We can never truly touch. I know this, as I know the offset rotation of the earth, her drunken lurch through space and time.

Our skin can seem to touch, there’s that, and at one level, that’s enough. The intimate brush of flesh on flesh, friction that we counteract with passion’s warm wetness.

But our atoms remain,

Electrons may drift in common clouds,
may interact and influence,
But nuclei remain, mine and yours,
literal poles apart; forbidden by universal laws
from ever coexisting, or even
the faintest brush of contact.

We hover, then, enmeshed in human terms, but separated literally, alone in our skin.

Yet, even in this bleak realisation, a twist – we can’t touch ourselves either.

My finger-tips come infinitely close together, yet still a universe of space remains; for what is space if not insurmountable, eternal?

An emptiness between my fingers, an emptiness between our lips, an emptiness from here to there: if touch is but a lie of repulsion, it still compels, and I’ll be gladly, blissfully lied to, so long as I lie with you.


Security is about dealing with worst-case scenarios. To take down one person, for example, two officers should suffice, according to simple odds. In security, though, the details matter. What if that one person is well-trained in combat, has a weapon, or is simply a bloody good runner?

That’s why they sent three for me: just in case. Three for her, too, so four masked agents burst single file through our front door, while another two guarded the rear. No knock first, no warrant required, just a controlled explosion of steel meeting wood, followed by the rapid thud of boots into the house and the soft hiss of gas.

As it happened, we were both into martial arts, although not to action-movie standards. No training, however, is likely to be of much help when armed soldiers interrupt the act of coitus. Where my mind should have been planning a way to isolate each attacker and improvise, it instead mourned my rapidly dwindling erection.

Through the unnecessary groping and the cold click of handcuffs, my treacherous thoughts mused on the gender balance of the invaders. As dictated by protocol, they had sent men for me, women for her. Who did they send for transgender, or ambiguously-gendered targets? Why did it matter, at this stage of things?

She looked pensive, too – a neat trick while stark naked – and neither of us made a sound as they escorted us outside and shoved us into the back of a truck. The door rolled swiftly closed behind us, and within seconds we both began to giggle helplessly. The Nitrous would do that to you, apparently, and cause dissociative thoug… Oh.

With that final consequence branded deep into my mind, I abandoned all hope of escape.

My ideals, my pride, had been torn from their pedestals and dragged through the dirt and grime until their lustre was worn away. And all for a voice I no longer wanted. Want itself was a fond memory, and I survived, if that’s what I did, on some primal level; eating what was given, doing as I was told, and carrying the dead to those beautifully engineered furnaces, all blood and shit, heavy limbs and gassy stench surreal against an antiseptic backdrop.

I wondered what had happened to her, usually in the dark of night, when the past swam almost into focus. I loved her, had promised her so many things. She was always stronger than me, so she was probably dead by now. I mourned without tears, without need, simply because I remembered that it was the thing to do, one last shred of my former life.

When she came, my mind refused to work.

Shouts, an explosion, gunfire. I am stone.

Air rushing past me. The guard’s head exploding quietly, like an egg hitting the kitchen floor.

I watch, I observe, but I do not yet see.

I am told to walk, so I walk. Or try to.

I am carried strangely, gently. Placed on a stretcher.

There are words I recognise, but do not comprehend.

Revolution? The rotation of an object around a central pivot point.

Freedom? A myth, a fantasy. A dream.

Her face pulses into view between each heartbeat, and I know that I am dying.

And yet I live.


This piece was written for Nika Harper’s Wordplay #7. The challenge was to write a beginning and an ending, without a middle, using the prompts “fragile desire” and “someone has to clean this up.”

The Hunt

And what’s this, then, you canny man –
To leave just one dead boot behind?
And with it, neither leg nor plan,
Still truth will out, we always find!

Release the hounds again, my boys,
And girls – we are are a modern team –
They won’t be bothered by his ploys,
We’ll have his head, but first he’ll scream!

What’s this, the trail falters here?
Well hurry back, retrace our steps!
Another boot? Another scare?
Recall the dogs, we’ll have him yet!

I smell him now, that crooked thief,
At least the boots he left for us,
Come out, you cur, from underneath,
The coward shadows that you clutch!

Your feet must be on fire now,
And all for what, that noble whore?
Some whispered wit, some vacant vow,
A torrid tumble on the floor?

We’ll have you yet, adulterous swine,
And on your bloody bones I’ll gnaw!


This piece was written for Nika Harper’s Wordplay #6. The challenge was iambic verse, with the prompts “a leather boot laying by a field” and “a choice.”

Seeing Double

The field lies abandoned, and her face
Is fouled with fragments of a former time:
A single sole of rubber, rotted lace,
and leather upper, under streaks of grime.

My sight may skip across this vacant view,
And leave the broken boot to settle by:
It’s just another path to travel through,
Another pointless journey for my eye.

Or should the boot my inattention irk,
To tug at tufts of tales yet untold,
And chase away the unacknowledged murk,
That cloys and keeps me captive in its hold?

Both views are mine, and both are there to see
To pass or to be present, the choice remains with me.


This piece was written for Nika Harper’s Wordplay #6. The challenge was iambic verse, with the prompts “a leather boot laying by a field” and “a choice.”


My Momma told me ghosts aren’t real. She said it all serious-like, as I snuggled between her and Pop on the couch.

“They sure look real,” I said, peeking at the billowing apparition on the screen, but she hushed me, told me it was just “special effects,” whatever that means.

My Momma knew everything, it seemed back then, but it turns out she was every bit as clueless as the rest of us.

We found her in a gutter. She didn’t look dead, not really. Cold and pale, but still Momma. Her eyes were wide open, unchanged, and I thought she was alive until the stench hit me. Ain’t no other word for it: that smell near knocked me over, all rest-homes and public bathrooms wrapped in old boiled cabbage.

I don’t remember the next few minutes, waiting for the police to arrive, except for one thing: Momma’s hand, still wrapped tight around a wilted white lily. They said it took ages to remove it from her grip, so we had lilies for the funeral, lilies for Momma.

They said it wasn’t murder, not exactly. “They” were always saying stupid shit, anyway. Said he was only trying to rape her, like that was somehow better. Only hit her to stop her screaming. Didn’t know his own strength. Then came the cries of “police brutality,” of “procedural misconduct” and “mitigation.”

Momma told me excuses were little kisses from the devil. At least she was right about that.

She talked to me at night, sometimes. I’d lie in bed, staring at the dark patterns on the ceiling, then the shadows would darken, blotting out the streetlight from outside, and Momma would whisper to me, telling me it would be all right, telling me what to do. I couldn’t hold her any more, but her voice soothed me to sleep.

I took him a lily, after his acquittal. I chose it special, from the bunch on Momma’s grave. It hadn’t yet reached full-bloom, and hung poised on the verge of beauty, its creamy folds still coyly concealing secrets and whispers in its shadows.

He already reeked of booze, was hitting the clubs and searching for a girl, any girl. He looked right through me, seeing just another pair of legs, another fuck waiting to happen, willing or not.

I led him outside, silently offering him the lily, a chance to repent. He ignored the flower, letting it drop, its head denting on the pavement without a sound.

He shoved me roughly against a wall and opened his pants, then I opened him up, like Momma had told me.

The knife slid in deep, and we both blossomed.

Momma still whispers to me at night. She tells me where to go, how to get by. They say I’m a murderer, a vigilante psycho.

They look for me, but they don’t have my Momma on their side.

She tells me who to visit, and I take them each a flower.


This piece was written for Nika Harper’s Wordplay #5. The challenge was ghost stories, with the prompts “a needed conversation” and “lillies to say goodbye.”