Contents. Editorial 4. Fiction. Poetry. Non-Fiction

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Contents

Editorial 4

Fiction

Changing Trains by Eddie Creamer 7

The Devils Trinkets by Jeff Harvey 8 Tone it Down by D. J. Hodgson 10 Lucky Strike by Sam Jenks 12 Going West by Harry F. Rey 19 Backroads by Abigail Richards 25

Poetry

There are Two Men and Other Poems by Dale Booton 28 Figgy, Figgy Manquim and Other Poems by Barney Ashton Bullock 31 Seeing/Not Seeing (incl. artwork) by Lee Campbell 34 Shoreline and Layers of Kin by Annette Covrigaru 36 Utin or Not An Ode to his Dick Pic by Alton Melvar M Dapanas 38

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Editorial

During this LGBTQ+ History month, as we find ourselves in another national lock-down here in the UK, we have found ourselves reflecting on how we renegotiate and re-calibrate those queer spaces that we once inhabited. By extension, our thoughts have been informed by the uncertainty and doubt that underpin our predictions about the survival of queer physical spaces, from queer bars to reading groups in queer coffee shops. We then found ourselves reflecting on the nature of what precisely constitutes a queer space, how such spaces are constructed and how they are sustained and by whom.

It has often been said that you only appreciate something when it’s gone, its

presence is felt more immediately and intensely by, paradoxically, its very absence. In a literary vein, many tales have been told of writers who in both self-imposed exile and in their exclusion from certain spaces, often have a more reflective and creative critical distance, as they reflect on and write about space, place and their own subjective attachment to these sites of meaning and influence. In our

ever-fluctuating and eternally-mutable new landscape we are motivated to reflect on how the physicality of queer spaces guides, impacts on and facilitates our own interior spaces of identity, self-perception and the very politics of the personal experiences that we not only experiences, but internalize as emotion.

Queer spaces are physically built architecture housing bodies that move, mouths that communicate and touches that are exchanged. In this sense, the way in which we navigate within, and consume the spectacle of, these exterior spaces- from coffee shops to clubs- is often a remedy for the epidemic of loneliness in a

hetero-normative world that, if it is not punctuated by the queer collective experience, has a very real threat of fostering a retreat into the inactivity that inhibits our abilities to visibly exhibit our same differences. When we don’t encounter our queer-selves, or, rather, our ‘plural selves’ as Meg-John Barker astutely describes them, we are at a very real risk of under-representing who we really are, and how we really want to be seen and how we want to see. Spaces that serve as a platform for an exhibition of our very vulnerable, very personal and very complex selves rely on our very resistance to the repression that is regulated by invisibility. In a sense, our queer sites act as an intermediary interzone, one that breaks the binary between the tweets about

queerness that we compose in physical isolation and our performance in the world in work and social spaces. In these in-between spaces is ruptured the dichotomy

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The symbols that serve to showcase our queer spirit and our passion for personal expression (from flags to clothes) rely on safe queer spaces. These spaces are so important because they transform our self-conscious marginality, self-imposed exile and fear of expression into a very real and very visible spatial articulation to what would otherwise permeate the periphery of queer experiences. In these spatial articulations our authentic selves are front and centre, and the straight-jackets that curtail our spiritual growth are pushed to the periphery. In the safety of these queer spaces we see exactly how we can be ourselves, we recognize the sameness of others that share our differences and we learn from those whose difference drives us to demand more, not just from the spaces that we need, but from ourselves in our determination to derail our internalized and unconscious restrictions that we impose our authentic speech, behaviours and attires. When we walk of the well-travelled path, we walk together and we don’t resist divergence but digest and divulge our experience of difference. We do so because we know that such experiences remind us that our struggles are not only shared, but that we are valid, that we are here to be seen and to be celebrated. When we see ourselves refracted in the uniqueness of other queer people, we stifle that insidiously suffocating sense that our daily struggle amounts to nothing. When we see, hear, smell and experience the differences that are found off the linear path, we realise that we belong, that we matter and that our marginalized differences have a place, front and centre. Our queer spaces solidify our strength and solidify our striving to continue, to push forward and to perform our queerness with pride. This is exactly why we have

committed ourselves to Queerlings, if anything, to exist as an online space that offers a queer space, albeit a virtual one, where people can share the sameness of

experiencing difference, a site where people can see how just how important who they are, really is and an online community that will always be here for people, even if those more physical spaces are harder to find. In this light, such spatial articulations of queerness, the exhibition of queerness and the adulation of authentic individuality, are a-plenty in the incredible, and the incredibly diverse work that we have been lucky enough to receive for this, our second issue.

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Fiction

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Changing Trains

by Eddie Creamer

I think he must be hot. That’s my first impression but then I’ve only seen his back so I can’t say for sure. It’s to do with his posture, how he’s striding down the concourse like he has a particular right to be there, sports bag slung over his shoulder. In

America he’d probably be called a jock; my mother would say preppy (I don’t want to think about my mother). I’m into guys like that. Maybe what I mean is I’m into

straight guys (a problem).

Anyway, I speed up. I want to get a complete view, overtake him so I can take a look at his face. I’ve been caught out before: people never live up to your expectations. There’s a real crowd coming the other way now, slowing me down. Probably a train’s just arrived but I’m kind of irritated, like they’re doing it on purpose. I’m having to dodge them and keep an eye on him and check the time, because I do actually have a train to catch. I’m not just here to creep on cute boys.

He finally turns down onto a platform: not my platform but what the hell, I still have a bit of time. I go after him. He slows up a bit so I quicken my pace (and I’m feeling kind of weird now it’s about to happen, I’ve followed this random dude like a stalker but anyway I’ve come this far, might as well go through with it). He stops and turns through ninety degrees to face out onto the track and I keep going so I can walk right in front.

I look at him. He looks at me

The world doesn’t stop. I walk past and go to my platform; he gets on his train. No one meets the love of their life like this, changing trains at Reading. But he was kind of hot.

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[cw: physical violence]

The Devil’s Trinkets

By Jeff Harvey

Preacher says he can prepare me for eternal life, but I’ll have to make sacrifices. I agree because it’s the only way I can see Momma and Hannah, my half-sister, again.

Straw-like grass crowds the field behind the church, begging for a drink following another summer day of high humidity and no rain. As the mosquitos start biting around sunset, the Brothers chop up the donated wood, douse it with

kerosene, and start the fire.

His flock quiets as Preacher raises his hand to speak. “Brothers and Sisters, the Devil never rests in his attempts to destroy our love of Christ. That’s why we must sacrifice the unnecessary human comforts that tempt us into living a life of sin.”

After making my way through the group of over thirty congregants, I throw my copy of Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road into the fire, its flames leaping six feet high, the smell of burning wood and rubber in the air.

After every sacrifice, congregants sing cries of “Sweet Jesus, help us all.” Miss Vickers pulls out a box of romance novels and chucks them into the fire. “Forgive me for having this filth in my home.”

I look at the cover of Queen’s A Night At The Opera. I had bought it the weekend I met Anthony at Midtown Park in Memphis. He stopped his green Civic and asked me for directions to George’s Disco.

“Never heard of it,” I said.

“It’s a gay club. Wanna help me find it?”

I jumped in, and we spent the next four months together.

Momma holds Hannah near the fire so she can fling in her collection of Cabbage Patch dolls with her six-year-old hands. The plastic sizzles as their skin blisters and their eyes melt away.

After tossing in the photos from my trip with Anthony to New Orleans for my nineteenth birthday, Momma hugs me. “Now that you’ve put all that foolishness behind you, we can be together in Heaven someday.” My first thought is that we are together now. Preacher steps in between us and shakes his index finger at me as if he’s daring me to get close with her.

Momma’s eyes close. She raises her hands into the air and shakes from head to toe. Sounding like the owl that used to live in our barn, Preacher says she is speaking in tongues. She kicks off her flats and runs toward the coals, screaming gibberish about my sins. After placing one foot on the hot coals, my heart races and sweat rolls down my back. I run to help her. Preacher elbows me to the ground. He grabs Momma and orders a couple of Brothers to lock her and Hannah in the church bus until her nerve pill kicks in. No one tends to her foot.

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those times his threats forced me to the fellowship hall after Momma and Hannah had gone to sleep. I know he’s planning something for later, something that can never happen again.

After sending the repentant sinners home, Preacher unlocks the bus and shepherds Momma and Hannah next door to the parsonage. On his way, he barks another order, “Let the fire burn out on its own and clean up all this mess.”

I burn the paper cups and food wrappings and carry the two hatchets to the fellowship hall. Anthony. How he’d dance to Donna Summer with me at George’s, our sweaty shirts tied around our waists. How he’d mouth to me over the beat (You’re my hero), how he’d run that Labor Day night, as the men who chased him drew nearer, shouting at him, taunting him. Blood gushed from his head as they shoved him into a concrete wall, his eyes finding mine and issuing a silent plea … get away now. Preacher said I’d be next.

While I was sweeping the floor, Preacher comes back and places his belt on the table. “Mason, now that you have done away with the Devil’s trinkets, we can get started on your healing.”

He strikes me across my back with his belt and knocks me to the floor.

Preacher bends down and knees me in the back. I flinch, letting out a scream formed in anger, in sorrow, in disgust. He places an arm across the back of my neck, pinning me to the floor. I try biting him but can’t. I close my eyes and see Anthony, his eyes … get out now. This would be our first anniversary.

A ping-pong paddle lies on the floor near me. I grasp it and am able to swat Preacher a few times in the groin. He releases his arm, and I push him away. After getting myself off the floor, I’m ready for what comes. As I take a full swing at

Preacher, his outstretched fingers turn into claw-like talons, ready to destroy me. The veins in his neck throb and a growl oozes from his throat. Preacher takes a hatchet from the corner, and I cut myself fighting him for it. Blood splatters across the linoleum floor.

Momma appears in the doorway with his pistol. Preacher freezes when she screams for him to stop. After he attempts to take hold of the pistol, a shot is fired.

I hear preacher calling 911. “She had a pistol and tried shooting me and her boy. Nothing else I could’ve done.”

Jeff Harvey grew up near Memphis TN and now lives in San Diego CA. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Moonpark Review, Literary Yard, Twin Pies Literary, Stone of

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Tone It Down

By D. J. Hodgson

Maybe you could wear something else?” she says, with a slight roll of the eyes. “You don’t like it?

“It’s not that I don’t like it, but it’s asking for trouble.”

She’s right. It is asking for trouble, but at the same time, it’s what I believe, and why should I hide that?

“We just want to keep things pleasant. You know? No politics.” “I suppose. It’s still a good t-shirt though.”

“I know, but today probably isn’t the day for it.”

She does, she laughed out loud when she saw it for the first time. “When is then?” I huff, hands-on-hips.

“Maybe when we’re not going to see Grandma and Grandad.”

Oh right, yes. That makes sense. That part of me is unspoken with them. It’s not that they don’t know, they do.

And it’s not that they have a problem with it. Well, not as far as I know. They’ve never changed the way they are with me, so that’s a good sign. But I suppose there is a silent agreement not to go on about it.

“Are you asking me to tone it down?”

“No not at all, that’s not what I mean. But it’s going to provoke them, and you know it.”

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That hate-filled rag has got a lot to answer for. Corrupting the minds of my grandparents is only the latest affront.

“Why don’t you wear the blue one you had on for the party?” I do like the blue one.

“With the sequins? I thought you wanted me to tone it down?” I grin.

Another roll of the eyes, “you know that’s not what I meant. I just think maybe something a bit less confrontational might be a good idea.”

She is right. It is confrontational, but it shouldn’t be. I let out an exasperated sigh, “fine, I’ll go and change.”

Stomping up the stairs to my room, I close the door with more force than is entirely necessary. I pull off the t-shirt and lay it on the bed, opening my wardrobe and flicking through the array of colourful tops. Finally, I find the one I’m looking for. The one it has been suggested will be appropriate. Putting it on, I examine myself in the mirror. A brown face, antlers and a red nose, all made entirely from sequins, stares back at me. Well, this is definitely less confrontational, no-one could deny that, and I do like it.

Still, the words emblazoned across my original choice glare up at me. They’re factual and funny. White and pink lettering, reading “Bum Boys Against Boris.”

Maybe that is too much for Christmas Dinner?

D. J. Hodgson (he/him) has been around stories all his life, working in theatre and the third sector. Living in the North West, he’s setting out on a journey to explore his own creativity and find ways to share stories he wants to tell. His fiction writing is featured in the ‘Lifespan Vol 1. Birth’ Anthology by Pure Slush which can be purchased via their website. He has also previously been published in the Guardian, Observer, Big Issue North and Lancashire

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[cw: inference of S&M]

Lucky Strike

By Sam Jenks

Manny slid the mask from his eyes and saw a small windowless room with panelled, opaque white walls; the space empty except for a day-bed, a side table and a cabinet. He sniffed the air, like new plastic. He heard a muffled version of outside; buses idling over a babel of voices. He started pacing around, mind whizzing through the Space-03 project blurb. He fumbled in his jeans pocket, took out his mobile, tapped through to his video-journal, framed himself and pressed START and spoke to the camera.

‘Manny, you are F A K E. You know it.’

He pressed STOP, the ill-fitting jeans he wore cut into his waist as he flopped onto the day-bed. He played the clip back; every bit the student tourist in that Gap hoodie, you’re no artist, he thought. He told himself to get a grip; £200 a day for five days, how hard could it be? Other options were running out anyway. Doing this might even mean something.

He found the video-guide recorded by Roy the ‘Commissioning Artist’; ‘Use Space 03 as a base to explore the area, collect materials, find connections, carry out your art practice whilst fulfilling your basic human needs. Engage, interact,

participate, co-author.’

Calmed by Roy’s tone, he ran through the mobile app-controlled features and glanced around, he couldn’t see out the webcams, which he didn’t control anyway. Where was he anyway? He asked himself. The blindfold taxi journey had taken roughly an hour, at some point he’d thought he’d caught a whiff of Old Father Thames.

He tapped select on one of the window icons. Like a cloud drifting away, a panel in front of him cleared; Manny found himself looking at the back of someone’s head; blonde pigtail and large silver earrings. They held a camera, about to shoot an obese man in a red baseball cap against a backdrop of a giant video display

advertising Pepsi. Poised above the red cap, a bronzed foot. Even before Manny’s eyes scanned up the bronzed naked body with his bow taut, Manny knew that boy-god. He knew where he was; he knew around here. He might be able to pull this off after all. He used his thumbprint to release the door and stepped out onto Piccadilly Circus.

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building in his gut. He retreated inside Space 03 and sat on the day-bed, head in his hands. How could this be a new direction, the start of something? He asked himself. Last autumn, he’d chanced upon a bar popular with art students from Central St Martins. He’d overheard talk of the exorbitant tuition fees for foreign students and been intrigued by the wealth needed to secure a place. He kept going back,

fascinated by the bohemian masks the students were shaping for themselves. With a whisky in his hand, Manny would smile and edge his way into one of these arty groups but they soon discovered he had nothing to talk about, and barring the occasional shag, he knew he was being kept at a distance.

One night, he pulled a lecturer, sculpture. In bed the next morning, they watched a film on his BFI Player, ‘London’, about an unseen and enigmatic

psychogeographer, Robinson, who through his seemingly endless walks, maps the city in his own Blakeian way. Manny felt an instant connection with Robinson who, like himself, seemed to exist on the fringes of society, suspected in incidents beyond the pale, possibly beyond the law. But despite the difficult memories it stirred

regarding his grandmother, Manny sensed the possibility for change, a different way to do things. He lapped up the accompanying bedroom lecture and soon, after looking deeper into psychogeography, began weaving a new mask and story to engage the students.

After a hollow Christmas where trading on the fantasy of Factory Apprentice had reached a new level of boredom; the ‘Space 03’ opportunity appeared on an RCA student bulletin board,

‘Artists Wanted: Make the switch between an experience of normal life and art.’

Manny’s pulse quickened when he discovered that a Chinese PhD artist was behind it and that money was involved. With a nod to Debord, he set up ‘Naked City’, his artist website, claiming a collaboration with an independent collective of artists in Manchester. It worked.

He sat staring at his feet, distracted by the red trainers, unable to remember whose they’d been. He decided to go for a walk and headed for Soho, a district he knew by day, by night and the times in between. He wandered aimlessly for hours, Derivé as Debord had called it. He stopped off at Bar Italia. Sipping his espresso, he gazed at the biceps of a boxer in an old monochrome photo on the wall in front of him gathering his thoughts. Soho traded a lot on its past, to the point it felt fake as if the National Trust had got their hands on it. The continental delicatessen unfeasibly overstocked, the gayness toned down. The Festival of Britain-Esque frontages in Dean St still conjured up film deals and gold discs but the newer signage spoke a different story. It gave him an idea.

Back at Space-03, he placed his acquisition on the cabinet; a square case, cream coloured with a cerise lid and a leatherette carrying handle. Two dials

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the revolving vinyl and he heard a crackle followed by a multi-guitar intro and then a soft but insistent male voice.

‘Cumonn little baby, let’s move it and a-groove it.’

He could hear the shape of the singer’s mouth in his voice and it made his neck tingle, he wanted to be in that mouth. As he explored Cliff’s mouth, he flicked through the handful of other records that included Freddie and the Dreamers, Billy Fury, all from that era, the late 50s. He stopped at the Expresso Bongo picture cover, captivated. A young Cliff straddled a stool, wearing loafers and pale pink socks, legs apart, mouth open, eyes to the camera, flattened palms in mid-air ready to beat on a pair of bongos which seemed to hover above his crotch. Manny stroked his own crotch, turned on by the thought that Artist Roy resembled Cliff. Serendipity, he thought, follow it. He used his mobile to hunt down and study all the early Cliff clips and photos and clips he could find. He wanted to own Cliff’s movement and facial expressions and he practised into the night until exhausted, he fell asleep on the day-bed.

The next day, his foray into Soho was less derivé, more tuned in. He returned from Brewer St with ‘boutique’ carrier bags. He peeled off his ‘student tourist’

clothes, including the lecturer’s 2(X)Ist designer briefs and stored them in the cabinet. Listening to the mournful Billy Fury swoon his teenage crush, Manny slowly pulled on the white Worsley Y-Fronts, the fine pale gold socks and the matching woollen polo jersey.

‘Prove that you’re real and it’s my lucky day.’

These were the first new clothes he’d bought himself since leaving home. The suit and the loafers might be pre-worn, but they were vintage and he’d paid cash; they were his. He took out the self-adhesive mirror he’d bought and stuck it on the wall. He looked sharp in the pale grey single-breasted suit with drainpipe trousers. He stepped closer to consider his advantage, his smooth face. He gelled his hair but tried in vain to shape it into early British Rock & Roll.

Hurrying back into Soho, he found a shop with men and boys B&W headshots in the window. Two old men in white coats sat in the waiting chairs; one reading The Daily Mirror, the other dozing. Manny pushed open the door, a bell tinkled; the dozy one stirred and eased himself up. Manny pointed to one of the immortalised young busts.

‘Can I have something like that? A quiff?’

The barber looked him up and down, nodded and pointed to a chair. As he tucked the protective sheet around his collar, he leant in;

‘It’s actually a 50s pompadour, James Dean had one back in ‘55.’

‘Then Elvis copied it.’ said his colleague who had put down his newspaper. ‘And Cliff Richard?’ said Manny.

‘Yes, then Cliff.”

‘If there’s a difference, more like Cliff, please.’

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finish, Luigi reached for the Brylcreem and fingered the white sloppiness into Manny’s dark brown hair and combed him back into 1959.

On the way back, as recommended, he stopped off at a tobacconist’s and picked up a pack of Lucky Strike, Luigi’s smooth voice still resonating in his head; ‘Back then, you had to have your own style; you might not have much else, but you could have that.’

In the fading daylight he saw an almost monochrome reflection of himself in the shop-window; his hair darker, his face a solid paleness. Standing below Eros, he opened the Lucky Strike’s and lit up with the slim Ronson lighter that Luigi had given to him.

‘It completes the look. I don’t smoke now; besides, the friend who gave it to me, way back, he would like that it found its way to a good looking lad like you.’

Remembering what he’d been taught, Manny took out another cigarette, turned it over so the filter tip faced down and slid it back in. He took a drag and looked around, the Eros crowd had morphed; less tourist but he couldn’t quite read the mood. Feeling shy, not knowing what to do next, he slid his free hand into his trouser pocket; he could see the shape of his hand through the tight fabric, pressing against his thigh. That’s a good look, he thought.

A very old man in a wheelchair, wearing a smart blue jacket with military medals pinned to his breast, being pushed by a grey-faced pensioner weighed down by a long black mackintosh, stared at Manny as they rolled past.

‘A poor chicken that didn’t manage to fly the coop.’ said War Hero. ‘Looks like Cliff, what do you reckon?’ said Mackintosh.

‘More Billy Fury, that paleness!’

Manny blew out a puff of smoke and sneered a smile, pleased at the impact. He vaguely knew about the history of Dilly boys, rent boys trading here at the

‘Chicken Rack’ since Eros had been erected. He looked around, the night was waiting to move in; now was the time.

Manny entered Space-03, turned on the low lighting, set the artspace to external broadcast and opened up all the panels to view inward. He sang along with Helen Shapiro on the Dansette whilst he posed in front of the mirror combing his hair back.

‘Ohh ohh ohhh…yeah o yeah yeah…every time you pass me by…you don’t know.’

He practised his look, he knew he would only have one chance to use it. He glanced outside, he had an audience.

He changed the record to Cliff’s Expresso Bongo EP, and taking a deep breath, picked up the old Kodak camera he’d bought and stepped outside. When the

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bikers jacket leaning against the door, all nonchalant. Manny pressed the shutter, the flash fired and the guy looked over then started walking towards him.

Engage, interact, Manny thought as he checked him out; East Asian looking, strong chest, white t-shirt, classic 501 jeans. Manny was used to approaches but was taken aback when the guy stopped in front of him, and saying nothing, took out a comb and ran it through his dyed blond greased back hair, all the while keeping his eyes on him. Manny held his look. The guy slowly put away his comb, took out his mobile and pointed the camera lens at Manny.

‘Great look – can I? ’ said the guy.

As Manny posed, he tried to weigh the guy up. Friend or Foe? hard to tell. ‘Is it a performance?’ asked the guy.

‘Kind of; art project.’

‘Are you a star, from that era?’ ‘I’m more about the place. You?’

‘I’m Tak, from Japan, Nagasaki. I work here, in film, animation.’ ‘Ha, I meant persona. Let me guess; James Dean.’

Tak beamed.

Manny offered him a cigarette; tapping the base of the pack with his thumb; a cigarette rose, filter tip first. They smoked, not talking, looking into the city night.

‘Do you take this performance further? Sorry, your name’ asked Tak

‘Call me Adam.’ Manny paused. He knew this kind of question could be his Achilles Heel, especially as he felt up for it, money or not. No, it would have to be art, he thought, Roy was paying.

‘Come back with a bottle of whisky and two glasses and we’ll see.’ ‘Deal.’ said Tak.

Tak reappeared at the door of Space-03 twenty minutes later holding a Japan Centre carrier-bag. He let him in.

‘Hey, Jimmy; why don’t you fix me a drink whilst I put some music on.’ Adam pretended to look in the mirror whilst setting up Space-03 on his mobile. Jimmy looked startled as Eros and Picadilly appeared.

‘Don’t worry, this artspace is hi-tec, no-one can see in.’

As the music of Billy Fury’s longings filled the space, Adam saw that his guest looked unsure of himself. Adam leant back against the wall, pushed both hands into his pockets and gazed at Jimmy. Jimmy smiled, picked up the tumblers of Suntory and invited Adam across. He took one and perched on the opposite end of the daybed.

They clinked glasses. ‘To Jimmy Dean.’ ‘To Adam?’ ‘Adam Meek.’

Adam got up, he needed Cliff. He changed the record. ‘Cummon pretty baby lets move it and a-groove it.’

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When the music ended Jimmy Dean brought his hand to rest on Adam Meek’s waist. Adam faltered, angry with himself. He knew that touch, that touch cutting to the chase meaning he was just someone’s idea of a good weekend. Fuck him, this was going to be psychogeography his way; art with no game rules and the ethically free webcam was running. This WOULD mean something.

‘I can read you like a book.’ said Adam. ‘But do you want to?’ Jimmy purred. Adam shrugged.

‘Why not, I read a lot.’

He felt Jimmy Dean’s hand press more firmly. The look, now! He thought. He raised his face, widened his blue eyes, unfurled his long eyelashes, looked into Jimmy’s eyes and slowly parted his lips.

Their deep struggle of a kiss ignited a violent fizz inside Adam’s mind, more powerful than the sexual thrill of tongues and taste. A visceral understanding of the landscape of the man swirled around, his fetish for surreal animations, the

masochistic longing for the west. He knew from the way Jimmy’s hands searched across his body, that Jimmy Dean was truly lost.

And as Adam’s hands scanned over Jimmy, his head pounded with an image of a Japanese man in fine western dress, hands clasped together, standing next to a tall westerner in khaki, hands on his hips. Adam recoiled from the kiss and opened his eyes to focus on something else. Without removing the biker jacket, Adam

pushed Jimmy’s T-shirt up over the back of his head so it was tight across the back of his neck. He undid Jimmy’s jeans and saw the hardness in his boxers as his jeans dropped to his ankles. Adam left the undressing it at that, keenly sensing Jimmy’s desire to remain bound up in Americana.

Adam unzipped himself, took one of Jimmy’s hands and slid it inside. Jimmy’s hand tightened as his thumb slowly rubbed the tip of him. Adam closed his eyes, drunk on the layers of fakery on fakery, persona on persona, culture on culture.

When he opened his eyes he saw Jimmy’s stare fixed on the cigarettes. Adam picked up the pack and tapped the base; the inverted one rose.

‘You got the Lucky Strike.’ said Adam. Adam lit the cigarette, Jimmy’s nipples hardened.

He took the cigarette from his mouth and looked into Jimmy’s eyes. He saw the darkness. Guilt it seemed, trickled down the generations in various forms. Shocked at what he might have tapped into, he looked away. But also, at this moment, he knew he would be able to read others and understand them in some way. This was no fake.

‘Give me a line, Jimmy, from one of your movies.’ said Adam. ‘Which one?

‘Rebel Without a Cause.’

Jimmy blinked then stared ahead,

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Adam remained silent. Jimmy looked at the cigarette. ‘Connect Adam. Just connect.’

Adam brought the smouldering tip closer to Jimmy’s chest. The slightest nod from Jimmy.

The lightest touch from Adam.

A wince bound up with a groan, the smell of burning flesh, the red dot appearing, like a rising sun.

Sam Jenks (he/him) is a gay writer concerned with queering psychogeography. His work has previously featured in Fruit Journal, Litro and Minnano Gallery. He is currently working on two novellas, one set in Lockdown Bath, UK; the other set in Hokkaido, Japan. He is also involved with out on the page which supports emerging LGBTQ+ writers. Follow him on twitter @SamJenksWriter

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Going West

By Harry F Rey

1990

We left our old life quite suddenly one morning before dawn. We’d been working in a busy country hotel in Mildura at the top end of Victoria until Dad shook me awake. “Mon lad, get up,” he said with an unknown fear written plain over his face. I never asked why we had to go. I never did.

Like all those times before, I packed a solitary backpack, still dusty from the last time moving, with a few clothes and things sixteen-year-olds have. He hurried around the office, clattering about and knocking things over. Not many minutes later we set off in silence and darkness, abandoning the few other staff that had loyally served him, the trunk full of things I didn’t know.

We drove straight out of town and crossed the state line into New South Wales just as the sun rose and began to bathe the bare brush of the land in the early light. The lines on the map just a different perspective on the roads sprawling out across the flat earth. No other activity passed our truck all morning, but the

occasional farmer or doctor’s plane would cut low across the blue sky as we made our way north. When by lunchtime I dared to ask where we were headed, all he said was: “Time to go, son. Nae bother in hummin’ an’ hawin’ about the past now, is there?” In that broad Scots accent which he’d never been rid of, like the ghouls from his past.

We were out to find us a new place to work, he said. The rent there had been no good, or the water stopped working, or some other reason that wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny. But we just had to drop in on a few friends dotted here and there around the outback, then we’d be in the clear. I wondered what mess he’d left behind this time.

In a way I knew why we had left; to get away from all the things I didn’t know about. I tried my very hardest not to wonder, as I had for as long as I could

remember. Our journey took us through the great tracks that cut through the bare land of the backcountry; the great Australian interior; home to travellers, criminals, and exiles.

Dad passed the time by telling me half-remembered stories of the land, or about great wars or what Bob Dylan was really singing about as we listened to tape after tape. I’d spent the year since stopping school working in his hotel, but this time with him was like a second education. Despite it all, the man who’d come from less than nothing, raised in a rainy Scottish orphanage before being shipped off to Australia, had the world to teach me.

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billowing wheat farms around the top of New South Wales. We reached so far North that we even skirted the edge of the tropics in the wet and humid green of

Queensland, and passed through whole towns of dirt roads and blackfellas in the Northern Territory. We drove endlessly, crossing the dog-eared map that I’d lie in the back of the truck and study, on forever towards the horizon before a town might suddenly grow out of the bare earth.

Those days laying out on the back seat, kept cool by the air blowing through the open windows, with my back to wherever the sun happened to be, I did little else but study the maps. I learned the highways, the names of all the places in the bush and the lines that connected them. It was an unrealized, unknown fear of being lost on a whole continent that kept me reading, kept me learning the names of all the places we had named in this land.

Our stops offered some punctured relief from the journey. But we’d never linger, and each stop was essentially the same. Dad would make some calls from a payphone while I picked up supplies and looked for new tapes from whatever shops existed, casually avoiding stares or conversations. I easily looked like any other farm boy travelling through the harsh land for some unknown purpose. My tanned skin, sun lightened hair covered in a broad felt cowboy hat and a keen interest in maps and cassette tapes meant I easily blended into every place without suspicion. It gave Dad all the time in the world to conduct whatever business had caused us to be here.

Sometimes we’d take our truck to a flat-roofed house at the edge of the town and sit for hours until dark before Dad would get out and enter the house all of a sudden. At first, he’d pull together some bullshit story about visiting an old friend as we passed through, but towns later he wouldn’t bother, and I didn’t ask. I knew there were no friends, not in this state or any other.

Our purpose was as implied as it was unspoken. We’d pick up things from people, take them somewhere and drop them off with someone else. Back at the Mildura hotel, there was an evident but subtle truth that a shadow business carried on all around me, one I’d never wanted to know about, but so evidently affected my life whether I knew why or not.

One afternoon that slowly turned into purple dusk a good month after we’d begun the backcountry trip, we arrived at a town called Ceduna. My hazy dozing left in an instant as the name of the rusty place located itself in my head. We’d reached one of the last outposts of man on the eastern side of the great Southern continent. Somewhere not so far away was the sea. I could almost smell it. The rocks and edges of South Australia clashing against the Southern Ocean, held together by the A1 road that ran west along the cliffs. Beyond us, the sun set over a red, rocky callus earth. I looked out to the horizon that gave way to an infinite dreamtime desert, to the west.

Out there existed a land of green treed roads and feather-white beaches that frayed along a sunset ocean. The red sun that sank in front of us pointed the way. I realized what all those tales from Dylan meant, they were about the escape from the west. It was a different west, but in my mind, it was the same; it was freedom.

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and I’ll be back in a couple of hours.”

Tires whirled up red dust and he sped away. There was no cricket oval to sit by or kids to watch. Just the open road. I kicked a rock that crumbled into a dirt clod, squeezed the twenty dollars in the back pocket of my cut-off denim shorts, and gazed around at the flat-roofed buildings. They were nestled to the side of the

unpaved road as if afraid of being sucked into the desert by the great sandy monster. A breeze came in from somewhere and rustled the plants, perhaps from the ocean.

“Going west?”

I spun around in a flurry of sparkling red dust. The man chewed tobacco like the men I used to pull pints for back in the Mildura hotel. He wiped oily hands on dirty overalls then brushed his grizzled face, half-hidden under a frayed red baseball cap. I couldn’t take my eyes off it, the cap. I’d never seen anything like it. The

words NY Yankees were embroidered to the front in white stitching. I caught a glimpse of a metal clasp at the back. The visor perfectly rounded to shield his eyes from the sun. It wasn’t something from Target, it was real. A genuine artefact from the great American dream.

“You deaf, mate?” Lips chapped from the sun twisted like he’d found an injured joey who didn’t want to be helped, but soft blue eyes radiated some kindness to me.

“Waiting for my Dad. He’ll be back in a few hours.”

“So you just gonna stand here?” He looked around the dusty road. I took a glance myself but was afraid to ask whom I might bother. “I got some coolies in the back. You can come help me with the truck. Standing round here a dingo’ll get ya.” He gave a smoky laugh and clapped me on the shoulder.

I could do nothing but follow rubber boots as they scraped across the brush toward a tin-roofed workshop. The low-fi buzzing of bugs in still air soon joined by the sound of machines plugged into electricity and the humming of an old fridge.

I found a perch on top of a pile of giant tires that gave me a side-peek to the road should Dad come back and wonder where I was. The truck with its hood

popped took up most of the space in the confines of the open-ended shed. A

closed-door led to a connected house. I took another good look at the incredible red cap as he dived inside an eskie; even the back had a miniature Yankees logo stitched into it.

He must have been to America, I decided. He’d gone straight after high

school. Probably with an older brother. They’d been to LA then flown to New York for a few days, and right in the middle of Times Square, he’d gone and bought a red baseball cap. The kind worn by the young blond boys that hit balls with bats in tight leggings then took showers together.

He threw me a beer and we cracked them open together. Embarrassed, I wiped dribbles of it from my chin.

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a quizzical smile, a brushy upper lip from an unshaved smack of dirty blond hair which blended into dirtier blond skin. His lip looked like it could turn to a growl or a laugh with only a flick of an eyebrow.

“America.” He said, placing his beer down and diving back into the open truck surgery.

I nearly spat more beer out my mouth. If I was right about that, what else might I have divined? Sometimes I wondered if I had psychic powers, maybe from my mother, whoever she’d been. I always knew when a bar fight was about to break out. I could smell the change in the air. The way men looked at each other dropped like a storm approaching. The violence always bubbling under the surface just ready to froth up and spill all over everything. I felt their feelings often before they did.

“When were you there?”

“A long time ago.” His voice echoed from beneath the truck’s hull. “Before I took over this chop shop from my old man.” He came up for air and swallowed half the can in two great big gulps. A breezy interlude trundled over the brush and swept around under the tin roof, puncturing my lustful dreaming with the cold reality that night would come soon. “What’s your old man up to?”

The question was asked with the tone of underlying acceptance that men who leave their sons on dusty roads at the edge of great wildernesses were somehow up to no good.

“We’re heading west.” “To Perth?”

“I guess. To the sea, anyway.”

“Perth’s nice. Quiet. Although not as quiet as here.” He glanced at me. I could feel his eyes running across the lines of my bare leg, tucked underneath me, my shorts perhaps now riding up a bit too much for polite company.

“Where’d you come from?” He now leaned against the truck, arms folded, inspecting me. A chill cut through my bones like a social worker had just entered the room, or I’d bumped into a teacher who asked why I didn’t come to school no more.

“Victoria. The country.” I swallowed a gulp of beer. “Miss it?”

I shrugged.

“Me and Dad get around.” The weight of his eyes lifted and he turned back to the truck.

“You know engines?” “Uh, a bit.”

“Well get on over here and I’ll show you what I’m doing.”

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I felt the night-time hunger that creeps up in the silence of my darkened room before I sleep. The great and terrible monster that watches over me, day and night, sometimes hidden, but always there, inside my head.

The monster has many faces. A boy at school some time ago in silky purple football shorts that barely contained his milk-white muscular thighs. The young truck driver who sat and drank in Mildura hotel on his way to and from places. I always rushed to refill his glass, living on the winks he shot me and the times he called me son. Or any number of anonymous faces and bodies who passed me by on their ways and wanders. Those who let me sit and steal their images for the goings-on inside my head. Un-abreast of my thoughts and unaware that I feed their toned and tanned bodies to the monster in my head.

***

“You’re quiet,” Dad said to me as our truck shuddered along the night-time road, breaking the silent sound of darkness. “Did that bloke gie you the hat?” I pulled the frayed red brim further down my face, tucking myself and my monstrous smiles from Dad’s eyes.

“Yeah.”

“Good on him. Nice fella,” Dad said, now to himself. “Sorry, it took me a bit longer, son. But that’s us all done now.”

I turned around in the seat, the brim of the hat pushing against the window and giving just the right amount of pressure against my neck to make it almost comfortable.

The lines of the road flashed into existence then out into nothing. Illuminated by the presence of our headlights. If we had not been here to bring the light, would there be any road at all? Did it actually exist, this line in the map, a thousand miles long, or was it simply laid out before us because we decided to travel on it? Part of me wondered if there was really any west at all. I’d never seen it. Only the sun rising in the east then setting over mountains and desert. Only my Dad and maps told me it was real. And one of them lied to me. One lied all the time.

“We’ll get some good grub tomorrow, all right? First thing. In a few days, we’ll be there. You’ll like it, I know you will. A real beach, warm sand, endless ocean.”

This time the monster that came at night felt different now. Less like a monster, more like a friend. A friend who once gave me a beer, and who I helped with his truck while my Dad was gone for hours and hours. A friend who all at once made the monster real, but showed me there was nothing to be afraid of. Monsters made you feel bad, not good, and I felt so good. Monsters didn’t hug you tightly afterwards, kiss you on the cheek and give you their favourite hat they’d brought all the way from Times Square.

“I’m telling you son, things are better out west.”

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anymore, now I’d shed the virgin skin of a child. Now I had a token from someone else. My existence had been seen, acknowledged, desired. I’d been crowned with a lover’s gift. I was no more imaginary lines on a dog-eared map or the watcher in the shadow. I wasn’t lost, just undiscovered. Yet with the first inklings of the body of land, I could be. Now, going west, I could be real.

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Backroads

by Abigail Richards

On the backroads, we open the sunroof of your mom’s Jetta and take turns standing up and screaming until we can’t tell our voices from the wind. Pebbles pop like gunshots and out of habit we look to the sky hoping maybe it’s fireworks. You speed up as we go down the hills because you know that when I was little it was the closest I got to roller coasters and I would throw my hands in the air until my fingers bent against the vinyl. To thank you I take your fingers off my thigh and bend them against my mouth until the car swerves a little. Fear doesn’t exist in the same way here but out of habit, I drop your hand.

Your neighbor watches us from his beer-bellied, lace-lined kitchen as we walk down the gravel highway. Once you start a staring contest with a man you never look away so you hold Bill’s eye through the streaked glass until he scoffs and turns. I want to kiss you but the feeling of his gaze lingers like a mosquito hoard. The dust kicks up and coats us, cements our eyes and our throats and solidifies our words there. I wonder if this is how Bill sees everything: through a film of pale debris and residue left from cars going elsewhere. I wonder if this is how Bill speaks: clearing his throat before each sentence, dislodging each charcoal word before hurling it out.

It’s not even really a town. It’s too small. It’s called a hamlet which is also your favourite Shakespeare play. I’ve never read it but I know from you that Hamlet and Horatio were in love and that’s all I’ve ever really cared about. We were going to read a scene from it at your university but that was before everything combusted. Now we sit in your basement when your dad’s gone and I pick through your cobwebbed DVD collection. Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus next to An Inconvenient Truth.

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You close your eyes against the window but the movie hasn’t stopped. Real darkness doesn’t come easy like that. Real darkness stretches thinner and thinner as we

approach the city lights reflected on the water. Back where we come from the darkness is thick and complete. Back there you sacrifice light pollution for other kinds. Back there you find real darkness intents when you’re tracing words across my thighs and I can’t read them but you say that’s fine. You find it on those backroads when we’re driving and you say I know this is bad but just watch and you kill the headlights and we move forward into that all-inclusive blanket of black, absolutely no idea where we’re going and absolutely thrilled about it.

Abigail Richards is a queer writer and filmmaker surviving in Toronto, Canada. Her work focuses on women, weird kinds of love, and ways of being very tender. She is currently completing her undergrad in film at Ryerson University. You can follow her on

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Poetry

There are Two Men and Other Poems by Dale Booton 28 Figgy, Figgy Manquim and Other Poems by Barney Ashton Bullock 31 Seeing/Not Seeing (incl. artwork) by Lee Campbell 34 Shoreline and Layers of Kin by Annette Covrigaru 36 Utin or Not An Ode to his Dick Pic by Alton Melvar M Dapanas 38

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There Are Two Men and Other Poems

by Dale Booton

There are Two Men

maybe mid-forties in a café their coffees have long been ignored on a date bashfully brimming at the warming happiness that spreads throughout them soothes them makes them feel comfortable somehow a joy at being in the company of one another or just the satisfaction of having company at all and then one man raises his hand halts the conversation draws back and takes out his phone from his army-dyed jacket tells the other man that he will love this takes himself to the images scrolls past the selfies the nature shots the thirst traps taken from wherever they can be found to a screenshot of a website something he finds cool or interesting or something he has taken to purchase maybe two Lego figures tan-yellow skin bare expect for a thin black harness and skimpy thong posed like those online with their chests puffed out an air of cynical adoration about them a profile that reads no olds no

fems no fatties drifting from one love to the next with

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Lewis

drenched I lumbered home against the thuggish moon the large bulk of him beside me grinning

proud somehow of the act

he had laughed during the white boulder-teeth stiff between the busted curtain of his lips

the stain of our fight from a few days before near-won he knew then so he had said that was why

he had done it thought I deserved it thought it had to be done an opportunity not to be missed

pushing someone to the brink of drowning

only to then pull them back out again a baptism a soul saved from a life of sin a home

refurbished but unfurnished like the council house he had moved into with his mother and had

quickly taken his fist to his bedroom door

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Warning Violence

it isn’t always the first punch that draws the blood it’s the second

and the third and the fourth

it’s when the boots start stomping at the flesh still bare still unbroken until you can’t tell what is fist

and what is foot anymore until everything before you is just a smudge on the windscreen as the rain pours down recognition is just a too difficult task to complete and so it’s just the feeling that is noted

the repeated strain on the punchbag

a rage once denied now expelled in abundance

the eyes swell up like beach balls and you’d love to be laying on the sand instead of listening out

for the thuds and the whacks that come before the sharp sobs of your lover as they try to beg for the end

if it would be allowed

and when the footfalls finally retire from this place scarper as fast as they had come only minutes before you find that every breath is a struggle the chest wavers

to rise as the fingers falter unable to stretch out across

the swollen ground and then there’s the splintered scratching as you pull yourself blindly to them longing for them to reach back for their arms to cradle around you hold

you until the pain numbs until the salt and the gravel and the blood is a distant taste replaced with their lips only to find that they are already holding silence

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[cw: explicit sexual references]

Figgy, Figgy Manquim and Other Poems

by Barney Ashton-Bullock

Figgy, Figgy Manquim

Dextrous omnilingus of figgy, figgy manquim like the fizzy, kicky-kiss of insect-o-cutors in deft sequence dance; volt-stabby tongues lance to mince dee-lish such sweetmeat, coital ‘creampie’ quince with scabbard licks

to ruffle to dog-ears the crotchless environs of such well-thumbed, aged, powdering keks o’latex once so skin-fused but, so soon, so loose… unfurled/unloved/undone! Sexy sup-up t’trussy slipway’s flotsam, it’s frothy cummucino; the conducting baton of prick, the spindly conducted pantograph of akimbo legs, the short-sharp-shock circuity of flash-flood ’gasm, the Gloriana glistening monstrance of decided discharge, its leakage from the transept of the pumped-rump ramparts of we workday, already forlorn, post-coitally forsaken, faux-braggard ‘power-bottoms’, who are transfigured in the balming bless of plenty, plenty cum from succubi supplicants whom we immure with the immanence of the everyman, the everyday, the Allhallows bellow of saint on each primordial enclosure.

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mtv tattooed

Swiving, aging curs, our shags, serial spermatic stacks of pontoon spare parts grinding, well-lubed, to a spindrift gruel, unpanted, decanted, our antennae pricks as uralite stanchions cankering mid-life to a toxic mulch in the marshy march of sex, your blurry fade of MTV tattoo says so much about that then ’80s new-wave youth, a Corp ident emboss as proof of a fledgling aspiration flown off with the cathode Trinitrons. That slick, hissed, telegenic “mwah! mwah!” as, sated, you left of your own accord and didn’t glance back, syn-drumming on to proverbial

sensu-sexual pastures new, pubic green shoots putrefy under the weight of misdirected spendings and

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derelict

a feigned matey-hatred that we glibbed so well in our bespoke, sub-glottal slaw in which we regaled gutter-heart poets whose ashen lips were for sale and chain-letter love notes we wrote, but, never mailed.

all fugitive eulogists

arrested by memories never lived,

hung on clawing craws of rhetorical ‘what-ifs’, the waiting room is to be boarded up;

the rails rust to powder, the trackbed scuffed up

with the saplings’ shift into new life.

and you write with your caked lip-salve on the cracked, mottled mirror;

words scrawled and impenetrable about lost chances incalculable,

about your valiant waiting,

even when the first nails to rotting frames are mauled in. light, henceforth, will slither through slits

but, still, the love of your life, you think, will find you in this,

derelict.

Barney Ashton-Bullock, is the poet/librettist in the ‘Andy Bell is Torsten’ music-theatre-poetry collective and he narrates his own verse on the Downes Braide Association albums. He has poetry published, or pending publication, in a wide range of cult online poetry journals**, in the ‘Avalanches In Poetry’ tribute anthology to Leonard Cohen, in the Dreich pamphlet ‘Famous’, in the Pilot Press ‘Queer Anthology Of Healing’ and in the ‘Soho Nights’ anthologies published by The Society Club Press who also published his first collection ‘Schema/Stasis’ in 2017. His latest poetry pamphlet ‘Café Kaput!’ was published by Broken Sleep Books in 2020. Find Barney on Twitter @Barney_Poet

(**the Wellington Street Review, the New River Press Yearbook, SPAMzine, Re-Side

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Collage (2019) Mixed media © Lee Campbell

SEEING/NOT SEEING

by Lee Campbell

Discover the same other whilst under the cover Creeping seeping peeping

covert operations

my teenage fascinations

awkward altercations with non queer populations Sensations that taught me if ever they caught me side cautiously err, deliberately blur

words that infer derogatory slur

I got very clever,very clever at seeing without being seen

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Chelsea v Arsenal

Dad watched the match I watched the players

Dad remembers the midfielder’s tackle I remember the midfielder’s tackle

Brighton, first gay pub, Queens Arms George Street

Heart a flutter, legs like mush, street was George, my previous crush Early noughties in my early twenties

Kings Arms Soho

I discovered bears and cubs don’t just live in the forest Cruising you

will you cruise me back? men bruising me

‘you’re the wrong kind of fat!’ Some Bear Over the Pain-bow invisible queer seeing and looking imagineer here

Lookin teen magazine look beyond fear see and be seen

Discover the same other whilst under the cover the brilliance of being through my resilience of seeing

Dr Lee Campbell is an artist, experimental filmmaker, curator, lecturer at University of the Arts London and founder of Homo Humour, the first of its kind project on contemporary queer male film and moving image practices that explore humour and LGBTQ+ storytelling. His recent moving image and live performance work revolves around his personal

autobiographical perspective and explores (gay male) identity and desire. Comedy is an integral part of his work. He uses it to engage, disarm, and highlight. He also describes himself as a queer punk performance poet and has recently performed as part of INCITE!, SPEAK= AT HOME, London Queer Writers, SPORK! QUEER & STILL HERE and

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Shoreline and Layers of Kin

by Annette Covrigaru

shoreline

grooves behind her ear collapse into brunette

waves skimming aquaphor slick lips

her nape rich in elements aflame with everything

i never knew existed

swivels to dolly nods to alanis chills to touch

windows show no signs of life until her

dimples unfurl flurries of birds spirals of endless

blue and white our bodies erode barriers man

made and self -imposed sinuous tides resting

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layers of kin

i never thought to name you until they did & even then the sensation of namesake muted fresh bloodink. it’s true – i met you with sunpink skin, with skin sky itself. naked frameless in my bk apt, bathed in your motion, i gave you my feet to dance through soil. i offered a body that’s already yours.

Annette Covrigaru is a gay, bigender American-Israeli writer and photographer. They’ve been awarded a Lambda Literary Emerging LGBTQ Voices Nonfiction Fellowship and a Home School Hudson Poetry Residency. Their poetry, nonfiction, and essays have appeared in Peach Mag, Yes, Poetry, and Hey Alma, among others, and are collected

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[cw: sexual references]

Utin, Or Not An Ode to His Dick Pic

by Alton Melvar M. Dapanas

Utin, (n.) Cebuano Binisaya for penis

This time, you mouth the word in a name as if sucking candy, or fruit—endo-labial, upper lip and lower lip synchronized—and juicing all the way in. Given that it tastes like sweaty bland fingers, given that up-down, up-down is tiring. And then, and then, borderline dental and alveolar, tip of the tongue against alveolar ridge, all the while the velum waits. Given that this is a stranger you met over Grindr, given that you have mistaken his beard as someone else’s and that he wants it bareback. Gag reflex, chupa, apuch, dick pic, tulos, werlos, other words you mouthed only to refer to foreskin revealing glans and veins, taste buds on scrotum and precum. Given that your ancestors, tattooed warriors, moon-worshippers, pintados of the southern seas, must have once thought of this before coming, invading the lands of

mountain-dwellers. What’s in a name?, wrote the gay bard. We’re all corpses in the making. Elsewhere, you know they need not come; already, he need not.

Alton Melvar M Dapanas (them/they) is assistant creative nonfiction editor of London-based Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel and Iowa-London-based Atlas and Alice Literary

Magazine, as well as an editorial reader for Creative Nonfiction magazine. They identify as

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Inquisition and Ask a Stupid Question

by Hannah Edge

Inquisition

I’m supposed to be grateful that instead of being spat at, I get the Gay inquisition. These strangers think it’s ok to ask who’s the man

and who’s the woman. If I feign ignorance,

or say neither, we’re just “we”, these strangers think it’s ok to continue to push.

Who wears the trousers? Who puts the bin out? Do you own cats and what about kids? If I look offended

at your personal invasion you touch my shoulder, say your cousin is gay, plus at least two

of your Facebook friends. You insist you’re just curious, not homophobic, oh no!, as you ask what my folks said when I came out, loud and proud.

Hannah Edge is a 37 year old pansexual, autistic poet based in the Midlands, England. Her poetry and short stories have featured in Girl 2 Girl (a Diva Magazine anthology), Poetry Pool 3, In The Red and Little Giants Magazine. She was shortlisted for the 2019 National Poetry Day #speakyourtruth competition with her poem, Autistic Sensibilities. Her debut collection “Those Days, These Days” is available now from Amazon. Follow Hannah on Twitter

@edge_hannah and Instagram @observeandmuse_ehjee You can also read more of Hannah’s work at www.observemuseedge.wordpress.com

Ask A Stupid Question

Very gay, but smartly dressed woman stands under a smoker’s shelter, toking hard on her cigarette. Next to her stands a pencil-skirted woman,

long red nails, e cig

emitting a candyfloss scent.

“You don’t mind me asking, do you. No, of course you don’t.

So what exactly do you do? I mean, there’s no, you know,

*cough* willy there, is there, so

it’s not real sex.” Long pause. No response.

“So, have you ever been with a man? I mean, how can you know

if you’ve never tried?” Very gay woman turns to her new colleague.

“Have you ever been with a woman? I mean, how can you know

you’re straight

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Bear

by B.C. Jaime

He said “You’re a bear.”

I said “No, I’m a fish.

Two fish, actually.

Swimming in opposite directions

One tells me Do it!

The other says Oh no you betta don’t!”

He said “But…You’re a bear.”

I said “No. Actually, I’m a monkey.

A crazy, funny monkey

Who can pick up stuff with his toes

And wonder when I’ll evolve

Even my pops used to call me his little monkey.”

He said “Just face it. YOU. ARE. A. BEAR.”

I said “I beg to differ. I am a night owl.

Who stares at stars

And watches Friends reruns in the wee hours of the morning

Ask me a question

I’ll show you how wise I am.”

He said “Did you know that you are a bear?”

I said “Nope. I’m a snake.

I have tremendous sympathy for others

A great depth of perception

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He said “But, you are also a bear. A hairy bear.”

I said “Fine. I’m a bear.

Are you happy?

I’m grumpy, lumbering and hate bees.

I’m hairy and I hibernate.

Honey. I. Am. A. Bear.”

I said “And what are you? Hmmm…?”

He said “I’m an otter.

I’m hairy and cute

Just like you

Now, give me your paw

Let’s go splash around in the river.”

B. C. Jaime is a gay disabled Latino nonbinary writer & artist. His poetry, much like his own brain, suffers from anxiety, depression, trauma, and PTSD. And much like his own heart, his words cling to hope. He has had short stories & poetry featured in Cadence Collective,

Embark to Madness, Dead Men and Women Walking: An Anthology of Things Undead, The San Gabriel Valley Tribune, & FlashShot. In addition, his play “Nighty-Night” was showcased, in

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Color Run and Shapeshifter

by Maia Joy

Color Run

when i was a child, i had trouble running. my doctor told me that i had asthma. i told my doctor that i did not feel like i could not breathe, but instead, that i was too busy choking to not breathe;

my entire childhood was a hundred-yard dash from some of the most beautiful monsters that i had ever seen, ones that i wanted nothing more than to turn and run back to, to admire in all their glory, but kept moving for fear that their colorful spirits

would get stuck in the balloons in my lungs and come out of my mouth when i least expected it, a forbidden rainbow unleashed for the whole world to see—

one day, when i had grown up tall and not a single rainbow had passed my lips, i registered for my first color run. i watched as the beautiful monsters that i had once fled spread vaseline and glitter across my skin, their gentle touches sending sunshine and glinting armor across my surfaces;

i waited for the other shoe to drop, for her to stop and swallow me into a velvet bag of spells and charms and

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and when mine parted next, they say

that the colored chalk fell, a single stream of pigment, from the tip of my tongue

and wrote love letters on the pavement telling the children not to be afraid of the colors that leave footprints of flowers wherever they tread.

shapeshifter

contrary to popular belief, chameleons tend to change colors for communication or regulation of their own body heat

rather than camouflage;

on most days, i feel more like a confused reptile cast out into the world in human skin than anything remotely Homo sapien— sometimes my nervous system communicates to the world without my consent, my surface merely

a projection reflecting all of the intricacies

that i had once so carefully tucked under the surface as a rainbow of secret spectra that

not even Van Gogh could blend into something meaningful;

on some days, i feel more like the wallpaper that keeps the shapeshifter themself safe than anything sentient at all;

i peel myself, ribbon by ribbon, off of the wall, and weave a blanket

out of my own colors-- the brightest ones that i have ever known.

Maia Joy (she/her) is a queer biracial poet and musician from Boston, MA. A two-time Silver Key recipient from the Massachusetts Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, she is currently studying music and creative writing at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she is a member of the Jimenez-Porter Writers’ House. Her work can be found in Star 82 Review, Dreams Walking, the JFA Human Rights Journal, Anser Journal, Harpy Hybrid Review, Sage Cigarettes, and The Mark Literary Review. Newer work can be found on her social

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Dear Alice and Ceci n’est pas un visage

by Alice Liefgreen

Dear Alice

Dear gut, Dear heart,

Dear air around me,

I am writing this after a sleepless night – in which I was once again seized

by a paralysing fear of death, of violent death.

When did I start thinking I merit a peaceful ending? When my body became your sanctuary.

I’ve always had a certain fondness for death – if anything, it was never near enough,

I wanted it closer, closer… and now? Now between myself and death there is the breadth of a single person – you.

And your breadth, expands infinitely. Should I love you or hate you

for making me want to be of this Earth? I am too winged for Earth,

and you are too corporeal for the sky…

in a tight embrace, we dance the most beautiful dance. Dear Vienna,

I want –

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erect and destroy, know you all over, because of having lived you all over. I want – to give birth to twin thoughts I want – to hold in my hands

those parts of you that have never left the confines of your body.

Dear Alice,

You now exist within her. In all worlds -

love her, yourself, madly…

madly

(and you will never be missing).

Ceci n’est pas un visage

It’s your deep slumber

that makes me want to climb inside your eye, pull your lid tightly over my naked frame and sleep endlessly with you –

what would you do, foreign object in the eye…? cry me, cry me, expel me -

I’ll slide down your silken cheeks with outspread hands,

caressing you, for

it’s the flower of your desert-toned skin that makes me want to become

an animal-invertebrate and take your shape…

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a passer-by would see me as a shadow, oscillating and mooring on your lips… for,

it’s your face… it’s your face… it’s your

face, that makes me hunt

for the angels in my beasts - waning in foolish flames – and seek out new worlds,

as this one freezes over in despair it is your ancient face

it is your ancient face

Alice (she/her) was born in Italy, from an Italian mother and an American father. Growing up bilingual, she moved to the UK at the age of 18 – and has lived there since. Currently she is completing a PhD in Cognitive Science. Her work appears in the anthology Creating in

Crisis, Polari Press. Find more of Alice’s work at www.liefgreenpoetry.com and follow on

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