Thursday, 29 July 2010

Two Poems - Russell J. Turner

we closed the circle

so there i was with cass down the pub i'd always fancied her but never tried it on she was more like a mate and we'd had a few and got onto that six degrees of separation thing and cass was laughing like what's the figure for shagging you know i shagged him and he shagged her till everyone is linked by a chain of fucking like what do reckon for the number of people between us coz i screwed jack and he was going out with penny and i know she slept with jenny once though they both deny it what a laugh penny and jenny didn't you shag her yeah a couple of times so that's four degrees between us and it's even got a rhyming lesbo link in it that's one for the cv we were laughing like fuck and i was getting a hard on under the table just thinking about it wondering if cass was getting horny as well and i remembered my ex paula once told me she'd screwed steve when he was going out with cass and i didn't know if cass knew but i was so fucking turned on i told her anyway and she loved it laughing and laughing and laughing that makes three i said but don't you see she said it makes a circle me jack penny jenny you paula steve me again we're screwing each other we're screwing ourselves and we were so proud of it we went to the gents i didn't even try and hide my hard on we drew it on the blackboard a circle of life a fucking great circle and i fucked her against the toilet wall and we closed the circle

we have eaten them all

circling they fly across september
blood red council of crows
hand in hand we lie stubble scraping
watching the portents
formation mirroring our own outstretched arms
touching the horizon gathering the harvest
annunciations of plenty
we declare the heavens open for business
we declare the heavens open for feasting
between the trees beneath the crows
we plight our troth we hold our tongues
there are no words left
we have eaten them all

Russell J. Turner is an actor, poet, promoter, mathematician and recovering alcoholic. Norwich is his playground. His first poetry chapbook, The Machinery of the Moment, has recently been published by headCRASH. Visit to read more.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Three Poems - Claire Askew


You're all hands. Hanging off the rafters
in my dreams, you draw me spinning inward,
a fine skein of your scent around my throat.
I've tried to fight. I'm the big, sad orange-striped
queen wasp you never wanted -- pissed off
and sticky, kicking your stinking web to bits
with all my strength. You're stuck with me,
buzz like a fruit machine; I blunder and spit
in the eyes you've got for other pretty flies.
I know I'll let you drink me weak, and then
you'll ditch this nest and split, hold up
your black arachnid palms and shrug, then run.
Left to rinse your thumbprint from my wings,
I only hope you'll think of me, and sting.


He'd mounted a microphone in Hunter Square
then sat all night there, nervous
nursing it, static and catblack.

Did he sleep? He couldn't say.
But he'd stored up sixteen hours of non-stop tape:
a full night of footfall, smokestack and rain.

First, homebound rush hour swallowed the playback,
his four-track snatching at car exhaust,
lungfuls of talk, a traffic crossing's acid techno beat.

Then, high heels; the slam and blare
of cabs at kerbs; shutters concertinad down
to the earworm of a saxophone.

Somewhere -- as the bars called time, he'd guess --
a fight broke out. A shrill hyenapack of girls
threw a spike in the soundboard's eerie lights.

Then quiet. The mosquito fizz of streetlamps.
Dewfall. The occasional long-skirted swish
of a bus in the distance: the air's shift.

The final hour: a milkcart's early, noisy spool
and clink, and then the dings and clicks of him
fumbling at the microphone's lead.

The last sound before the playback's pause
is the horse-hoof clack of a skateboard,
stonestruck, stirring the city like tea.

Male privilege

Give me the shovel.
Give me the tattoo gun's kiss on my skin.
Give me the hard day's work.
Give me the graveyard shift.
Give me the white van.
Give me lager and the night.
Give me the warship and the race car.
Give me the walk home alone.
Give me the chainsaw.
Give me the streetlit alleyway.
Give me the roadmap's cryptic veins.
Give me the fearless midnight park.
Give me the swagger.
Give me the paycheque.
Give me the wet-dream and the punch-up.
Give me James Bond and Action Man.
Give me walls to build in the baking sun.
Give me the engine.
Give me the motherboard.
Give me the budget and the Bible.
Give me strength.
Give me the steel-toe-capped boots.
Give me brass knuckles and a big dog.

Now look at me.
Now tell me I can't.

Claire Askew was born in 1986 and grew up in the rural Scottish Borders. Her poems have appeared in numerous literary publications including The Edinburgh Review, Poetry Scotland, Textualities and The Guardian, as well as being selected for the Scottish Poetry Library's Best Scottish Poems of the Year anthology two years running (2008/9). In 2008 Claire won the Grierson Verse Prize, the Sloan Prize for Writing in Lowland Scots Vernacular, the Lewis Edwards Award for Poetry and the William Sharpe Hunter Memorial Scholarship for Creative Writing. She was recently longlisted for a 2010 Eric Gregory Award. Claire is currently reading a PhD in Creative Writing and Contemporary Scottish Poetry at the University of Edinburgh.

Monday, 12 July 2010

One Story - Zachary Solomon

Man Chained to the Sky

My last client was a retired astronaut. He said he was looking for space, so I gave him a model ship in a glass bottle. It did the trick. Before him was a woman who missed the 50s. She was born in ’78. Nostalgia for a decade in which client didn’t exist? Easy. I got her a Lichtenstein print and a photo of a street lamp. The client before her was an old rich lady with Alzheimer’s. She said she wanted to be reminded of five minutes ago. I gave her a jar of colored sand and a broken watch. She liked it so much she gives my card out, though she never knows why.

I own and operate a business based entirely off my sixth sense. The part of my brain that produces nostalgia is three times the normal size. I have the ability to know what produces nostalgia for anyone I meet - strangers, clients, et cetera. They tell me what they’re looking to be nostalgic for and I find them something that represents it. Something that without fail triggers the thing within them that makes them remember, giving them the special feeling that maybe they’ve found a grip on something that’s been lost for so long. It’s a real gift. I do a service for people that genuinely improves their quality of life. Humans have a fascination with nostalgia. A fascination with their past or a past they wish they had. That’s why they call me.

A few days ago I got an anonymous call about a new client. The voice on the other end said there was a man who needed something, a service that I provide. He gave an address: Ory Tower, Roof. The next morning I met my new client there, on the roof. He was a Man Chained to the Sky, the first one I’ve seen in years. Ten years ago we used to get them all around the city. It seemed like there was a new one everyday. The papers would report each one; give their location and approximate height. They captivated people. It was a cultural phenomenon.

These Men Chained to the Sky all kind of looked the same. Their arms outstretched, their wrists in iron braces, chains extending that wrapped around the world. Sometimes the chains would overlap, creating a network of iron. The Men Chained to the Sky would appear from nowhere with long hair and bleak faces. They would mumble and twitch, grow their hair long and bleed from their eyes. Those that went high enough to hear them said their mumbles were more like whispers, like the quiet sounds of moving stones in water. After a while the papers lost track of them. People stopped wondering and stopped caring. The Men Chained to the Sky began to disappear too. Eventually they stopped appearing altogether. No one noticed.

My client looks like the other ones: naked with long black hair that falls thickly before his eyes. Cuts populate his body. Dried blood runs from his eyes to his chin, a pair of desiccated streams. This particular Man Chained to the Sky is different in one major respect, though: he speaks. Not much, but it’s intelligible. He tells me he needs to experience nostalgia. He says he doesn’t know what it feels like to be nostalgic and he needs to know. He says I have five days. Five days. How do you make a man feel nostalgic who has no memory, a man who just appeared out of nowhere a fully developed adult? How do you remind a man of something who has had no previous experience? How do you remind a man of remembering itself?

It’s been three days now and nothing I’ve tried has worked. A quiet dove, the smell of leather, a telescope pointed to the stars. The only response is a blank face. The Man Chained to the Sky breathes heavier. His speech slows, his muscles twitch less. When he cries there isn’t as much blood. He is beginning to die.

The part of my brain that’s three times the normal size isn’t helping. It’s only good for someone who misses something, not for someone with nothing to miss. I’m cycling through objects and images, scents and sensations that have helped my clients. None of these work. What is the essence of nostalgia? Time began with this Man Chained to the Sky. Time will cease for him when he dies. He will disappear like the rest of them: gods in captivity - timeless prisoners in their own historical void, living outside the river, just a puddle, an incidental splash on the bank. Nostalgia has no essence. Its only beneficiary is time.

My client died today, on the fifth day. I couldn’t understand him on the fifth day, he could barely speak. His hair had grown down to his chest and his eyes had become glossy. The roof was covered in things I had brought to him, things I’d hoped could birth nostalgia. Things pregnant with memory. How naïve. Nothing worked. Nothing could work.

Ten years after my last client died, I started accepting work again. My first client back wanted to feel nostalgic for the Men Chained to the Sky. Some coincidence. The guy was nice so I took the job, though I admit I was a bit apprehensive. I brought him to the roof of the Ory Tower, where my last client had died. My Man Chained to the Sky never made the papers. No one knew about him but me. Either way it did the trick. The guy fell silent and tears welled in his eyes.

Zachary Solomon lives in Miami, Florida where is he currently melted to the tarmac, waiting for the cool coastal breezes to unstick him. He attends University in Worcester, Massachusetts and is trying to be a real person.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Six Poems - Len Kuntz

Paper Jewelry

His excuse is he can’t help himself, hers she’s heartsick.
To make amends he knots together fortune cookies with optimistic predictions
and fashions a necklace for her
but she is drunk with sickness when he comes home,
she slumped in the bath wearing her work clothes,
her nylons and heels,
rolling a rubber duck back and forth between her palms
like a link of lava.

“But I made this for you,” he says.
The paper jewelry pierces her, same as a sword,
shredding a sheet she’s been holding over her heart all this time,
the last vestige, the final hiding tool.
The air ignites,
whooshing up between them,
leaping tongues of fire now,
reaching for the truth
they both know
but can do nothing about.

Voyeur Pawn

The glass is like dirty lake water
yet he can see himself reflected in it,
little boy with the ugly face
though not yet scarred,
hip-high to the skirt beside him,
his mother bartering the clerk,
her fingers bare and trembling,

Inside the case are a collection
of things you’d find in a garage or a house
or a jewelry store.
None of them look new but there’s a glint of gory sin
in studying them,
the sight of all that secondhand loot,
the tarnish and worn spots of a woman’s hand mirror.
a musician’s harmonica,
a pistol’s trigger.

Twenty Stories

She says Babybabybaby.
She says Whyyouwanna.
She says Oooeeeyeahsirrr.
She’s got the radio up so that the wall clock pops and shimmies with the bass.
Luther rides the arm of the sofa and she’s all up on him,
horseback riding his knee
using her slapping palm for spurs.
She says Yippiekiyay-aye-aye.

My sister takes my hand and pulls me to her room and says she can’t get it,
Can I?
So I tug back the latch and force the window open
even as scales of dried paint rip off the wood seams,
fluttering to the ground twenty stories below.
“What now?” I ask,
but she’s already leaping,
arms out like Superman,
mouth full of wind,
her journey just getting started.

Hold Me Hard

The world is an empty well and you’re welcome to it.
Dark eye dug so deep.
Drop a penny and hear it do nothing.
If we jump together, though,
We might not have to land.

Mistakes in Paris

In the sheet this morning I
found more evidence of you:
three strands of your
sun-brushed hair.

From there I walked out to the veranda wrapped up in your scent.
The baguette vendor shook his fist at me.
A flock of foreign birds, so tiny and severe,
smeared the sky,
so busy with their gossip,
and wiped out my apology.

A Fine View

I have a good view here, a fine view
of the lovers in their canoe,
her feeding him first a sandwich square and next her actual hand
which must have retained
some traces of condiment.
The young man looks famished.
He does not stop rowing nor does he stop mouthing each finger.
Her laughter is birdish. It echoes around the lake,
mocking the unloved
but most of all me who rises at last to draw the blinds.

Len Kuntz lives on a lake in rural Washington State with rural sea creatures. His work appears in places like Troubadour 21, Cricket Online Review and also at

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