Gerry Stewart – 2 poems

Red Herring



Pungent, vacant-eyed,

brined and dried,

rusty skin stretched to cracking,

you throw it onto my trail

to distract me from the truth.

I hesitate at your words

like a bloodhound confused

at which scent to follow.


The mystery, not musty or old,

of what lies beneath your mask

has taken up too many pages.

I cannot waste more time

deciding if I allowed the deception

or if I had a hand in creating it.


I choose to drop the chase,

but hear your feet pound away

into the murky branches.





A Dead Shark Isn’t Art



Inspired by a Wikipedia article on Damien Hirst’s art installation ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’



Four tiger sharks preserved

but still impossible.

Caught off Queensland, Australia,

the fishermen’s cut forgotten,

the sharks’ was not.


The first shark

was gutted and stretched,

displayed. Decayed.

Twelve million and change

caught in the vitrine of living memory.


The second a female,

‘middle-aged’ thrown in so casually,

as if her toothy smile

injected with formaldehyde,

soaked in 7% formalin solution,

was all part of her original intention.


The third shark earned

more than was expected,

but remains a mere footnote.


The fourth shark

wisnae there at aw,

guppy in a box.





Gerry Stewart is a poet, creative writing tutor and editor based in Finland. Her poetry collection Post-Holiday Blues was published by Flambard Press, UK. In 2019 she won the ‘Selected or Neglected Collection Competition’ with Hedgehog Poetry Press for her collection Totems. Her writing blog can be found at and @grimalkingerry on Twitter.

James Babbs – fiction

Sometimes Softly Singing


There’s a crack running across the ceiling between the kitchen and the living room.  The crack has been up there for as long as I can remember.  Sometimes, the crack in the ceiling looks like a mouth.  A mouth wanting to scream but the mouth can’t scream because it can’t open wide enough to let the scream out so the sound of the scream stays buried inside.

Sometimes, when I’m sleeping, in the dead of the night, I suddenly awaken thinking I’ve heard screaming but when I’m sitting up in bed there’s only an eerie silence mixing with the darkness of the room.  But I stay like that for a moment or two taking deep breaths just trying to calm myself down.  Sometimes, when I lay back against the pillows, I can hear the big knife all the way from the kitchen singing me back to sleep.  Those are the nights I like the best.

The big knife sings all of the time.  The big knife has many different songs.  Sometimes, I hear the big knife screaming the words.  Sometimes, I hear it softly singing.  The big knife spends days and, sometimes, even weeks waiting in the bottom drawer feeling lonely and afraid.  I know this is the way the big knife feels because we have always had this kind of a connection.

All of the electrical outlets in every room of the house have little faces with slits for eyes and tiny round mouths.  The outlets always look like they’re screaming but they don’t ever make a sound.  Sometimes, when I push a cord into an outlet I expect to see blood come gushing out.  But there isn’t ever any blood and I always feel strange inside. Continue reading

Neil Leadbeater – fiction

Order Before Midnight For Next Day Delivery

Dummer had an eagle-eye to spot a good purchase. He had a lion’s heart and a nimble hand, was good at collecting bric-a-brac and all for a solid purpose.  Which is why one day when he clapped eyes on an old plaid shirt, a rake handle and a garden pole he got the idea of constructing something to scare away the crows in the cornfields at Badger. It didn’t take him long to make a burlap head. There were other possibilities which meant that he had to experiment with a number of different ideas – a pillow case half-filled with straw or a pumpkin from which he would carve out the facial features of a personality that would assume a life of its own.

Every scarecrow that he made – for it was now turning into a cottage industry – had its own personality. He gave them Shakespearean names and with them he realised a recreation of all the comedy of low-life direct from Shakespeare’s time.  He liked to pay attention to the facial features…would draw the eyes, nose and mouth using a black magic marker, cut out shapes from coloured felt and sew them on the eyes and nose, use coloured buttons for the eyes, a carrot for the nose, bits of pipe cleaner for the eyebrows and an old mop for the hair. The more dishevelled it was the better. Sometimes he would go for optional extras – a red bandana around the neck or a bright handkerchief spilling out of the breast pocket, an old pipe in the mouth, flowers in a hat. Individualism was a necessary part of it all. It was important that there were no look-alikes. Continue reading

Dani Salvadori – 1 poem

Comfort and joy



The lanyard marks us out,

or perhaps it is our badge,

as one whose days are filled with tales

of plots and skirmishes foiled and won.


Ranks of black screens greet us daily,

rein us tight into the network,

groan as emails uncoil and catapult

new fables into the morning meeting,

the battle for our colleagues’ souls.


We hold back fears, and maybe tears,

to win with a sentence, a word in code.

Who keeps the count is never clear

but the triumph is as breath

we breathed together, not alone.




Monitors blink black to bright,

fly from their bases, waltz us, whirl us.

Emails weave webs of stories;

gossamer tales that catch us

as we swirl, twirl.


Hurled from the comfort of the fight

we dance, we spin, we hunt for joy.

Our lanyards turn to ribbons,

twist and braid to plait around

lost maypoles of our dreams.


It all unwinds and there’s

no longer we, but only me,

and breath is mine





Danielle Salvadori is a poet, photographer and video-maker based in London. Her work has been published by Light Journal, Hedgehog Poetry Press and the website Please See Me. She spends too much time working and too little time writing poetry and is trying to combine the two into a series of poems about work.

John Dorroh – fiction

Oyster Shells



   Trying to steal Kitt’s oysters in the south bay forced me to decide that I was trying too hard.

   Grandma Vettie placed her old, warm hands on my forehead and combed my hair with her fingers. We didn’t talk. She knew my heart like I knew that my birthday shoes would rub a blister on my heel. I dreamed like a fat baby on codeine.

   There was a knock on the door. I could see cold air bounce off the window pane, through the sheer curtain that served no practical purpose. There was noise. Too much noise. Grandma Vettie despised noise as much as I did, so I was puzzled why she had let it into her house. Something about a dead man up the road. Heart attack. Crash. Blue lights.

   There was silence again. I went to Tahiti and swam deep to collect abalone. The water was warm like baby tears. I think I drowned on my third trip down. Hazy recollections of kindergarten and teachers with long faces. Bloody eyes with fat veins wound around pink stalks. Crablike.

   “He’s gone,” she said. “Just like that. Just like your grandpa.”

   “Who’s gone?” My eyes were almost glued shut. Maybe it’s pink eye. I can’t see her face any more.

  “My neighbor, that man whose name I can’t pronounce. From another country. I liked him. Always minded his own business. Just waved. Sort of like a hello but without any noise or commotion. Anyway, he’s gone now.”

   “You wanna  go to collect some oysters?” I ask. “Got a new place. I think you’ll like it.”





John Dorroh taught secondary science for a few decades, arriving at his classroom every morning at 6:45 with at least three lesson plans and a thermos of robust Colombian. His poetry has appeared in Dime Show Review, Red Fez, North Dakota Quarterly, Tuck, Piker Press, Selcouth Station, and several others. He also writes short fiction (99 Words, Black Rose Publishing, 2012) and the occasional rant.