• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 05


I was reminded – or perhaps I should say – a picture – it arrived and stole every part of my head. A can of beans sits on a shelf in a supermarket. It is 6 cans away from the front edge. It is silent. Unsuspecting. Happy? Bored, definitely. It is stationary as I was. It is lifted this can of beans by a hand – my hand maybe? – His hand. It is shaken – vigorously. In my running – in my stumbling from that fucking house – my brain it shakes. Why wouldn’t it? He. Images beyond the interior now – too many – thousands. Leaf and bark and wooded epidermis underfoot – under the running. Is this the very wood? He – “Bite the fuck down!” Bark crushed to inner tree-bone. Run. Turn head back. Already distant and lost almost. The house’s outer wall visible. Never seen ’til now. The interior littered in bitten twigs. Run on. He – “Bite the fuck down!” Foot on foot down into the wooded floor. Skin later bruised later sore later cut. Somewhere I will soak them – somewhere I will wash and dress and undo – unwind what He did. And heal. He. Another behind it runs and calls after. Faster my legs then. Through bramble and torn – and branches grabbing at my feet my legs these arms. He – “BACK”. It hammers down on me that word. It cracks my skull and tries to hook my brain. “BACK”. Run forever. Stronger the stride. Clearer the wood. Distant the He. “BACK”. No say the legs. No say the arms. No says my breath. Run on.


The Drunk

Michael McGrath was waiting outside the pub when John arrived to open up. He was unwelcome in most places around town because of his habit of slapping the bar and shouting. John poured him a pint.
“I went to Old Head this morning Michael,” John said.
“It’s a lovely spot John,” the old man said.
“There was no one on the beach,” John said searching for the TV remote.
“It reminds me of somewhere foreign on a summer day,” Michael said.
Michael looked at the window and followed a shaft of sunlight catching the dust, which fell on the soft wooden boards in the middle of the bar.
“The sun-comprehending glass, and beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows nothing, and is nowhere and is endless,” he said.
John raised his eyebrows.
“High Windows,” Michael said. “Larkin.”
John nodded and turned the volume up.
“He has a poem about the beach as well,” Michael said looking at his pint.
“What?” John was trying to listen to the TV.
“Larkin. That was High Windows, but he has one about the beach. To the Sea, I think it’s called. To the Sea. ‘The small hushed waves repeated fresh collapse up the warm yellow sand, and – ’”
He stopped, drank the last sip of his pint, and slapped his hand on the bar suddenly.
“And John!” he shouted. “A white steamer stuck in the afternoon! Another pint you half-baked bluebottle!”
“Do you know what it is, really with this guy, Micky?” John nodded at the singer on the screen and took the ten Euro note that had appeared on the bar. “It is the key that man sings in, I mean, the key of his life. The tone of it rings true.”
“Love and death,” Michael said.
“He could sing about going for a shit and I’d probably like it,” John said.
Read more >


We are the winning team, xx

Ok! Dentures are ok. Denture-shaped staplers though. What's worse, twigs. Or what’s it called the device in a horse’s mouth kept on the horse's head by means of a headstall? A bit? It's not straight from the horse's head, mouth, not one bit. No one is straight least of all me and everything is highly derivative. No headstalls. No horsemen no horsepersons. Hang on are these bits gags though ok. Not ok no. Imagine or image search ‘gagged’ the word alone you'll see a million women and none of them into BDSM probably. Lose the gags bits or twigs and the colour scheme turns a bit Saint George's Cross it isn't a winning situation who knew.



No-one tells you what it will be like, after.
After the funeral.
After the body is burned.
You imagine all that will be left to be merely a small pile of pure, smooth grey ash.
What they don’t tell you is that the human body incinerated is far more substantial.
That there are colours, so many colours.
Flecks of blue, purple, even green.
If you look closely it will shimmer.
And there will be parts of the body that won’t disintegrate. Heavy bones, like stones. So that when you put your hand in the urn, you will pull out what you imagine to be a radius or an ulna. It will have a certain heft to it.
You grip it hard and your eight-year-old self will imagine these to be the most stubborn parts of your father. And the fact that these still remain fill you with a kind of relief. And you will laugh and laugh and laugh.

Cremation in those days is still taboo. Seen as a savage ritual for heathens. One puckered-lipped girl will tell you she has heard that your father is being ‘burned to a crisp’.
Burned to a crisp, as if your family were cannibals, cooking him, doing a bad job of it. An oily shame rises, and you repay her by vomiting on her shoes.

Your gran arrives grim-faced, sleeves rolled up. You remember your mother saying that your grandmother is like a dog with a bone. It is true there is a basset hound quality to the wrinkles on her face. Now your gran colonises all the parts of the house that your mother has retreated from in favour of her bed. Read more >


Biting Down

Biting down on the nearest stick
to assuage the pain of your words,
to avoid the bitter taste of my the
verbal incendiaries, I halt my words
then shove a stick in your moth as well.
      I would like
to spew your way in response.
So it is that sticks (not stones)
mediate our fiery chatterings,
protecting us both from wounds from
further mutterings, wounds that would
reach far beyond teeth and tongue,
into the heart.

The Con-Trap-Shut

Oh if there were such a thing to keep one from speaking such utter atrocities
Sticks and Stones may break bones, but
words hurt exponentially more
Opportunites lost for you and yours
Slander is what they call it
What if there were a law that a contraption to keep one's mouth shut for a set period of time would be used instead of jailtime?
We'll call it the Con-trap-shut.
Come and get yours today...

Mouth Trap

Words splinter my tongue
broken off from deep roots,
skeletal remains dried out
when rains failed, heat parched.

Once, our soft lips, stained red,
berry-juiced and moist
beguiled our innocence,
bent tongues to lie honey
drops, wasp-sweet, awaiting
stung fulfillment's sad union.

Sleep dead endings drifted, flitting
dreams fallen. Mulched rot souped
and fungi grew in cracks, congealed
around ribs. Regorgings stank
all breathings out, to dire death-hood.

My red smeared rigid mouth
prised apart by palate screws, cruel
mortician's replication, choked up
with tinder, split from heart of wood.



I have to admit, I’ve never been exposed to a live Commons debate, though I’ve watched bits on television. School debates were oh so much more civilised, despite all the heckling, ribbing, and unrelated gossiping which resonated through the audience. Even the time I caught the tail end of a salacious account of a first date during the debate on sexual equality; where “she” – whoever it was – reportedly “brayed like a donkey”, seems tame in comparison.
    Some people can’t pick up the more lurid of comments, probably because of directional microphones and selective editing, but I can … sometimes, especially when the MP speaking was dating one of those Cheeky Girl creatures.
    I watch them go through the empty motions of intelligent debate; then imagine them sipping their cognacs and pulling on King Edward cigars, thick as small branches. The evolution of notion from that to the wind-up false teeth clattering across the little table beside my hospital bed is no longer funny. They’re supposed to be creating a future.     Most of the fouler language is covered by the Speaker calling “Order … order.’ The urge for some political wag to shout burger and chips must be almost unbearable. Or do they even have that amount of humour?
    Well, with my current incapacity, I didn’t see me being exposed to a live debate of any sort … anytime soon. I can’t handle crowds, loud noises, or bright lights. I feel like a mogwai from Gremlins (Warner Bros., 1984) sometimes. Funny how a kidnapped loved one can put all that to the back… Well no, not the back of the mind, but somewhere behind the threat and the inevitability of the item I’m delivering. I suppose this mental meandering is me temporarily dealing. I’m still shaking, though.
Read more >

Twigs and Bits of Metal Nonsense

When your teeth have been pulled and reissued in plastic; when your gums have had the same treatment AND been painted technicolour orange (or did the operative think it was cadmium red, which may contain mercury?) you know the world’s gone mad.

There was no need to take the teeth out of your mouth and turn them into these (incredibly bad) plastic copies, was there? And as for sticking a twig between them and a bit of metal nonsense to hold said twig, what sort of hallucinatory state was the operative in? Oh yes, and why would said operative make a spare pair? Who on earth would want two of these?

A person could choke on that twig. A person could lacerate the corners of their mouth on that twig. A person could put a hole right through their tongue with that streel prong (if they could get it to move down beyond the twig). A person could be outraged in the extreme that this has happened. A person could sue for misappropriation of personal property. A person could die of mercury poisoning. A person could bleed to death from an inept operative’s operation to remove said person’s real teeth in the first place.

Or, when the fury has fizzled, a person could say, because willing, in the final analysis, to acknowledge a fair number of years (mostly well-spent but governed by a sweet tooth): ‘This strange eventful history ends ... sans teeth.’ Said person might even thank said operative for relieving the pain. As long as said operative agreed to remove said twigs and bits of metal nonsense.



I was thrown for a loop.
I was speechless.
My mouth was totally stopped.
All I could do was gape and stare
At my disembodied dentures;
I must have said “ah” too long.
I must have been stuck on one false note
From the same old same old song.
I couldn’t see,
Because I didn’t have eyes.
I couldn’t hear,
Because I didn’t have ears.
(However, I did smell a rat,
Who was nowhere to be seen—
Not even the tip of his tail.)
I couldn’t taste the twig
That was lodged between my teeth—
I didn’t have a tongue, anyway.
I guess I was just a machine—
That was all that remained of me.
How tragic.
I showed such promise in youth,
Especially in my imagination.
But it’s all gone now,
Except for what you see in this picture.
There’s nothing left to say.

Your Sticky Wicked Home to Roost

Bite it. Stick it up, clacky jaws.
You said the worst you could say
in public. We heard it. You added
but as if you didn't mean it so
mean. Too late. My lips wrinkled. My hair
stuck to my spit. My hands went all
claws. You never stop spreading hate
and telling lies. I know when all
is said and done that it will
come back and bite you.


Fingers in a trap, pinched in an act
paralysed in the attempt to reach

a dream. Could it have landed
that flying saucer, the fairy fantasy?

Unbelief can’t take the place
of dopamine or adrenalin or wild

imagining – pain will penetrate
any minute now...how could I be

so gullible so desperate so dumb?
I never heard the chattering of teeth

the words slipping between friends
lips syncing, lying smoothly in bed

together. Do these words belong
in our world – in love we trust?

Aren’t they just a dream, a flick
in time sewn into a beating heart?


enough misdeeds to make one believe he’s actually been alive

how many warnings does one person need?… if it's you we're taking about, an unlimited amount still isn't enough: you've seen the pictures, you've lived through all the unpleasantness your mistakes have gotten you, and if you add up all the nights you've lain awake boring holes through the walls and ceiling, they'd total years by now, don't you think?… right, use tonight's rain to distract yourself from the bottom line here, keep doing that and see where it gets you: you'll just have to loathe yourself even more when it becomes unendurable, when you reach your breaking point and realized you can't even look yourself in the eye anymore… then where will you be?… already you wake every morning asking how much longer the punishment continues when you know being with her was never going to be given to you, that really and truly, there was never any guarantee things were going to work out with her… where was that going to leave you then?… pull the stick out already and listen to the words formed by the tongueless, the lipless, the phantom voice telling you it's been decades and you're still lost, still hopeless… whose fault is it, though?: you needed something to keep you going, something to work toward… go back to '91: if you hadn't had this, which you'll admit now was just a make-believe hope you knew there was no possibility of ever coming to pass, you would've given up entirely… it's been this ridiculous unlikelihood that saved you: back then, you were almost dead, remember?… you'd even told yourself you were dead--yes, you did, you just won't allow yourself to fully recall those days back and for good reason: you're still protecting yourself from the horror that wasn't of your making… and you'll say it many more times before your truly dead and can't say it anymore, so what's one more time, right?: he was doctor frankenstein and you were the monster, but it was the good doctor who made the monster what he was… were you really a monster, though, really?… Read more >

Letter from Leinster

Dear sir – I write with news from fair Kilkenny,
where, I am pleased to say, there have been many
decent reforms in these indecent times.
Alas, the peasantry sustain those games
I latterly reported: games with corpses
of pagan derivation. These are orgies
of foolishness revolting to all notions
of delicacy – and these “recreations”
thrive among the superstitious despite
the Church’s bold campaign to stamp them out.
Resisting all sense, men don their cracked clothes
and flaunt their rosaries of spare potatoes.
They “Make the Ship” and blindly “Hold the Light”.
They “Hunt the Slipper”, drink and dance about.
The worst of it, in my considered view,
is something anti-Christian they do
to speechless, breathless, only just released
remains of folk whom they all knew. No rest
for such poor things! Their tongues must wag, their teeth –
though they have wagged and chattered long enough –
must grace these jolly scenes. And so the hearths
of deathly chambers resound with such mirth
as may be had from sticks for silly sports –
with tricks and bouts of madness in mock-courts,
bearing witness to which are these bared grins . . . .
But now I must break off. I go at once
to civilize proceedings. Sir, I am
your humble servant still – John G. A. Prim.

Mr. Funny

Joseph drifted as his six-year-old granddaughter brushed and pinned his hair, a ritual every time she stayed over, but he didn’t mind because it relaxed him.

“Okay, Grandpa, look at how nice it looks,” Lucy said and handed him the Barbie Doll mirror.

He looked like a punk rocker with his silver and white hair sticking high up with hair pins. He chortled and handed Lucy the mirror.

“I have a surprise for you, now.”

“What is it, Grandpa?” Lucy asked.

“You’ll just have to wait.”

Joseph came out with something covered in a towel and Lucy looked dumbfounded.

“Go ahead, Lucy, take off the towel.”

Lucy removed the towel and screamed. “Grandpa, that’s disgusting! Why would you show me that?” She stepped back and covered her eyes.

The teeth clattered, and Joseph bent over laughing. “Lucy, Honey, they’re fake. They’re not real teeth. Here I’ll show you.” He grabbed a twig from his wife’s fake plant and put it between the teeth and they stopped clattering. He removed the twig and they began clattering again. “See, it’s a toy. I thought you’d find it funny.”

Read more >


In Between

Like the twig between the teeth
The tongue between the cheeks,
Like the staple between the pages
The words between the lines,
Like the truth between the lies
The death between the lives;
Us -
Running through this indentured cell of
Dentures -
The twigging of the soul passes
it takes a twigging moment
To twig between the minds
the meaning of
- Us:
Here and Ever After
- in between the realms
of Hades and Paradise.


You may never smile
Or speak again
Jaws locked open
Stuffed with a stick.
No more teeth
Chattering gossip
Or quick put-downs.
Your voice is stuck
In that limbo
Halfway to hell
Mind jittery with
What you ache to say
No way to giggle
No way to spit
Or yell or even
Move your mouth
In sincere apology
Should you weep
Your way there.
This transmandibular
Penance may take
Decades for all you know
Time enough to think
Before you have
A chance to speak again.


When they fitted her new dentures,
she never in her wildest dreams imagined
that spring would bloom again.

Flashing a smile became
a regular occurrence on her daily walk -
no more pursed lips and cast-down eyes.

Nobody could be more surprised
as the puckered person they’d once seen
bounded with budding twigs between

dazzling teeth, clicking like castanets
with a cha-cha-cha rhythm and a sway of her hips,
possessed by the demons between her lips.


the slow turn of water

the man reaches the ground, lowered in
waves. a hollow grave holds no
desire for the dead. every seed tinged in pomegranate crimson.
from between his legs, the
organ of slow demise. she felt its waft from
over the ground. bowing down, the hands only
reach the chest of grass. the
desire for hair in earth, soft, sometimes
fluid. I know the shape of hard.
skeletal. their boat drowns in
gentle gyration.
the wind has sung this dirge already. you
can write loss in this- the plump, the firm kind.
another centre merges perfectly into the margins, a slow


At 4 am,
silence is a single leaf
twirling and twirling and touching the ground.
The earth and the full moon
contented in this hushed-up sound
also know the reverberations
of smashed monuments,
crashed aeroplanes,
splintered nations,
the clash of cultures
and starving children preyed by vultures.

Stones scattered from statues of peace
still appeal for peace,
broken jawbones also tell a tale,
laugh in the moonlight and regale,
and debate if ink would outlive blood.



It is the measure of incongruence, the horizon askew,
the wind running amok, the sullen moon a flushed

pink, the world at war with its children, dead in school
yards, drowned in thirsty seas, broken under the rubble

of endless hate. I see you flinch as you read the headline,
another five year old raped and dumped on the side of

the road; a curious fly slips in through the screen door and
surveys the remains of a chocolate muffin as the silence

seeps into the bones of another day that will not begin.
A nameless bird looks out, the words to its song forgotten

in the morning sun; it would make sense, it would all make
sense if the earth had succumbed and spun astray, a flaccid

ball untethered from its orbit, or if all of creation, swathed
in mournful black was biting down on the last trees to stop

itself from screaming. I hear you start the car, I hear it
cough, again, again, as if our air is too toxic to breathe in.


Branches of Absurdity

By fetter-flicker binds...

Purposively spasmodic absurdity
Censorship of nonsense
Disease in novelty
Biting down into tensioned expression

Could these gags amuse? Playing with hysteria -
Most funny things unsaid
..."They'll never toy with free speech"

A chorus of plastic laughter
Political collars twigged
This choir of fakery
Trained like an artificial light source

Bonded with loss of power... "Out with from in."



Consider the red of the lip:
Ruby Woo, Grand Illusion, Bitchette.
You can’t come to anything neutral.
This is about women.

Teeth have become whiter in the last century.
Blanx Stain Removal, best for sensitive teeth,
contains lichens and bamboo micropowder.

Watch Andie MacDowell in Groundhog Day (1993):
marvel, drop your own hinged jaw,
at her teeth the colour of a western sky
overcast, gathering rain.
How did she get screen work?
Get bleaching, honey.

Baby teeth are lady teeth: see A Doll’s House (1879).
Macaroons will rot your songbird beak.
Nibble and munch in secret.
Taste buds are not made to open.

Read more >



He had teeth false, like the ones
we used to buy as kids.
They tasted of a powdered
pink sweetness.
The gums, a bloody red.
The dentist, six feet tall.

Mr Grenen, or as we used
to call him, Mr. Grinnin'
with his myriad of mirrors,
his tubes, twisting like curls,
the chair, straight out
of Frankenstein.
And the smell of the surgery
coming from the centre
of the earth; a gas,
not for laughing.

He catches hold of the mouth
sprays it with 'Eucryl'.
Before I leave he gives
me a sweetmeat,
root liquorice,
to twig my words.


The collector of sounds

fondles the exhibit, notes the two tongues snagged
under, clipped. Her mouth had been smaller, true,

a pinch-clip of palate, visible in vowels and glottal
stops. Those other lips, full back then, often a seal-fat

fricative of quiet reproach. Both are peeled now to nothing
more than bony gum, smooth as shellac, blood and pearl.

He's catalogued that day somewhere in shadowy drawers,
heard such artistry before, and reaches gently out to touch.

Hazel-nuts, each toothed twiggy hook, twins of those
green-snapped in Felbrigg Wood to wicker-fix the gate

that Jane and George passed through, are held clenched tight. How little branches split these half remembered grins

with clean-cut wood. He pictures cherry trees, how walking once in succulent summer sun, they bit and bit each little

globe of stony flesh, disclosing click-clack dentistry. Their
spoken words like chickering magpies squabbling overhead,

a phonologist's sweetest dream. Jane and George long dead,
resounding still, a tympani of love. They're his now, tissued,

softly boxed, gift-wrapped, he takes them quietly home. Each intimate dentured smile a souvenir, a sibillant talking point.



She didn’t think that it would be possible to be so repulsed by someone so rapidly. It was like having dinner with a walrus, his whiskers and complete absence of a jawline only exacerbating her struggle to maintain composure. She tried to blame her giggles – a schoolgirl again, simpering and batting clumpy eyelashes – on the wine, but then he was at it again, rubbing his hands together, and suddenly it was the slap slap slapping of walrus fins, the force rippling through his blubbery body and fuelling her poorly suppressed sniggers.

Not so funny was the speed with which she fell out of love with him. Was it really just this evening, the irony of candlelight in highlighting her lover’s faults? Or was it a myriad of tiny things (not mentioning his penis) that built up to this, three years fracturing over a meal and a bottle of wine? Was it the way he left towels on the bathroom floor, didn’t call his mother, didn’t call her, didn’t clear up after the dog, didn’t clear up after himself? She knew that these were only minor incidents, that he didn’t impregnate another woman or smash a bottle of her head during those three years, but snowflakes lead to blizzards that shut down countries. His label as ‘man-child’ should have been the first warning. It was humorous when it first appeared on novelty mugs, but when it manifested itself in his inability to remember birthdays and clear dishwashers, something had to go.

Someone had to go.

Read more >



You wear your nihlism like false teeth, your eyes ringed in raven black.
Taped to the wall, a stolen letterhead is scratched out by your hand, the markings now thick lettered in cerulean sky blue - (the colour matches your eyes)
scrawled: The Institute for Acclaimed Madness.

"I told that bastard he didn't know feast from famine. He couldn't wrap his mind beyond the fractals.
But it's a fact -
Kafka ate cockroaches for breakfast.
I know - I know
I am him.
And it's like sour milk -
milk from the breast of the mother that can't nourish the child
but the child was never anyhow -
dead before conception"

You sit with a bowl of cornflakes cradled in a canary yellow bowl.
Absentmindedly grinding your teeth, you stare it down.
For a moment, you are light -
like a seagull riding the air
filled with the fresh breath of a salty sea blue expanse
poised to swoop in and snatch -
your pinched mouth is greedy for the hunger

"This shit tastes like wallpaper paste. I don't want it."

You push the bowl away. Milk slops over the rim along with some cereal.
Inked across your hands, you study the words "Bite me" -
look up at the wall and smile a thin wire.


Chomp Champ

Her smile was sincere and beguiling,
but most noteworthy lay underneath.
(In dentists’ historical filing
are reports of my grandmother’s teeth.)

Her dentures weren’t just acrobatic
and musical’s shy of the mark;
their adventures were often dramatic,
like ‘that time’ with the pug in the park.

Artists and players adored her,
devouring the raucous applause…
Of course, when they then turned towards her,
the clamorous source was her jaws.

Invaluable, Gran was, each Yuletide –
shunning scissors, she tore off the tape.
While we carolled and wrapped at the fireside,
she’d sit with her portal agape.

It was not just the porcelain prowess –
her tongue was a muscular beast
which attained an award while at Powys
for a challenging gobstopper feast.

Read more >


Dental Excursions

She was tall but not willowy,
straight backed, legs like sticks,
ankles that fought against the wind.
She was obsessed with her teeth.
Twice a month, she boarded a train
to New York, a two-hour sojourn,
bound for a world of dental hygiene,
handsome men wielding melodious drills
and preaching the benefits of fluoride.
Her best dresses stayed pressed and
crisp in her closet, worn only
for dental excursions and funerals.
She kept a tooth brush in her purse,
cleaned her teeth after every meal,
flossed with vigor and avoided sweets,
determined to defy the imminent death of her incisors.
Most days she was mean, coated in bitterness
that she couldn't scrub from her skin,
but every month, on those two days,
you were guaranteed to see her smile.
Her mouth was pristine.

Biting the Hand

Twinned, these mouths with wooden words
Punch holes in fragile egos
Bite down on stray thoughts
The social faux pas
Refuse to yield ground
With crimsoned lips pursed
In moral superiority
As conversations branch
Into a quagmire
And the little man
Hasn’t twigged
Until he hears their laughter
Turns to see the sneers
But gets his revenge
When he spits in their food
And bites the hand that feeds

She said her mouth was like the sea

I said of course, that I understood, though I didn't.

She said the grains of rice were like little fishes, slipping and sliding through the soup in her mouth, in and out of the rocks of her teeth.

"That's as may be," I said. "But we don't have all day." By which I meant that I didn't have all day. Though of course I did, for what else was I there for?

I watched as she blew her cheeks out, making me wait. It was the waves she said, and I said I could see that that was so. Which I couldn't. I was merely humouring her. And I was tapping my foot now, tap tap, impatient.

She knew, of course, that I was doing these things. She swallowed her mouthful and looked at me in that way of hers.

"You always were a wilful child," she said. And I said nothing, because I wasn't there for argument. I was there for her supping of the soup.

She swallowed and I went to lift another spoonful to her mouth, but the expression in her eyes stopped me and I waited until it changed to permission.

She opened her mouth, wide as a westward-facing bay with an incoming evening tide, a tide lapping the white rocks on the shore. And for a moment she was beautiful. I was stopped by that, stopped with a spoonful of soup held halfway to her mouth.

"I see it now," I said. "I see how your mouth is like the sea."

And then we went on with her supping of the soup, until it was done. And then I wiped her mouth, gently, as she had once wiped mine.


Strange Medicine

I can only describe it as a feeling
of time ticking toward an end,

when a man sat opposite me,
a scarred face that read like
a philosophy of violence.

"Is this seat taken?" he asked.
I shook my head. He continued,
"It’s cold outside." I nodded.

When I eat lunch, I prefer
silence. Hopeful invisibility.
Nevertheless, he continued,

"I have 20-minutes to tell you
about the wonders of the world
and the folly of man.”

I bit into my tuna sandwich
as he unravelled ignorance,
and the devil within science.

I contemplated the facts:
I’m a grim magnet for oddity.

Read more >


Beneath the shell

Death is the firmament hidden beneath the cadaverous art
with swollen cheeks, purple gigs.
People swim in the turpid blues of conscious
and exhale broken legs and scrawny memories.
The art uncoils and the body shimmers
with untold pain, unseen miseries,
It is divine. Church bells bless and smile.
Carmine smiles broken, gonging the thin crisp air,
Like a truth is told, cleaved hearts wander.
I see you are broken,
I see you are exposed.
Death is dark and choking each day
with memories left,
with a hint of twig and ashes left.
Death is a cryptic lie.

Yakety Yak: Lipstick On Your Collar

Intelligentsia of Hampstead, Mayfair, leafy Surrey,
Cogitating/ruminating over Brexit, a balti curry;
Dinner parties, salons and soirées;
Chat becoming ever more risqué..
Who wore best dress/make-up, value of des res homes?
Ferraris, Bentleys, Bugattis, Rolls, no need for loans;
Fortified by Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cotes du Rhone,
Swingers' car keys in fruit bowl, gathering overblown...
Clackety clack, "yakety yak, don't talk back" .

It’s a Cruel World

All is silent
Where is the gnashing of teeth?
They amused us, but now
No more.
No more chattering.
Is this a joke?
The children don't laugh
any more.
Mouths forever open.
Teeth forever still.
Frozen in time.
Until the tree sticks
free their bite.
It's a Cruel World.


is expected to be strong
without anaesthetic
push the teeth into
your skull -
with plenty of rum
it will be half dreamtime
        half bad trip
where you see infinite false teeth
that grip only a twig
as you float -
never let go
as a leg is amputated to the knee
with the surgeon's saw

conditions are mostly better now
mostly - electric saws are quicker -
never let go - never


False talk

The problem is one of verbal cages,
the relentless chatter we all utter,
supposedly from the mouths of sages
but more likely up from the gutter.
Better happy mechanical jaw jaw flap –
we know that language is a trap –
than being fooled by slick imprecations,
the pretence of meaningful communications.
A stick means what it means:
dependable, natural, steadfast, true –
if only that would be said of you
and your conversation, that careens
dangerously away from wisdom, right;
your word as dangerous as a bite.

False Teeth

My grandfather had spent his life cleaning his teeth with tree bark, so who could really blame him? In a fit of generosity and sudden love, my parents got the old man brand new dentures. They had watched a Hindi movie about parents abandoned and ill-treated by their children, featuring two aging superstars who danced and cried through the movie in equal measure; my father felt an acute need to prove he wasn’t a careless son. The dentures were my mother’s idea (of course, they forgot to ask him what he would like).
Grandpa spent a great deal of time on his new teeth. He wore and removed them repeatedly, checking his reflection in the mirror. His own teeth, long gone, had always been stained by the betel nuts he habitually chewed all day. The dazzle of his new canines was unnerving. I sometimes hung around with a book, watching as he stretched his mouth and contorted his face. I wish I had pictures to show off his daily facial calisthenics routine but this was some time before cam-phones made their way to my home.
Ever since most of his teeth fell out, Grandpa made peace with the lack of ability to enjoy a hearty crunchy. That had now changed, you might imagine for the better. But Grandpa chewed slowly, deliberately and rather loudly. Besides, no matter how much anyone tried to convince him, he’d developed a fear that biting anything hard would damage his new teeth. It didn’t help that his dentures loosened on many occasions, most heartbreakingly during a cousin’s birthday party. Grandpa never quite got over the embarrassment of his unsettled pearlies in a room filled with people.
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I can't remember who said what. It's all a little crazy-dancy in my mind; blurred inside too many colors and memories that want to impose. He said/she said is too basic. The clock couldn't stop laughing at our impasse. But right in the middle of a moment that leapt out of silence born from exhaustion; a seed was planted. A seed of love. The real thing. Not lust or want or need or manipulation or tit for tat. The absolute REAL thing.

And over time it grew in the moments of laughter, kisses, silliness and gratitude in wonderful pockets when we were truly plugged in. Thank God. Oh, THANK GOD. Now we roam free within the forests of one another. Our indulgences, when ridiculous, merit an eye roll at best and a space in which to stew. But that incessant, "I'm right and You are an idiot and You this and You that and blah Blah BLAHHHHHH!!!!!!!" has chocked on a twig of truth.


Mum’s the Word

Grammy died when I was sixteen
a surrogate mother as my biological one
worked 'round the clock

Irish, Catholic
she instilled both values and fear
a petite woman, fiercely passionate
about life, faith

I followed her coffin down the
church's aisle
numbed, speechless

Where's the peace in knowing
life after death?
I felt none

For this Matriarch,
mum's the word I learned
to adore

now in the Reaper's embrace



Humming, very softly, “Habanera,”
Exotic gypsy woman’s first aria in Bizet’s Carmen
With tambourines and clicking castanets,
a tantalizing gypsy dance in another place and time
— the Andalusian countryside,
a gypsy caravan fiesta in southern Spain

Flamenco guitars strumming, palmas, hand clapping,
With tambourines and clicking castanets,
Dos-à-dos, the young gypsies passionately lose themselves
to the magic of flamenco dancing,
Flirting shamelessly with Spain’s romantic painter
— Francisco Goya.
Seduced by the gypsies exotic beauty and mesmerizing dance,
Goya joins the fiesta, rattling a pair of well-clicked castanets.

Humming, very softly, “Habanera,”
Exotic gypsy woman’s first aria in Bizet’s Carmen
With clicking castanets and gypsy-like masterful flirting,
a brilliant evening of gypsy song and dance in another place and time
— Santa Fe Opera production in the Land of Enchantment,
Carmen’s sexy seduction of Don José in the first act.


Put the Needle on the Record

We hold our tongues,
swallow words,
bite down on the stick with unsure teeth—
hold back the authentic response,
for fear of disturbing the delicate balance of expectation, etiquette— how the well-mannered woman should behave. There is a fear of rebuttal, the anticipation of being belittled— even worse, not believed, when we speak up— when we speak out. The bark is now bitter from generations
of holding back the tide of truth
and the unseemly—
the unspoken.
Put the needle on the record,
without fear of skipping.
Sing your song to the sky,
despite the cracks in the ceiling you are counting—
the things you dare to tell about.

Biting off more than you can chew!

When you bite off more than you can chew,
You leave no resources for others to devour.
And the next time it's their turn to do the same.
And in this competition,
we have depleted more resources than we know,
And are doing it continually.
This will lead us to a time when you have nothing but your own teeth to bite,
until all your teeth are shattered in due course


I grew it from an acorn
that I smuggled home from the forest
pushed into a corner of my pocket

You caught me planting
said a tree could never thrive
with my scant care

But I watched it emerge
grow straight and fast
you said you may have to eat your words

Words blossomed from the branches
tumbled to the ground
and drifted down our street

They stuck to people's shoes
went everywhere
you said it was dangerous

felled the tree for my own good
chopped it into bitesize portions
and ate my words



We chattered like magpies
over the crushed remains
of reckless squirrels on city pavement

Chittering and chattering
our gleaming white teeth
clenched on witless politicians
ground the bones of small-
minded demigods on town
councils and corporate boards

We denounced, renounced, pronounced,
pontificated, remonstrated, and insinuated

We polished and whitened
our enamel grin into
a gleaming canvas to flaunt
the spatter of blood and sinew

Our feet were the first to go
toes curling, shriveling
bones bent and softened
organs melted into a dew
hands knotted and calcified
eyes clouded and nose sunken

Gone all but the hardened chomp
we masticated and gorged on
ghosts of injury and insult
teeth bared so ravenous they gnaw
the air no one around us can breathe


Damn! Those words

Shut your mouth, she said
You're dumb, he said
You're useless, they said

I believed the words
That came out their mouth
Their lipstick clad lips
Their overly white teeth

One day I heard
Some more words
"You're gonna do great sweetie"
"You're nice and sweet, dear"

I turned around
To see where it was coming from
This time there wasn't any lipstick
There wasn't overly pearly teeth

There were dentures
As artificial as they could get
But those words
Damn! Those words

They were like a defibrillator
Like a jolt to my heart
A jolt that brought me back
Back to life

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Battle Ground

Pain pierced his body. No identifiable location. No place to blame. Just pain. Gripping pain. Screeching pain.
He opened his mouth to scream, but it flew into the woods, heard only by the tress, branches, twigs. It disappeared into the dirt on the ground, sinking into the soil, watering the roots with the saliva dripping from his mouth.
Pain pinched the roots of his nerves reaching his brain telling him to run from the agony, let it fester in the woods, leach from his limbs onto the limbs of the trees. But it wouldn't listen.
Pain persisted, pounding at his skull, pummeling his teeth until he succumbed. He lay exhausted in the grimy mulch of the forest, begging for relief which never came.
Pain roared with victory, lauding it over him, weighing him down, consuming him then spitting him out onto the cold floor of the woods. Then pain, having been crowned king, turned and left, leaving a lifeless body limp with relief. He spit out the sticks stuck to his lips, then rose and walked to the end of the path, roaring once again into the ether, having lost the battle.

Don’t They Make Us Look So Young?

We smile and achieve perfect white teeth, even though they were human-made and put inside our mouths.

We like clean and pristine things, and wave our hands dismissively at the twigs in the forest as they dwindle in number from forest fires and deforestation.

Look at all this advancing technology, we say, as the flames alight all over the world.

We are destroying the forests so we are destroying ourselves.
But look at these dentures, which are perfect and white and pristine! Don't they make us look so young? Yes, they certainly make us feel that way.


The Ventriloquist

He had teeth false, like the ones
we used to buy as kids.
They tasted of a powdered
pink sweetness.
The gums, a bloody red,
the dentist, six feet tall.

Mr Grenen or as we used
to call him, Mr. Grinnin'
with his myriad of mirrors,
his tubes, twisting like curls,
the chair, straight out
of Frankenstein.
And the smell of the surgery
coming from the centre
of the earth; a gas,
not for laughing.

He catches hold of the mouth
sprays it with 'Eucryl'.
Before I leave he gives
me a sweetmeat,
root liquorice,
to twig my words.



Little Mrs Worry Brown, timid-thin shins stretched on the gurney, tucks her hair tight back from the jelly-glue pads perched like horn buds on her furrow-faded brow, folds her eyes into herself & lays her quick-bird hands neatly by her sides. The brave bright slash of her cherry lipstick tricks her fear as she slides into oblivion. At the last moment she feels them force her lips apart, push the belted clamp behind her morning-scrubbed teeth & as the metal zing of singeing voltage sizzles into her frazzled brain, she bites down hard on the old familiar rotting bark of the scolds bridle. Mad-eyed she lunges forward, sinews snapping, arched back bucking, shackled ankles lurching loose, until the whizz-whirr chitter-chatter of her own mouth’s working clicks her into herself again & she looks up & laughs.

The Mouth Trap

You've got to stop winding me up-
great teeth, but connected to nothing.
No brain to engage.

You disembodied escapees from the night glass
I spied with my little eye
from the comfort of my own childhood
that night my grandmother
stayed over,

look at the twig in your own mouth
before trying to find the toothpick
under your brother's tongue.

His bark though is far worse
than his bite,
but every blaze begins with kindling.
With these splintered words
a mouth could set the world on fire.


In Collaboration with

This issue is curated by Fiona Kearney, Director of the Lewis Glucksman Gallery in Cork, Ireland. The image features a work that was exhibited at the Glucksman in a show called Grin and Bear It: Cruel Humour in Art and Life and presented as a re-creation of elements of Wake Games that used to be played with the corpse in Ireland.

Visit Lewis Glucksman Gallery.

Follow Fiona Kearney on Twitter

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