a big close up of Al Pacino, and I have tiled it across my screen.

I am only 47 seconds away from owning Al Pacino's voice. I am carving Pacino into my flesh with a compass I have dug out from my high school maths set. I am wiping the blood away. I am satisfied with my handiwork. I am wondering what Pacino would say. Maybe he would be lost for words.

That bitch, alpacinoslover1982 has just placed a bid of £67.62. I want to scratch her face and bite her nose. I want to kick her shins and jump on her toes. Instead, I place a bid of £112.18. I am feeling smug. I am proposing a toast to Pacino. I am writing an acceptance speech. I am 8 seconds away from being victorious.

I am watching the seconds pass by. I have stopped breathing. There are 3 seconds to go. 2 seconds. 1 second.

Alpacinoslover1982. She bids £459.87.

I am not breathing.


I am going blue in the face.


I am stabbing the compass in my eyes.


I am banging my head against my desk.


I am wrapping the telephone wire around my neck.


You are reading about me in the papers. You are reading about that Pacino fanatic. You are telling your friends the story. You are remembering the story each time you watch a film with Pacino in it. You have left a Pacino tribute at my grave.

You are alpacinoslover1982. You have never paid for Al Pacino's voice. You have been given a strike by Ebay. You are a bitch.

Emily McPhillips