Tuesday 18 June 2024

'Flying to Aotearoa' by Val Harris

Above the land of the long white cloud, where the sky is blue, and it laughs aloud; where a sunshine path arcs east to west. Moving on and on, until the world has spun around and the moon and stars have found new ground. Then the earth’s eyes flash and wink and moonshine paths wind where lakes and rivers are silver strands. Then rippling fingers creep and dwell at the end of all that lies, beneath our ever-seeking eyes. They watch the clouds and the world fly by as steadily above we go until the curved horizon flattens out at the ends of the earth where the sun is out!

'What a Difference Two Years, Six Months and 15 Days Makes' by Madeleine Armstrong

The first time I saw you, you were a screaming, red-faced mess. I didn’t want anything to do with you.  Everyone talked about love at first sight – the great love, the best love – but I felt nothing.

The next six months passed in a fog. By the time I began to emerge into a new, half-lit world, you were sitting, almost crawling. Sunshine spilled out when you smiled, or so everybody said. I waited in vain for that pull on my heart, the one I’d heard all about.

Your first word was “Daddy”, which wasn’t surprising. As more colours began to seep into my life, I yearned to join your little club of two, but I didn’t have the password. I’d missed the induction and I couldn’t do anything right, so I did nothing at all.

Sleep training tears failed to move me. Your first steps raised merely a shrug. Every day I trudged through a long, dank tunnel, and every night I dreamt of clawing my way through clods of wet earth.

I don’t know when things started to change. It happened so gradually I didn’t notice until one day I
looked at you and felt soft instead of hard.

After that, when you clung to me I clung back, a drowning woman who’d finally found land.

Early this morning you burrowed into my bed, and I was almost blinded by the light shining from your eyes. I tickled you, and your laugh was a chisel cracking my frozen heart wide open.

“Again, Mummy. Again.”

Now I’ll never stop.

'Why Doesn't Anyone Listen to their Mom?' by Sally Simon

Mother never told me why she didn’t like my boyfriend. Why she’d say one thing to his face, and another to mine. And I never truly understood why I cared what she thought or said or did. Why it mattered that someone who didn’t know how to show love to her own husband, at least from what I could tell, told me I may want to think twice. Why should I care? Why not?

Later, after we’d been together for twenty years and I stayed fifteen longer than I should have, I knew why. But she died before I got an explanation for what he did, or didn’t do, that set my mother’s brain into overdrive, why she felt the need to warn me. And I’ll never stop asking myself why I didn’t listen.

'My World' by Abida Akram


Many voices. Fire ants are having their lunch as they crawl up my arms and legs. There is no ceasefire, nor will there be. No aid will get through. Hot and cold.

Blue and purple mottled patterns snaking from the soles of my feet and up my calves. The electric bar heater is too hot. I don’t move away. We red-headed people are told we have a temper and are feisty so why am so I silent. This withdrawal is a bitch. I curl up as if paper torched by the sun. My ashes swirl in the room as if sparking the voices into chilli red flakes.


Oceans deep and the deepest of space, unexplored. So much unknown. I am vulnerable to the invisible. I am vulnerable to the empty space inside. A black hole, never to be filled. Scared, drowning, I can’t catch a breath. I wish I could see you once more before I choke.


70% water. You’re kidding, right? More voices from the TV. Loud. I laugh. My thirst is constant. I am drowning in the shallows of little saliva. Floods everywhere. Homes washed away; cars overturned. Strong trees brought low, slumping over roads. My body tight, holding on, whilst my eyes ache, waterless.


Bodies in white shrouds, bodies under flags, bodies in coffins, bodies in mass graves. You take all the genocides in your stride, for you will be there when we are long gone. You will cough up our bones when you are good and ready.

The voices are louder. There are no walls. There is no peace for such as I. The voices are knocking loudly. 

They say they are saving me from burning, that it’s all in my head.

'Standardized Psychological Post-Quarrantine Survey Sb-53' by Chris Albin

Welcome back to work!

Before you can assume your new duties, we would appreciate it if you could fill out this short survey. Make sure to read through each question carefully and answer truthfully!

1. What is your name and clearance level?

2. What do you remember most about working from home?
a. Anxiety.
b. Deep isolation.
c. Gazing into the bathroom mirror.

3. Did your supervisor inform you of why you were being quarantined?

4. Do you trust your supervisor?

5. Take a long look at yourself in the mirror or the computer monitor. Next do the same with your corporate ID. Which is the real you?  
a. The reflection.
b. The photo. 
c. The glass.

6. Do you currently identify as a human being?

7. What were your duties in the former Subbasement 53?

8. Which of the following adjectives best describes what used to be Subbasement 53? 
a. Shiny
b. Distant.
c. Endless.
d. Writhing.

9. Where are you?

10. It is the middle of the night. You are standing in front of your bathroom mirror. You don’t remember how you got here. You are trying to move but you can’t. Why?

11. Who truly left that room?

12. What did you see at the other end of the bathroom mirror in Subbasement 53? 
a. Mirrors. Nothing but mirrors.
b. Something shimmering in  the corner of my eye.
c. Faces reflected within faces.
d. A stranger reaching out a hand. No, not a stranger…

13. Come home.

14. You are still standing in front of your bathroom mirror, the empty mirror. Where are you? The frame is vast and hungry. Who truly left that room? It stretches out to swallow you. Come home.

Thank you for your cooperation!

'Hum' by Willow Woo

The black curtains open onto a white screen, and I see myself sprinting into the NYC marathon finish line, hands triumphantly in the air. I am humming, a sound as powerful as a scream, but it will be drowned out by the speakers blaring that iconic Rocky song. I hum when I'm elated or in need of a reset. Exhausted, exhilarated, and achingly sore but infused with earned endorphins, my public facade, a shield I’ve worn since childhood, has melted away.

I continue to hum in my space even after you find me in the crowds.

You toss a disgusted look. Your voice changes to match. You shoot, “Are you humming?”

I freeze. I'm still high on my finish, unaware the music has stopped, and I am humming so loudly. Exposed. I’ve dropped my act for the first time in my 27 years of faking it. Am I flailing my arms like I’m swimming on land? I look to my left hand and then my right. Arms are down. Phew. It’s just the hum, but I no longer want to stop.

Surprisingly, when I hum louder, I float up, and when I hum as an alto, which I did in chorus class, I lower. When I hum faster, I move faster; the same is true with a slow hum.

Heads turn to stare.

You screech, “Stop! Your hum is giving me a headache!” 

I hum louder. You cover your ears as I rise with my booming hum. The arms of the people pointing look like chopsticks as I rise higher and higher. My hum blends with the wind. I pass the tallest skyscrapers and then the Statue of Liberty, where I gently high-five her torch while embracing my hum, a breath I kept in for way too long.

'Things That Travel Through the Air on Any Given Day in America' by Andrea Goyan

Birds, airplanes, falling leaves, butterflies, bees, mosquitos, plastic bags, cigarette butts, balloons, kites, soap bubbles, honking horns, chirping birds, barking dogs, children giggling—




Thoughts and prayers. 

Thoughts and prayers. 

Thoughts and prayers.

I pluck those empty thoughts and bitter prayers from the air they’ve polluted, snatch them as they pass their speakers’ lips, slurp and swallow the words, all the words, the vowels, the consonants, and the speakers’ impotence, all to be digested, shat out and flushed away. Forcing the loudest mute. 

Allowing the voices of the masses to break through the din and be heard floating in the air every day in America.

'Grate Question' by Scaramanga Silk

The call came in last minute during this leg of the book tour. But here I am, in the studio of Number 1 radio station WDPK 83.7 FM. ‘The sound of tomorrow, the music of today’. And boy it is something else. Everything in the room looks brand new. These headphones must be two grand alone and that Neumann microphone might have to come home with me for my podcast.

“Now to today’s special guest, Hugh Traxx, esteemed DJ, here to talk about his sublime debut book Turntable Wizard,” he enthused.

“Cheers Kevin, pal. Great to be here. Big fan of the show.”

“It’s Caoimhín,” came the soft retort. “So, your book is Number #3 in the New York Times Best Sellers List. What inspired you to put pen to paper?”

“Ooo. Great question. Well, having been on the circuit for…”

Caoimhín glared at me, his eyes looking like they were about to explode…

“Great question is it? Really? It’s the most generic thing you can ask a creative. Also, who are you to rate the calibre of it anyway? So patronising.”

“Huh? Erm… I…”

“Fan of the show are you? You didn’t even get my name right! I’d never heard of you a week ago. I haven’t read all of your book either. My producer arranged this nonsense off the back of your sudden fame. From what I have seen, I wonder how you managed to get published. Do you know what a proofreader is? Who are the idiots buying this rubbish? I’ve interviewed Stevie Wonder. What am I doing here???”

He threw down his headphones, gestured a cut-throat sign through the window, leapt out of his chair, and marched out.

His producer ran in, profusely apologising, and looking rather flushed.

“Trouble at home with the Mrs, has he?”

'Coming of Age' by Sue Smith

When Luke is five his mother gives him a picture of a tree. Silver brown branches carry a myriad of leaves. Luke traces the outline with his finger. “If I looked out of the window would I see one?” 

“Not from here, sweetheart.”  

“Can I look out of the window?”

His mother shakes her head.  “When you’re older.  Not until then.”

There isn’t a window in Luke’s bedroom. The only one is in his father’s workshop, and it’s covered by a shutter that is always closed. “To keep out the sun,” his father says, but never explains why.

Every birthday follows the same pattern. His mother gives him a picture of something growing; a plant, some flowers, fruit. Every year he asks to look out of the window. Every year she says not until he’s older.

At night he dreams of hilltops covered in trees, and seas that stretch into the distance. When he wakes in the morning he feels a sting of disappointment that it was only a dream.

Then on his fifteenth birthday his mother and father come into his room together.

“We think you’re old enough,” his father says.  

“To look out of the window?” 

His mother nods.

“To see the world?”

His parents exchange looks. 

They stand in front of the window. His father presses the button and the shutter creaks and complains but inches upwards.

The light is blinding. “Just a few minutes,” his father says. “No more or we’ll overheat.”

Luke screws his eyes into the nothingness  All he can see is white. “Where’s earth?”

His mother points. “There. Near the sun.”

Luke follows the line of her finger and sees something black and lifeless.  

When he looks back at his mother a solitary tear is sliding down her cheek.  

'Magnificent Cure for Insomnia' by Donna M Day

Dear One,

Imagine, if you would, the most wonderful sleep, as long as your heart desires and in the softest bed, even fit for a princess, you might say.

You have doubtless heard tales of poisoned apples and nasty peas, but this solution has been tailor-made just for you and features no malicious fruits or vegetables at all.

Dear One, you need only take up the marvellous underrated hobby of spinning cloth and be a little careless around the needle.

Sounds dangerous, but I promise you it is not, at all.

Perfectly safe for a perfect slumber.

Sweet dreams.