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God shaped holes

Was it removed like an inflamed


Do you finger the scar and realise you’ve been misled

Into the slate desert where the candles

Never stay alight

And you’ve tried to jam in different


Sex, drugs, art, politics,

But in the end

You look at those who kept theirs

Or had one transplanted from a willing donor

And wonder how you’ll ever get through the book you started

My book Until She Sings is out now

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The Devil Went Down To Pensacola

What offended Lou most about the protest was it’s lack of taste.

The signs were written in black, bold fonts on neon and hot pink pieces of card glued to lengths of wood. Some earnest art project gone horribly wrong.  He stood and watched them with his forehead furrowed in amusement, smoking and smirking to himself.

He seldom took time off. Today though, he had outsourced the day to day affairs to a few ‘trusted’ subordinates and had found himself in Pensacola. The weather was something that he found entirely comfortable, even with the dark pinstripe and the cravat, his hair remained a perfect sculptured wave of white blonde hair and his face was a perfect study of milk poured atop ivory.

He tutted to himself, cast the cigarette to the ground and crushed it beneath the heel of his boots before walking to join the other mourners. He walked alongside a young couple, their eyes red with tears who kept looking to the small, vicious knot of people across the street. The elder of the two went to approach but his partner put a steadying hand out and shook his head.

‘They’re not worth it.’

The young man turned and looked into the perfect, violet eyes of the stranger.

‘Sorry, he hates those guys.’

He looked past them and narrowed his eyes.

‘On grounds of taste alone, I’d agree.’

He knew that the couple were Iain and Benjamin, that they had met in college and were at one point, experimenting with the deceased in a polyamorous relationship before primal notions of dominance asserted themselves and they did not speak for a while. He knew the worst in people, and that was why he loved them so much.

Looking at the church, he knew what would be said and what would be meant. Funerals were clumsy affairs and seldom captured a life, good or bad. They were for the living, and the dead oftentimes spoke of the self serving omissions and errors that irritated them. The event that marks your passing has all the depth and veracity of a celebrity autobiography.

So, seeking amusement, he walked across the street. He heard calls and ignored him, lit up another cigarette because it would irritate them and he smoked like a fiend. He was not afraid of cancer, cancer was afraid of him.


They spoke in upper case, angry comments on the internet without the excuse of anonymity. He pitied how empty they looked, even he knew the fullness of existence. Even though it hated him.

‘I was actually coming to thank you, actually.’

His fringe had fallen into his eyes but he kept it in order to avoid having to look at them directly. He inhaled the cigarette smoke, enjoyed the tickle in his throat and how they had lapsed into silence.

One of them, with his dad bod, undulating chin waddle sparsely covered by a beard that resembled glued on pubic hair stared at him. Every instinct screaming to run, but self righteousness and hitherto undiagnosed fetal alcohol syndrome made him stand his ground.

‘For saving your immortal soul? I should think so.’

Lou chuckled, a dry, ugly sound like dessicated branches sweeping against a window pane. It was a laugh that once sounded chimes in the heart of creation, but time and circumstance had rendered it’s beauty into something practical and terrifying.

‘Oh you sorry little sac, you really have no idea how it works, do you?’

Lou managed something that had eluded the great and the good who encountered the group’s feverish infant protests.


‘He doesn’t concern himself with hatred, neither does the boy. He pities your lack of understanding, if anything.’

He lit up another cigarette. It carried an unearthly scent, due to the fields it was grown in, fertilised with the eternal corpses of the damned. It made marijuana look like child vitamins and the crowd’s noses wrinkled collectively in response.

‘But why let the facts get in the way of the resolutely good time you all appear to be having, eh?’

Dadbod gripped the sign in his doughy hands and began to advice. Lou laughed and waved his finger in a mocking gesture.

‘Seriously, don’t.’

Dadbod, looked around, lost in a storm of primal panic and aggression, before committing to the worst possible decision and charging him. Huffing to accommodate his lack of experience with actual aggression and a cardiovascular system that would lose in a race with a sleepy dormouse, he charged and for a moment, imagined shoving this petulant asshole to the floor. In an instant, he saw the approval of his peers as a parade of hateful good feeling and was heartened by it.

Which was when Lou stepped neatly to the left and watched him tumble, using his face as a brake. Pink and scarlet shreds of skin laid in streaks against the asphalt, like abandoned gum, devoid of flavour but not colour. Dadbod screamed, clutching his face and Lou walked over to him.

‘This, Gary, is a perfect metaphor for your approach.’

His smile uncoiled, a bright and terrible beauty that made it’s mark on this world and he continued.

‘I have no time for lectures, but I encourage you to really pray. Listen to that small voice, the one that you actually struggle with but you pretend is dyspepsia, and follow that.’

He stood up, bowed formally from the waist and went about his day with a wink that made the nascent libidos of many of the protestors and crowd flutter like a newborn butterfly. There was a woman at the tent hire place he wanted to look at, and a plate of chicken parmesan to enjoy.



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The Day

Russo adjusted her belt to alleviate the way that it always dug into her ample gut. She swore that she was going to start dieting again but she considered the trade off that came from a wife who was a trained chef worth it.  Ashford came over to her, his fingers smoothing down his failing moustache and shaking his head.
‘Oh shit Rue, we’ve got a doozie today. ‘
Russo sighed, as much because she had asked Ashford not to call her that as to the implications of what a doozie implied in a woman’s prison.
‘Theresa’s out of solitary. ‘
Ashford clapped her on the shoulder and Russo sighed as she hid the involuntary flinch that came to her.
‘She still preaching?’
Ashford grimaced and cocked his thumb behind him.
‘Oh you’ll find her in her spot’
Russo strolled through, bowing her head in greeting to the inmates until she heard a sound that was seldom heard.
Theresa Devereaux should have been in a psych ward but a perfect storm of a rare lucid period and a judge who was tangentially related to one of the victims meant she was here.
Preaching her Word.
Russo had known that siren call of faith and how those seeds found fertile soil in the hearts of the women in here. Simple answers to complex questions were common in the world. Prison was no different.
Terry though spoke of a bit player in the opera of the Old Testament.
Lillith. Adam’s first wife. Resigned, Russo, recalled to apocrypha. Wandered into the dust because She would not lay beneath Adam. Terry spoke of Her as The True Mother. Russo even thought about Theresa’s faith in Upper Case. It sounded fruity at first.
Fruity, Russo thought, as she saw the cafeteria packed with inmates because Terry was 5 feet tall, long carrot hair and buttermilk skin, engagingly goofy overbite and harsh Arctic blue eyes. Annie as the sole survivor of a tragic flight on Daddy’s private jet.Even the fog of unwashed bodies, tears and despair, present in every breath was different here.
She was talking about The Day, an essential ingredient in any intense religion.
The Apocalypse.
White Buffalo Calf Woman, Judgement Day, Ragnarok but Theresa kept it simple.

When Mother returned and Her Daughters would soak the earth with the blood of Adams Sons.
Russo swallowed her nerves, the rapt attention being afforded made her bowels shift like molten lava at the ordered rows of inmates.
‘And the skies have called the winged sisters of her rage to come.’ Theresa said.
Solitary had been reviving for her.

Made her specific.

Made her memorable.
‘And their screaming shall split the skies like thunder’
The crowd roared as one, Russo found her throat tight with panic even though her heart thumped like a thrash metal bass drum. She saw Paulson, seven years for mail fraud, shaking like a dog shitting a peach pit, eyes rolled back in her head and palms raised up.

Prison did strange things to people and Russo was less disturbed by that than she was at the sight of Esther doing the same thing.
What with her being a guard and all.
Russo backed away and reached for the radio at her hip.
The screaming made her mouth flood with rusty vomit as she staggered back, hand clamped over her mouth as she heard the rush of wings in the room.
For all the times she had mocked the idea of someone claiming to have access to a celestial spoiler alert, it came to her that no matter how much mockery was amassed against the idea, a simple maxim came to her.
They only had to be right once.
When she saw the women begin to writhe, anatomies twisting beneath their orange suits, she hoped that there was time to call home. Her feet slapping against the polished floor as the world began to end.

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Create Your Own Religion by Daniele Bolelli



CREATE YOUR OWN RELIGION is a call to arms — an open invitation to question all the values, beliefs and worldviews that humanity has so far held as sacred in order to find the answers we need to the very practical problems facing us.

Writer, philosopher and professor of comparative religion, Daniele Bolelli, leads the reader through three thousand years of mythology, misogyny, misinformation and the flat-out lies about revealed truth that continue to muddle our ability to live a peacefullife, free of guilt and shame and the ultimate fear of death.

Our worldviews are in desperate need of some housecleaning, says Bolelli. We enter the 21st century still carrying on our backs the prejudices and ways of thinking of countless pastgenerations. What worked for them may or may not still be of use, so it is our job to make sure to save the tools that can help us and let go of the dead weight. In CREATE YOUR OWN RELIGION, he examines a variety of answers pushed forth by many religions to address the key questions of human existence and, on the basis of this knowledge, he encourages us to come up with our own answers.

Irreverent and illuminating, CREATE YOUR OWN RELIGION challenges readers to re-examine what it means to be human and bring a better way of life into existence.

Atheists can be as intolerant and strident as fundamentalists. Thankfully Bolelli has such a warm and inclusive love of life, passion and humanity that he presents a call to arms that doesn’t lead to the guillotine or the rack, but to the sadly radical idea that we’re all on this planet together.

He writes with a musical sweetness, bringing together disparate ideas and stories that reveal the savage excesses and commonalities of fundamentalists as well as clear and cogent insights into a way forward for us. He’s too passionate and smart to punch ideas into us, rather he points out the flaws and encourages us all to forge our own relationships with the world around and within us. No cultist nonsense, no sticking the knife in, just a lot to think about and it was a pleasure to read this book. There’s enough there to make me ponder a few things, mostly that I’m grateful there are people like Bolelli around to put a hypothetical arm around us and reassure us that there is hope and joy in the world.

Also he quotes Tom Robbins, which is never a bad thing. Regardless of your religious persuasion, this is a great book that I would like to see better known. There’s a measure of partisanship that I think stands in the way of our collective evolution but thinkers like Bolelli offer another way, one where we can all be friends.

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A Return

Harry parked at the end of the street, swallowing his nerves as he tried to reconcile the geography of memory with how things were now. The Oxboroughs still lived at 43, marked by the rusting Ford Escort in the front garden and the sagging green wire fence that never seemed to maintain any integrity, often reverting within days of the council replacing it.

Funny, he thought, the things you remember.

He put his car keys in his pocket, checked his reflection in the mirror. Time had not been too harsh on him. The beard had a little salt and pepper in it, and his thinning hair had long since been defeated by the regular scrape of a razor. All his awkwardness had been defeated, or so he had thought. Success had been on his terms, but the past always held it’s own allure.

Steeling himself, he stepped past a pair of teenagers sat together, impossibly thin legs in tight, soft jeans, both of them transfixed by their phones. Harry wondered if they were talking to one another. He had put similar sentiments in the last book, worried at the same time that it was a herald of old age, calcification rather than maturity, but you only wrote about what was around you, even if you added ingredients to pretend it was simply entertainment rather than therapy.

He had googled her, but the last time she had updated her facebook was three months ago, and so here to attend a cousin’s wedding, he had decided to look her up again.

The book sat in his pocket, not the original paperback, that was still upstairs in the attic of his mother’s house, but a pristine new edition, ordered with a few clicks of the mouse and delivered the day before he drove down. The original still had her notes, the tiny, delicate insertions and underlined passages that he had treasured all these years. He stopped outside her house, the time passed reflected in the bright clean upvc windows and the garden that was neat in an uninspired way.  His heart pounding, and his mouth leeched of moisture, he knocked on the door.

The burka came as something of a shock. He saw them regularly around London, intrigued and amused by them, but also, having read a bit about them outside of the angry editorials in the media, and also patiently listening to the heated debates with some of his more political friends, had an awareness of the meaning. He thought that it was a bit of a shame, but his working class manhood had always seen a pretty face as having it’s own magnetic pull. Lives and careers dashed upon the rocks of a beautiful smile or inspired by him. In London, he saw a face that he could spend his life looking at every day, his libido and appreciation of female beauty was after all, his livelihood in a sense so he took that appreciation to be fuel for his ambitions as well.

It was silk, the colour of dark coral and he began to make his excuses when she spoke. The voice, softer and more reserved but still her.



He thought he hid his surprise well and when she invited him in, he chuckled to himself that his fevered dreams of reconciliation would ever have worked out. Still, perhaps he could get a story out of this. He had the knack of that down pretty well.

She offered him tea and he accepted. When she asked if he still took sugar, he was absurdly touched by it and told her no. He did not even drink tea, really but he was gripped by an increasing reluctance to impose upon her in any way. Like nudging a moth so as not to break it’s wings, his memories were held up and made, if not ugly, then honest.

She knew about him, of course. A few pieces in the paper, the movie adaptation and the displays in the WH Smith. He focused on her voice, in lieu of not being able to see her face. He understood that there was a prohibition against showing her face and he recalled the list of acceptable witnesses, knowing that he was not amongst them. When the conversation reached an acceptable break in the cycle, he remembered the book and retrieved it from his pocket.

In his head, it would have met with tingling appreciation at the profound act of remembrance, perhaps even some athletic, hungry sex but Harry had lived by the Lennon quote that life was what happened, when you were busy making other plans. He ached for how she was, the way that she would hold his face and stare into his eyes, goading him to go harder and faster until they both exploded and collapsed atop one another.

She turned it over in her hands then passed it back to him.

‘I’m sorry, Abdul won’t allow books like this in the house. He’s very devout.’

Harry gritted his teeth as he took the book back from her. He was irritated at how she dismissed the gesture, but his knowledge of himself, as cold and capable as a scalpel showed him how petulant that was.

‘It’s okay, just I was in the area, and I remembered you.’

Harry wanted to be generous, even as he seethed with embarrassed defeat. He could not resist the urge to dig at her, to find some recompense for his time and effort.

‘Does he make you happy?’

The burka shielded her face but her body language was still expressive as she sat upright.

‘Is that what you think this is about?’

There. That was his Karen. The tone was immediate, a trumpet call, an alarm that told you that you had said something really fucking stupid and even as his cheeks turned red, Harry was reassured by it. He shook his head, spluttering assurances and apologies like cake crumbs from his lips.

‘Because I reverted before I met him, Harry.  Jesus, you’re such a sexist pig.’

His eyes narrowed, even as part of him knew that this was a good time to leave. Still, he had his pride.

‘No, Karen, I don’t think that you wear a veil because your husband tells you to. I just thought that you would have been doing something -‘

He knew as soon as the words were there, that he needed to be leaving. The past was a foreign country, leavened by memories of strange music, spice and laughter but it could also be water so thick with bacteria that you could cut it into blocks and your wallet being pinched by smiling ten year olds. Meeting people that you wouldn’t talk to at home but abroad became fast friends.

‘Better? More? Come on, seeing as you are the bloody arbiter on how I should live my life, you tell me.’

He got up and smoothed down the front of his trousers. Then he picked up the book and tucked it into his pocket again.

‘I am sorry, Karen. This wasn’t how I hoped things would go.’

She shook her head but remained sat down.

‘You think I’m weak for this? That this was a reaction to us splitting up? Jesus, Harry that was nearly twenty years ago. Move on, will you?’

It was eighteen years, three months and four days. He smiled as the fact came to him.

‘Jazâ-ka-Llâh.’ he said.

He left but she did not get up from the chair. Her head snapped up at his use of the phrase but he would never know her expression. She did say something to him though, that it took a little while to translate, later when he had dropped the book into a charity shop and decided that the past was perhaps there for a reason. He decided to remember her as she was, and hope that she was happy even as the sensation of being thwarted and routed so utterly burned in him like a hot coal dropped into milk.

Innâ li-Llâhi wa innâ ilai-hi râji’un which translated to mean a sentiment about a major loss.  A few lines above was something that he found himself saying to himself, comforting in the way that some phrases in other languages were to him. It joined schadenfreude, l’esprit d’escalier and one that seemed, in light of his visit, most appropriate, jayus.

He sat in his hotel room, drink in one hand and staring out at nothing, saying it over until it was stripped smooth and bland of meaning.


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Lilith Went Out

When she was cast out.

No one knew where she walked,

And who she spoke to,

Because if you believe

The idea of other forces

Hidden from a Creator’s gaze

Should keep you awake at night.

Were their voices,

The snap of a child’s femur?

The whisper of a paramour?

Who knows,

Maybe she listened,

desperate for comfort

But never regretting

The decision not to submit.

And sometimes,

I wonder, between the gaps

Of witness and myth,

History and story

If the devil were actually

A beautiful woman

And if that were made public,

Then Hell would be so full

That Heaven would take in

The evictees.