Late Night Thoughts

photo by Melissa Reid

photo by Melissa Reid

I planted my roses in a crystal vase
my hopes in a paper cup.
I did not take the right path
I dropped the words out of my pockets
in the drains of these narrow streets
I let them get lost.
I forgot how to forgive
my younger self
I prayed that those rumors would stop producing echoes
in my eardrums

I have no voice to speak
my soles are worn out from too much running
and I no longer remember the sound of the waves in the shells.
But there’s a silver lining
tattooed on my wrist
indelibly marked as the scars on my knee
and nothing is lost when I remember
that there is still time.
Because when I will get up in the morning
from a restless night of broken dreams
I will know that I have a chance
to lean out
and breathe
listen to the sound of all the things I do not know
I do not own

and water my roots with a paper cup.

Federica Giardino is a 2nd-year architecture student at the University of Strathclyde. She describes herself as having "this passion for the littlest things and moments; coffee breaks, sweaters' paws to hide your hands, finding notes in old books, train journeys sitting by the window. I am a writer and an artist, and I certainly am neither. But, little by little, I am learning what it means to believe in one's self."


The Way Back

On the days when Louise Gust walked back from school she always took the same route. Mainly because it was the fastest way home, but it also took her past the tile factory on Cuthbert Street. She could step up onto the walled flower garden outside of Sinclair’s Tiles and look through the window to see the rows and rows of tense women measuring and slicing sheets of lino.

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photo by Stephen O'Shea

photo by Stephen O'Shea


Late again, I swerve through thick green Pennsylvania
streets, trees shadows dappling my dress
with late autumn sun. The shortcut lane
swings me through my old neck of the woods:
WYNORR FARMS, the fading sign pleads
from its rusting post. Three years on,
and my soft hands still clench the wheel.


Sticky Southern summers: heat rose
between the paint-chipped barns. I wrestled
corn off stalks, hoisted fifty pound sacks over
my shoulders, felt my arms firm up.

Summers of rising early, greeting the dawn
with a weed-whacker. We shoveled
sheep shit together, twelve guys and
me, wore the same stained T-shirts
day after day.

First learned to drive in a John Deere;
couldn’t steer proper so I crushed grass,
bowled the hay hedges, gas smoke fogging
my swerving wake.

Ate with the men. Stained my jeans
with fence paint. Stole bruised peaches from the cold room,
pressed the split tomatoes no one wanted between
my teeth til they burst. Seeds, and sweet.

My favorites were thunderstorm nights, when we ran in
from the fields staring up, ducked under the farmstand
with the pretty girls who worked sales.
We nicked whoopie pies.
Pounding rain.
No customers.

We ate corn raw; sweet candy
in our callused hands.


Three years went. I moved out,
the farm passed on. Downpours for weeks
drowned the corn, the sheep shit,
the farmers’ will. Arthritis,
children who wanted easier lives.

Late again. On the wheel,
my soft hands clench, crave seeds, and sweet.

Kathryn Ailes is a US-UK Fulbright Scholar at the University of Strathclyde researching themes of nationalism within poetry responding to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. She enjoys writing for the written page as well as performing “slam” poetry at venues in Edinburgh and Glasgow, recently with the collective Loud Poets. She blogs about creative practice on her website: here. (You can also find her poem 'Driveways': here.)


Morning Routine

photo by Stephen O'Shea

photo by Stephen O'Shea

He was woken by the inane sound of television and the sour taste of vomit in his mouth. Blinding white covers and clear plastic cups around him, bright expensive homes on the screen. She stirred beside him, and he decided to leave the room before she woke up. The cold clung to his legs as he stepped onto the carpet, and he crouched low to retrieve the bottle of rum he had hidden under his polished bedside cabinet. Given the presence of the cups and the lingering aftertaste that plagued his throat, he guessed there wasn’t much alcohol left downstairs.
       “Pour us one,” she said, voice thick with sleep.
       “Pour it yourself,” he said, and went downstairs.
       On the landing he nearly slipped on an empty bottle of vodka, and swiped at it with the side of his foot, sending it spinning underneath a gleaming radiator that had never worked. Someone had scratched the hallway paint last night, a dry arc of the wall beneath cut through the beige. The wooden floor at the bottom was even colder, and he considered going back for his slippers and dressing gown, before remembering that she was there. How could he forget?
       He had forgotten to pull curtains over the screen doors in the kitchen – as he entered the garden confronted him in all its awfulness, brown muck advancing on a grey patio. The only splash of colour was a dark red smear on the glass, framed by the door. The rum momentarily forgotten, he walked closer to the unexplained mark. He didn’t remember it, and yet it was obviously blood. Had he hit her again? Had she hit him again? The bloomed stain didn’t answer.
       There were no mixers left in the fridge, though he briefly took hold of the milk before he thought better of it. Straight it was. He stopped, alarmed by a noise from upstairs. When he heard it repeat he shrugged. Either the television or she wanted more drink. Either way, he didn’t care. He poured the rum into a glass and felt it scourge his throat of the night’s consequences. He hadn’t found a better cure yet. He sat, and glared at the bloodstain that had dared disrupt his morning routine.
       Halfway through his third top-up, it occurred to him that the stain was on the other side of the glass. He approached once more, and brought the rum with him. The door was unlocked, and he shouted a curse at her for forgetting, doubting she could hear. It was warmer in the garden than in the house, a low grey sky bringing with it a humid air that almost gave the sensation of being underwater. Or drowning. The patio slabs were warm to the touch. Just not as warm as the drink.
       A plane droned somewhere, though it was lost to him. He touched the bloodstain and found it drying, the slightest impression of red left on his finger. Pointless, he thought. It could have been there for hours. There was no sense in standing outside in his boxers when he could be restocking the drink cabinets. And yet, he looked down anyway.
       It was a small bird, a fading ball of light blue and black with a stubby triangular beak. The legs were curled inward, claws hanging uselessly, while the head was twisted sharply down towards the chest, as though it had feebly attempted to brace. He prodded the corpse with his foot, feeling absurd as he did so. He knew it was dead. The slight movement caused a scurry of ants to depart from around the body, marching hurriedly into a gap in the wall. Into the house, he noted grimly. He wondered if the noise of the bird hitting the glass had come to him in his sleep.
       He knew he shouldn’t pick it up, remembering enough about birdflu from years ago, but after swigging from the bottle and mulling it over, it didn’t seem to matter. The body was ridiculously light, and as he rose back up one wing flopped out to full length, pointing limply back towards the ground, and he tucked it back in.
       Hoping one more drink from the bottle would help him decide what to do next, he raised it to his lips, and paused, gazing up at his bedroom window. She was in there. Still sleeping probably. The urge to hurl the bird at the window rose up in him, a malevolent satisfaction already blooming at the thought of another victory in their nonsensical war. The humidity was suffocating, and the tiny feathers irritated a sweaty palm. He took another drink, the bottle slick in his hand, but lukewarm. The sweet taste congealed like honey, and when he tried to wash it down with more, he found there was none left.
       The bottle dropped to the floor with a dull sound, and a whisper as it rolled over flecks of dirt and the air caught its mouth. He watched it disappear into the hedge at the end of the patio and looked back at the bird. As quickly as it had come, his malice had gone, buoyed off into the wet air. The clouds were darkening overhead.
       The bird did not make a sound when it hit the patio for a second time. The wings unfurled and spread, and he left it there on its back. The foxes would get it, or the rains would wash it away.
       Either way, he didn’t care.

Scott McNee, University of Strathclyde. 3rd Year. Journalism and Creative Writing. Got published once. Has yet to shut up about it.


Write Hungry

photo by Melissa Reid

photo by Melissa Reid

Write hungry, they said
Find the part of you that’s ravenous
and feed it.
Let it gorge itself on words, yours and others
pour them by the paragraph into its trough
until it fattens up.

Give it your time,
this greedy part of you
it needs so many hours
and it is jealous.
It will bite your friends
trample other commitments
and burrow awkwardly under the covers
into the middle of the bed.
But most of all, it will need feeding.

Write hungry,
and though you may grow tired and thin
if you are lucky the day will come
when you can be done with this obnoxious, boorish part of you
lead it to the slaughter
stick it with a pen
and sign your name.

You can sell it,
if you like
or maybe mount its head upon your wall.
Brag and boast,
and eat well.

Either way, later
you will find then
there’s nothing to do
but start again.
Perhaps not for a long time,
when your stocks of words are replenished,
but eventually.
You’ll find another part of you
to love and hate
and fatten up.

Lewis Brown, the University of Edinburgh. He says, 'I’m Lewis Brown, a young performance poet and reformed prose writer. My ambitions include releasing an illustrated poetry pamphlet, having a career and writing plotlines for videogames in exchange for enormous sums of money. I’m sure these will all happen soon."



photo by Kathryn Ailes

photo by Kathryn Ailes

I have felt eternity tickling my feet
through seaweed fingers -
how long have I been here -
I opened my eyes too late
camouflaged on the ocean floor
I touched the bottom of en-route ships
and avidly drank their trail
I collected anchors of past promises
future treasures
meaningless rust.
Falling, as waves,
I survive, breathing
in a state of unconsciousness
and I would even derive some kind of bitter pleasure
from melancholy
if only those choices would not lead me, every time, to the same
miserable truth
a foregone conclusion.
I wish I did not embark
to this perfect life 
in turbid darkness
and silence could not shake my heart.
I am the shield of the invisible beasts,
my skin is covered in spines.
If only I could stare at the ocean's surface
once again
and hear the screams of the waves
their voices
melodic choruses
are telling our histories.
Perhaps one day,
when the shores are asleep,
I will be singing for you.


Federica Giardino is a 2nd-year architecture student at the University of Strathclyde. She describes herself as having "this passion for the littlest things and moments; coffee breaks, sweaters' paws to hide your hands, finding notes in old books, train journeys sitting by the window. I am a writer and an artist, and I certainly am neither. But, little by little, I am learning what it means to believe in one's self."



photo by Melissa Reid

photo by Melissa Reid

Come and fill your hollow spirit,
with your whiskey, port and wine,
feel your blood, an amber current,
flow more swift than time. 

Drunken waltzes flood the dance floor,
soft as silken pastel dreams,
motions being lost in motion,
tearing at the seams. 

White noise silence turns to slicing,
but directors call the cuts,
curtains fall with bleeding lungs, and
shake the sleeping dust.

Dancing makes the barman sour,
barring when the day and night
end, but slowly, dragging hours
through the ceaseless fight. 

Past cracking lips like desert ground
sweet nothings hiss, adulterate
the young white ears of innocence;
corruption cultivates. 

Crackling comforts soar and sweep from
glowing neon tubes of time;
in popping speakers resonate the
voices lost inside. 

Silence tumbles, light escapes, while
crows, they beckon through the morn,
cold with sorrow, damp with sin – our
spirits on the floor.

Jess Smith, University of Edinburgh. She says,  "I’m Jess Smith, an American Edinburgh-based poet and casual photographer. I grew up in Tokyo and Geneva, occasionally moving back to the US in between, and picked up a few languages along the way. I love writing, graphic novels, and RPGs, and aspire to work in the video game industry some day."


Two Poems


(ONE). Observations from my Study Window 


Studying in my eerie
Another grey day
Hills partially visible
Raindrops forming on the telegraph wires
Like glassy pearl drops
A bird lands
All smashed

Photo by Stephen O'Shea

Photo by Stephen O'Shea

(Two). Country Road


My tired legs,
in their thirteenth mile,
work on below me, my eyes too taken
with the blue sky to care if I'm making
pace. I haven't seen the sun so bright
in a long time. Perhaps it's always here, blazing down
on this lonely, Stirlingshire road, where no one can see it.
In this moment, I am the only person in the world.

Jo Noblett is presently researching the role prison officers play in desistance and rehabilitation of offenders.  She enjoys reading poetry and receiving poems written for her by her husband. She recently took her Grade 1 violin test, which was nerve wracking to say the least.  With her husband, she holds a Burns Supper in her home every year for a few close friends where poetry is read, music recited, songs sung and, of course, toasting the bard.

Ross Sayers is 22-year-old Creative Writing Masters student at the University of Stirling. He hopes to be a novelist someday, if he can find the time to fit in writing around watching old episodes of The Simpsons. (You can find his short story 'Dancin': here. And his poem 'The Driver Has Gotten Out and is Smoking a Cigarette': here.)



Across the globe, large gashes in reality began appearing above people’s houses, in public parks, out in the country, under the sea, and even at airline altitudes, each brimming over with morbid sights and ghoulish sounds. 

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Static Caravan Holiday


The Lincolnshire Coast, 1978

I remember the paint-splattered radio spluttering Popcorn
and strip-lighting flickering, vinyl seats sticky and warm
and fat swollen chips and red sauce and vinegar vapours
and vibrations of lemonade bubbling through waxed paper straws.
I remember my mother muttering damn little madam
and my sister was silent, her lips knotted up in a sulk
and her stiff arms were hugging her chest.  I realised that moment
why the big girls at school called her Little Miss Tits in a Vest.
I was scratching the tissue-thin skin on my back, it was peeling,
and the calomine lotion was powder and cracking like chalk.
I was counting the tin tops of cars as they passed by the window
with their wing mirrors flashing back sparks like electrical shocks.
There were snagged plastic bags, like burst balloons,
hanging limp on the fence wire.  There was stillness.
Then shrillness, I hate you, a door being slammed.
I remember the red sauce bottle.  It wobbled on the table
and I grabbed it, I missed it, it toppled and smashed on the floor.

H L Foster, the University of Strathclyde. She says: "I studied Drama and English in London and took up a short-lived career in advertising before moving to Edinburgh to work in the heritage sector.  A brief interlude saw me return to my native East Midlands to teach in secondary education. I had a short story published in Mslexia last year and won a place to read my work at Edinburgh City of Literature Trust’s ‘Story Shop’ at the Edinburgh Book Festival. I turn to the past and people’s memories of it for inspiration for my writing.  My current work examines the relationship between oral history and social historical fiction."


Surface Tension

Photo by Stephen O'Shea

Photo by Stephen O'Shea

I stand by the pond,
eating woolly snow from my mitten.
The ice has thawed, and frozen again, but
I can still see the cracks. 

I don’t know where the pond skaters go
when water freezes:
there’s no water here to keep them up,
scooting along, no fish
pushing up against the top of the water
like the lid on a pot. 

The house smells of good things.

I pull my boots off and
leave them dripping on the rug
in the hall. Nanny
doesn’t mind about drips; she’ll
mop them up, ‘cause a little water never hurt anything.’  

The table has a crack that runs across it.
I help her pull it wide
so we can drop leaves inside,
and pretend the table is bigger,
and there are always so many people here for dinner-
like the old days, when
there weren’t any missing uncles
or Grandads.

Potatoes don’t have eyes any more
after Nanny is through with them.
They lie flat, on the side of my plate,
beached in gravy. 

She glares down the
length of the table, passing the rolls,
and almost-arguments
go out like candles. 

Ideology has no place here
only butter,

Mary McDonough, University of Strathclyde. Mary wrote her first poem at age 7, after ensuring (or so she thought) that her youngest brother’s adoption proceeded smoothly, and just prior to performing (unsuccessful) open-heart surgery on a snapping turtle crushed by the postman’s jeep;. Mary is a PhD candidate at Strathclyde.



photo by Melissa Reid

photo by Melissa Reid

photo by Melissa Reid

photo by Melissa Reid

I found you, again
I didn’t expect
To see you, again
Forgot you were still
Around here, somewhere
Waiting to be found.

Your bangs, covering
Your eyes ever so
Slightly, not hiding
The glint in them, a
Dark border of lash
Around the glimmer.

You smile that crooked
Smile, no teeth on show
You despise your teeth
(Yes, I remember),
You always feel self
Conscious, don’t know why.

You’re wearing the scarf
I bought you that day
We wandered home from
Town in tropical
Rain, your hair soaking,
Clothes over the fire.

Hot chocolate in
Tea cups, marshmallows
Melt down, the sugar
Attacking our teeth
Firelight on your face,
Those lovely cheekbones.

It’s so hard not to
Think of the things we
Did, not to think of
The things we never
Did do, memories
Not made, lost items.

What was I thinking
That night, when it all
Seemed so endless, the
Story ongoing
No plain end in sight,
Just continuance.

I turn you around,
Just to see what’s on
Your back, anything
Only three small words
‘Loch Lomond, April’
Your writing, so neat.

David Rush is a postgraduate student at the University of Strathclyde. He graduated from Strathclyde in 2013 with a First Class Honours degree in Journalism, Creative Writing and English. During his time at Strathclyde, he served as Arts Editor of the Strathclyde Telegraph, and continues to contribute to the publication. He enjoys writing short stories and poems, and is currently working on his first screenplay. He lives in Glasgow.




The girls are here. We're all up at the window to see. That's their bus and they're here just for us.
          Ooh I can smell them, says wee Dougie and we all tell him to shut up, no you can't.
          We can only smell you Dougie, I say. You're Abraham Lincoln stinkin.
          Get back in your seats boys, says Miss McKinnon.
          The window's steamed up from us breathin on it but the girls are gettin off the bus and we want to see if there's any nice ones. We sit back down when Miss McKinnon says it'll be punnies if you don't.
          We're doin social dancin after lunch with the girls. If you don't like girls you're a gayboy. Back in primary school if you wanted to know who was gay, you'd say: are you a fridge or a wizard? If you said fridge that meant you were cool. If you said wizard that meant you were a poof.        

Photo by Federica Giardino

Photo by Federica Giardino

So it's lunch and the lassies are there too, on the other side of the dinin hall. We're all watchin, just to see if they do anythin.
          Which one would you pump? I say.
          Oh, just all of them probably, says Jeffers. What about you?
          Same as you, all of them. But no any ugly ones, you can have them! 
          And we're all laughin at Jeffers cause he's forgot there might be ugly ones. It's hard to tell when they're all together, with their hair and that. They look good when there's a big group of them.
          Here comes Mr. Forster, the Music teacher. Crap subject but he's a good laugh, anyway.
          Afternoon, you savages, he says to us. Eyeing up your meat, eh?
          And we're all laughin cause he talks a bit fancy and sometimes you don't know exactly what he's on about but sometimes you do, like he's no talkin about our school dinners when he says meat. Makes you feel quite clever.
          Are you comin to social dancin, Mr Forster?
          Though it pains me, boys, I shall be there, yes. I still maintain that I'm far too distinguished and handsome for this dancing business. Are you looking forward to it, then?
          We all say yes we are, sir.
          Good, good. Remember, you animals, don't be putting your hands anywhere the lady does not want your hands, all right? I'll be watching.
          Then wee Dougie shouts out, What if she's got nice big tits, sir?
          Young Douglas, never fear, you are still the biggest tit in this school.
          Then he walks away and what a belter that is. Dougie is gettin dogs abuse. Wayyy, that's you telt Dougie.

. . .

We're buzzin outside the gym.
          Be quiet as you go in, boys, Miss McKinnon says, and no funny business or I'll have your parents in.
          The equipment's been cleared to the side to give us space for the dancin. We go in and there's all the lassies, sittin on benches with their legs together. Their teachers make them stand up and they're lookin at us and whisperin to each other. They'll be more nervous than us cause it's the girls pickin the boys this time. I hate choosin cause when you go up to one she looks at you like you're mad for her and you're no, you just need to pick somebody. They start walkin over to us and here comes one up to me.
           Would you like to dance? she says. But she's posh English so she says dance like dawnce. But too right I'll dance, she's a beauty. So I take her hand and we walk into the middle. Posh girl's just lookin at her feet but I'm starin at her eyes and hair and nose and mouth. Awfie braw, that's what my grandpa would say, awfie, awfie braw. And she chose me. Wait till I tell Grandpa he'll be wantin me to ask her round for supper, oh shut up Grandpa I've only just met her. Mum and Dad need to meet her first, anyway. I try and be posh so she'll understand me.
          I'm Peter Donaldson, what's your name?
          Lauren Dresden-Matthews.
          Nice to meet you, Lauren, I say. You know someone's posh when their name isn't really like a name at all, it's just a load of random words. Everythin she's wearin is all tucked into each other, classy as anythin.
          Let's get this first one out the way, says Miss McKinnon. First dance is the Gay Gordons, so get in a circle.
          We're all laughin and pointin at who we think'll be best at the Gay Gordons.
          Dougie, says Jeffers, this dance is named after your dad.
          My dad's no even called Gordon.
          Yeah he is, your dad's such a Gordon.
          Your dad does the Gay Gordon every night with other Gordons!
          No he's no! Shut up, just shut up.
          So we start chantin. Caaaaaannae take it, cannae take it, cannae take it. Dougie's almost greetin.
          Oh cheer up, Dougie, we're just jokin. Don't grass.
          But I don't think Dougie would grass. He wants to be our pal, so he won't grass.

. . .

The dancin starts. It's quite fun cause nobody really knows what their doin. But some boys do, they go to ceilidhs with their parents so they know the fancy moves and show off in front of the girls. I wish I went to ceilidhs. Posh Lauren is good and I think she's gettin annoyed that I'm no as good.
          Do you like football, Lauren?
          Oh, right. What team do you support?
          I don't support any team.
          Oh, right. But if you had to choose a team?
          I really don't care.
          Who does your dad support?
          My dad doesn't like football either.
          And I don't say anythin else. A dad no likin football? She must think I'm stupid. I'm no takin her to meet Mum and Dad and Grandpa, no way. Just wait till I fling her about in Strip the Willow. She'll remember who her dad supports then.



Ross Sayers is 22-year-old Creative Writing Masters student at the University of Stirling. He hopes to be a novelist someday, if he can find the time to fit in writing around watching old episodes of The Simpsons.