SPOTLIGHT: The Fortune Teller’s Yarn (Destiny Fucks With Milo) by Darren J Beaney

Exploring a common folly

Milo puckers up. Sucks a Valium,
grinds his teeth on the mass of a nation.
Destiny tips in on silk pigeon toes.

Milo hunts for love. On a quest
for a soul, to mate.
Sweet talks his way
into a deep ramble.

Falling for destiny.
No holds barred,
kit off.

Milo takes on the world.
Obumbrates matryoshka,
together numerous they top and tail.
Conceive an immaculate fit. Destiny
feels numinous, out of reach. Love
bares all.

Milo falls, out of it. His solipsism
for thrift and tiny dolls
bothersome. Destiny erumpent,
projectile flagitious.
Love bites

Milo smokes. Wipes bunkum
from his groin. Winks at destiny,
puckers up again
and spits it out. Love
pouts, second-hand sex sulks.

Milo takes it on the chin,
like an open wound.

Recited and final

Milo drifts pandemonium. Loafing
on typhoon clouds. Lost notes of the last laugh
of destiny decant his expression,
peppering ash on his candour. He appreciates
the lamp light and clambers
down from his hallucinations.

Milo wobbles with astonishment. Manicures the mane
of his merry-go-round high horse.
Destiny stifles a visceral yawn, before jumping
into a reimbursement gone south. Anarchy
and mayhem guard the pearly gates
to the next dimension, see pretty illuminations
and ask
“what’s in a name?”

Milo declines the summons.
Goes down. Mangled.
Angels jack up,
destiny jacks off.

Milo watches everything
eventually emanate.

Destiny bluffs…

Que será, será

Milo wears blim-burn fashion, no longer
sports the garments of a conquistador.
He failed to bottle his qualities,
and now timidly consumes his faults.
He lounges on the shore of tomorrow
expecting to launder pegs and pay the price.

It’s all been a bit of a wind-up

Milo reminisces. Enthralled
in a life fliting before his observation.
Captures tadpole days, dams
and knee scrapes. Destiny merely
a twinkle in blue boyhood eyes.

Milo transports self-reproach tither.
Sees himself Lilliputian and reeking.
Recites requiescat for second chance childhood.

Milo acknowledges blunders
with aplomb. Comprehends the mechanism.
Appreciates it was all in the turn
of the highway, naïve, too trusting
in tarmacadam. He pitches
one last look. Rephrases a lullaby.

Milo ultimately admits
it was destiny.

Milo twigs

he is falling
at the speed of millennia
reaches out
in the blink
of a snake’s eye
and catches starlight
wishes exhausted
like his locked down heart
low level life

His mind
a gadget
for nonsense
his soul a gewgaw
a blemished bauble
his departure degenerates
bang on


SPOTLIGHT: The Book of Clyde by Sylvia Van Nooten

Decorative Amoebas And Clyde’s Heart

Clyde walked a stairway to a precarious consciousness where decorative amoebas pulsed unknown words. His waking dreams were like this, a flow of emotions searching for shapes. Letters formed from previous incarnations in far away galaxies which Clyde could never figure out.

“No matter,” he said, his eyes partially closed like a badly punctuated paragraph. “Shared meaning is as imaginary as my decorative amoebas. All of our hearts are lonely jesters.”

Message From Ancestral Bird

Clyde meditated on the number of heartbeats the average human has over a lifetime.  “Two to three billion, what a stunning thought,” he mused.  He felt a reverberation—a murmuration—in his palms as a vision grew from his heartbeat.  Ancestral Bird blew into his aura, trailing script he couldn’t comprehend.  

Bird spoke, “Every person has an Ancestral Bird of Paradise.  Our wings beat with your heart. Our wisdom is the accumulated joy of lifetimes.”

Clyde understood.  “This is why birds make us happy.”

He danced for bird, his heartbeat quickening.

Clyde’s Cloak Of Paradise 

When the world was a fractured platitude, negative energy slaying any semblance of Yin and Yang, Clyde would don his Cloak Of Paradise.  Within its folds, banal emotion fell away and he was transported to a realm of Source and Spirit Animals.  All that was magical in existence became realer than reality. 

Clyde soared, “I embrace infinite possibilities, I embrace all that is Other.”

When it was time to hang the cloak back up in the closet of his imagination Clyde felt as clean as a tree after a torrential rain.

SPOTLIGHT: Fringewood by Madison McSweeney


Patron Saint of people pleasers
Sister of instability
she walks across eggshells like hot coals
does as she’s told
by the voice engrained
in her, which paces her brain
tells her that she
is the calm in the storm
tells her to keep calm,
carry on,
to keep a smile on her face,
after all,
there’s no need
for the neighbours to know
no need
to bring everybody else
with you.

You’re the life of the party, girl:
if you fold, we all die.

Fake ‘it til you make it and if you can’t fake it —
fight it — if you can’t fight it
to a washroom
(to the woods)
to an idyllic
where you can put flowers
in your hair and dance
like everyone’s watching.

You’re the life of the party,
you’re the dancing queen;
You’re the life of the party,
girl — if you fall,
so do we all.

Cemetery Way

Walk with me along cemetery way
where one day we may rest
securely locked away and topped
with white marble
(white like orchids, white like bone) lest
we stir in our sleep and seek
to claw our way towards the
sun is so lovely today
as we walk along cemetery way
where we may rest
for a moment, on the wrought-iron
bench erected in honour
of a fine local citizen
long lost
what bliss is this
your hand
so warm in mine
your eyes shine
like marble
(like funeral orchids, like bone)
“darling,” you say
“your hand”
(in yours)
“it’s so cold”
(like marble)
like bone

Wolf Grove Road

They say the girl loved the wolf;
She wouldn’t be the first.

They say it was she
who made him turn from man to beast,
but that’s just high school gossip;
he was a monster when they met.

They say all teen romances are mad
but few end so badly
and with such bloodshed.

Some say she had a death wish
But they don’t know what the wolf was like
under a waning crescent, waxing empathetic
at the edge of the black lake, beneath the silver light of the stars,

And she was smart
she never crept into his mobile home when the moon was out, and his temper flared;
Until the night in question.
She didn’t know it was a full moon – a harvest moon
madness, madness,
summer madness;
snarling, shoves her back, rattling
the aluminum wall of the trailer
a photo of his father
(who was mauled)
falls, cracks; “You like me mad?
Am I not dangerous enough for you, bitch?”
Teeth; a whimper; “Get out of here before something bad happens.”

And she did
but she doubled back
when she heard the hunting party was out.

What the gossips won’t discuss is what happened in the woods that night
and the silver pelt that used to sit
on old One-Eye Ed’s bench;
the young man who went missing;
or the hunter, found dead, a month later;
And they certainly won’t talk about
the girl with the wolfskin rug

The Cave in the Sky

A window opens in the night sky
lighthouse eye

I am looking out your window
at the base of a black
-stone mountain that begins
in black air.

I dream you as a guard tower
your bulb revolves as the earth on its axis
and entraps

I awake to dew
and void.

You are not a lookout spot
your searchlight is your own
A hermit lives
within you
and flicks the light off when the sun
comes up.


Sipped my hangover in the blue-grey fog
(that was a lie – it was grey
a beautiful pure grey, horror movie October grey, cemetery grey,
a good old fashioned
skulking through the moors fog –
and in summer at that, late summer,
although the leaves have already started to turn – to die

my dearly beloved
late summer) on the front porch,
the trees wax paper outlines
to trace, my cat’s fur dampening
from exposure to the air; tea
chilled in the mug, cream congealed
into white swamp gunk on top –
algae; my skin breaks
out in a cold sweat
no red-orange silver lining in the sky;
no sunrise today.

SPOTLIGHT: How to Sit Like a Lesbian by Rae Theodore

Shadow Rae

Shadow Rae eats nachos for breakfast
Nom noms a hunk of hijacked birthday cake for lunch
Speaks in third person, uses words like “nom nom”

Shadow Rae talks too loudly,
drinks too much, slurs
her words to make new animals

Shadow Rae stays up too late,
Sleeps too long, steals the last breath mint,
lies about it to her cats

Shadow Rae is smoke and mirrors
and onion tears, too much I’m here and queer
but mostly sweaty palms, the stench of fear

Shadow Rae knows everything,
has been everywhere, watched the movie,
but more importantly, read the book

Tells everyone she saw Led Zep back in the day,
forgets to say it was in 1985 at Live Aid
after John Bonham had died

Shadow Rae is all fun or no fun,
depending on your mood
or how much alcohol you have consumed

She is all hot, no sauce
A bomb but no shelter
Neither party nor hat

Shadow Rae has penned twenty-two memoirs
and counting, bedazzles self-portraits
on the sides of historic buildings

She is one part weasel,
two parts booze, can only be purchased
in the pride aisle at Spencer’s Gifts

Shadow Rae is mostly black
light and gag gift, hot pepper gum,
a can of exploding snakes

I will always

Drink too much at an open bar
Give a friend the benefit of doubt
Worry too much
Sleep too little
Say something stupid when I meet a famous author
I will always try my best
Until I don’t
Then I will try again
Once my dad told me he was proud
of how I had turned my life around
and risen from the ashes of my past
like a fiery phoenix
What choice did I have? I asked
I will always hold the door for old ladies
who say I look like their grandsons
I will always smile and tip my cap
Messengers come in many forms
Sometimes I am an overeager cub scout
Sometimes I am a joker
Sometimes I am a carton and a half of eggs,
more than you bargained for
I will always try to see the good in others
but not always in myself
It is hard to see things the way they are
when you are too close
I will always write my story
I will always give my life three thousand different endings

Mug shot

In middle school after you move one more time,
you lose your voice in the bottom of a U-haul box.

It’s not that you can’t speak but that you’re unsure
of everything you thought you knew.

In high school, you eat lunch in the library
because books speak the only words you believe.

When you try to express your thoughts,
no one hears what you’re saying.

When you’re alone, you pinch yourself
to prove you’re real and not some ethereal being.

People think you’re stuck up and odd
because you’re smart and quiet.

You wonder if that’s what they said
about Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath.

John Yaglenski, a boy in your grade who lives down the street,
has his mother call your mother to say you should be more

outgoing. This is the first time but not the last time
a boy will try to mold you into who

he wants you to be. At your first real job
a co-worker gifts you and some others mugs

with drawings of famous authors on them.
You think you’re one of the gang until

you overhear him say he paired you with Emily Dickinson
because you’re both so weird.

There’s another editor who always walks down the hall
facing the wall like he’s reading a story hidden inside.

You look at your mug and wonder
who should be crowned King of the Office Weirdos.

No one can wound you by calling you what you are.
You’re strange magic. You’re a fantastic beast.

Your heart is a shooting star, your tears holy
water, your brain a dream-weaving machine.

You are one in a snaking line of millions
of mystical living things. Did you know

ghost crabs growl using teeth in their stomachs?
There’s a kind of ant that only lives in Manhattan.

A snail can sleep for three entire years.
Giraffes have no vocal cords

but tell tales by twisting and turning
their delicate elongated necks.

If people don’t understand your silence
they will never understand your words.

They will always paint self-portraits
in the spaces in between. Oh, and that mug

will become one of your prized possessions. The moral is
anyone can walk down a hallway in a conventional way,

but you, shy, queer wonderful you,
are going to choose to live your life against the grain.

Because let’s be real, you’ve always known that fairytales
hidden behind walls are the only ones worth hearing.

In your quiet not-quiet life, you’re going to transform
libraries into sanctuaries, poems into bibles.

You’re going to build a house with your favorite words,
take it on the road so you can always be home.

You’re going to love women so hard you’ll leave a trail of light
for other lovers to gaze upon on starry nights.

You’re going to crown yourself queen
of your own heart.

They’re going to say you need to speak up to be heard.
They’re going to hand you a copy of Dale Carnegie.

You’re going to tell your story
with only the curve of your body.

An insider’s guide on how to stop liking girls

Ignore the sweet curve of her hip,
the way it has more dip
than any pitch Nolan Ryan ever hurled.

Disregard the seductive curve of her lip,
the sacred swell of her breast,
the way she’s all rose petals and Roman vase.

Just to be safe, ignore all of her curves.
Don’t compare her azure eyes to a summer sky
or her celestial skin to the forever shine of the moon.

Call the fire department to shut off your hydrant
heart. Tell them it’s a public safety emergency.
Pretend you like boys.

Their short hair, curt ways,
sandpaper roughness that grinds
you down into someone you were never

meant to be. Make believe
her lips weren’t painted by Van Gogh
in a shade you like to call Bowl of Cherries red.

Try not to get lost climbing
her long leg song. Draw a map
so you can always find your way back

not home but someplace else
where you can erect a fence
and call this away place Home for Now.

Pretend she isn’t electric. Blame the buzzing
in your body to your own faulty wiring. Pretend
she smells like wet dog

and not licorice whips and lilac blooms.
Immerse yourself in the study of other beautiful creatures:
white tigers, leafy sea dragons, mandarin fish.

Predict the heaviness of your parents’ shame.
An adult heart weighs about 10 ounces.
Decide it’s a fair trade.

Marry your high school boyfriend.
Make “I don’t like girls” your new mantra.
Build a cage with your secret silver desires.

Remove the word “girl” from your favorite songs
so “Cinnamon Girl” is just a spice
“Uptown Girl,” a place you go at night

and “Girls, Girls, Girls” is nothing
but a hive of bees
humming in your chest.

SPOTLIGHT: Oh, I do like to be- By Rachel Canwell

Doreen – Sunny Shore Guest House Room Number One

After the funeral it strikes Doreen, for the first time in her life, that she has choices. And they are hers and hers alone.

So, after the endless sherry and sausage rolls, she locks the door, peels off her black dress, climbs in the car and drives.

And now she finds herself miles from where she started.

In a guest house.

Somewhere by the sea.

She lies in the narrow too-soft bed and indulges herself by rolling around words that are forming, one after the other, in her brain. She hears them tumble and chink together like the pebbles on the beach. 

Possibility.  Conundrum. Options.  DecisionsPreference. Choice.

The walls of the guest house are suddenly dancing and alive with the wonderful, kaleidoscopic words of freedom.

For up until now, Doreen’s life has been spun for her like a web. Made up of things she has been obliged to open.

Eyes.  Mind.  Doors.  Arms.  Legs.  Heart.

From now on, Doreen decides, she is closed. 

Cold Hard Cash

Have you ever run coins through your fingers? Felt their greasy surface pass momentarily against your skin?

 That’s their past, you know? Their life story, resting right there, trapped in every molecule, in every layer of accumulated filth.

 And if you choose to listen, it will spill its secrets and tell you exactly where that coin has been. Tell you who has held it in their cold or clammy hands and what terrors or treasures they might have seen.

Working in the amusements means I have handled more coins in my life than most. Every day I tip them, pour them, stack them, roll them. 

Sometimes I drop them. 

Like hot bricks straight on the counter, I watch them spin. Watch their secrets flicker like a film, a life story fractured by pain and spite. 

Sometimes the feel of them makes me want to vomit, to scrub my skin until it flays. 

Sometimes these coins they shine, in a way that most of you can’t see. Virginal, fresh from the perfect transaction; an innocent spending just for love. I want to keep them then. Slide them under the counter and tell them in a whisper that they will never feel this way again.  

Sometimes they bring me sadness. A grief so strong it sears my palm, sends shock waves through my veins and coursing round my heart. Someone will simply tip a coin into my palm and in an instant, I can see their truth.

And when the connection is that strong, the image can be blinding.

Gift or curse? You decide. But which ever, its mine to carry. My own private window to the souls of men.

Everyone has a story. And every coin I have ever held always has a tale to tell. 

Until today.

Hooded, tall, with eyes that burned with black beneath.

 He handed me his coin.

And I drew in a breath, ready to absorb the hit. 

But I felt nothing. 

Just the empty chill of space signalling an end. 

Stone Tales 1 – The Afternoon

Shona and her boy head straight to the kiosk. Not for ice cream but for stones. The special stones that Marco keeps there for Ben; behind the counter in an old calico bag. The stones that make school fall away.

Shona watches as Marco hands them to Ben, and Ben takes them, solemn, unsmiling. A ceremony of simple trust. He steps back and starts to turn towards the sea.

‘Ben. What do you say?’

He frowns at her, his dark brows knitted and looking to the left of Marco, over his shoulder, Ben slowly brings his hand to his lips and dips it quickly down.

Thank you.

Marco smiles, bends and does the same.

That’s their interaction for the day over.

Moving with awkward jerking speed, Ben hurries down to the beach, to his spot; the one with the low flat rock. As Marco hands her the daily coffee, Shona hears the familiar clink of stone on rock. Followed by the singsong rise and fall of counting, lifting on the breeze.


Every day Shona offers Marco cash and every day he waves her hand away.

‘When he’s finished leave the bag in the usual place.’

 Then Marco pulls down the shutters. In the winter they are always his last customers, but he always waits for them. Ready to hand over the treasure, ready to take his place in Ben’s day.

Not for the first time she wonders what would happen if Marco were ill. Or if someone else found that bag, saw it stuffed behind the back wheel of the kiosk, and took it.

Shona stops and shakes the thoughts aside. There is no use dwelling on what ifs. Better to focus on Ben and what happens today, like every day.

 She can see him, head down, moving along the row of stones. Working his way rhythmically to the end of his line. And when he gets there he jumps, flaps his hands and calls out. Repetitive excited sounds that compete with waves and send the sea birds circling up into the sky, drifting far away.

Then he starts it all again. Realigning, positioning and counting the rocks that are his hope. His safety, his joy and his control.

 The nearest thing he has to friends

Shona wishes she could make him as happy as they do, but she won’t let herself fall down that hole. Instead she tells herself that she makes this possible; by bringing him here and finding this space. She guards the air around him, staring down the curious and openly hostile looks of dog walkers and passers-by.

Shona is the one who finds and clings to the people who understand, like Marco and her neighbour Jean; who never complains when her garden is littered with the things Ben has thrown; who always hands them back with a smile and sometimes a tin of flapjack.

Shona is Ben’s gatekeeper; it is up to her to build his team.

Up to her to keep the undeserving away. Like the cashier with the pencilled in eyebrows who mutters and tuts every time she has to scan the wrapper of the bread Ben’s chewed.

Or the PTA mums who ask her to bake cakes or fill rotas. And huddle together when she makes excuses yet again.

She leans against the wall and thinks perhaps she should make more of an effort with those women. Maybe then Ben would be invited to picnics and parties, bonfires and trick or treat.

Maybe then Ben would make Hayden happy. Give him some of the lad and dad time he so desperately craves.

The thought of Hayden makes her reach for her phone. Tapping the screen and seeing no message she automatically slides it to silent.

Ben starts another round of counting. Shona sips her coffee. And together they keep the world away.

The Written Word.

We have been planning this for weeks. Booking the B&B. Buying the sashes, and the headbands that flash. Karen said the L plates were a step too far, but we all said they weren’t.

We have done our research and planned a route. Through the old town pubs, down the high street and then into the clubs along the front.

All twelve of us. Gemma’s hens clucking along the prom.

And here we are in the last club of the night.

Just Gem and me, in the ladies. The two of us, fixing our make-up.

I am really pissed.

Gem is pissed too. Or at least I think she is.

Something in the way she stands, the tilt of her head. The way her eyes fix on to mine.

Makes me wonder.

Then she leans forward and breathes. Clouding the huge round mirror.

And with a tentative, trembling finger writes just one word.