Monday, 8 April 2019

Launching The Neverlands

V. Press is very very pleased to announce the launch of Damhnait Monaghan's The Neverlands!

The Neverlands, a virtuoso mosaic of microfictions by Damhnait Monaghan, tells the story of Nuala, a child caught in the crossfire of her parents' troubled marriage. This is a family epic in flash form, masterfully and movingly distilled, both devastating and hopeful. A gorgeous debut.” Kathy Fish

The Neverlands is a heart-tugger of a collection. In pitch-perfect colloquial prose, Damhnait Monaghan waltzes us through the sorrows of a poverty-stricken Irish family, who struggle to love each other well. Funny, clever, warm and sad, this is a beautiful book.” Nuala O’Connor

The interconnected stories in The Neverlands are very raw and very real.

A sample flash can be read below.

36 pages
RRP £6.50

BUY The Neverlands NOW using the paypal buttons below.

The Neverlands (including P&P/delivery options)

Nuala: Dutch Courage

Da staggers up to the school gates at morning break and calls for Nuala. Her stomach is bubbling but she goes over and looks at him through the fence. He smiles and there’s more teeth gone. When he says he’s proud of his Nuala, she pinches her wrist hard so she doesn’t cry. Why does he have to be drunk to say anything good? Sister Angelique comes to lead her away and says it’s Dutch courage. Nuala says she doesn’t know much about Holland and Sister Angelique says actually it’s the Neverlands. And Nuala thinks that sounds about right.


Sunday, June 30  Flash Fiction Festival 
Trinity College Bristol, Stoke Hill, Stoke Bishop
This event is part of the weekend festival – full details on booking can be found on the festival website at

Publishing with an Indie Press 

Diane Simmons, whose debut flash fiction collection Finding A Way was  published by Ad Hoc Fiction in  February 2019, and Damhnait Monaghan, whose debut flash fiction chapbook, The Neverlands was published in April 2019 by V.Press, will talk about their journeys to publication and what has happened in the few months since, with publishers Jude Higgins from Ad Hoc Fiction and Sarah Leavesley from V Press. Diane and Damhnait will read samples from their collections and there will be  Q and A. 

Monday, 14 October 2019 – Guest Feature at Loose Muse: Winchester Discovery Centre, Jewry Street, Winchester, Hants SO23 8SB. With Guest Feature poet Katrina Naomi as  Time:  7.30-9.30 p.m. Cost: £6 at the door.

Friday, 5 April 2019

Review(s) of The boy who couldn't say his name

V. Press is very very pleased to share this review of John Lawrence’s The boy who couldn't say his name (published last week) by Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2015/16 Heather Wastie.

The boy who couldn't say his name: a review by Heather Wastie

The boy who couldn’t say his name is a joy to read, a book of poems packed with heart, humour and a unique slant on everyday life. The collection is underpinned but not dominated by the story behind the title, the painful experiences he endured as a child. His relationship with a Maths teacher is vividly described in 'Report: Maths 31%...'

'Her pinched cheeks, ivory, close enough to claw;
her quink-black eyes, close enough to skewer
with my newly sharpened HB pencil.'

In the title poem, he refers in third person to a boy who is bullied because of his stammer ‘in the game of seek-and-chide’. In 'My Father’s Cap' he writes:

'The day the kids at school find out
I’m Sally Army, I show them blood
but little fire. They vent their fury

at my deceit: this kid deserves
an extra slap. Bruises the colour
of my father’s cap.' 

'Cornet Player on the Run' opens with these lines:

'Guilty. I deserted from the Salvation Army
halfway through Onward Christian Soldiers -'

I have always enjoyed John’s poems, and it has been good to watch him gradually conquer stage fright over the years since I first warmed to his work. In 'An account of the last moments of the poet' he translates his terror with his trademark humour:

'When I take the wrong turn and find myself
clomping up the steps to the block,
take my word, it’s not what I want to do –
a bloody inconvenient way to go.'

And in the hilarious 'DIY and Me', he expresses a similar – though not so extreme – feeling of alienation as he joins the queue in ‘Plumbers R Us’:

'I join the queue, trying to stand like a plumber,
As a huge fan of close-coupling, my ears prick up,
I feel like a fish out of water
like Ricky Gervais on Songs of Praise'

There are some memorable lines like, for example, in 'Inventory: in my shed I have the following':

'one garden rake, handle whittled to a point
a Charles and Di ashtray with a half-smoked joint'

He’s good on titles too:

'In the Museum of Air Guitars'
'Hair Loss: The Musical'
'The Lament of the Zanussi Luminary'

It has always been a pleasure listening to John’s work, and I am delighted that V Press are publishing this collection so that more people can enjoy, and no doubt relate to, his unique take on the ordinary and his wicked imagination.

Heather Wastie

This review at:


"John Lawrence knows how to tell a story, sometimes using analogy, and often setting up a scene then creating a volta, like a twist in the tale, so the ending is not predictable....Overall “The Boy Who Couldn’t Say His Name” contains wry, keenly-observed, mostly witty stories and vignettes taking a slant look at familiar scenarios and crafted with care to engage readers."
Emma Lee, full review here

More information and a sample poem from The boy who couldn't say his name can be found here.

TO BUY a copy of The boy who couldn't say his name, please use the Paypal link below (selecting the required delivery option).

The boy who couldn't say his name (including P&P)


Thurs 11 April 2019: Speakeasy, Wayland's Yard, Worcester, 7.30pm

Thurs 25 April 2019: Caffe Grande Slam, Dudley, 7pm

Mon 13 May 2019: Licensed to Rhyme, Cafe Morso, Barnt Green, 7pm

& more to come...

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Launching The boy who couldn't say his name

“John Lawrence’s The boy who couldn’t say his name is a joy to read, a book of poems packed with heart, humour and a unique slant on everyday life. The collection is underpinned but not dominated by the story behind the title, the painful experiences he endured as a child, and his wicked imagination shines through.”
Heather Wastie

“These poems manage the almost impossible feat of being understated yet vivid. In this collection John Lawrence takes us through a landscape of narratives where we can feel life: its little triumphs, its wounds, its quirkiness, its sadness, and its joy. He is also a skilful humourist and it’s a delight to find several poems which showcase his impressive comedic talents. It is a perfect irony that a boy who grew up unable to say his name became a poet with such a compelling and wonderful voice.” Fergus McGonigal

The boy who couldn’t say his name is very empathetic and very entertaining.

ISBN: 978-1-9998444-5-5
80 pages

R.R.P. £10.99

A sample poem from the collection can be found below.

TO BUY a copy of The boy who couldn't say his name, please use the Paypal link below (selecting the required delivery option).

The boy who couldn't say his name (including P&P)

Den, Sole Occupancy

I built a den in the living room, just for me.
Minimalist design, mainly blankets and sheets
draped over curtain poles and a golf club.

In the glimmer of a fading Maglite
it’s the echoless drear of autumn in here,
not enough room for a solitary tango
or a quick-fire round of celebrity charades.

I lie on my back, feeling weightless,
stare at the astral alignment of the buttons on her coat,
which doubles as the makeshift door. Now
on with the headphones, so the noise is less black.
Invent a new game – count the buttons on the coat.
See a new something – one blonde hair,
caught in the thread of the button at the end.
Create a new plan – build a den within a den,
then another, and another, and another,
until the last is as small as a jackdaw’s egg.

I’d invite you in, I could unhitch the coat
from the golf club. But we’d only mess it up.


"Lawrence presents a thoroughly enjoyable debut collection. Running the full gamut of the comic and the tragic, Lawrence draws upon a diverse array of influences from life in the Salvation Army to performative masculinity in the world of DIY. These are stories in verse, featuring memorable forays into the lives of a host of characters including the poet himself."
Poetry Book Society Spring Bulletin 2019
Poetry Book Society (PBS) members can get 25% off orders of this collection when ordering through the PBS. More info here



Thurs 11 April 2019: Speakeasy, Wayland's Yard, Worcester, 7.30pm

Thurs 25 April 2019: Caffe Grande Slam, Dudley, 7pm

Mon 13 May 2019: Licensed to Rhyme, Cafe Morso, Barnt Green, 7pm

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Spring News


"Three Men on the Edge took me unawares and made a huge impression. To me it represents what the Republic of Consciousness Prize is all about - hardcore literary fiction and gorgeous prose from a tiny independent press that's willing to take risks. Denholm, Gus and Martyn are wonderful creations and Michael Loveday renders their world with great skill and empathy and subtlety."

David Collard, chair of the judging panel, Republic of Consciousness Prize 2019

Sample flashes and more information about Three Men on the Edge can also be found here.

"“The Escapologist” contains poems that are warm, conversational in tone and welcoming to read. They wear their craft and musicality lightly, which makes them an engaging read and gives them a depth exploring and exposing family psychologies."
Emma Lee, full review here

For a sample poem, more information or to order a copy of Jinny Fisher's The Escapologist, please click here.

V. Press is also extremely pleased to share the Poetry Book Society pre-publication review of John Lawrence's collection The boy who couldn't say his name, which is out on Mother's Day (31 March) 2019.

"Lawrence presents a thoroughly enjoyable debut collection. Running the full gamut of the comic and the tragic, Lawrence draws upon a diverse array of influences from life in the Salvation Army to performative masculinity in the world of DIY. These are stories in verse, featuring memorable forays into the lives of a host of characters including the poet himself."

Poetry Book Society Spring Bulletin 2019

Poetry Book Society (PBS) members can get 25% off orders of this collection when ordering through the PBS. More info here.

A sample poem and more information about  The boy who couldn't say his name can also be found here.


If you haven't yet had a chance to check out The Reading Room, this is a new initiative to provide resources (and discounts) on V. Press titles for reading groups. Although set up for reading book organisers, the page contains  links to reading notes that may interest any readers and writers wanting to learn more about the background to our titles and their inspiration. The Reading Room also lists titles under potential themes and special interest areas that may be useful if you're looking for poetry or flash on a particular topic... We've already had new notes and listings added since starting the initiative earlier this month. You can read more here!


V. Press is very pleased to share Kibriya Mehrban's latest  'Top Notes', for The Escapologist by Jinny Fisher.

"Clinic – Earth Angel

Bon Iver – The Wolves (Act I & II)

Radical Face – Kin

James Morrison – Too Late for Lullabies

Sleeping at Last – Aperture

The first song on this playlist for Jinny Fisher’s The Escapologist  is a recommendation from Jinny herself, Clinic’s song Earth Angel. The first sound when this track begins is that of waves coming up onto the shore, so I immediately linked it to the coastal setting featured in poems like ‘Retrofocus’ and ‘The Always Ireland Holiday’. Listening to the opening bars, you might think this is a feel-good song and yet it surprises with dissonant notes, and lyrics that are at once opaque and ominous. This feels like a musical iteration of a trick that Jinny plays frequently on the reader in The Escapologist, making us think we’re looking at one thing before pulling the rug out from under us with an incongruous detail, some tiny revelation that changes how we see the whole scene. A mother and daughter sing along with a band at a concert and yet there is something uncomfortable in the danger of stepping on a pair of misplaced wellies. A family eat Sunday lunch together but the careful deliberateness of the “chew and swallow” hint at an unspoken tension. A memory of being washed in the sink is probed in a murmur by a disembodied voice… There’s something uncanny about how skilfully Jinny balances the emotions of the reader somewhere between intrigue and trepidation, and for me, the sounds of this track have a great synergy with that experience..."

Kibriya's full Top Notes recommendation, along with some of her photo-quotes for the pamphlet, can be found over on the Chez Nous page here.


Various V. Press launches and readings by V. Press authors are in the pipeline for the coming months. These recent and new poetry titles include Jinny Fisher's The Escapologist, Kathy Gee's Checkout, John Lawrence's The boy who couldn't say his name (31 March),  Natalie Linh Bolderston's The Protection of Ghosts (23 April) and Becky Varley-Winter's Heroines On the Blue Peninsula (7 May),
along with flash fiction pamphlets Midnight Laughter by Paul McDonald and The Neverlands by Damhnait Monaghan (8 April). (More information on forthcoming titles can be found here, and keep an eye on this blogpage for details of the launch events on the publication day blogpost for each of these.)

Martin Zarrop will be reading from Making Waves,with Black Cat Poets at the Victoria Community Centre in Denton (M34 3JG) at 7.30pm tonight (Thursday, 21 March 2019). Open mic slots. Entrance £3.

Also, Michael Loveday, author of Three Men on the Edge (V. Press flash fiction novella) will discuss writing flash fiction and the opportunities for writing a series of stories to create a novella in a Q&A at Bristol Novel Nights on 29 May, 2019. More info on this here.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Launching Checkout and The Reading Room

V. Press is very very delighted to announce a double launch today: Kathy Gee's Checkout  and a new V. Press initiative The Reading Room.

The Reading Room is a discount order system and range of resources for reading/writing groups and those working in education. These include reading notes from V. Press authors, starting with Kathy Gee's Checkout which is published today.

Checkout is a sequence of character portraits and vignettes based on the ephemeral characters that cross a corner shop’s bell-chiming threshold. Told from every side of the social spectrum, this is a play for voices, voices in verses, a cross between Under Milk Wood and Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads. This is a bold and brave collection from the distinctive voice of Kathy Gee.”  Rhian Edwards

“In a time where high street shops are declining or under threat, Checkout is a timely ode, set in Middle England with a ‘cadenced heart,/ alert to daily rhythms, oiled/ by traffic, chips and friends.’ We can add dogs and peregrine to the series of vignettes of everyday people, caught with a keen ear, passionate not to lose the nuances of a century’s old tradition. These voices are guided by a young narrator, who serves and observes; someone who is on her own odyssey that ventures around the world without moving out of the confines of the cash desk. As people make their daily pilgrimage to this local shop, there are elements of Canterbury Tales and Bukowski flowing through this brave collection.” Roy Mcfarlane

As confident as sugar lumps in Yorkshire Tea, Checkout is very immersive, very real.

A sample poem from the pamphlet can be found below.

36 pages
ISBN: 978-1-9165052-0-9
RRP £6.50

BUY Checkout NOW using the paypal options below.

Checkout (including P&P/delivery options)

Pembe:  Snow in Istanbul     

Four flights of stairs to a wooden loft.
I flicked false triumph from my paintbrush,
spattered anger over canvas
stretched out on the lime-white floor.
Beneath the frozen sky, I argued,
cut through dead-end debts and lies,
spread ink blots on his frogspawn heart.
     A second canvas, white and square,
was laid out like the first, but turned
so every corner pointed at a wall.
I stretched up to the skylight, bent
to fling fresh paint at what comes next.
The brilliant colours furled and landed
where new stories said they must.
              The day the sun broke through, I tried
to sell the pictures of my life
to a dealer from the Grand Bazaar.
Enticed by promises of tea,
he climbed the stairs to my attic room
and tried to buy the snow-white, star-shaped
space, revealed, uncovered on the floor.


Friday, 8 March 2019, launch. 7-9pm, pay bar opens at 6.30pm. Venue: Worcester Arts Workshop, 21 Sansome St, Worcester WR1 1UH. There will be guest poets and an experimental ‘crowd reading’. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we will only read from the female customer poems!

Tuesday, 26 March 2019, 6.30 – 10pm. Headlining at Poetry Bites, held behind the Kitchen Garden Café, 17 York Road, Birmingham, United Kingdom. Some ‘crowd reading’ slots available from

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Launching Midnight Laughter

V. Press is very very delighted to announce the publication of Midnight Laughter by Paul McDonald.

The short fiction in Midnight Laughter is very funny and very unsettling…

“These are fantastic, absurd, coruscating, disturbing and laugh-out-loud funny gobbets of communication from journeys into that bizarre realm between dream and reality. Brilliant testaments to the power of the human imagination and the mad computer of the brain, each of these little detonations of alluring oddness make the world seem simultaneously stranger and sounder than it is. Superb stuff.” Niall Griffiths

“I absolutely loved Midnight Laughter and will be pressing it upon everyone I know. These are precision cut gems of stories – little shards of darkness, pathos, unexpected tenderness and wicked humour. A beautifully crafted collection.” Catherine O’Flynn

A sample flash from the pamphlet can be found below.

36 pages
ISBN: 978-1-9165052-5-4
RRP £6.50

BUY Midnight Laughter NOW using the paypal options below.

Midnight Laughter (including P&P/delivery options)

Short Story

One morning at breakfast Pete was a foot shorter than he’d been the night before. His PJs tripped him up as he shuffled through the kitchen. “Watch out Mr Clumsy,” said his wife. He ate his kippers as she talked about the day she had in store; should she purchase him some platforms from the shops?

Next morning he was two feet shorter still, his nose scarcely level with the kitchen counter. He struggled with his kippers, the size of barracuda on his plate. “Eat up,” said his wife, who pinched his cheeks between her fingers, “You’re getting cuter by the day!”

Next morning he was less than two feet tall and wore her blouse as a dressing gown. She spent some time ruffling-up his hair, sat him in a highchair, and flew him flakes of kipper on an aeroplane fork: “My darling Petie Weetie!”

Next morning he was half the size again, and she calmed him with a dummy dunked in kipper juice and spit…

Time shrank. He couldn’t tell how long it was before he was so tiny he could fit inside a capsule, its headache powder contents tapped-out on the draining board ready for his fingernail frame. The trip down her gullet made him squeal, the sound of which diminished to a dot. If you’ve ever wondered what a dot would sound like. It sounds like that.


Catch Paul McDonald at these events - don't worry, none at midnight!

‘Writing Very Short Stories’ - a public talk at University of Wolverhampton (Stafford Campus) on Tuesday, 2 April  2019, 11am-1pm.

‘Writing Very Short Stories’ - a guest speaker talk for Walsall Writer’s Circle, Walsall College (Wisemore Campus) on Thursday, 9 May 2019, 7-9pm

Reading at ‘Poetry Alight’, Kings Head, Lichfield on Tuesday, 1 October 2019 (evening)

Thursday, 14 February 2019

The V. Press Valentine's Selection Box

Life may or may not be like a box of chocolates, but V. Press is very very pleased to offer readers this Valentine's online mini-selection from some of our titles.

The themed prose and poems here are a small sample of what's on offer in the bookshop. And please do click on the link for each title  below to enjoy more work by the same writer, along with information and reviews about the book or pamphlet.

Love poems

I’ve been reading love poems.
All the images – falling downstairs,
memories in ruins, sleeping by an ocean –
make me want to see him,

even though it wasn’t right then,
and would be wrong still now:
an incorrect answer to a maths problem;
an image that doesn’t quite fit.

But still, I want to see him,
relive the kingfisher and the swans
and the fish and chips by the harbour
and the cinema with armchairs,

in one brief meeting; lunch, perhaps.
We would smile, and talk about our children,
while thinking of other things;
and forget all those hotel rooms.

Brenda-Read Brown, from Like love


If, in a bus station, two people (who will one day fall in love) sit opposite on red benches which fold like cinema seats, bus stations everywhere occupying, dropboxlike, these same coordinates in spacetime where each of us would know the same sparkling floor, remember the place gum is pressed behind pipes, or how all tiled walls are touched with dieselgrime and a crane fly endlessly expires in fluorescence, and if, because such halts are built to expel us, one of these two people (who are soon to fall in love) has sent his mind away to some peak with boulders and peat and melon-red grass, but the other, instead, only lopes his eyes, catching eventually the first’s, so distant with falcons and mist he thinks his gaze is clasped, headlong, such that he smiles a surprised smile which melts through thought, to recognition, and if, suddenly, these two people (who begin to fall in love) find themselves spanning those dimensions without knowing whose long glance first lit whose, is it—on reflection—a mistake?

Gram Joel Davies, from Bolt Down This Earth

Apple Picking

Finally, something works.
The tree heaves beneath the weight –
that first flood of fruit; we pick,
store, rejoice.

Windfall offers enough to deer;
the branches remain full for us.
Green, blushing red in my hands –
life dressed in September colours.

Too sharp to eat raw,
they soften at golden sugar, simmered flames.
Flour and butter crumble through my fingers,
ready to blanket the sweetness.

Much is stored away. Jars, bottles,
anything that holds.
The whole ones nestle together, stalks entwined
in the pantry’s sleeping dark.

We cannot contain it all.
Hot inside our thawing mouths, we smile
for each other, for the turning of earth.
We eat the evening, spoon by spoon.

Claire Walker, Somewhere Between Rose and Black

Dali Clock 

I had the identical watch to this clock, once.
Bent out of shape, Roman numerals stretching
and shrinking, melting towards the centre.

I didn't know him back then
and yet here is an object
we were both attracted to.
A perfect match.

Glass protects hand and face
but it's nearly always one.
It has no function
except it stands on the second shelf
next to the picture of him with his godchildren –
all smiling and laughing.
A natural moment captured.
Next to time
that has stopped.

Nina Lewis, from Fragile Houses

“What Does Moonlight Smell Like?”

“What do you mean?”

“Polish? Shoe polish? No, wood polish. Lemons, but not real lemons; artificial lemons, fake lemons. Dusting cloth, artificial lemon polish. Not a fresh cloth, no. That stale cloth lemon. That musty dust of repeated disappointments and disappointing repetitions. What do you reckon it smells like? Here, take a whiff. The outside? Grass or leaves or soil or dirt or mud or rain or sand? A slight hint of ginger? Not ginger-ginger but gingerbread-ginger. Don’t look at me like that; they’re different. Moonlight smells like difficulty. It’s the opposite of triumphant – the word escapes me. It’s too passive to be resilient. You think it smells like the night? Well, what does night smell like? How do you know that the night doesn’t only smell like the night because what you can really smell is moonlight and now we’ve come to associate the smell of moonlight with the smell of the night? Which is which? Does moonlight smell the same everywhere? How about in Hawaii? I bet moonlight smells different there, or the night… Wait – wait! If the moon reflects the sun’s light, what does sunlight smell like? What is this I’m smelling? Day or night, sun or moon, light or reflection? How do we know if we’re smelling day at night-time or night at daytime? Wha–”

“Darling, it’s only a bunch of chemicals to make the candle scented. Put it down so we can go get something to eat.”

Santino Prinzi, from There's Something Macrocosmic About All of This

Trying too hard

When I was younger trying too hard was a good thing;
being “too helpful” wasn’t even a phrase.
I spent my childhood days trying too hard
to stitch trying too hard into my DNA
because trying this hard was thought admirable.

But when he, narrow-eyed and sharp-tongued,
tells grown-up me that I’m trying too damn hard,
he hurls the words like hardball insults.
My best quality is now the one that tests him
and his patience the most.

So I peel back skin, pull out parts
of myself and begin to unpick their stitching.
He catches me, shakes his head, laughs, and leaves –
on his way out he tells me how typical it is
that I’m trying too hard. Again.

Charley Barnes, from A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache

The Gardener

I go to him when the lakes are quiet,
when blossom holds its breath
in bluest south.
The horses

have strung up their miles
and collect inwards towards the light –
and all the dim world’s glow,

this earth-meal and dust
now damp
and glittering in this autumn’s constant.
All the flames that go up

are a mortal shout.
The gardener’s burn,
its heat and grain

reveal him in his awfulness
tending the ruined mass,
this mode of a man
I’ve learned to love

tackles leaf, and loom, drags
the swollen bosom of wood
from a belly of wire

and bluish thistle.
He wants it all to burn.
We drain the lakes,
their glass up-sends in fume,

their iris codes
flurry, and whiten the air
to our killing conditions –

in this blood-red insistence
committing ourselves.
The horses walk on
like women through fire.

Helen Calcutt, from Unable Mother


As I peek through the gaps in the lattice fence
I see your face; you are looking back at me
from your seat in the park. There are tears

on your cheeks, which you do not brush away.
Your raise your hand to your lips
and blow me a kiss; there are many reasons

why I can’t respond, many reasons
why I should not be here. Your perfection
draws me to you, still. Now, close to my head,

a ladybird walks a ridge, senses my shadow,
senses my breath, before opening its wings
and flying to you. All I can do

is stand here and wish,
wish I was with you
on that seat in the park.

John Lawrence, from The boy who couldn't say his name

Visit Day

Since Lisa said she wanted to separate a year ago, Nick had seen the word divorce at the edge of his vision; he’d heard the word when other words beginning with D had been spoken — division, divvy, detain. He’d been upset, of course, but not devastated. He’d see Lisa whenever he saw Crystal, and he felt that once they were broken up properly and time had passed, they’d have a chance to get together again.

Now, from inside his prison cell, Nick feels the finality of the word, of the act. His three-year sentence changes everything. Divorce means throwing him out like rotten vegetables, unusable, unhealthy. Divorce will quadruple his solitude, his fear, his loneliness when they were just bearable before.

So he lifts weights at rec time, limits himself to half a pack of cigarettes a day, doesn’t complain or even grimace as he mops the vast kitchen. He brushes his teeth after every meal; he’s reading for the first time since high school — just the newspaper, but he can’t believe how much happens, how much is always going on that he never thought of before.

He works on his answers. If she says divorce, he’ll tell her about the prison’s family counseling program. If she asks how he’s doing, he says he misses her and Crystal. If she says she’ll stick with him, he won’t cry. He’ll kiss her hands before he kisses her mouth.

When the day comes, Nick catches himself eating quickly and slows down. He imagines the softness of her lips and tries to remember details from the newspaper article on the fundraising drive for the zoo, so he can show he’s been reading, so he can talk about taking Crystal. He counts his steps as he walks to the visiting room, pulls his shoulders back as he enters.

It’s Eddie, in a blue Cubs t-shirt and jeans. They sit across from one another, and finally Nick asks, “Where’s Lisa?”

“Sorry, Nick, she got called into work at the last minute, so she asked me to come. Lucky I had the day off.”

Nick realizes he’s shaking, his whole body trembling before he wills it to stop. The voices of other prisoners and visitors rise up around them.

“So you’re looking good,” Eddie says. “You been working out?”

Nick shakes his head. He can’t do this. He can’t make small talk. “You,” he says at last, glancing at his wedding band. “Tell me about you.”

Carrie Etter, from Hometown


he presses the code she gave him
into the panel, fumbles
in the dark hallway
hearing his own heart quicken
as he taps at the door
tracing the sound —
answering footsteps
that move towards him
then seem to slow

there’s time for both to turn

Alex Reed, from These nights at homewith photos by Keren Banning

Seeking Miss Aether

“To the woman of my dreams:
I’m a mature, single male
who enjoys the pleasures 
of classical physics.”

You’re out there somewhere,
everywhere. I need you
to make sense of my world.

I accept I’m old-fashioned,
viewpoint unchanging.
It was good enough for Newton.

Young Albert insists
that you’re past it
but what does he know.

Forget about relativity,
the expanding universe.
This is bigger.

Darling, I’ve seen the light
bend, space contort
and I worry.

Where are you, lover?
Invisible siren, sing to me;
there’s still time.

Martin Zarrop, from Making Waves
A version of Seeking Miss Aether appeared in The Journal (2018)


Their flesh meets like a wolf nearing water
just before dusk, its breath unmuzzled musk
as it nuzzle-greets its shape, then falters…

Eyes dip, its jaw unhooks, muscles tauten,
back arches, as fur sleeks to fluid lust.
Their flesh meets like a wolf nearing water.

The parched beast drinks deep, wide-throated, alters
stance to uncloak her taste from its red husk,
nuzzle-greets her warm-blooded shape, falters,

as nature’s leafy-scented young daughter
lays out her earth bed with its moist wood crust.
Their flesh meets like a wolf nearing water.

And so she blends, just as nature’s taught her:
two forest torsos, soft-mossed and fern-brushed.
As they nuzzle-greet, their wild shape falters –

a raindrop slides from its red-leaf altar,
a wolf’s tongue laps up the soft-falling dusk.
Their flesh meets like ripples across water,
nuzzle-greets its wild shape, doesn’t falter.

Sarah James, from The Vaginellas

at the door

he leans to the sound
of his own hand
tapping the dusk

skimming the music
just within reach
of her tinting her eyes

with blue shadow

Alex Reed, from These nights at homewith photos by Keren Banning



Sometimes a heart can break.
Not dropped on an unyielding tile-hard floor
to shatter into gem-sized fragments
Not splintered into the knife-blade-thickness
of rifts in unseasoned kindling
Not like the unearthing of a pit of bones
all with fractures from soldiers’ rifle-butts
Not bread broken into mass-sized pieces
for a line of Sunday half-believers
Not the clean snap of a KitKat bar
between the V of ungloved hands
Not the cracking of a pensioner’s skull
with a baseball bat from JD Sports
Not the curtain of night-cloud parting
for a glimpse of the moon’s borrowed sunlight
Not the unisoned break-down of black-clad mourners
as their loved one finishes dying.


Sometimes a heart can break, but no,
not suddenly like that – a heart can break
like the crazing lines on a fire-glazed vase,
where the ping of the creeping fractures
goes on and on for ever. A muttered no,
a lingering so what, a flicker of hate
in a sideways glance, the unworn ridge
in the middle of the bed, the days
of making-do and the nights of fake-believe;
two trapped half-lives, no longer a whole.


Maybe, sometimes, things can unbreak –
the kindling and the rifle-butts and the baseball bat
are restored to a tree and the dead wake back to life
and in my dream of all dreams you can’t wait
to break the silence with an i-love-you;
yes, I want more of you and you want more of me
and in every crazy day together
there’s a carnival of things unbroken.

Sometimes, a heart can unbreak.  Maybe.

John Lawrence, from The boy who couldn't say his name


The first change was the milk – 
the bottle half-full the day after
its use by. In time, I could make choices: 
a scarlet coffee mug from eBay;
a hand-made wooden bed
with a mattress that moulded 
to just my shape; daffodil-yellow paint
for the bedroom walls.

We’re told we repair and renew our cells
until the end of the end day, when
we don’t. For now, I’ll top up
the salt we kept in the old wine bottle,
never knowing how many grains
remain from the day he left the house.

Jinny Fisher, from The Escapologist


In matching North Face jackets
they sit side by side, still as herons, 
talking in whispers as if a lovers’ tryst. 

He: a single-handed hold 
on an up-market scope,
one eye on the birds, 
the other tightly shut. 
She: two hands grip binoculars
as though they hold a secret;
scuffed and chipped 
but doing the job.

On the fringe of the wetland,
two grebes declare themselves, 
shake heads, ready
for their elaborate tango. 

In the hide, she touches his arm,
code for have you seen?
He thinks of her in that blue cotton dress
at the dance where they met,
and nods his head.
This is no awkward silence,
this is it. Their safe word is teashop. 

Not what they dreamed of,
but it’ll do. 

John Lawrence, from The boy who couldn't say his name

7 reasons

standing by her door

waiting in the dark

listening for her footsteps

she walks towards him

all his selves uncovered

all the king’s horses

there is no other moment

Alex Reed, from These nights at homewith photos by Keren Banning

We are made from beautiful atoms

After Keiji Nakazawa

Remember, my sister,
we are made of beautiful atoms,
up there in the doll-eyed darkness,
our world is a teardrop from God,
no water is anywhere else but here –
remember, my sister, we are made from beautiful atoms.

Remember, my brother,
we both were born and wiped unclean;
that blood of birth could connect us –
our mothers are portals to beautiful atoms.
Hold on to me, brother, I shall carry you.
Remember our world was once a beautiful eye

none of us
saw it.

Antony Owen, from The Nagsaki Elder


A phantom haunts the universe,
a quantum thread that binds our lives
to distant mass, refusing to let go.

Astronomers hold to another truth:
as bodies move apart, attraction fades
and memory weighs nothing out in space.

Shut up and calculate
they tell the homesick astronaut
and yet

I thought I saw her yesterday
and wept.

Martin Zarrop, from Making Waves
Entanglement also appeared in Moving Pictures (Cinnamon Press, 2016)


Now and then, Faith likes to switch on her smoke alarm in the middle of the night to wake Denholm. Summoning him next-door to read the electricity or kill her spiders just hasn’t got his attention. She always gets going at about four a.m., because she wants to give Denholm one restful sleep cycle, timing her disruption such as to disarrange him no more than necessary. She leaves her windows closed and switches on the fan oven, dishwasher and tumble dryer simultaneously, since she has discovered that the combined increase in temperature is enough to trigger her temperamental heat-sensitive kitchen alarm, a method that she considers altogether more stylish than resorting to burnt toast. And, once this little monster has begun its relentless middle-of-the-night ear-pain, she leaves it screeching, ignoring the dismay of her only cat, Rupert, until the connecting alarms in the hallway and bedroom are also kicking off. The triple effect of these in the pitch of night is usually enough to rouse her dutiful neighbour. If he is sleeping quite soundly, she nudges him further by clattering chairs and slamming the stick of her broom against the adjoining wall, in a pretence of dealing with the blare. When she’s heard his first tentative step down that creaking staircase, she removes all but a trace of make-up as if caught off-guard; tangles her braid bun into a just-out-of-someone-else’s-bed look; then puts on her lilac slip, which she is certain is his favourite. She does this even though she is a happy widow now and Denholm is fifteen years her senior. She does this even though he struggles down those stairs at nights to get to her with his gammy leg. She does this because she can’t resist her need for these performances: when his fingers press her buzzer and she swings the door open, she’s always beguiled by that look on her own face.

Michael Loveday, from Three Men on the Edge


There was a time for volcanoes,
when lava burned through veins
and sparks spat from my eyes.

But now, I am ready for the sofa of him,
for the thousandth run on his TV
of Toy Story or Love, Actually;
for the sleep that I slip into
as easily as his cats;
for his cats, his cushions, his biscuits;
for his non-explosive central heating.

He should think himself lucky.
Volcanoes are much easier to live with

when they’re dormant.

Brenda-Read Brown, from Like love