Survivors by Setareh Ebrahimi


There is no poetry in a life that was born
without love
and suffered till it died like an animal.
I try to feel as lucky as my family
tell me I am for not being war-torn,
rather than guilty.

How can we be grateful for things
not experienced that still haunt?
These images of brown people
turned ghosts by ash and fallout,
the sight of their blood the only sign
they’re alive,
is a cultural whip to keep us on our toes,
their mouths silent, too familiar Os.

Amongst the mundanity of life
with its bashful, everyday sufferings
space must be made in the consciousness
for every worthless existence
and potential Einstein
that was run over by an ice cream van
or had a heart attack masturbating.

Scrolling through the news shows me
government brutality in my own country,
someone’s cranium unable to contain its blood,
then a Cosmopolitan article,
’12 Things About Missionary That Men Love’.
A reporter recently confessed
that women are still having sex
in places reduced to ground level and dust,
unable to grow.

So morbid curiosity for the rest follows,
periods, childbirth, menopause,
perhaps someone near a bombsight
is plucking eyebrows or rouging lips
like liberated concentration camp victims.
In this moment we are survivors.
We don’t talk about the dead amongst us,
or millions of parallel fibres.

Setareh Ebrahimi is an Iranian-British poet who lives in Faversham. She released her debut pamphlet, In My Arms, from Bad Betty in 2018, and regularly performs poetry live, most recently featuring at Words at Waves at Harbour Books in Whitstable.

Check out Setareh's website 

Found in a Phone Box by Tim Kiely



Twins! Both New in Town!
In and Out Calls,
Sauna Yoga,
Kettle Balls,
Short-Wave Radio Assembly and
Krav Maga.
Call now and make us do things.


No-op cissex white boy
your sickness
your normalcy.


Work part-time,
get paid full-time,
fulfil no-time,
regard this time,
there’s only this time,
be left with this time,
call now for time.


Body to body massage.
Muscle to muscle massage.
Cell to cell massage
(phone-sex not included).


Samantha is not genuine.
The hair is fake. The tits are fake.
The conversation is so fake.
She knows that you want fake baby.
Call now and experience deep fake.


You want blue sports coats?
You want perverted Rolexes?
You want it from a husky Texan?
Baby we have got you,
Like the Satanic Deep State Globalists
have got the US Government,
they’re comin’ for ya,
they’re comin’ for all of us!

Call 13-09-90
feel dirtier
           than you’ve ever felt.

Photo by Tyrone Lewis

Tim Kiely is a criminal barrister living and working in London. His poetry has been published in the 2019 anthologies, Everything That Can Happen, from the Emma Press, and Poets Versus Homelessness, from Tonic Sta Press. 

A Sketch from the Citadel by David Roden


Post-induction, she had them buckled and hooded. Their mouths seeped through ball-gags and wet strips of cloth.

The concubines had returned to their distant quarters. She was back at the Processing Yard where drugged internees were decanted over the cavernous staging area. She saw them always from a great distance, as through a long tunnel. Even in their inert state, she felt they expected something of her.

His straitjacket prolapsed red across white, petals and coils, a sour stink of stomach acids and excrement. The way he cradled his viscera so tenderly; the way blood-flecked saliva bubbled until he shook. She removed his gag, shrugged off her short silk gown, put away the gutting knife, allowing the miracle of his tongue to sting. 

He rose to the occasion, extended a cooling body. She convulsed as he died, aware of the chained eyes of the inductees egging her on; learning to appreciate her.

They had lived beyond the black bulwarks as mothers, fathers, lovers, students, artists, bureaucrats, thinkers; now reduced to anonymous toys - Citadel carrion, as she had been once. Yet she craved their attention and more. Power in the Outside was anonymous and dispersed. In the Citadel it accrued into spectacle then mutated into something else.

She relished all the contradictions this visibility entailed. For today, she appeared to them in well-fed, sore and scabbed flesh. She wanted to understand what it was to inexist. They could help each other out.

That night, she had phoned in another team from a nearby arsenal. They journeyed through the sinuous tram-shafts, burrowing in ancient catacombs webbed with gantries and girders in a substructure of pure imperviousness, Primary Matter. 

The two male concubines touched her tentatively, afraid to hurt her until ordered to. But they soon got the hang of snagging breasts in teeth, pinching, licking and raking, before they slipped into her with the modesty of their kind. The women kissed and cut, leaving her red-burning, wet and angry.

The condemned, at least, would appreciate the incongruity while the Clock Guards - heavy industrial automata with a minimal regard for human anatomy - beat a select few into red pap. They killed slowly yet were indefatigable once the order was passed. This instructional process always seemed about to plumb her capacity for horror but never exceeded it. 

At her panoramic window, she stared out across the winding tunnels and the minatory prows of Black Ships floating on Void Winds between the Dolorous Cities, rearing thunderheads from the Citadel’s prime substance. The Ships waited to drink her as they waited to drink them all, before the entire assemblage halted, screaming its insolent prayer at the final emptiness. She was changed utterly. On the Outside she had never wielded power or appreciated how it damned its possessor. Now it was a weapon for that which waited across light centuries of glacier, under the collated facsimiles of former galaxies.  

The Clock Guards stumbled out of pools of blood mash and splintered bone, gauche as baby crabs. One day, she would order them to pick her apart, then to deconstruct themselves, claw out their synthetic muscles and camera eyes. She would tell the condemned to watch carefully. It would not be justice. There would be too much pleasure in it, and death would be but a hesitation before the Ships.

And perhaps this alone bothered her. If perversion was the rule, where was she? What could she do, who came from nowhere and would never return?

From the Outside, the Citadel is finite, local, secreted in a waste quarter of every city: a baroque town house reserved for silent ritualists, a fortress, residue of a defunct police state, a chateau crumbling in the heart of a decaying steel works. Nervous magistrates concoct paper misdirections to ratify the internees’ disappearance, implicating them in corruption, theft, prostitution or child murders. It doesn’t matter if they are punished justly, only that the greater mass believes it. Yet from the Citadel, the Outside is irretrievable. An idiot loneliness.

David Roden is a philosopher and writer interested in alternatives to being human. His book Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human was published in 2014. His experimental prose work has been published in Gobbet, Dis Magazine, Surfaces and Sunk Island Review.

Blind Date by Roberta Francis

I tried so hard not to wear them
stuffing the glasses inside my fleece.
A jailed throat so full of phlegm.
My slip of a coat hiding steams
Of black-ink on the shirt I had to wear.
Her and the ugly sister smirking
Their mess brushed across my cheeks.
All I could do was fumble through torn tissue,
And fix my eyes on the grey slate.
Foul words to break me
Opened their mouths they swallowed my face.
Tug at my hair like an unwanted doll,
Forced to the floor, blot becomes blood
Heels splinter glass eyes turn to mud.

Roberta Francis is a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at the Open University.  She is a spoken word poet/novelist and is currently finishing her first novel. She has been published in the York Literary Review and Spoken Word Anti-hate anthology.

INSOMNIA by Dominic Lyne


Here we go again,
sat alone
in front of a notebook.
The flat settled down for the night,
everyone asleep but me.
I hear my boyfriend move in bed,
most likely stretching out, 
but only finding space.
Gripping my pillow
he dreams it’s me he’s hugging.
scrap that,
he’s dreaming of me fucking him,
but the only thing I’m fucking is my patience.
My cock agrees with me and out of spite
shows me how easily it can sleep.
It dreams of fucking my boyfriend,
together they cum in dreamland.
I don’t even get to watch.
Brain censored
like Tumblr in 2019.

If I knew the key to sleep,
I would follow the rules,
write a poem that rhymes,
but that would be a cliché
like a French guy that mimes,
the white stripes of his tight fitting top
taut over his muscles.
I could get lost ripping it from his skin…
Snorting it clean of its lines,
I push the guy into the black void that’s left.
Even a quick daydream is torn open,
spitting me back to the awareness that
my cigarette lies smouldering on my groin.
Fucking Marlboro,
not content at shortening my future,
it wants to sabotage my present.
I don’t need that kinda shit,
and to think I happily feltched smoke out of its ass.

I blew that smoke up God’s ass.
Stole the occasional lick,
hoping my tongue would tingle His rosebud into bloom,
watered by my saliva.
Only I’m like an ant trying to fuck a body
lying naked on the grass in the summer sun.
My un-consented kiss on His butt
is punished by my continual existence;
living face up,
mouth open for the next ball of shit
He needs to evacuate from His divine bowel.
I’m not the only one.
One God,
two billion cups.

I won’t live to see the apocalypse.
I won’t live to see it
because my death will trigger it.
So whilst my soul lingers
around for the Final Judgment,
wide awake as always,
I will watch as the Four Horsemen
appear on the horizon and sashay into view,
bareback riding unicorns
and ejaculating rainbows and sunbeams.
Always knew the gays would be the end of the world.
Everyone knew.
The only fire and brimstone to be seen
will be pouring out of the prolapsed rectums
of puppet politicians once the Horsemen pull out
their well lubricated fists.

I’m still awake.
That wasn’t a micronap flash-mob of a dream.
Those were waking thoughts.
That is what keeps me awake.
The stuff of dreams preventing me
from dreaming.
My boyfriend moves again.
His sleep talk bleeds from the bedroom to my ears.
I could be in there fucking him.
I could be,
but both he and my cock are asleep.
If only I could make insomnia my bitch.
Tonight, however, I’m hers.

Photo by Sebastien Garcia

Suffering from psychosis since the age of four, as well as being on the Schizophrenia Spectrum, Dominic Lyne has been diagnosed with Dissociative Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. All of these mental health issues bleed into his work through his creation of claustrophobic landscapes and offer the reader an insight into his world, the world he has created and mutated in his physical reality. 

Paws in boots by Rishi Dastidar


I'm as jittery as a kangaroo
on a pogo stick on the San Andreas fault
who's had seven double espresso
and a diagnosis of nervous anxiety
to deal with this morning.

I am pre-distressed, and the wonder
isn't we are all like this always when
contending with the sheer impossibility 
of contemplation in a world that suggests
that it is contemptible and consumption is all.

The only solution, the ad suggests,
is to find a girl with beautifully unwashed hair,
and use her green Converse boots
to kick someone else in the head.

Well, that is capitalism, 
as we currently understand it.

Rishi Dastidar’s debut collection Ticker-tape is published by Nine Arches Press, and a poem from it was included in The Forward Book of Poetry 2018. A member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, he is also chair of the London writer development organization Spread The Word.

Weidmann Appeared Before You by Jonathan Kemp


Let us say now that her carnal pleasures never made her fear the wrath of God, the scorn of Jesus, or the candied disgust of the Holy Virgin, never until…

Something makes you look up from your book, perhaps some instinct or unconscious signal - some scent perhaps, or a sixth sense you’re not aware you have. There, two seats in front, on the top deck of the 106 to Finsbury Park, your gaze falls on the back of a boy’s head, a glorious crop of luscious dark brown curls, the lick of its tail at the nape is skewed slighty off-centre & such imperfection makes the sight even more precious. You fall into thinking about the erotics of hair. Why women of certain faiths are commanded to cover their hair lest they incite men to lustful thoughts, making their minds stray to the other hair between her legs. You think about the boy’s body hair. Is it plentiful or scarce, clippered or running wild?

He has his right arm in a sling, and the injury makes him more beautiful still; even though at this point you cannot see his face beyond the quick glimpses of a Roman nose when he turns to look out of the window; a profile of most noble horniness. You find yourself abandoning the book momentarily so you can enjoy the vision before you, the random, unexpected beauty of the back of his head and neck, those well-built shoulders in washed-out salmon jersey cotton, that fits where it hits, showing off his beefy arms. It’s as if you’ve just wandered in off the street into a gallery & found a painting or a statue that you cannot tear your eyes away from. He can’t have any idea how hypnotically beautiful the sight of him from behind is, with those tempting snatches of that profile of a god. His skin is creamy, dreamy, his stubble sparse & lickable. 

You wonder if it’s appropriate to objectivize him like this but know, deep down, that it is. Or at least it is a habit so instinctive that it’s become second nature to you. You remember B saying, ‘I don’t mind of you objectivize me; go ahead’ as you gazed at him, stroked the firm furred ass, drank in the sight of him.  You’ve never bought that it is dehumanizing, or rather if it is it’s a universal experience: to objectify and be objectified in turn. We are all both subject & object. To objectify a beautiful human doesn’t rob them of their subjectivity. The recognition of another’s deep, complex subjectivity is a radical act of intimacy. It is overwhelming, vertiginous, both terrifying and liberating. You don’t know where you end and they begin, so much are you a product of their own perceptions, imagination, and desire, & they of yours. 

You look down & return to your book & read Genet’s words: “The Eternal passed by in the form of a pimp” & they seem to sing in a way you’ve never heard before. For Genet, in that scene, in his cell devising stories about hot murderers & well-endowed criminals to get himself off, “merely to have mentioned him is enough for my left hand in my torn pocket to… And the memory of Darling will not leave me until I have completed my gesture.” That ellipsis – that wank – occurs outside of language, an act only suggested, left to the imagination, rather than described. He leaves the reader (who he sees always as a bourgeoisie straight white male) in no doubt what he is up to. Instead Genet describes the fantasy that gets him off:

He appeared standing before me with the same graciousness that might have been his lying naked in a field of pinks. I was his at once, as if (who said that?) he had discharged through my mouth straight to my heart. Entering me until there was no room left for myself

Genet concludes this portrait of Darling with the statement: "If I think about him, I can’t stop praising him until my hand is smeared with my liberated pleasure.”

For Genet, to objectify a desirable male is an act of praise, the pimp is raised on a pedestal of Genet’s making, enrolled in a sexual fantasy that elevates him to the very top of the angels’ hierarchy. 

Our gaze is always slant, slight, tentative, alert to being spotted; never assertive, appropriate, though indeed it does appropriate, with eager tongue, lapping up what it sees, loving with our eyes those things they are blessed to see. We’re not supposed to look, or not like this, but still we look, still we lust. Loving with our eyes those things they are blessed to see. 

Photo by Ellie Clarke

Jonathan Kemp lives & works in London. His first novel London Triptych won the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award.

Words of Christ in Red by Esther Betts


I fucking hate alcoholics. They're weak, miserable people and should all be sterilised, reads the facebook comment.

Edwarda Elmskid

I can’t say I don’t feel defensive, after all, I am an alcoholic. At least was until about two months ago when I quit. New Years it what drove me to stop drinking, before I even got to pre-drinks I’d already had four cans of IPA and some tequila shots. I threw up on the way to the bus stop but that didn’t stop me. At pre-drinks I drank whatever I could get my hands on - including other people’s drinks - sambuca, vodka, lager. I blacked out and none of my friends will talk to me now; but someone told me it included me breaking their television. I wasn’t violent, just out of control. The fear of not knowing what I’d done drove me to visit multiple AA meetings and set me on the rocky road to sobriety.

It is also arguable that I’m weak and miserable, thankfully I’m already sterile, so that part wasn’t up for debate. Alcoholism has a way of making you feel weak and miserable in such a way that you begin to identify with your weakness and your misery. You begin to feel proud of your own self-hatred. For a bit I was proud that I had broken their television, I was proud that I was such a scumbag, it made me happy.

I was happy because I could use it as an excuse to keep drinking - but at that stage I was forced to choose between booze and everything else. I was forced to do away with that mindset and all that was left was the deep shame of everything I had done.

So I can imagine the reasons why Jeremy Udburgh made this comment on faceook which I browse absentmindedly whilst I should be looking for work: he hates alcoholics. A lot of people get hurt by alcoholics; maybe an alcoholic broke his television.

To an outsider it can look like the person who just can’t stop drinking is weak. Most people are able to just have one drink and stop; or are able to stop once they notice they are drunk; I can’t do this. I know a lot of people will not accept this but to alcoholics booze actually is just more addictive. I theorise there must be something different in our biology. It’s true I can’t stop drinking if I start but

I’m also able to drink a lot more and not get drunk.

I also never get hungover. The morning after the television incident - I felt the mindnumbing shame I always feel after drinking - but I didn’t feel hungover. I felt mildly groggy but I had some coffee and I was back to normal. Usually at that point I would turn around, open my fridge and take out a can. My sister is the same in regards to not getting hungover; I am constantly warning her to watch her drinking so she doesn’t end up doing what I did.

So I know the reasons why Udburgh might think alcoholics are weak and pathetic but as well as being a junky for alcohol I am also a junky for navel-gazing. I want to know what this total stranger who I have never met and likely never will meet thinks of me; an alcoholic. I fire back. Why do you think that?

Jeremy Udburgh

He’s a portly middleaged man, balding, Homer Simpson-esque. He comes back from getting himself a coffee and sits back at his desktop. He works from home, so he gets to browse the internet all day whilst sorting through e-mails that he gave canned responses to. Please refer to our renewal policy, yours sincerely, J. Udburgh.

It was mind-numbing work so he decides on another break and checks his notifications: Why do you think that?

Jeremy Udburgh thinks hard to himself

Fuck, where do I start? they’re alcoholics; it’s simple. I don’t know who this person thinks she is anyway? Why does she care so much about alcoholics? Nobody cares about them and nobody should. They’ve ruined the high street; I can’t even fucking get a coffee without one of them grubby, greasy, smelly little buggers mumbling at me asking me for money. You see them huddled next to the cash machines waiting to abuse innocent hard working people who are just looking to withdraw some money.

Fuck, this reminds me of that one scumbag I saw on Park Street. It was raining and I was just trying to get to the bus stop. He was sat in a shopfront and bawling his eyes out like a fucking baby. ‘Please, please,’ he cried. I was so close to punting him; please what? Please give me money so I can spend more of your hard earned cash on alcohol? The moment anyone gives him any money he’s stopping his crying and walking straight to the off-license.

I don’t believe they are truly addicts; we all like a drink, they just lack selfcontrol.

I wonder why the fuck this Edwarda person doesn’t get this. What universe are they living in? I hate alcoholics, all my good hardworking friends hate alcoholics, why the fuck don’t they agree? I’m a little bit angry at her, I’m so lost for words! I know what to do though. Everybody knows alcoholics abuse and belittle their families; their families get in the way of their drinking, so they hate them! See I don’t really care about the alcoholics themselves but I care about their victims.

Edwarda is spitting on the suffering of hundreds of wives and children by refusing to hate alcoholics. How do I know she doesn’t hate alcoholics? If she did she would have just liked my comment like everyone else has.

I have no first hand or second hand experience of alcoholics but I know enough to imagine what it would be like. I’m going to make this cow feel bad for what she has done.

Jeremy Udburgh’s actual response

I have a friend whose dad was an alcoholic. Every night her dad would come home drunk and beat her with an empty wine bottle! Then he would go out to the off-license and buy more wine. He’d force her to stand in the living room so he could throw the empty bottles at her every time he finished one. He did this every day to her until she was 16! Are you saying that she doesn’t have the right to hate alcoholics?

Back To Edwarda

I knew he was lying but I couldn’t prove it so I decided to ignore him. I don’t doubt something like that could happen but it’s by no means typical alcoholic behaviour. I don’t know how to respond to something that rests on an assumption which isn’t true. I also didn’t feel like he was making an argument; he was just trying to make me feel bad for disagreeing with him. What of my original curiosity? Why does this man hate alcoholics? Well I guess from his comment he hates them because he thinks they abuse their families.

I felt a certain sourness in my mouth and I decided to step away from the laptop. No matter how much I improve there will always be people like Jeremy Udburgh who think I’m scum who throw bottles at children. I never acted violently towards anyone whilst drunk; at least I didn’t think I had. It dawned on me that I had blacked out on New Years and that I didn’t know what I had done other than break the television. Oh my God, I could have done anything.

He had mentioned wine in his comment and that’s how I was feeling. I checked my bank balance: £0.34. I guess I could do what I’d always done and shoplift or beg my friends for a drink. I remember going into bars and simply waiting for people to abandon their drinks and then downing them. I got banned from so many places that way. One time whilst already very drunk the bartender called out my minesweeping activities. I climbed onto the bar and tried to suckle the booze directly out of the taps; then the bouncers walked in and dragged me out.

I’m never going to do that again but regardless; I can’t get away from the fact I’ve already done it. Out of impotent rage; originating from my inability to respond to such a man; I picked up my empty coffee cup and almost threw it at the wall. I stopped myself though; I’m too old to act like that anymore.

Esther Betts is an aspiring writer and university drop-out born in Scotland but currently residing in Bristol. Betts is interested in a wide range of ideas but particularly those attached to shame and identity.

Shrug—Spin—Shatter by Iris Colomb


I wouldn’t let you touch it now if you were spilling out, and even then — when I give it back it won’t — when I struck it first — wanting it there, wanting it close, before it slips — when it started to, started to spin — and as it tried to pull away — let me tell you how it feels, remind you how it felt when you — to risk the tear I closed my eyes, closed in to tear, if tearing wasn’t quite enough — give it a rest, why give — I bet you can’t remember how it howls, it howls, that’s why — skipped as it could behind my tongue, I — lost in a shrug, another shrug, mine — I’ve been trying not to waste my vowels before we break — when it chokes on itself — lost in a shrug, another shrug, mine — enough to risk it flailing out, before I quit, after I take enough to risk — and every time it chokes — these sounds I snatched, I snatched, to be mine — I didn’t ask, and wouldn’t reach, because it stings — when I stole your language — some of it left, not all of it clutched — and all of it surrounding you, surrounding me, again — I wasn’t trying, wasn’t trying, wasn’t tired — when I give it back it won’t — rings of it racing back to — I wasn’t trying, wasn’t trying, wasn’t tired — when it chokes on itself — I never rest before it’s done, and when it’s done I let it shatter me — and as it tried to pull away — skipped as it could behind my tongue, I — I never rest before it’s done, and when it’s done I let it shatter me — I wouldn’t let you touch it now if you were spilling out, and even then — enough to risk it flailing out, before I quit, after I take enough to risk — and when it caved, pretending it could still — I didn’t ask, and wouldn’t reach, because it stings — and all of it surrounding you, surrounding me, again — and when it caved, pretending it could still — the only world I wouldn’t sell, you tried to play that card, I wouldn’t say it back — when the sounds feel like my sounds I wait and — when I ripped it out, my voice an empty box, and left to draw it ripe — I’ve been trying not to waste my vowels before we break — and every time it chokes — I bet you can’t remember how it howls, it howls, that’s why — when I struck it first — although it still likes to pretend, likes to pretend it can — when I stole your language — the only world I wouldn’t sell, you tried to play that card, I wouldn’t say it back — when it started to, started to spin — all this and more before I can’t relate and all before the point — give it a rest, why give — wanting it there, wanting it close, before it slips — all this and more before I can’t relate and all before the point — although it still likes to pretend, likes to pretend it can — to risk the tear I closed by eyes, closed in to tear, if tearing wasn’t quite enough — let me tell you how it feels, remind you how it felt when you — rings of it racing back to — I said let’s take we will we have — when I ripped it out, my voice an empty box, and left to draw it ripe — these sounds I snatched, I snatched, to be mine — I said let’s take we will we have — some of it left, not all of it clutched — when the sounds feel like my sounds I wait and

Iris Colomb is a poet, artist, curator, editor and translator based in London. Her performances have involved artist books, experimental translation, metal tubes, red bins, shouting over hairdryers and spitting in books. Her pamphlet 'I’m Shocked' came out with Bad Betty Press in 2018, and her chapbook 'just promise you won’t write' was published by Gang Press in 2019.

Check out Iris' website

Bad Clown by Tom Bland


Amy was a clown,
describing herself as an acid maverick pioneering
the eye in the triangle she wore around her neck
falling onto the bright green t-shirt. ‘Clowning’s
a cult,’ she said, opening
an empty
envelope sitting between her almost finished espresso
and her latex red nose. ‘Some
people think the clown is a performance I put on
and take off, but no, I must be a clown
at all times. I can’t stand slipping back
into that thing…’


I met
Amy on a three-week clown retreat in
the cider brewing region
of Hertfordshire, surrounded by trees and red noses,
crisscrossing between technical mime exercises
and the spontaneous scream
from the bowels upward.
‘Don’t be afraid to scream, Tom,’
she said/I said to myself.
She reminded me too much of myself,
that made me scream,
seeing myself as a blond-haired woman with
the perfect pear-shaped figure 

standing in front of me
wearing her red nose,
poking me
hitting me (with a rubber machete)
telling me
to wake up!
an acidic
in a polka dot outfit 



There was a clown
who was also a serial killer,
but he never killed as a clown.

When he scrubbed away the makeup,
bits of his stubble came out;
his teeth gripped,
trying to hold in the impulse
to kill.

He stared at himself in the mirror,
at the face
he was born with. 

In his red book, he wrote,
that feeling in
terrifies me, only stripping it away
in the bodies of others –
the cute young men in Converse
trainers –
makes the void something I can step into again.’
I imagined
being killed by him.

Amy took on his role
slicing away the sadness in me until my face shone so wide,
she could see my teeth in the sunshine
awkwardly appearing between the beech trees,
squirting ketchup on me
to make it all seem

We decided to swap clothes,
to be each other, at dinner in front of all the other clowns.
She ate steak
and I ate potatoes and both of us had onion sauce
on silver plates, and some clowns thought we
had been fucking
but I shouted, ‘She was killing me for my own good!’

The next day
she looked at me
and said, ‘Darling, don’t
you wanna kill me?’
Straight of nowhere,
I slammed the rubber machete
into her heart, whispering in her ear,
‘I too dream of love.’ 


Tom Bland has a book out, The Death of a Clown, with Bad Betty Press. 

Buy the book - The Death of a Clown

Customise the Apocalypse by Nicki Heinen


with personal number plates
in one way or another
it’s the method in the madness
hear the soldier cry
in the deserted football pitch
the forest is shrinking like
wrapped chicken in the microwave
The hustle, oh the hustle
the rustle of crack tin foil
the dreary din of the ward
Horror, horror, I’ve lived through it all
and in the end, it becomes a dog treat on the nose
Bring it on, king, because on the last day
we will all be one

Nicki Heinen is published in magazines and anthologies, including Magma and Bad Betty Press’ The Dizziness of Freedom. She founded and hosts Words & Jazz, a poetry and music night at the Vortex Jazz Club, Dalston. Her debut pamphlet Itch is out now with Eyewear Publishing, and was an LRB Bookshop Book of the Year.

SIOWSA by Jazzle Dunne



Strap it on when it seems appropriate 
Stephen King wrote in a novel
In my minds eye I saw myself man up 
To transcend femininity with a prop 
To see my strength stick out 
Proud, unyielding and intimidating
Freud would say I have penis envy
Because my father treated me like a boy
I’m sure Freud would also have something
To say about it being kept in the top draw
Not in the bedroom but under the skylight
In the hallway, next to clean laundry drying.
I love standing in front of the mirror wearing it 
Wrapping my hands around it, the head peeks 
Out refusing to hide, desperate to be buried. 
To assert its solidity in the softness of flesh 
To be pulled in and out of the depths of lust 
My cunt reminds me my balls are within me 
To create life, afforded feminine protection 
I love the way the strap on fills me 
As I masturbate, my cum coating it
Content that I cannot get pregnant
As I run a marathon most men couldn’t
It reminds me that as a woman I can be
My own man, providing sexual happiness
No fuss around my period, getting dirty 
Smearing my blood upon myself
Trying to avoid getting it on the bedding
I love the way it stretches me, my cunt gripping 
The way it softens the cervix, digging deep
My belly and hips trembling, my clit feels
Like firework display twitching bursts of pleasure


It’s a replica of my One’s dick
I fantasise he is in my body, the one
Being penetrated by himself, a phantom me.
I imagine him tied spread Eagle to the bed.
His knees bent, legs wide, hands cuffed
Hips pinned, back arching. My hands caressing his chest lightly making him jolt like he’s being electrocuted from my fingertips.
I think about the way I would enter him
The way I would get him slowly accustomed
To the painful stretching of his arsehole
Watch his eyes grow moist and regretful
Because he knows he’s in for it
He’s going to get as good as he gave
My hands will keep his shaft occupied
They will stroke and tug him into pleasure
He will surrender himself to me willingly
To take and ravish him, a puppet to my desires
It gets me so wet thinking about how his
Neck will be taunt and he’ll ask me to slap him
Tell me he wants it harder because he’s bad
He’s inconsistent and loves it when I’m angry
I want to completely sink myself into him
For him to be so full of me that he’s torn in two
I want to feel him spray his juices over me
As I’ve pushed him into nirvana, leave him spent and gaping as I tenderly withdraw

Jazzle Dunne has been writing for 16 years on a wide range of topics. A Roundhouse and Barbican Young Poet Alumni, performing across London. Jazzle’s work has been described as deep, succinct and fun.

Bad Feminist by Debra Watson



I remember them well

The two lesbians who ran the door

Of the club I used to go to.

Lee, was almost 6 ft tall. Her hair cropped short and wearing a black leather jacket.  Hazel was the more approachable. Lee was shy in a gruff sort of way, but when she got on the dance floor, in her stovepipe  jeans and androgynous vests, her limbs flew across the space. She was freest person I had ever seen.

I fell in love with a boy who wore skirts.  I fell in love with him because of the way he danced. It took weeks of us dancing by ourselves, on opposite sides of the room, before we finally went home together. His friends arrived the next morning and said, “We heard you went home with ‘a girl’!”

I was a girl. 5ft 10, straight up and down, skinny as a bean.  He cut my hair in the style of the Human League. Post-punk 1981.  I wore a vintage black leather pilot’s jacket. A dog chain around my neck.  A boy at the bus-stop said, “I don’t know if you are a boy or a girl.”

It felt like I’d achieved an ambition.

Not that I wanted to be a boy, I just wanted the same freedom that boys had to move, to be active, to do things. To walk in the city at night. To get stoned and light marijuana pipes. I was attracted to wild girls. Bunking school to smoke joints on the beach with Lisa and her cat-green eyes. Partying all night, at the gay disco with the motorcycle leather clad moustached men who introduced me to poppers and took me home and made sure I was safe. I walked from their place to school the next morning and wrote my biology exam.

My friend Gabrielle, with her long red hair, walking with me in the hot, dark, Cape Town night– heavy with the scent of honeysuckle, the sky a bucket full of stars. Breaking into the hostel when everyone was asleep because we liked bouncing on the trampoline or jumping over the fence of the local high school to have a swim in their pool at 2am.

We claimed the city. We claimed the night.

My hands are manly.

When I get dressed up, I feel as I am performing femininity.  

My feet are large. I love wearing men’s shoes. And men’s trousers.

Much later, I have a child. My flat chest explodes with milkiness and never quite recovers its sleekness. I mourn the loss of my flat, braless chest, with the stubborn hair that grows right at the ring of the Areola. For the first time, my body feels utilitarian. Breastfeeding makes me bovine. I fantasise that in some horrible dystopian future, they will have breastmilk farms with women all linked up to milking machines, like they do with cows now.  My brain disappears for a bit.

I am surprised to find I love being a mum. Not everyone’s mum. Just this little being.

Over time, my brain comes back, but my body has been altered. My heart is smashed open. What was once singular now lives in proximity to another’s orbit. I hear his thoughts.

He calls me Debra, Mum and later, “Mother” when he wants to piss me off. 

When he was little, he used to insert himself between me and his dad. Our apostrophe.

For the first time in my life, I wear an underwired bra.

I am a bad feminist.


Gabrielle and I are still best friends.  She tells me her daughter has had a baby. “Is it a boy or a girl?”, I ask.

“What a useless question!” she retorts.

When my son was little, he loved his shiny pink glittery wellingtons.  In his first year of school, he had a beautiful pink shirt full of flowers. All the kids told him that pink was for girls. He hid the shirt away. I would have liked to punch his teacher. I should have fought harder.


I find a lover whom I would like to peg. He says he thinks my pelvic floor is very strong, and I should get a dildo that inserts inside my vagina. By the time my purple "Bend Over Boyfriend" arrives, we are no longer speaking. I try in on anyway. Stroke its shaft lovingly. I've wanted a penis ever since reading one of Maxine Hong Kingstone’s books.  She describes her father being pulleyed up the side of a mountain in some basket like thing and peeing over the side. Into the valleys void. It appeals to me. I used to never wear underpants so that I could pull up my dress, stand straddled and pee without wetting myself. It wasn't the only reason. It seemed like a waste when all you ever did was take them off again.

The purple penis is longer than I expected and more comfortable. I run to the mirror and admire myself. From all angles. I still don't want to be a boy.

I have an almost irresistible urge to send unsolicited dic pics.

Photo by Winter James

Debra Watson is a poet and performer interested in participative, intimate and multi-sensory work. She is co-director of The Crimson Word and performs regularly with The Poetry Brothel London and The Bloody Poets.

Check out Debra's website