ambition, beauty, fiction, politics, short fiction, women

Let It Burn

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Pam watched the dorm burn. She stood with the crowd of onlookers, phones and tablets held up to capture how the flames licked at the windows, vomiting black smoke, thick from the feast of plastic it had found in every room.

Theresa came over, weeping in a way which Pam found unsightly. The histrionics of someone who saw the world through a filter of utter solipsism. She reached out her thin arms and threw herself into Pam’s arms.

Pam patted Theresa between her shoulder blades, perfunctory gestures interpreted as awkwardness but were about her distaste for physical contact. Pam had built herself an ideology which avoided the messy business of sex through a seething bolus of gender variations. The likes of Theresa challenged her but tonight her drama would prove useful.

‘Who’s done this?’ Theresa said.

She devolved into a series of wet, rough brays before Pam shushed her and kept on patting her back as though it meant anything.

Pam watched the crowd. A news van had parked at the end of the row and she turned Theresa around without speaking. Theresa sniffed and wiped her face.

The Dean of Students, bleary-eyed and grimacing made his way through the crowds. His silver hair stuck up from his head in soft tufts like dandelions, which offset the melancholy raptor features of his face, furrows from a perpetual frown and thin, pale lips. He taught American Literature before accepting the Dean’s position and Pam imagined he would press lots of old white authors upon them. He had changed into a white shirt and sweater, smelled of cologne as he saw her.

‘An absolute tragedy, Pam. I’m so sorry.’

Pam collected apologies from authority figures. This one was not up to the standards of the soft drink manufacturer or the best-selling author of the young adult trilogy but it was a good start.

‘Thank you, Dean. I have prepared a statement.’ Pam said.

He frowned and looked around him.

‘The fire’s not even out, Pam. Give yourself time to process this.’ he said.

Pam’s lips drew back over her teeth before she caught herself. She pushed Theresa aside.

‘Acts like this demand an immediate response.’ she said.

She had practiced it in the mirror, perfected the lift of the chin and the slight turn of profile.

The dean sighed and gave a short, terse nod.

‘But I would argue the use of the word act. It has connotations.’ he said.

Pam pointed to the blazing dorm, fighting the urge to give into her emotions, not from fearing their impact but because it was too early.

No one was watching.

‘The only connotations I see is an old white man playing down an act of ethno-gender terrorism.’

Pam enjoyed how he shuddered.

‘Now I think you should -‘

Pam’s heart leapt in her chest, higher than the flames in the dorm room.

‘You think, Dean. What should I think?’ she said

She raised her voice. People turned, their phones already ahead of them.

The news camera pointed at her. Its lens was a shining white disc, a medal for her sacrifice.

She started into her monologue. The firemen in the background added just the right note of disaster to proceedings. Her face was lit from within, eyes aflame with self-righteousness and the joy of wounded victimhood. In the weeks afterwards, she watched it a hundred times.

Protest footage with clusters of students marching and holding placards.

Aggressive scenes in the library, earphones snatched from ears and snarling challenges into the pinched faces of other students.

An investigation. The arrest.

Her trial.

Pam in orange prison clothes, her face slack with acceptance.

When the dean collapsed with a heart attack, Pam would have celebrated but she was too busy fighting off a bull who wanted to get romantic without having to memorise Pam’s preferred pronouns during pillow talk.

Before sleep, she remembered the orange glow of the flames and the desire to stay and watch it burn away her privilege..

The memory kept her warm. Whether there was enough to see her through ten years remained unknown.


beauty, love, lust, poetry, sex, women

Come To My Bed




To my bed

Not a stranger

Flushed with guilt and trepidation

But here slip off

The clothes of duty and manners

Intelligent animals

Seething with heat

To kiss until our lips bruised

Without the fear of judgement

With the only limits

Determined by our courage

In pursuit of our desires




Fuck with the raw power

Of play

A primal authority

Nestled in a warm cradle

Of authority




Play the game of surrender

Leave yourself

In whole or in part

Bear the marks

Or hide them

I shall care for them

Until such time

As you are compelled

By appetite to call upon me


A genie with flesh’s wishes

Known like scripture

Come to my bed

Then come







beauty, fiction, short fiction, women

No Friend To The Sisters

They stumbled onto the fire. The man sat against the tree stump, eating a piece of chicken as he watched them. His hazel eyes glowed with amusement.

Jacqueline stared at him with panicked eyes. Her stomach growled at the sight of a chicken being turned on a spit over the fire. Bren tugged her sleeve and Jacqueline watched her brush a lock of hair away from her eyes.

‘Please sir, may we join you?’

He scratched the dimple in his chin and tilted his head to one side.

‘You look like you’ve been running?’ he said.

Bren nodded, and fat shiny tears welled up in her eyes. Jacqueline’s hand went to the knife on her hip and the man raised his hand.

‘Yes, sir, we have. We’ve fled the convent.’ she said.

He whistled and shook his head, gestured to the fire and grinned at them.

‘Well then, you must join me.’ he said

Bren glanced at Jacqueline, gave her a pensive nod and sat down, crossing her legs with care at the ankles.

Jacqueline joined her on the ground.

‘Sorry.’ she said.

He nodded and pulled the spit towards him. He drew a small knife, the blade no longer than his thumb and scored along the breast. A drizzle of clear juice hissed onto the fire below and he sat back.

‘You’re just in time to eat, if you’re hungry?’ he said.

They looked at one another then both nodded. He grinned and reached towards the chicken. The perfume of it made their mouths water.

It would, Jacqueline thought, make for a fine story to tell the others.


He wore a leather jerkin over suede leggings, boots that went to his calf, scarred and faded from use and time. At his feet laid a pair of calfskin gloves, studded along the knuckles with small pitted marks. His head was smooth and he wore a few days’s growth of stubble. He wore fine things but used them until they bore marks.

‘So, how did you come to be running from them?’ he said.

Bren chewed and looked at Jacqueline, a cue for her to tell the story they had agreed upon. Jacqueline swallowed the piece of chicken, spiced with herbs that made her gums tingle and ran her tongue over her lips.

‘We wanted to make our own way in the world.’

Bren nodded.

‘Yes, we were in the kitchens, slipped out through the larder and then the stables.’ Bren said.

He gestured to the knife on Jacqueline’s hip.

‘You got that from the kitchens? It’s got a wicked edge on it.’ he said.

Jacqueline blushed and looked away, feigning embarrassment at the oblique compliment.

‘We were a day away from our Silencing.’ she said.

His face turned pale. The Sisters performed initiation rituals, altering the vocal chords and structures of the jaw to ensure silence and a bite that could cleave through oak. It never left a woman pretty.

‘Where will you go to?’ he said.

Jacqueline shrugged her shoulders, furrowed her forehead.

‘As far away as we can. What brings you out here?’ she said.

He was hunting. Snares because the rabbits grew fat here and the wild chickens had not lost their flavour.

Bren picked up the last drumstick and bit into it. Jacqueline looked at her and wished she could pretend not to enjoy this so much. He lifted his wineskin to his lips, took a deep swig before he offered it to them.

Jacqueline refused but Bren took a deep draught and giggled afterwards. She could not stop competing with her.

‘Spicy though, for wild chicken.’ she said.

Bren coughed and swallowed the last mouthful.

‘It’s superb.’ Bren said.

Jacqueline looked at the man across the fire. He stared back before he raised his hand and gave a slow nod

‘You don’t have to worry about me turning you in. I’m no friend to The Sisters.’ he said.

A guttural note came into his voice. Jacqueline decided not to press any further.

‘We used to keep chickens up at the convent, but they never tasted like this.’ Bren said.

She coughed and fought the urge to spit.

Jacqueline looked at her. Bren gave a slow blink and took the wine from him.

A shudder of foreboding ran through Jacqueline. She glanced at the man across from her as he sat there.

Bren stared at her and went to speak but a low, soft croak came out. She bent over at the waist and emitted a torrent of tan silken vomit onto the ground. Jacqueline’s hand went to the knife on her hip but she stopped. A deep, violent cramp ran through her, up her spine and into her head.

A dark pressure forced itself outwards from the inside of her skull and she dropped the knife from fingers gone dead and cold. She reached for her Sister-in-waiting and found her gone form her reach.

‘It was a good plan.’ he said

Jacqueline turned toward the voice before her legs gave out and she fell to the ground.

‘I chose a blend of things, so it should be quick for you. It’s not your fault.’ he said.

She tried to speak but all that came out was a bloodied plug of tissue and mucus before her eyes rolled back in their sockets and she died.

‘It’s like I said. I am no friend to the Sisters.’ he said.


He dug graves for the pair of them. Asra had found the location of the convent, told him when they had last laid together. She had shown him the scars from her escape and he had traced him with his finger, slow and soft as she reassure him of her health.

He swore his own vow.

He said a prayer over their graves. He found his weapons where he had hidden them along with his armour and tools. He looked through the trees, gauged how long it would take him to make it there before dawn.

beauty, love, poetry, women


It sings in my veins

Like lightning

Whatever remains

Is too frightening

By life we are often betrayed

Our dreams, by default,

Will degrade

We leave when we should have stayed


Get serious when we should have played

But I love you just as you are

No matter how near or how far

I cannot deny this truth

Look into my eyes




beauty, love, lust, mother, sex, short fiction, women

Maternal Burden

She wore a silk jersey dress, patterned in diamonds of blue and white. Her hair was a blunt bob, cut in around the ears and the back of her neck. She had a slight overbite, which leavened her beauty, vulnerable and approachable, were it not for the fierce, bright light in her eyes. Coltish legs and a small, high bosom.

The date on the back of the photograph reads a single date.

11th November 1975.

She had gone out, nineteen years old, spending the money she worked all week to earn. Her priorities were to have a dance, a few drinks and a laugh.

Simple pleasures, strung together like christmas lights.

He held court at the bar, a tumbler of scotch in one hand, cigarette between the fingers of his left hand as he gestured for emphasis. His hair was thick and black, with long, simian sideburns, a spade jaw and a deep cleft in his chin. She stood in the doorway and their eyes met across the pub with the propulsive force of chemical reaction. He wore a paisley shirt with a wide collar, unbuttoned to the chest, showing the broad, furred expanse like a mating display.

His wink had a seismic impact upon her, a brutish authority leavened by the melodic, poignant burr of his voice. The anecdote continued and she joined her friends in their hurry for amusement.

They danced in a circle, stiff and embarrassed, fending off suitors with practiced humour but with a few drinks and some good music, they found themselves, liquid and alive. It was during Somebody To Love by Queen that he came over and introduced himself.

Billly MacDonell brought them a round of drinks. He regaled the group, ignoring her until she twisted and seethed with his wilful ignorance of her attraction. She touched his arm and he laughed it off, telling her she should not touch what she could not afford. His tone bordered on contempt but his eyes were a slow burn, offering her a test of her character and will.

She dared,

She willed. Billy slipped away from the dance floor, with her heart in his pocket. He slipped his arm around her, suffusing her in a sensation equal parts danger and comfort.

He was a good Catholic boy. She was on the pill.

I never asked the details. It was enough to know they collided, flesh, chemicals and lightning.

The family doctor confirmed it She imagined his delight, the scenario playing out a million times in her head as she rang him from the phone box, asked him to meet her at the cafe on the high street.

His face fell when she told him. She was privy to a rare sight.

Billy McNamara. Speechless.

His glib charm sought to assert itself and failed. He set his mug of tea on the table.

‘I’ll pay for ye to take care of it.’ he said.

The cold edge in his voice cut her deep. He tried to explain that it was just fun, he could not be a father but he could do the decent thing.

She looked away, eyes damp with unshed tears as her insides burned with regret.

‘So, that’s it? That’s all you have to say?’ she said.

Billy’s eyes twinkled and he went to take her hand but she snatched it away.

‘My sweet, can’t you please see the longer picture here?’ he said.

She thought about correcting him. A small riposte to the injury he had delivered. She touched her stomach for reassurance. Her act of courage had been to meet his eye, but there was more to bear, and she had a choice to make, there and then.

I have her eyes.

His chin.

Her courage.

His glib charm but it’s leavened by experience.

She chose me, despite all the doors it closed to her.

When I sat there, running my thumb over the silver blister packs of tablets, mustering the courage to just stop suffering, I remember that girl and her faith in me. I got up, wiped my eyes and flushed them down the toilet before I made a phone call.

‘Hi Mum.’