Susan McLeod was born in Scotland and has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for over 20 years. She completed her first novel, The Brazen Calyx, as part of her Creative Writing MA studies at Manchester Metropolitan University and is working on her second. The eagle-eyed will note that the novel title is taken from a MacNeice poem, indicated her poetic loves. Susan also enjoys writing short fiction and has had a short story published in Crooked Holster (Volume 3) and two winning entries to Liars’ League London (September 17 and April 18). Susan lives in Macclesfield with her husband, daughter and three black cats.
Smoke and Mirrors
Just a dry cough.
No pain, no fever, no air gasps,
Nothing tangible and the waiting room
Is full of stoop-shouldered people.
Am I wasting your time?
If it wasn’t for the tiredness,
The mud-shodding torpor,
I took the lift to the surgery
And felt old.
Do I malinger?
Just a dry cough.
The GP types tittle-tattle and smiles.
We’ll send you for tests.
For I am of an age, apparently,
Risk factors, you know.
No, I don’t know.
No drink, no smokes, not an
Inch hangs the wrong way from my bones.
Biltong-lean and just as tough,
I almost believe my own bravado.
I dream of the white plague.
At school, the six-needles stood proud
And spared me shoulder jabs.
How reliable was that?
Lovely veins, the nurse coos and
Slides the needle home.
The pink plastic cannula rides
The ebb and flow of my circulation,
A foundering craft.
Saw the lady in half, an old vaudeville act,
The nuclear age makes illusion reality,
I am cut into a million slices
And feel nothing.
A hard, bright room.
The consultant is grey of suit, voice, soul.
And I see
A galaxy of white-cold stars spinning me
Out, in, out, out, out of existence.
Michael McAndrew is a navy veteran. He does most of his writing at his job, a residential treatment center for severely traumatized children. He lives in Colorado.
The inside of my mouth
Like beer vodka cigarettes vomit
I add the umami
Of a shotgun barrel to my palate
In this moment
I feel so Zen
Tears dry stomach quieted
Is going crazy
Staccato pounding in my ears
I’m outside on my porch
My wife sleeps inside
I don’t want to make a mess
This is just a dry run
I didn’t put the shells in yet
Not very brave, I guess
I put the gun away
Make a mental note
To try harder next week
Tawnya Renelle graduated with a MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She currently lives in Glasgow, UK and is pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing. She is undertaking the task of writing a textbook about hybrid forms. She enjoys spending extensive time in the Scottish Highlands and baking.
“In the beyond”
At the top of the stairs
the miniature opera plays out
A door opens into a room
focus is small
The costumes golden and glowing
lavish with sequins
The eyes are magnifying glasses
lush green velvet carpet
brass railings lead up
The scene is all color:
The scene is Black and White:
She and I are looking for her
and she is looking for him
We know she has on a ball gown with a sweatshirt over the top
She and I do not know what he is wearing
but she has gone looking for him
The scene is Black and White:
We are driving down an alleyway
in a truck that belongs to T’s father
her boyfriend chokes her
attempting to stop our looking
But she and I are looking for her
And she is searching for him
The scene is Real:
All morning at work
Discount exam charity care
Someone’s out today
Coffee getting cold
Who is going to work on what day
The scene is all color:
I am alone
I ask the crowd around me
The crowd watching the opera
If they have seen my friend
Go through the basement to get there
Dark, muddy and grates with holes
I know this isn’t the way to go
Something terrible lives down here
It is not the way to go
There is a light that flickers
Halfway through I turn around
There is a child showing me the way
To the green velvet stairs
I know they are not down here
conversations about what will happen with a coworker
who is going to work on what day
Protocol and denied authorizations
Typing the date
Typing the insurance eligibility
Staring at the computer screen
And all I can see
in the beyond
behind the eyeball
A scene in color: lush green carpets
A scene in black and white: of a sweatshirt over a ball gown
A scene in color : of a dank basement
Every part of the day
brings me to the place
the back of her there
and never him-he’s missing
She did not find him
I cannot escape it
David Cameron was born in Glasgow in 1966 and now lives near Belfast. He is a recipient of the Hennessy Literary Award for Poetry, and his poems are collected in The Bright Tethers (Rune Press, 2016). Robert Nye wrote of Cameron’s work that it possesses ‘a quality of verbal alchemy by which it transmutes the base matter of common experience into something like gold’.
The skull of my sketch makes Miss flinch,
Or else it’s the tool they used to trepan.
She’ll put her hand to her throat in a minute.
We don’t believe in demons any more.
Spend less time on the ancients, she says.
Something more up-to-date:
I feel my skull.
That’s where the bore-hole would be.
That’s the place where my demons would
Aim for the railing.
Peter Clive lives on the southside of Glasgow, Scotland with his wife and three children. He is a scientist working in the renewable energy sector. As well as poetry, he enjoys composing music for piano and spending time in the Isle of Lewis.
a light shines in the darkness
which the dark can’t comprehend
she lived her life
like a candle in the wind
life’s but a walking shadow
until that brief candle is put out
And all the time the suggestion is
we are all lights
divided by an abyss of darkness perhaps,
occasionally visible to each other,
but otherwise alone and lost,
But they are wrong.
There is no darkness, only light,
everywhere and always,
There are closed eyes,
that open twice,
at the beginning and the end of life;
and in between there is a dream
when we imagine we can turn away
from what is already within us.
Finn McLysaght is a Sociology and Politics student at University College Dublin, where they are active in the English & Literary Society. Their writing is informed by themes of memory, family, relationships, bodies, and gender. They have been published by the Three Fates, Bombinate, and Monstrous Regiment. Outside of poetry, Finn is involved in activism and HIV advocacy.
I still find your silver strands in every crease and crevice of the space we once occupied together
each one of my hairs and laying them out on the kitchen table
Perhaps one night you will return
And sweep them to the floor
Or collect a few and weave them into
That jumper you have been meaning to mend for months
Maybe I am wasting them?
Maybe I should fasten them together
one by one
create a rope
to lead you to me
or near enough
One inch from my skull every month
at half moon
I will replace each hair
fade each hair- away
I read Anne Sexton’s quote “Love and a cough cannot be concealed. Even a small cough. Even a small
love.” over and over and over again
I brush your hair under the couch
I think that love and a cough are the same thing
Sometimes neither are beautiful
and both can get stuck in your throat
If I sew my lips together
I can keep you forever