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.