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

Scene by Sogol Sur


He smokes weed, more and more, leftover from last night and the day before, 
reveling in the thought of the lies to his mother about quitting,
relishing the look of disbelief on her foundationed face.

Her foundation is soft, and smells like a damp garden. 
The boy looks in the mirror and

He wears his 17-year-old innocence on his face over the powder.
On his bones, there is a dress
as pink as the orgasmic embarrassment on his cheeks.

His dark locks, a chaotic black river
on his pale face.
His naked feet fidgeting in the sunlight pouring from the ajar window.

This is an old English town where the sun 
is the only gift 
to be treasured.

And his mother who teaches history at school
to boys and girls like him and to black and immigrant kids, too
will be home soon. 

He drinks his sizzling soup
and licks his lips clean from its orange red drops
then brushes his teeth with his mother’s perfume. 

He has never been so pleased with his father’s death.
A dull professor. Sexless too – according to his mother. 
His heart is a flying stone, too heavy and dynamic to wait.

He washes the dirty dishes to kill the thirsty seconds
then rinses his delicate hands under hot water 
his skin burns like the thought of sin.

He stares at his mother’s soup, slowly boiling 
– a dark secret about to burst open, a delicious wound.
She is always hungry after school. 

He looks in the mirror and blushes, 
stroking his soft lips with his mother’s pink lipstick, and suddenly 
the door opens. 

His mother is back at last.
Gazing at his image in the mirror, her blue eyes are beads of ice. 
Her bag, matte black leather, a true animal rights activist’s bag.

Her boy pulls up his frilly pink skirt, offering his toned white bum, pleading with her:
‘Fuck me, mummy.

Sogol Sur is the author of the poetry collection Sorrows of the Sun (Skyscraper, 2017). She just completed a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing, exploring queerness through a postcolonial lens.

Buy the book - Sorrows of the Sun