The Marquis de Sade by Matthew Caley

                      after Andre Breton

he turns over the paper
the Marquis De Sade
bends his nostrils to the gladioli-bud
of some fawning adept’s anus
the delicacy of his hands, his fingers like fringes
his feminine eyes
sees the inevitable arc, in practice, of the philosophy that could only be his
but from the Day-Glo anti-chamber
of oil-burners and lava-lamps, is still issuing strict orders
                 is it hard work
                   body-shaming a eunuch?
which rent asunder the prim, drawn moral curtain of night
with its elegant ruches and through that precise slit
we see the Old Frontier draw back, from its grey-vanilla borders where certainty
                   and modesty
and by this allow us to love each there as we never have
back as naked, baby innocents in some spurious Eden
of rhododendron
and thrusting gladioli stippled with freshets of rain
dildos made of onyx, of whale-bone, dildos made of rain
in the fullness of freedom in
whatever freedom is, in which rain
ignited fire to became a man
for which The Marquis De Sade and his long suffering adepts
                 defy the centuries
of great trees opening and spreading in spring
after spring,
as acrobats leap through a hoop of fire
clinging to a spar, the lint-rope formed from desire
again turning over the paper

Matthew Caley has published six collections, and has read everywhere from Novi Sad, the capital of Serbia, to Wayne-Holloway Smith's living room, London. He has taught for The Poetry School, St Andrews University, and the University of Winchester. His collection Trawlerman’s Turquoise was published by Bloodaxe, 2019.

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A Carcass by Charles Baudelaire trans. RJ Dent


 Remember that thing that we saw, my love,
          on a beautiful, fresh morning in June:
a disgusting carcass by a path’s curve,
          in a new flowerbed scattered with stones,

legs in the air, like a horny woman,
          burning, sweating with a mass of diseases,
nonchalantly and shamelessly showing
          its bloated stomach full of noxious fumes.

The sun shone down upon this rottenness,
          as to roast it with its golden fire,
so giving back a hundredfold at least
          all that was joined together by nature;

until it burst apart, an parting flower
          watched by the heavens, a superb carcass
with an overwhelming stink; you were sure  
          you’d faint right there and then upon the grass.

The flies were buzzing on flesh grown putrid,
          and out of it poured black battalions
of maggots, flowing like a thick liquid
          along the length of those living tatters.

The whole thing rose and fell in liquid waves
          rushing, seething, sparkling, heaving, moving,
swollen with breath, as if the cadaver,
          was somehow alive and multiplying.

And this world gave out strange musical sounds,
          like flowing water or the blowing breeze,
or grain that harvesters rhythmically pound,​
          then shake and turn in their baskets with ease.

Deformed, it faded as fragmented dreams;
          a sketchbook full of forgotten outlines
and which the artist has to then complete
          with no help, but from memory alone.

From back behind the rocks, a restless hound
          watched us with fierce eyes as it angrily
waited for that one moment it could snatch
          the piece of bone it had almost pulled free.

– And you will be just like this rottenness,
          the same as this horrible infection;
you, star of my eyes, sun of my nature,
          you, my perfect angel and my passion.

Yes, you will be like this, my graceful queen,
          right after the last rites have been intoned,
when you go beneath grass and flowering weeds,
           to moulder there alone amongst the bones.

And then, my love, make sure you tell the worms,
           the ones who now devour you with soft mouths,
that I kept the essence, the divine form
           of what I’d call my decomposing love.

RJ Dent is a novelist, poet, translator, essayist and short story writer. He has translated Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil (2009), and Le Comte de Lautréamont’s The Songs of Maldoror (illustrated by Salvadore Dali) (2011) to critical acclaim. His poems, short stories, novellas and essays continue to appear in numerous magazines and journals.

Alanis Morissette by Jake Wild Hall


small dark speck on the window
looks at me says you are lonely
small dark speck on the window 
laughs says you are surrounded by joy 
small dark speck on the window 
stares at me how it stares
small dark speck on the window
refuses to go away although i scrub yes i scrub 
tell my hands bleed
small dark speck becomes smudge
small dark smudge on the window
small dark smudge becomes smear
small dark smear on the window
small dark smear becomes window
small dark window
small dark window becomes house
small dark house
small dark house becomes me
small dark me in the corner
tea goes cold on the window sill
i ask Alanis Morissette the meaning of irony 
haha she says and disappears
i turn my phone on and immediately hate myself 
i turn it off
no thats a lie
i have fallen down the hole like Alice
i am drink me size in my stomach

Jake Wild Hall is one half of Bad Betty Press and winner of the PBH 2016 Spirit Of The Free Fringe Award. He has performed on BBC Radio and at festivals and literary events across the UK, including touring his debut pamphlet Solomon’s World. His new pamphlet Blank is out with Bad Betty now.

Honey by Louise Robinson


His name is Honey. I know it isn't important now but it was once. When he was a puppy, he was just a bundle of honey coloured fur with no other distinguishing features. It wasn't until he grew that I noticed how sad his eyes were. He wasn't like other dogs. He didn't play fetch or jump up to greet me when I came in from school. He used to lay in his basket by the fire, head lolled over the edge and eyes looking up at everyone who passed. He was my dog and yet he wasn't. He was as detached from his species as I was from mine and it should have made us closer but it didn't. We were the same. Alone but content. We wanted to be separate. Yes, Honey is important because he's the reason I realised that it's okay to be me even if I am not the same as the rest of the world. There were no tragic events that caused me to be this isolated. I'm not broken. Honey, too, was treasured like any other beloved pet. Yet we relish in the emptiness we have created for ourselves.

Honey died when I was six. We went out for a walk one day but only I came home again. I said he ran off. In truth, he was hit by a joyrider. He didn’t even try to run. I should have run too but I didn’t. I just sat down and looked at my dog. I'd never seen so much blood. The pool in the road kept inching towards me and I stared at it, feeling nothing. When I eventually looked up, the car which killed my dog was gone and I was late for dinner. When I got home, I said Honey had run after a rabbit and I lost him. My mother believed it. Honey, the dog who wouldn't move a muscle. She didn't know him at all. She didn't know me either. 

You asked me why I did it but you won’t understand. Nobody understands. Honey is the only one who really understood. Life is fleeting, death is swift and there’s really no point in running. 

Louise Robinson works in quality assurance by day and occasionally dabbles with prose. Her debut novel is anticipated in 2021, assuming she survives working from home with a preteen during the current apocalypse. 

Can we please have sex right now? by Jack Houston


said the Prime Minister to the public 
relations executive, but it isn’t funny,
in fact ignores the strictures of the joke
entirely as she’s not an actress
and he’s never been clergy.

I do have some sympathy for him,
knowing what it’s like to really want
something, one’s toes being stuck  
into the smooth sand of the draconian, the past
exactly as it should have been, the loosening
of a cummerbund after a large luncheon

as it won’t be long until the dinner
invitations arrive and here we’re lined up 
at table, our sharpest knives out
alongside our plates the other side
of our various forks, glasses of wine 
and water filled for what’s to come:

the flustered speech before the guests,
the sound of the rain drumming 
onto the canvas of the draughty marquee, 
the hope of finding a piece
of sky amongst all these edges –
two meters isn’t too much between, we should now spread the length

of this large table. And it is enough for my two-year-old 
to ask what the blue thing is 
in his willy. That’s a vein, I say. 
Don’t worry, I say. It’s a good thing. 
It takes the blood that pumps 
from heart to lungs, through brain

and kidney, spreading whatever
all over, having it flow
like a dancer in the middle
of a too-short production, 
not wanting the lights to come up,
to have to finally take their bow.

When not living under nation-wide quarantine instructions, Jack Houston can be found staffing Hackney's Libraries and teaching Poetry for Age UK. Other examples of his work have appeared in the magazines Blackbox Manifold, Magma, Poetry London, and recently highly commended in the UEA's sex-writing symposium I'll Show You Mine Prize.

The Antidote by Nicki Heinen


A bloody receipt
Curled at the sides

A battered book
Spine worn, frontispiece torn

A mossed stone
Heavy as a broken heart

A rusty key
No longer used

A child’s hair
Light and delicate

A kiss
A kiss
A kiss

Nicki Heinen is widely published in magazines and anthologies, including Magma and Bad Betty Press’ The Dizziness of Freedom and Alter Egos. 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.

Nicki's book

On Friendship and Immigration by Golnoosh Nour


For M. For our queer times, tears, and celebrations whose memories nothing can kill.

Prologue: My Best Friend Is a Prophet.

Your friendship is oxygen. It is food. It is an open sky. It is the sun. A magnanimous rainbow. An intoxicating garden of rare roses that never seems to wither. An ocean of music that never seems to stop playing.

Problem: Immigration Ate My Friend.

Amongst many other things, there was also a friendship you had to leave behind to become an immigrant. And neither of you ever recovered.

That one friend whom most of your other friends didn’t even get, whom most of your friends will never get, whom your siblings resented, whom your lovers called bitter, that one friend, your best friend. That one friendship that you sacrificed to migration.

There comes a moment when you realise all your other friendships in your new country were meant to recreate the friendship you already had, and some of them almost got there but not really, something was always lacking. Even though different friends serve different purposes, and one can surround oneself with as many friends as possible, to use the painful English proverb: the more the merrier!

But you did not want anything functional even, not ever having a purpose, you were just seeking that one dysfunctional friend, the one you left behind, the one who didn’t have it in them to migrate like everybody else, the one who stayed behind, proud and cracked, a soldier never returning from the battle.

Like first love, you have to accept that it will not happen again with anyone, even with better people, even if you have become a better person, a harder person, a more “successful” person, because that friendship wasn’t about better or worse, it was beyond good and evil.
That friendship was it. Your best friend was a prophet. You worshipped each other.

With your best friend, you only had to exchange a glance to know what the other one was thinking and burst into laughter not because there was anything funny but because you two were happy. You went to parties to feast on your friendship. Together, you were the party, you defined the party. You were it and everyone knew it. And you were so certain of your eternity you didn’t think anything - even borders - could wound the friendship.

Solution: Advice for the Disoriented Immigrant

Stop ranting at your new friends about your best friend in your homeland, they won’t get it.
Every time you speak about your best friend, they look at you as if you were describing a non-existent flavour, and let’s face it they get bored – if not annoyed.

Stop trying to recreate that friendship with other friends. Stop making new friends so you could tell them about your best friend. Be honest with yourself; you don’t want friends, only voyeurs, admirers of your past friendship, but nobody cares about your absurd religion.

Talk to yourself instead 24/7. Embrace the guilt, the regret, the tedious hell. Drag your disappointment from one failed friendship to the next fake friendship. From one forced conversation to the next artificial smile. To the next charming wink that is in fact an epitome of your emotional paralysis, a disability.

Leave your friends’ parties. Who are these people anyway?

Well done on looking like you have survived your migration. That you have even made it!
On the other side of the planet, laughing, looking tanned instead of brown, surrounded by foreign friends, interested faces who all look the same, what is this game?

This is not a party; it is self-harm.

You cannot listen to anybody here. To your new friends. You want your best friend who is not here, who will never be here. It’s been seven years; soon it will be ten, and you’ll both have more wrinkles and wonder why the friendship could never stop or be replaced or explained.

Faking interest in new friends makes you feel dead, makes you smell like death. Makes you smell like them, taking you further away from your best friend. You don’t want to smell and speak like these people. What would your best friend say? Why are you here? This is masochism and not even in a sexy way.

Leave your friends. Are they even your friends? What is a friend? Why did it only happen to you that one time? Why was it like an earthquake that you couldn’t get enough of? That you will never get enough of.

You are still shaking. Look at you, pathetic! A crooked plastic fan in summer heat.
You will always vibrate. Stop feigning strength.

Be proactive
Shatter your other friendships, leave.
Isolate your body and repeat to yourself

Dr Golnoosh Nour is the author of Sorrows of the Sun (2017) and The Ministry of Guidance (2020).