Russian Roulette, by Aoife Cunningham

Russian roulette

We watch in horror,
This game of Russian roulette.

A land painted red,
By the political artist.
The remaining trees bore witness
to the stares of man’s darkness.
With our sons in caskets.

They served with fidelity and fought with valour.
Like lambs sent to slaughter.
Fathers and brothers fighting their neighbour’s.

History offers hindsight but it seems to duplicates with greed.

There won’t be a eulogy for this lie we call democracy.
As orders uttered from leaders,
With what they believe are sainted breaths.
But are really exhalations and perorations
Of Satan on earth here to challenge your birth
And right to breathe.
If you don’t fit their template of acceptability
Or argue their culpability in this holocaust
It will come with the ultimately cost
Of liberty.

The patriotic fabric burns.
And we slowly learn,
The regression of our progression is down to man.

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15 Love, by Ben Macnair

15 Love

Tennis is a game,
where they talk about love,
but spare none for the ball.
The thwack of the racket,
played politely by vicars,
with more than the scriptures
on their minds.

We are left out for the dog,
when our playing days
are little remembered.
We are mouldering,
greener than jealousy.
Chewed up,
spat out,
over the line,
under the net,
one last game,
for old time's sake.


Death Becomes Me, by Julian Matthews

Death Becomes Me

Hey Death!
When you come a-knocking, will you step out of the darkness and punch me in the face?
Or will you come from behind, tap me on the shoulder and say, Boo!?
Will you kindly whisper in my ear as I lay down to sleep?
Or will you drown me when I am in too deep?

Maybe I will see you coming in the distance, your long shadow growing shorter and shorter
And I will put my house in order and greet you at the door
Or maybe i will try to shut you out
And jump out a back window --

Perhaps, you will come as my breath grows shallow
Sucking the air from me at every deep pause
Maybe the grump in me will swallow up all my dry humour
And infect those around me like an angry tumour

Maybe you will chew me from the inside out
A slow, growing entity that would go unnoticed
Until it's too late -- and I collapse like a hollow, empty shell
An insidious inception into several levels of my own private hell

Hey Death!
When you do come -- early or late
Just don't bait me and let me wait
No prank calls, please. No creeping up on me!
No last-call dying disease tease!

I know I cannot change what's already fated
But it's never too late to exorcise and heal all this hatred
And Death, I have a bucket list now before I kick it
So let me go about my business and just fulfill it, ok?

I know I fear you not at this final, windy bend
As long as there's some wit left at this twit's end
Don't curse me with any "sudden unforeseen circumstance"
Instead let the last twirl of this mortal coil be a whirling dervish dance!

Julian Matthews is a former journalist finding new ways to express himself through poetry, fiction, memoir and essays. His work has been published in the American Journal of Poetry, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Borderless Journal, Spilling Cocoa on Martin Amis, and various other literary publications. He is a minority based in Malaysia. Link:

Redefining Ireland, by Kevin Higgins

Redefining Ireland
“Ireland must reassess military power” Simon Coveney

In the absence of Seamus Heaney,
if Ireland is to be renowned for anything other
than bog water, cabbage and
our negligible corporate tax rate,
we must invest in at least one
intercontinental ballistic missile
which until the necessary
Plutonium – 239 gets here
we’ll fill with hydrogen sulphide
reinforced regularly
courtesy of our world famous piggeries
and drag it to every St. Patrick’s Day parade
from Castlerea to Bantry
because people need something to celebrate.

Instead of the perfect simile
we’ll offer annihilation
for somewhere roughly the size of Iceland.
Instead of metaphors we’ll give you death
immediate or lingering
(terms and conditions will be applied
no liability admitted).
Instead of the occasional Haiku
we’ll build a leprechaun Hiroshima
put it in a box
then skulk the Earth
looking for someone to drop it on.



Lecher, by S.F. Wright


Had a goatee,
A large stomach.
A bible-thumping
He’d sprinkle
“God sees all,”
“The lord giveth as taketh away.”
If someone said,
“Jesus Christ,”
Genose would say,
“It’s not his fault.”

Despite his Christianity,
Genose, 55, hit on
Who worked at
The bookstore’s café.

I’m sure the girls
Thought him creepy,
But felt bad;
No one reported him.

Genose got hung up
On an 18-yr-old
Blonde-haired girl;
Despite there being
No evidence that
The girl was interested,
He was heartbroken
When she told him that
She’d prefer if Genose
Never speak to her again.

In the breakroom afterwards,
Took large bites
Of a reheated
Philly cheesesteak sandwich.
Grease trickled down his chin,
His eyes wet.

“She was the one,” he said.
I punched out at the timeclock.
“She would’ve been perfect.”

I didn’t know what to say;
I mumbled something
About things like this happening;
Then walked out to my car.

On the way to
The hamburger place
Across the street,
I thought of Genose—
And felt
Distant disgust
Yet relief;
And wondered
Which was worse:
To end up like Genose
And be aware of it;
Or to become someone
Like Genose
And be so delusional
That you’d think that
A pretty 18-yr-old
Would be receptive
To your advances;
That you were as normal
As everyone else.

Beach Body Ready by Ben Macnair

Beach Body Ready 

The human body is never really
Beach body ready.
It is designed for rain,
for offices, for chairs and sofas.
So if I was to get a body,
ready for the Beach,
I would develop a Crab’s body.

A hard outer shell,
two razor-sharp pincers,
I would grow stalks for my eyes,
learn to walk sideways,
and always look angry.
It would be brilliant for the beach,
but a dead loss in nightclubs, car parks,
night classes,
making friends would be difficult,
and Line Dancing would be impossible.

Chairs would be uncomfortable,
young children would point and stare,
and it doesn’t matter how good a hard shell is,
it never protects you from the slings and arrows
of careless laughter.

Should I Take my Bumbershoot With Me?, by Rodney Wood


should I take my bumbershoot with the crook handle pimped with a sterling silver knob
& a rainbow of Swarovski crystals?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s a sword, walking or shooting stick?
should I take my bumbershoot that covers the face of the newly dead?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s a plant pot or a vase for hydrangeas?
should I take my bumbershoot that enters the forest of other bumbershoots?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s a clumsy paint brush used with a puddle?
should I take my bumbershoot that stop drips falling on my head when painting the ceiling?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s a film screen for say Fast & Furious 27?
should I take my bumbershoot whose ribs are used for drying my large smalls?
should I take my bumbershoot that makes me fly like Mary Poppins?
should I take my bumbershoot that points to the person responsible for whatever?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s a symbol of protection & shelter?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s the gelatinous body of a jellyfish?
should I take my bumbershoot that breaks my fall when jumping from the 3rd floor?
should I take my bumbershoot that hangs from the ceiling as a decoration?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s covered with notes & phone numbers?
should I take my bumbershoot that holds rubbish & discarded poems?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s used when I’m a detective & under cover?
should I take my bumbershoot that cannot takes punches & just folds up?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s a temporary headstone?
should I take my bumbershoot that protects me from bird shit?
should I take my bumbershoot that captures the sound of clapping?
should I take my bumbershoot that frightens tigers, dogs & cats?
should I take my bumbershoot that has a crest above its ferrule?
should I take my bumbershoot that prevents anyone seeing a stolen kiss?
should I take my bumbershoot that diffuses the light in a photo studio?
should I take my bumbershoot that danced with Gene Kelly & Rihanna?
should I take my bumbershoot is a lover, friend or partner with a wedding ring?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s a boat?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s a shopping bag?
should I take my bumbershoot that deflects bullets?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s a baton I lead parades or funerals with?
should I take my bumbershoot that displays magazines like Penthouse or Marxism Today?
should I take my bumbershoot that is always under the weather?
should I take my bumbershoot that shades me from the sun?
should I take my bumbershoot that keeps me dry when it’s raining?

But today I'm going by car to the shop to buy some milk
so I don’t need to take my bumbershoot

Rodney Wood lives in Farnborough, co-hosts a monthly open mic at The Lightbox in Woking and has published two pamphlets :Dante Called You Beatrice, and When Listening Isn’t Enough.


Me and Joanna Lumley, by Jennifer A. McGowan

Me and Joanna Lumley

I caught Joanna Lumley reaching
through the open window of a bakery for bagels
crisp and hot and frankly

much tastier than any dreams
that had consumed us
in our adult lives (as I said to Joanna)

and she agreed, then added, “Except for the Gurkhas.
I’m proud of that,” and I agreed,
then at the corner we went our separate ways

to stare at the sky, to dream of mountains,
of hot butter running everywhere, equally.

Jennifer spends as much time as she can in the 15th century, but comes back for hot showers and bagels.


The Happiest Days, by Finola Scott

The happiest days

Do you remember gym, Amanda?
Do you remember a gym?
And the toilets that smell of piss and booze
and the games we play so scared to loose?
And the fleas that tease everyone's knees
and the cheers and jeers of the lower years?
And the years and years of our growing fears
The casual division of girls here boys there
The binary allocation without any care

And the years and years of our quiet tears
at the thump on the floor for more and more?
And the linking hands and the birl and swirl
of the girls dreaming and wild romancing
on those mats rolled back for social dancing
Do you remember the cotton and crimplene
and the boys' hot glances in between?
The wanting and waiting to be chosen
and those hard shoulders so very frozen

Do you remember a gym Amanda?
Never again Amanda
only the handbags laid on the floor
and the drum beat and bass line's solid roar
as we strut and show we know the score
Those string vests sweaty hands no more
Only the bright laughter of fierce women
who stamp and chant that it's raining men
Only the boom as we own the room

Finola Scott’s poems are scattered on the wind as well as on posters, tapestries and magazines. Her work is in The High Window, New Writing Scotland, I,S&T and Lighthouse. Red Squirrel Press publish her pamphlet Much left unsaid. Dreich publish Count the ways


Monitoring my body, by Carla Scarano D’Antonio

Monitoring my body

I don’t know when it happened,
the slowing down of the limbs
the desiccation of skin
the pains breaking in me.
I borrowed the body of a spider,
the waist plump
the back arched
and legs and arms thinning.
My hair changed too
from straight and black
to crispy and grey
like my Sicilian grandfather.
Impossible to revert.

Inside I feel the same as before
slimmer and in shape.
In my dreams I fit in size 10-12
the mirror reflects 14-16.
Nothing is safe.

This fragmentation is my doing
invoking change.
The days spiral down
like yarn unravelling in the wind
spinning a shapeless web.

Thank you for my life flowing.
Thank you for the years that will come.

Carla Scarano D’Antonio obtained her MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University and has published her creative work in magazines and reviews. Her short collection Negotiating Caponata was published in July 2020. She was awarded a PhD on Margaret Atwood’s work at the University of Reading in April 2021.