tend/er

[Peter Scalpello]

tend
er


oppressed  &  hypersexual,  i

question  what’s  the  link

between  violence  &  homoero

ticism  as  the  boiler  churns.

you  fucking  love  me  &  say

it  again,  hard  knuckle

my  back  so  sheets  dampen  in

taps  to  the  romance  of

sacrifice.  the  rumour  of

sobriety  allows  no  ritual,  so

our  love  is  not  default.
 
my  tiny  existence  this

headstand,  &  tongue  with

your  dna.  carry  it  like

rainwater  weighs  down  the

river.  like  we  get  all  dress

ed  up  &  then  can’t  leave

the  house.  how  can  you  say

love  so  much  although  i’m

not  enough?  how  can

don’t  tell  anyone  mean

that  was  all  i’ve  ever

dreamed  of

Peter Scalpello is a queer poet and sexual health therapist from Glasgow, currently living and working in East London. His work has been published internationally. His debut pamphlets will be published by Broken Sleep Books in March 2021. Tweets here.

It’s Like

[Jay Délise]

Jay Délise is a US/UK based poet and performer creating in the combined world of theatre, poetry, and storytelling. A native of the Jersey Shore, Jay is a poet who has received national recognition for her writing. As a Scholastic Art and Writing Awards National Gold Key recipient, Jay has performed at locations including The United Nations, The Schomburg Center, Pulitzer Center, and Carnegie Hall. Her work has been highlighted around the world and in publications including Afropunk, Broadway World, Vagabond City, Glass Poetry Press, and Huffington Post. Her solo spoken word show Black, And… premiered at the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival in July 2019 and was nominated for both ‘Best Newcomer’ and ‘Best Spoken Word’ at the Manchester Fringe Awards. Jay is a poet and a teaching artist, but more importantly, she is black and magic.

sin pertenecer

[Isa Condo-Olvera]

tickling my hair
making the curls bounce and play more than before
trying to stray from my control
until they’re exhausted and sweaty
and I hate it, but I also love it
es mi casa.
exhausted, I look at the same blue sky I looked at every morning
nunca agradecida por un cielo tan consistente
but I am now,
a man with a thick accent speaks to me in English
no entiendo
he thinks I’m a foreigner,
this is the land where I grew up, but I get it
me veo diferente
entiendo
too blanquita to be Latina,
too Latina to be white,
what box do I check?
existe tal caja?
not caramel colored like my brother
a forgotten melanin I wish hadn’t been forgotten
half my story erased by my other half
no soy lo que soy?
qué soy?

Isa Condo-Olvera is a passionate Costa Rican theatre maker and a student in the UMN Guthrie BFA Actor Training program. Born and raised in San Jose, Costa Rica to an Ecuadorian dad and a Mexican mom, Isa was always intensely fascinated with storytelling. Her work as a young female producer in Costa Rica led to her selection by then Vice President, Ana Helena Chacón, for a distinction for her leadership in the artistic field in the organisation, Nosotras: Women Connecting.

in all eventuals / there will be singing

[Ali Graham]

     in all eventuals
there will be singing

a. I find form a challenging aspect of composition. It asks understanding of its mechanisms and contextualisation of how it has previously appeared in others’ work, and fruitful transposition to effectively produce and consolidate meaning.  My form is apprehensive of prescriptiveness. That my form might better understand why it is wary of adherence to forms delineated by others and learn by testing its / my poetics in unfamiliar territory, I decide to write using a predetermined form.

or

b. The indeterminacy always anyway present in living is at the forefront of desire. Not to open the door to bad Naturalisation[1], but I find that the desire to be certain of your position is inseparable from the feeling of desire itself.

i. I eschew punctuation in favour of lacunae to explore determinism. The fixity produced by full stops and commas is expelled; incontingency emerges. Lacunae become sites of possibility. With authorial directing of reading pared away, the reader is placed in more open negotiation with the text.

1) I want to closely align form and ideas; to carry meaning as entirely as possible [turn to 8]. One of these meanings is sexual orientation as spatial – the movement of a subject in the world, the world(s) moving in a subject. I look to Merleau-Ponty’s account of the senses and affective meaning:

“The unity of the object will remain a mystery for as long as we think of its various qualities…as just so many data belonging to the entirely distinct worlds of sight, smell, touch and so on…[M]odern psychology…has observed that…each of these qualities has an affective meaning which establishes a correspondence between it and the qualities associated with the other senses.” [2]

a. It is as much the gather of aspects that constitute an object as the aspects themselves. I consider whether this can provide a model for desire. Desire is not an object but an occurrence between subjects and/or objects. However, many of its qualities are sensory, and often bring their subject to affect

2) What are the implications of desire escaping classification as an object. Merleau-Ponty speculates that a unity is possible for objects provided the encountering agent get its qualities right, but desire eludes this. I decide on tending to the escapings of the sonnets; on incorporating non-sonnets, their right alignment indicating differing point(s) of emergence.

a. I make an always already failed crown [turn to 8b].

3) Jack Halberstam posits that:

“[t]he queer art of failure turns on the impossible, the improbable, the unlikely, and the unremarkable…[i]t quietly loses, and in losing it imagines other goals for life, for love, for art, and for being.”[3] [emphasis mine]

I think failure’s quietness puts it someplace between the line break’s silence and syntax’s utterance [turn to 8b].

a. Poetic difficulty could be thought of as quietness; an auditory rather than visual obfuscation; a veil effecting a hazier, fainter sound of meaning. Both this quietness and obfuscation can be thought of as less discernable, as a poem that is working at a distance from the reader, a simultaneous disclosure and a deliberate lack of access granted.  A turn away from the visual to other ways of knowing is vital when – as April S. Callis discerns – “[i]n a society where monogamous couplings are the norm, bisexuality is hard to see”[4]. I blend visual and auditory shadow in

witness who do I talk the phone bleats foam-
ing sound        still I tilt but spin

I break the line in the midst of “foaming”, fastening obfuscation of sight to interruption of hearing. Between this break of the line, the conspicuous interrupting of speech by absence of speech, and the foam that emerges from the “phone” as an imperfect echo , there is a relation. The line break emerges from the centre of “foaming”; from the centre of foam’s doing. Foam is pertinent here because it can encase and obscure an object but not necessarily permanently, often only temporarily; foam tends to clear and lifts. And a line break is an interruption but not a permanent cease in sound. Foam is a mesh, texturally; openings encased by another substance, both necessary for the foam to be as foam.  

b. In terms of physical chemistry, foam is “a colloidal system (i.e., a dispersion of particles in a continuous medium) in which the particles are gas bubbles and the medium is a liquid”[5]. It is interruptions within a fluid; the segmentation of a liquid. The cluster and scatter of prepositions  Prepositions as bubbling, lusting, excessive, expansive, embroidering and becoming the meaning that ordinarily they would only carry.

c. My use of foam as figure for this troubled causation – this simultaneous determinacy and indeterminacy – derives from one of Federico García Lorca’s Dark Love Sonnets:

Its spotless virtue and soft throat
– a double lily of hot foam – [6]

In this image, foam refers to the configuration of matter that Lorca gives his reader, a mix of air and whatever is forming the foam. For instance seawater and the froth it is sometimes worked into by the currents and tide. Or maybe a blotch of soap on someone’s bare wrist, moments from being vanishing into an eddy of tap water. At once, foam is and foam does [turn to 4c].

d. And what is foam to the language? I do not want to crudely transpose categories of substance outside language to categories of language – at least, not without doing the work of transposition. As Nathan Brown notes,

“It might seem that the distinction of form and content applied to poetry roughly corresponds to the Classical philosophical distinction between form and matter, but this is not the case…the matter of the poem evades the distinction between form and content, falling into neither category.”[7]

Foam foams; it cannot not do what it is and in this the line between being and doing is blurred. It speaks to me of the aliveness of language, against bloodlessness, against poetry that does not yet know or will never concede that its instrument is the body. For these sonnets to be real they ought to ring like the desire that induced them, and that desire is felt in the body, could burst, is an interruption in what otherwise has many directions and movements, and even when its movement is focused, will not be pinned out and scrutinised as if an entomologist’s unfortunate cricket. The language of this mess of this mesh of this foam of this desire is joyous in its relations, whether these are relations at the level of the phrase, within the poem, or between poems. The units between which relation happens are also unfixed.

e. I interweave sound, sight, and feeling in “your grinning is thrillsound”; “bluely fearings”; “one name glancing another”; “I am phoning in silver”. I outline aspects of desire in improbable unifications, without seeking their perfect unification into objects.

f. These sonnets are failed. The volta is not correctly placed or does not arrive. The meter is mostly pentameter but never iambic. I call these “sonnets” because a statement of intent is required to indicate attempt and enable recognition of failure. For an escape to happen, there must be a delineation from which to escape.

4) Will it be useful to think of desire as mesh. Desire and mesh are at once verbs and nouns. A subject might pass through a mesh, and the mesh will direct this passing. Might you be meshed into emergence. This coheres with my conceptualisation of sexual orientation as simultaneously gesture and enclosure.

a. I find precedent for this in Jay Timothy Dolmage’s writing on mētis, an “embodied knowledge…a way to think and also to think about thinking [that] reveals a shadowy tangle of body values, body denials, and body power.”[8] Though Dolmage writes on disability theory, he asserts mētis as “a way for us all to move”[9]. Indeed, it is because of Dolmage’s intersecting of the fields of rhetoric and disability theory that mētis is pertinent to understanding the sonnet which also blends rhetoric with a different aspect, in this case song.

b. Could this be mapped onto the previous –

Values              ––––––––––      the net of desiremesh
Denials            ––––––––––      the openings
Power              ––––––––––      movement(s) through

c. I consider desire as embodied knowledge, a way of knowing synchronised with the moment of doing, as in the agile monosyllabics and internal almost-rhyme, recurring imperfectly, of

…it is in
the moment I do that I know how                               
                                         [turn to 7]

5) How then to make desiremesh into poetic substance. I need a balance between an emergent substance delineated by qualities, and emerging from a combination ofqualities. This calls for a form both unitary and interlocking. The sonnet crown fulfils this; each sonnet self-contained, the fifteen sonnets inflecting one another.

a. I settle on the movement of astronomical bodies as a suitable analogue for the interactions between the sonnets; the motif is an analogue for pulling/repelling motion, alluding to a route that is at once one direction and differing directions. It draws attention to this same motion being already anyway present in the sonnets, in their adherence and resistance to ‘proper’ sonnet form. Orbits are imperfect, formed by a near-inapprehensible chain of random events, and are not irrevocably bound to their paths [return to 2].

b. I bring the motif to prominence by repeatedly situating coinciding images in closing lines, as in:

I do not intend the teeth’s heatdeath –     these
planets circuiting inside out good way round

The planets are screeching, the actual speech of planets conducted in a ruptured, disorderly grammar, and the bad music of the screech accentuates the plural.

c. I bring planetary movements away from musicality and into visuality, as in

this the point of tectonics         that they are
regarded frequent brushstrokes on earth

and into witness without a corresponding sensory faculty:

…and I
have known an equator or three…

6) What kind of desiremesh does the draw to many genders make; what forms the mesh that is affective meaning. Lisa L. Moore details a recurring mechanism in the Naturalisation of the sonnet in English: 

“…all English Renaissance sonnets installed material aspects of language—rhyme and repetition—as nonnarrative, embodied meanings in the form…all retained the form’s definitive feature of a turn that bifurcated the poem into mirroring fractions, even if unequal ones.”[10] Language as demonstrative and performative feels queer [turn to 8c], and an instance of mētis [return to 4a].

a. Nouns indicate what passes through the mesh; verbs describe their acting (or lack thereof). Prepositions and line breaks specify these movements, generating interconnectedness and disconnection in language.

b. Though prepositions and line breaks are both turns, both sites of emergence, prepositions work in utterance and positioning, marking the turn of one word to another with a word line breaks work in silence and space. Prepositions bring the reader to line breaks; one site of emergence facilitating movement to another. 

7) A turned crown – a bifurcated thing. Could it be a queer crown. Certain connotations of the word mesh itself are helpful – said out loud, it is not a beautiful music. Etymologically, it can be traced back to “mezg-”[11], to knit, twist or plait.

a. This brings me to wreaths; the mingling of different substances, free of a demand to subsume them into one another. A gathering, fixed in place, each component perceived differently for what is beside it but maintaining its recognisability [return to 3b].

8) Could it be camp. Certainly a wreath is unnatural, turning vegetation (natural) into decoration (culture)[12].

a. John Emil Vincent notes poetic difficulty is itself a difficult concept. It can be “both a complaint levelled against a poem by a frustrated audience as well as the effect a poem produces based on its traffic in unknown vocabulary, systems of thought, public and private knowledges, themes, and so on.” [13]

b. I find an intricacy in this coinciding of meaning and meaning’s operation. In the wider world, I see an urgency for queerness to (re)turn to itself, to be as much a “politics of provocation, one in which the limits of liberal tolerance [were/are] pushed”[14]. That this will enmesh, complicate, trouble, coincide with understanding of queerness as experience(s) of love and bodies.

c. I believe a thorough queer poetics will perform to frustrate sections of its audience. The reader who will read a queer poets’ work, will read a poem because the poet is, y’know, but will be left wondering afterwards why they have not been allowed complete access, or been instructed or taught, or presented with something pliable (to the point of inertia) that they might activate into the correct meaning. And so rather than seeking to correct this (dis)orientation – this substance where prepositions are no longer merely auxiliary but are brought to meaning in and of themselves, this substance that is of language but is not quite comfortable or proper in the language as we know it now – I treat it as central to producing experiential meaning in these poems. The language of this mess of this mesh of this foam of this desire is not polite or correct [return to 2].


[1] Veronica Forrest-Thomson,ed. Gareth Farmer, Poetic Artifice (Bristol: Shearsman Books, 2016), 39.

[2] Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The World of Perception (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), 60.  

[3] Jack Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure (Durham, USA: Duke University Press, 2011), 88.

[4] April S. Callis, ‘Playing with Butler and Foucault: Bisexuality and Queer Theory’, in Journal of Bisexuality 9, no. 3-4 (2009): 218.

[5] “Foam,” Encyclopedia Britannica, 2014, accessed Jun 6, 2020, https://www.britannica.com/science/foam.

[6] Federico García Lorca, “Gongoresque Sonnet in Which the Poet Sends His Love a Dove” in Poet in Spain, trans. Sarah Arvio (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017), 347, lines 5-8.

[7]  pmilat, “Nathan Brown: Baudelaire’s Shadow,” YouTube Video, 1:06:46, June 19, 2018,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbb22-GKZkc&t=1044s

[8] Jay Timothy Dolmage, “Eating Rhetorical Bodies.” In Disability Rhetoric (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2014), 193-195.

[9] Ibid, 194.

[10] Lisa L. Moore, “A Lesbian History of the Sonnet,” in Critical Inquiry 42, no. 4: 822.

[11] Online Etymology Dictionary, “mesh | Origin and meaning of mesh,” accessed April 20, 2019. https://www.etymonline.com/word/mesh.

[12] Susan Sontag, ‘Notes on Camp’, in Against Interpretation and Other Essays (New York: Picador, 1966), 279. 

[13] John Emil Vincent, Queer Lyric: Difficulty and Closure in American Poetry (New York and Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 2.

[14] Steven Epstein, “A Queer Encounter: Sociology and the Study of Sexuality”, Sociological Theory 12, no. 2 (1994): 195.


This is after:

Brolaski, Julian Talamantez. of mongrelitude, Seattle and New York: Wave Books, 2017.

Buck, Claire. H.D. and Freud: Bisexuality and a Feminine Discourse. New York: St Martin’s Press, 1991.

Collecott, Diana. H.D. & Sapphic Modernism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Conversations with Al

Conversations with Al

Conversations with Andrew

Conversations with Lotte

Fritz, Angela DiPace. Thought and Vision: A Critical Reading of H.D.’s Poetry. Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1988.

Gooß, Ulrich. “Concepts of Bisexuality.” Journal of Bisexuality 8, vol. 1-2 (2008): 9-23.

Greenhill, Pauline. “”Fitcher’s [Queer] Bird”: A Fairy-Tale Heroine and Her Avatars.” Marvels & Tales 22, no. 1 (2008): 143-67. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41388863.

H.D., edited by Louis L. Martz. Collected Poems, 1912-1944. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1984.

Hayes, Terrance. American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin. London: Penguin, 2018.

Lorca, Federico García. Poet in Spain. Translated by Sarah Arvio. London: Penguin Random House, 2017.

Mayer, Bernadette. Sonnets. New York City: Tender Buttons Press, 2014.

Müller, Thomas. “Time and Determinism.” Journal of Philosophical Logic 44, no. 6 (2015): 729-40. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43895413.

Ruti, Mari. “Beyond the Antisocial–Social Divide.” In The Ethics of Opting Out: Queer Theory’s Defiant Subjects, 130-68. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/ruti18090.9.

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Tendencies. London: Routledge, 1994.

Spahr, Juliana. 2001. “‘Love Scattered, Not Concentrated Love’: Bernadette Mayer’s Sonnets.” Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 12 (2): 98–120. https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mzh&AN=2001870740&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Ali Graham is a writer living in Norwich. Ali’s poetry and essays have been published by 3:AM, SPAM Zine, The Tangerine, Seam Editions, and Glasgow Review of Books, among others. Ali can be found on Twitter and on Instagram. Ali likes the films of Maya Derren, the colour grey, and hybrid things.

An Eye Contact Simulator

[Sarah Dawson & JD Howse]

You have been prescribed the use of an eye-contact simulator, as our society, like all societies, values interpersonal connections. There are observations everywhere; sometimes still and sometimes moving, with what you perceive to be hostility. You recoil from unexpected touch, no matter how gentle, incidental, or well intentioned. You must learn to take constructive criticism of the failings at the core of your being in good spirits; to think of yourself in a positive sense, opening doors and removing your eccentricities. This sprite is too small to have an expression.

You call this intimacy? You cannot be helped in profile. In the therapeutic sector, we demonstrate commitment through the eyes. There is no intimacy in right angles. I must be able to recall you at any time, in situations imagined as well as real. You describe the antagonist: a composite of facial features. Do you think I’m the antagonist? An observation: you are scared. You hinder the production of marketing images, believing your likeness is used to sell careers in finance. In the photo, your eyes say you are working on a task together. An observation: you pull at peeling lip skin with your teeth.

You can never be sure what is a door. You feel the air from your balcony, the roar of the air conditioners, and the solidity of the railings. Eyeball, arm, knife, coin. Shake your head as your hand refuses to reach towards the door. I would rather be endless static ladders, ascending and descending. Object to your objection of an object. There is now only one object with colour, as the world is white but it is not snowing. This is perfect isolation. There is little pleasure or interest to be gained in doing things; your bed is soft and your carpet is rough, and the door is heavier than either one. You are a nascar line suspended below yourself; you are a plucked eyeball, a dismembered hand, a tomb engraving animated and shuddering across the nothingness. You find the ghost in the sewer and remove your face. A thing with a quivering jaw, a forest of grasping arms. You exist, aghast, in the strenuous moments of this rhythmic clicking. You are a building with only doors, corridors, staircases, and endless walls of blackness flecked with sparkling rain.

You are a pair of eyes above water level. Shifting your weight to where it can be forgotten, you sacrifice your power to break the ice. Your icon is too small to display fear. Forgetting that the self should reside in the toe as much as the eye, you scan the snow for effects. You apply the bicycle to accelerate across the snow. You prefer auditory temperature, which cannot cause pain in your feet. Your icon is too small to have a gait, freeing you from the pursuit of elegant movement. So relieved to sacrifice your power to test each muscle.

You had a job interview at a company that makes artificial intelligence systems on June 14th 2017; they took you onto the roof where you were served macarons as a black haze drifted across the city. How fresh did the air feel on the roof of the Google building in King’s Cross? How clear would the sky have been if it weren’t for the fire? The recruitment consultant said that her phone had woken her up with an urgent news alert at 4am, but she had gone back to sleep immediately. You experience horrifying, repetitive dreams in which you are always running and yet never truly move. You open a door, and behind a door there are other doors; eyes on the tv screen, girls with beaks, and intestinal corridors. You are always alone, until you are not alone, and yet there is never another human, even then. You sit down at the desk and firmly lock eyes with the people across from you; this violation is evidence of your worth to them. This loneliness comes because the internet is full of eyes, dreaming back at you.

Your job is to rephrase the request – to remove all traces of the imperative. Sentences starting ‘when you have children.’ You understand that she touches your forearm in search of connection. The eyeball says she doesn’t do smalltalk. You are so funny sometimes you don’t even realise how funny you are. You believe that she wants you to ask her why she is laughing. You are one of the ones we don’t have to worry about, we know you are always two eyes and two hands.

You know that only six weeks are funded.
You know that your current food supplies will last a few months, at best.
You expressed concern about the ‘reasonable chance of recovery’ clause.
You know where you can find a convenience store to spend the mouldy money in your wallet.
Your proposal must include a timeline.
You are on a very long road trip.
You told me that the red pulsing maze was really helping but I couldn’t observe anything that would verify this.
You first go south, then return north.
You spoke about how music could be a throb and did not require progression.
You drive upon progressively smaller roads, until eventually you abandon your truck and withdraw into the trees.
Your target is to locate household objects that resemble faces.
You watch people from the edge of the forest, or floating at the shoreline.
Your target is to trigger the grass rustle sound effect twenty times.
You learn their patterns then steal food from their kitchens at night.

You know of the phenomenon of solo diners? You make yourself the object of the restaurant window: a topical photo is published. Readers observe that you upturn the spoon instead of sipping. You must remember that solitude amplifies saliva. The ruminator hops on his lower jaw and smiles insincerely. The problem is finding a below that hasn’t worms or roots. Your goal for this session is to smile back at the ruminator, knowing he licks his lips while your eyes are closed.

You pay online, and so the only exchange you have with the delivery man is food, passing between hands. The exchange is silent, but you feel some shallow shame for not saying thank you. You know how the exchanges work; that you can get a baguette in Tesco for 50p and use the self service check out; that you can use the self service soup station in the canteen for £1.20; that you can top up your oyster card online and attempt to avoid eye contact/body contact/the exchange of breath as you slump into the corner of a carriage. You know that as a system circulates, it contracts, like the air leaving the carriage, like the sky moving down, like the people coming in too close, like the door offering safety, like silence offering safety, like the want to be alone becoming a need, like the outside world closing in against the door as you shake your head and go to sleep.

You try googling ‘how to get lost’ but the results are spiritual not practical. Not caring to become a better tourist. Your problem is how to go further inside when you are already inside. How to excavate a basement when you live on the nineteenth floor. A basement with rain and no antagonists. How do your dreams programme those loops in the shopping centre loading bay? How do you make it generic? You are late for your job from five years ago.

You equate loss of location with a sense of hopelessness. Once, home was something that you felt to be hermetically sealed, but this sense of stability has been replaced by an intangible vulnerability. Here, the ceiling is too low. Here, the walls close in on you. Here, there is no allowance made by the provided furniture for a desk, or for books. You feel these things are more necessary than a window, or a balcony. What are your intentions for this place? How long do you intend to stay before you will leave?

Your upstairs neighbours cannot hear the furnace at the bottom of the escalator. But if you turn in bed, it may upset their internal monologue. How do you know that the pacing is sentient? You believe they still walk out into overhearing city wind. You cannot hear each other eating, but you can influence the other’s temperament through gait. You should knock on the ceiling to form a relationship you cannot hide from. You should respond to ceiling knocks promptly and at all hours. You will find that you wish to progress to reading eyes and posture.

You don’t know what to make of these small moments of connection, which are not unpleasant, as you might have come to expect them to be. You hear breathing from behind the wall and breathing from in front of the wall. Your dream diary, open for exploration, is uploaded to the internet. Every day, twice a day, you catch a train. You know that if you equip the frog, you will be able the move quickly through the water to a balloon, and enter a house where the light switch will cause a sudden change in a body. From the audience, you observe the sound, and plug your ears. You have come to understand why you do not understand. You will find that you wish to progress to reading eyes and posture. You have been prescribed the use of an eye-contact simulator, as our society, like all societies, values interpersonal connections.

Sarah Dawson creates interconnected poetry, drawings and performances. Her debut artist’s book expecting a different result can be ordered from HVTN. Her work has previously been published in The Interpreter’s House, Datableed, para-text and Burning House Press, and exhibited at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, the Poetry Cafe and the Museum of Futures. 

JD Howse is a poet who works across text, collage, and film. He curates PermeableBarrier.com, an online journal for film poetry, video art, and related material. With Sarah Dawson he runs Theatre of Failure, a new-writing night for experimental writing by LGBT+ people. His work has appeared in HOLD, A Queer Anthology of Sickness, Out of Nowhere, and Reliquæ.

Love Story

[Catherine Madden]

Clara came round to tell me that she had a dependant attachment style.

            “What does that mean, then?”

I mean for me, what does that mean for me?

            “It means that I chase what I can’t have and then when I get it I don’t want it.”

“Well, at least you get it.”

Her eyelashes are heavy on her dark eyes. I envy that, it’s classic. When we lie down facing each other they look rounder and now lazy in a sexy way.

            “Do you think you might be a little bit gay?”

She asks and I think, “You tell me, am I doing it right?” but instead get up to put the kettle on.

Next time she comes round I tuck her up in bed but she rages.

            “I’m supposed to do that, I’m the experienced one.”

I let myself get tucked. She lifts up my top and pops my boob out, kisses it. I decide we need some tea. She is laughing on hands and knees, like an unseated cat. I’m wet.

I ignore her for a week until she comes to my helpdesk, earnest in a flat cap.

            “Clara, there’s no computers free!”

She hadn’t come for that and her eyes look like they did in bed. “Nice friend,” the old ladies say with beads and questions behind their brows.

In her bed I am gasping for one. “OK,” she says, “OK” and lays back so I can touch her thinking, help! But the next day I am heady, full of her legs open, her head turned like a why. I look at other women safely, I almost wink.

When she does have tea she sips, her eyelids silk, her nose twitchy.

            “No,” she says. “No”

The rage is gone.

            “I just don’t know what it is.”

Catherine Madden is from Birkenhead and lives in London. She writes fiction and poetry. She is a founding co-editor of literary zine, The Grapevine. Her work has been published in such places as SPAM zine, 3:AM, Oh Comely, EntropySeverine Lit, and with The Aleph Press.

English Breakfast & Instructions on Sharing a Bed

[Stephanie Dogfoot]

Stephanie Dogfoot (she/they) is a poet and stand up comic based in Singapore. They are the author of ‘Roadkill for Beginners’, a poetry collection published by Math Paper Press in 2019. They curate a regular poetry night called Spoke & Bird, and have won poetry slam championships in Singapore and the UK. They are inspired by moss, mud and large skies.

what a shame,

[Kostya Tsolakis]

this precious galaxy of spittle shooting out of my mouth
onto the gum-infested kerb this sober Sunday morning, not
into the coral throat of a kneeling lad on boots-only night
at the Vault – his wide-open eyes, fixed on the driblet hanging
off my lip, saying: you & I are earth & we were born for this

Kostya Tsolakis is a London-based poet and journalist, born and raised in Athens, Greece. His poems have appeared in AmbitMagma, Strix and Wasafiri, among others. In 2019, he won the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition (ESL category). He founded and co-edits harana poetry, the online magazine for poets writing in English as a second or parallel language. His debut pamphlet will be out with ignitionpress in November 2020. You can find him on Twitter.

Real Together & I Am

[Alicia Byrne Keane]

Alicia Byrne Keane is a PhD student from Dublin, Ireland, working on an Irish Research Council-funded PhD study that problematizes ‘vagueness’ and the ethics of translation in the work of Samuel Beckett and Haruki Murakami, at Trinity College Dublin. Alicia’s poems have appeared in The Moth, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Impossible Archetype, Abridged, The Honest Ulsterman, and Entropy.

Venus of the Underfunded hospital

                                                                                                                        [Ali Graham]


It might have been a metal beaten and rubbed / to a
mirror or another austere thing – / navel in the belly of
the Venus / of Urbino, postcard of which I have /
because if she would / I would. For how she grips roses
/ not from the stem but above / she is not not like me.
When he offered / me beer out of his can / it was a wet
and real / yes, cleanest of knowing, a sharp edge /
deflected from some inner site / of me. I seethe a high
colour.
 
Looking in the window there is a dog, this dog / is hard
to imagine, but to do so is to do with hearing / and
sustaining even in loneliness. There is a bird / in a living
room four miles to the east buffeted against / her
window. This dog’s fur grows ermine over / his
shoulders though you only see it when his hair is short.
 
He mutters the shape of his whiskers, is deserving, /
the world knows when he is hurting.
 
In windows I remember / the start of my body, how
when they / said to wait for a man I said / I will make
this myself. I smear / assorted medicines on all
buildings I am in, / memorise the signs that bring
visibility, make / for the sake of knowing it to be there.
 
No one think of the doctors fuck you / and in the hallway
I find my rage, / it wears love’s second best t-shirt / and
the earrings I stole because work.
 
Because there are good insects calling in the broad day
/ with a mispronunciation of my name / close enough I
will allow.
Because I am tilting / over into love of him. Venus of
Urbino I would if you would. 
 
Our backs turning away from windows – / shut-
mouthed – garment of your hands – / the dusk stirring
into display.
My near-love of him fed to your dog.
The bird is four miles / and four hundred and eighty-seven
years to the east. 
 
I want simple things. I want / to have him beg me in the
hallway of the palace of on-demand healthcare.
 
The floor of the ambulance is a cold dalmatian, / and I
want to lie with his head in my lap – / stubbled face,
limbs and nervousness of a greyhound – here with / me
in the shame.
Between the weight and metabolism of his head / there
would be heat and pressure enough and we would / live
just behind in the shame.  
 
The words of past medical people who do not want to
believe are in the sky menacing the colour away from
blue, / the sky refracts in the window, the mouth is only
an opening / on the body, inflammation is the body too
big for itself.
 
It is a very bad angel from my knees to just / short of
my tits. The angel an unholy white with / calcified wings.
It flutters its wings, / the stalagmites go through
everything.
In the sixth hour of the angel visiting / I had selfish
thoughts, I was / rendered selfish in the hospital /
redesigned to among many things / render people
selfish. I was slapping / the snout of any light away,
most of my love was blanched out, / the people were in
a quantity both too great and small.
I wiped my tongue until dry and hygienic / on the
sheets, first untreated linen then blue brocade.
 
The paramedic explains I have rated my pain too
highly.
 
Inside a hope, the absence of him who I want here is a
dog reclining / on my lap, we are looking at this / Venus,
every Venus, each is a wrinkle / of me. I am so correct.
As a dog is prone to, / his suede-tipped nose wrinkles,
he also growls when my stomach is touched. 
I cannot carry over her expression to a man’s body / so
when he is as this Venus, he has no face. / I know him
anyway / and spit in his mouth.
 
You will have to / tell me if the angel of this pain has yet
/ to go off the edge of here.
 
I got on the floor and bawled for a hysterectomy. I was
/ the big spoon beside my Venus, unjustly obscured.
 
My hair looked so good. I cut it myself / a lifetime ago.
Each movement glittered / a separate meaning. My
Venus said it is okay / to be approximate and by this / I
knew if pain makes me more the shape of a woman
then I am a dog and dogged. Then she / gave me back
her heart because it was my own.
 
It came over in ceremony, a dish of scraped but
unwashed shell – / the salt crusting pearlescent –
clumped velvet / of the aorta – knowing I should gift her
in return but all I could come to was / the absolute
greyest of my enemies.
 
He walked into the garden by some feat of convulsion
and I / clung to the roses rather than hold him / until
word came that the angel / had left me and had done
so / wearing Venus of Urbino’s probable bridal whites.
 
 
 
I remember I have made my body / once before. The
not believing is a brutality. All the men / meld to a floor
tile and floor tiles are more capable of belief. Belief / is
an effort. Drawing the good men out of the floor is an /
effort. Drawing out the only one I presently / want is an
effort. I have him against / a glassless colonnade
window in my head, leisurely, / we do not at all wait or
budget. He is this Venus, I am / my Venus, my Venus
watches with understanding / from the hospital roof that
overlooks the palace / while a passing bird shits pure
sea salt onto her naked shoulder.
 
 
 
I want him in the palace of the oil painting; / by me in
the hospital. The want lives in a body picked out of the
shadow / by applied gleaming. The light retaliates, the
fine edge of either / the beer can or the shell rests
expectant on my lip.
 
I will also mention my nipples to him next time, they will
be / enunciated against a deep olive green / and
instead of milk it is salt out of my tits / and it is so
womanly. In the dim taxi passenger seat alone / with
the pain medication’s fuzz, I / am in the mirror.
 
I could be someone in this lack of light. There / is the
terrier of my heart, foaming ready to maul the pain. She
is real and not, all the world in a flash and the drag of
nothing, hurt and wait.
 
 
 
There is a she who is a well body, nothing approximate
/ about her, she is picked out in the light. It is so
womanly / in each surrender of my good behaviour. It
is so womanly / on the surface of this Venus, when love
is a glossy coating, when public.
 
 
When the big spoon.
 
When the roses.
 
When the codeine.
 
When the elevation.
 
When my Venus spits in my dry mouth and it tastes /
not like a waitlist, not like some acrid and clothed
articulation / of light, not as if the state is happening to
me but as if / the state is with and for me.
 
 

Ali Graham is a writer living in Norwich. Ali’s poetry and essays have been published by 3:AM, SPAM Zine, The Tangerine, Seam Editions, and Glasgow Review of Books, among others. Ali can be found on Twitter at and on Instagram as aligrhm. Ali likes the films of Maya Derren, the colour grey, and hybrid things.