Reader’s Choice: On the Verge…

On the Verge…

by Alan Issler

Are you doing this on purpose?
Pushing at our sound barrier?
Banging that saucepan like a gong?
But it’s just dinner cooking,
The hob is made of metal,
In silence it can’t be done.

Why did you do that?
What were you thinking?
Throwing spaghetti at the wall?
But the strands stuck there and stayed
Meaning its cooked fine line al dente
As everyone should know.

Why did you say that?
What’s with your sniping?
Trying to take me for a fool?
But by sticking to that story,
Watching all day for strangeness,
Limits everything I do.

How can you think that?
When did I do that?
Knowing the lines I crossed for you?
But being stuck in this moment,
Stranded in your narrative,
Is like a sentence being served.

What are we doing?
Where are you going?
Crossing a threshold on the floor?
But does my straining at these chains,
Mean the strongest link is breaking –
While the weakest one remains?

Alan Issler: Trying to write regularly and work out if ‘rats live on no evil star’ read backwards will reveal life’s meaning.

Our Reader said:

The utilisation of the question and answer form is highly effective. A memorable and impactful poem.

Reader’s Choice: Permission


by Margaret Gallop

Halfway across the road in East Berlin

the small red man tells me to stop.

A real man beside me hesitates,

his wife defies the order and walks on.


She crosses two more roads and finds

a seat on the old canal bridge.

She seems triumphant as she waits,

the water underneath her drags.


She looks away from where we stand

with broken glass around our feet,

a ridge of tar and complicated lines

telling the bicycles where they may go.


At last the waited for green man appears,

his bowler hat a sign of East Berlin,

his arm and leg thrust forward, ‘Go ahead!’

Permission, we may cross the road.

Margaret Gallop: I write poetry to respond to the world around me and reflect on what I have seen and experienced.

Our Reader said:

So much is said in so few words, I am in awe at the author’s ability to reveal a great deal in only four stanzas.

Reader’s Choice: I Wanted to Tell Her

I Wanted to Tell Her

by Jody Kish

Alone again, I cried myself to sleep buried underneath cold sheets. He had promised me he’d be home. Hours passed and still no one. How did it get this way? A marriage that once was so vibrant had become stale like a mouldy piece of bread. I didn’t know how to fix it. Was it me? I tried expressing my concerns to him, but his tendentious view only exacerbated what was already a one-sided argument.

I never lost hope, but I began seeing that my naivety wasn’t going to fix the damage that had been done. He would accuse me of imaginary affairs and blame me for the continuous distrust between us. He’d come home later and later—sometimes not at all.

I would prattle on to my dog for hours while I waited. “I don’t know what to do, Jake.” His big, brown eyes would look at me with such empathy—I felt like he understood. “I don’t know why or how this happened.” I buried my face in his soft fur, unleashing sobs of my suffering that I had suppressed for so long.

“Come on, old boy. You can sleep with Mama tonight. Dad’s not going to be here anyway.”

Jake exuberantly jumped up and for the first time in months; surrounded by his warmth and happiness, a calmness enveloped me.


I wanted to tell her how much I loved her; how much I missed her smiles and hugs. I wanted to tell her that it was going to be alright, and that I would be there to support her through the good and bad.

I wanted to tell her to leave him; that I would take care of her.

But, it was against the rules.

Instead, I licked her sweet face, and woofed, “I love you.”

Jody Kish loves writing fiction. Her hound dog inspires many of her stories.

Our Reader said:

A heart wrenchingly moving piece that makes me want to pull in everyone dear to me and embrace them all in a big hug.

Reader’s Choice winner: Too Close for Comfort

Too Close for Comfort

by Max Cantrell

In the corner, back against the wall, inches from my face. Sinatra sings Cheek-to-Cheek. He leans in. I lean out. Pew! Talk about putrid breath! Any nearer and I’ll puke. Or whack him.

I want my arm about you

That charm about you

“’Scuze me…um…need to pee.” He looks hurt. The peeing ruse always works at parties. His right arm – the one he’s using to praying mantis me into the corner – drops to his side. He moves reluctantly backwards. Like he’s throwing a really big fish back into the sea. Mutters of course, sorry, didn’t realize. Looks at his shoes. Shiny black suede divorcee shoes. He’s afraid I’ll pee on them if he doesn’t move fast enough. You never get the smell of pee out of suede. The idea pulls strings at the corners of my mouth. I ‘d love to really pee on his shoes. Just to see him Fred Astaire clackety-clack. I burst out laughing at the thought. Enough Martinis. He lifts the customs barrier and I squeeze past.

I imagine his ex-wife, Pond’s Night Cream all over her face, putting the black suede shoes lovingly next to the armchair, under the pin-stripe suit ready for the next day. With the give-away striped pink tie. Poor bitch. There’s a seedy hotel nearby and he’s banging his peroxide secretary’s brains out. Now I really want to puke.

And pee.

Downstairs there’s a pretty brunette with colourful tattoos waiting at the toilet, humming. She turns to me and smiles. She leans in. I lean out. Don’t people know about personal space?

“You alone?”

“Nope.” Never tell a stranger you’re alone at a party. Just in case.

“Me neither.” The answer makes no sense. Her big green eyes have way too much mascara. She wants me to ask her.

“Got a boyfriend?”

She shakes her head. “Nah. Don’t like men.” A couple come out, cheesily arranging their clothing, and push past us. You can smell the fast sex.

The brunette shrugs. “Some people have nowhere to go.”

“But in a toilet? I mean it’s so…” She can see the disgust on my face and laughs.

“Wanna pee first?” She motions to the open door.

“It’s OK. You go. I can wait.” She smiles and disappears inside the toilet.  Doesn’t close the door. I hear pee gush. For crying out loud! I pull the door closed. She giggles. The toilet flushes and we’re face to face again. She leans in, her lips much too close. I lean back. Slightly.

“See you upstairs?” She smiles widely and high heels clatter up the stairs.

Why not?

Max Cantrell: Painter, writer, life-lover and recently married lover. Who needs more?

Our Reader said:

This is a quirky and stylishly written piece, jam-packed full of glamorous metaphors. The narrative voice was enticing and I was pulled in by their clever imagery and witty remarks.

Our Reader for December

Our reader for December’s competition, themed ‘boundaries’, was Angus Broadbent.

Angus picture.jpg

Angus Broadbent is a full time creative writing student and a part time book seller. Incidentally his life now seems to revolve entirely around books. Some snippets of his writing can be found on his blog at

About the winning piece, Too Close for Comfort, by Max Cantrell, Angus said:

This is a quirky and stylishly written piece, jam-packed full of glamorous metaphors. The narrative voice was enticing and I was pulled in by their clever imagery and witty remarks.

Follow the blog at to receive the winning pieces straight to your inbox on Mondays and Fridays.

Winners for our December competition, themed ‘boundaries’

Many thanks to those who entered our December competition, themed Boundaries. The reader has now read all the eligible entries and made their choices.

A quick note on eligibility – a number of entries this month were way over the word limit (which is 500 words – one or two words over is OK, but 200 words over is not!), and several people submitted more than once without getting in touch to make a payment for a second submission (the first is free, don’t worry), so these entries had to be rejected – sorry! We’d love you to enter our competition again, but please do check the guidelines at before submitting.

The winners are:

Reader’s Choice:
Too Close for Comfort, by Max Cantrell

Other choices:
I Wanted to Tell Her, by Jody Kish
Permission, by Margaret Gallop
On the Verge…, by Alan Issler

Congratulations to all!

These pieces will be published on Mondays and Fridays over the coming weeks, so please Follow the blog at to receive them straight to your inbox each time.

Our theme for January is ‘underground’, and there is still time to send in your entry before the 31st; we also have submissions open for our new anthology, ‘First Contact’, details can be found at