Issue 16: Stuart Pickford
Run to the village now,
they’re hanging your mother,
his father was told. The larch
still thrives beside the schoolhouse.
Who else told the Nazis
about the cabin by the fjord?
His father owned a shoe bar.
Duplicate keys. Locks
to doors that sucked out air
if opened. Each leather shoe
creased differently, like skin.
Some say it was all because
Nick was from the land of lakes
and birch, thick with gnats,
no summits to look up to,
just the steely reflections,
forest lamping with eyes.
In the city, none of the shop windows
knew Nick’s face. His website
offered advice about nails,
why to eat burgers upside down,
how to trap fruit flies.
He shared a kitchen with a girl
on an internship from England.
I hate these insects, he said.
Then just close the windows.
He thought hard, I don’t
want to do that. Later,
she’doffer this as evidence.
He invented a banana slicer.
Bananas keep mosquitoes away,
he knew. You laid the fruit
in the case and shut it tight.
Twenty wires chopped flesh
in equal slices. Discs,
not strips. To boost sales,
he invented false identities
praising its efficiency.
Britain’s Most Tattooed Woman
i.m. Janet ‘Rusty’ Skuse
Like the Lascaux Caves
where a bison’s eye started life
as a stone, peacocks perch
on her breasts, feathers curving
around shoulder blades,
bones used when we could fly.
Despite the fame, she’d declined
Madame Tussauds. Her husband,
a tattooist, redesigns his Rusty
where other artists have been:
grass on her feet he sees
as minnows nibbling her toes.
He says she’ll be a first edition
in private hands. She knows
pain brings her to perfection
when he turns the barbed wire
spiking her wrists into daises,
a chain that won’t fall apart.
Ice Road Vampires
A shadow pulls itself across the ice
in slow mo on the underwater camera.
The slide guitar drops down a gear
as Maya Molesky’s Transville truck
outwits Big Flat Lake. The but
is can she make it up the haul road
to Bloodvein’s basement of pasty vampires
shrinking away from incessant daylight?
Behind the net curtains of each cabin,
cats and moose are wizen on the wall.
Her load’s crying kindergarten children
with freckles although one girl in a skirt
was asking for it, Maya smirks.
Night falls like a metal shutter.
Pouting, she draws redness across her lips.
Round the bend, Scott the Slammer
has come unstuck. His CB crackles.
Though snug in his full-body seat belt,
he’s been nailed by a truck’s headlights.
Schoolboy error, he’s a pile of dust.
His consignment of teenage girls in care
has run for its life. Pan the woods:
are they werewolves massing for a rave up?
Thank God for Maya in her dark glasses
to make the darkness darker, in Bloodvein
they’ll be drinking plasma. No wonder
this is a woman’s world. She’s the throbbing
blip on the map—but wait, her trailer
starts to overtake the cab saying jackknife.
A camera is taken out and not for effect—
the cargo squeals, but Maya holds it,
biceps bulging like an artery. The rest’s
plain sailing. Meatloaf on, she cruises
into the warehouse. Metal shutters
come down. Vampires circle the children.
Stuart Pickford lives in Harrogate where he works in a local comprehensive school. He is married with three children.
Copyright © 2016 by Stuart Pickford, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.