Issue 31: Nicki Heinen

Explosions of Flowers


Settled in the picnic chair

nursing a glass of water

isn’t the lawn ultra

isn’t it hot sun


Gilding an afternoon

let’s play house

only we don’t have rules

we have stories


History at a loss

future winning

words fall from our lips

geraniums listen







The holographic sky eats invisible stars

on the mound of Mondays

too graphic to exist

in the centre of the centrifugal world

gold magma born

oceans repeople

to the right of sense






The bird in St Annes psychiatric hospital


She sits on the edge of her bed, which is covered in a stained white blanket, and empties her bag. Her face is bonny and bright with makeup, and I covet her gold hoops. She looks like a rainforest bird, in a grey cage. Purple and green eyeshadows, lipsticks in shining tubes, hair pins, a rape alarm, cream highlighter, black kohl pencil, a can opener key ring, a peach pip, a red pen, all clatter on the bed. She whispers hold still and starts putting makeup on my face. Her hands are rough-smooth, her fingertips like jellybeans on my skin. I look in a pocket mirror from the bed when she’s finished and laugh – I have bright green around my eyes, hot pinked cheeks and a rouged mouth like a cut strawberry. I look a little more like her and I like that. The Queen is good at makeup she whispers, and I agree. A nurse screams Get back to your room. What are you doing, stealing makeup? She catches hold of my elbow and marches me down the corridor, shoves me, and locks me in.



Change of plans


Rock dust comet

brilliant stars

flowers of night becoming


Shove the earth, dig wells

inside or out, air and breath


Under averted gaze

too shiny for hiding

magpies flock to the grass

then fly skyward


What to do with the cash

eat it

Nicki Heinen was born in Germany and moved to the UK aged 6. Her work can be found in magazines and anthologies including PN Review, Poetry Wales, Magma, Butcher’s Dog, Bad Betty’s The Dizziness of Freedom and Alter Egos, and Bloodaxe’s Staying Human. She was joint winner of the Barbara Wrigley Prize for Poetry or Music alongside the composer Tim Watts, at Girton College, Cambridge University, was shortlisted for the Pat Kavanagh Prize at Goldsmiths College, and commended in the Winchester Poetry Prize 2018 and 2020. She has guest co-edited Tentacular magazine and founded and hosted Words & Jazz at the Vortex Jazz Club. Her pamphlet Itch was published by Eyewear Press in 2017, and it was a London Review Bookshop book of the year. There May Not Be a Reason Why, her debut collection, was published with Verve Press in 2022. 

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