Frozen Moose

Lee Wright


The moose was lying there. I wiped its frozen eyes with my handkerchief and left it in the company of the moon.

Back in town, I went to the store, and purchased a cheap bottle. Buke Peters and his old lady watched as my numb fingers counted out the money.
‘You can’t continue this way, Ike.’ Buke was always giving me advice. ‘Do you want some aspirin with that?’ he asked.

It was either the brandy or the aspirin. I couldn’t afford both, and I wouldn’t need the aspirin until I had finished the brandy.

‘Just the bottle,’ I said.

That night I lay in bed and sipped the brandy. It was bad stuff. Judith fell asleep holding my arm, her mouth open. There were occasional popping noises as her tongue relaxed. I had been in bed for hours and still couldn’t get to sleep. My feet felt damp and the sheets needed changing. Snow had soaked through my boots while walking across the field to the moose and my feet were yet to warm up.

A shower seemed the best thing to do. It was 3am but that didn’t matter. Judith was out of it. I stood under the faucet and noticed mould on the ceiling. I was supposed to take care of things like that. I had a little notebook of jobs that needed doing around the house. I got out of the shower and dried off. The towel was still soggy from the shower I had taken that morning. In the kitchen I found the notebook and wrote Bathroom Ceiling.

I got that late-night hunger, so I looked in the icebox. There was half a tuna sandwich which Judith hadn’t taken to work, so I had that. By the time I had turned the lights out and got back into bed, my feet felt damp again.

By 8am, Judith was banging pots downstairs and I could smell bacon. I put on my robe and ran Judith’s brush through my hair. At the table, I asked for coffee. Judith opened the jar and handed it to me. We were out of coffee.

‘I’ll get the brandy,’ I said.

During morning service, I joined in with the hymns but switched off at the sermon. I was looking out the window, at the snow and the trees and the people. Judith nudged me, knowing that I hadn’t been paying attention. Father Dylan nodded to his wife and Francine moved towards the doors, ready with the collection plate. Judith pressed her foot down on mine and I checked my pockets for loose change. Instead of coins I found my handkerchief and was reminded of the moose.

At dinner we ate without talking. Judith read the paper and forked vegetables and beef into her mouth. I got up and left the table to urinate. When I came back, Judith sneezed three times in quick succession and I gave her my handkerchief. The moose’s handkerchief.

‘Too much pepper,’ she explained.

After dinner, Judith added sugar and stirred her tea. The brandy was finished.

‘Perhaps I’ll go for a walk,’ I said.

‘Please do, Ike. I can’t tolerate you when there’s nothing to drink in the house.’

In my hat and scarf, I was a man hidden under wool. I passed the church where evening service was just beginning. A different couple sitting in our place. Bunched together on the street corner were four boys and a girl, passing around a can of beer. One of them recognised me.

‘Hey Ike, you got a smoke?’

‘Sorry son. Hey, any of you kids ever seen a dead moose?’

They laughed.

‘Want to see one now?’ I asked.

‘No,’ said the girl.

‘What’s that you’re drinking there, milk?’

‘It’s beer, Ike.’

‘Any left?’ I asked.

They all laughed again. A few years from now, they’ll have bladders like torn sponges.

‘What the hell’s wrong with you kids anyway?’

I kept going. Fresh tire marks on the road made walking easier. My woollen hat became scratchy and I had an uneasy feeling. My hands were turning blue inside the gloves and I had to keep taking them out to blow on them. I lit a cigarette and hummed Willie Nelson’s Time of the Preacher. I looked through the window of a nice, clean house. It was warm to look at. A woman with a huge neck was sitting alone with her back to the window, reading something. There was an untouched cocktail on a table next to her. I imagined drinking it very slowly. Feeling it go down. I stood watching for a while. She didn’t know a damn thing about it.



Lee Wright is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. He studied under Man Booker short-listed author Alison Moore and is currently taking an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. His short stories have been published by Headstuff and at 

His reviews and series of author interviews have been published by  


New Black Country Poetry


By Charmaine Host




If you are behind your Perspex
and I behind mine
how can we meet?

Does your mask of protection
mean I must not touch you?
Does mine mean I cannot be reached?


But I want to be burned
by the arc lamp of love
scorched and seared
with connection.

For this wounded heart needs
the white heat of healing
cauterisation to stop
the bleeding.


Brain Freeze


When I freeze like a computer screen
overloaded with data
there has been a signalling error
a system shutdown
a neural pathway derailment.


Earlier experience has been evoked.
A sergeant major issuing orders
commanding troops


I think they call it ‘father transference’.
But there was nothing ‘fathering’ about those times
just yelling, telling, hitting, hating.


And I know you are not my father.
I know your desire is to heal, not harm.
But in those moments, minutes, hours of ‘brain freeze’
I forget, and cannot access your tenderness.
It is deleted
or rendered ‘junk mail’.

Good Friday


It was a good Friday
the day she realised that the ground
beneath her feet was solid
and that she was safe.

It was a good Friday
when love
was in the field
and shame no longer figural.

It was a good day
when she woke to find her heart was light
for she had found someone
who was her saving grace.

She could say more about Good Friday;
redemption, salvation,
sin and death defeated,
but she has no need
for she knows now about self-giving love
because of a self who gave
And in her understated way
she is so thankful.





What if
she is good enough
to be:
wife, mother, friend, lover,
client, counsellor, prophet and priest?
Or even good enough to just be herself?
What if
she deserves:
laughter instead of tears, pleasure rather than shame?
Or even just deserves better?
What if
‘not being good enough’
has been the cornerstone of her life’s building,
the foundation upon which all her choices have been made?
What if
this stone is removed?
What will
the landscape look like when
these walls of Jericho come tumbling down?
What and how will she rebuild?



First Fire


A stone is rolled away
and like the first fire of Easter
she knows resurrection.
Then she remembers her name.
She remembers her name as it is spoken
by the one who loves her.
She remembers her name when she hears it
in the voice of the one she loves.
And in that hearing lie hope, healing, gift, grace and beauty.
In that hearing she remembers she is called by name



Charmaine Host

Born a long time ago in Walsall, Charmaine spends her time equally between being a Church of England Vicar and a student of Fine Art at Wolverhampton University.

She was one of the first group of women to be ordained priests in the Church of England – this new direction as an undergraduate art student has come much more recently.

Charmaine also has a professional counselling qualification and her writing and art have emerged as part of her own therapeutic process. She started writing poetry in 2012.


New Black Country Fiction

The Leftover Men

Jason Jawando


Head towards the underpass, its mouth opening slowly ahead of you as you walk uphill. On a gloomy day, the sheer wall at the far side offers no light at the end; above it, a thousand drivers continue around the ring road, unaware of the gap below them.  Losing your breath from the walk, you pause only a moment before heading in.

There are two men.  One believes the way to Heaven involves standing mute, offering a magazine that interests no one; the other huddles in a sleeping bag.  You scurry on, no excuse needed as he’s sleeping and doesn’t ask you for spare change, please.

On Monday, the underpass is filled with the weekend’s detritus: matchday programmes, empty cans, chip papers. Someone has been sick against the wall and others have used it as a urinal.  The same two men are there, but today they are on opposite sides.  Perhaps they swapped at the weekend.  The man with the magazine decided to try the sleeping bag, while the man in the sleeping bag wants to try getting to Heaven.  You could risk saying hello to one of them, but the man in the sleeping bag has his eyes shut and the man with the magazine has his mind on a higher plane.

How long will it go on like this?  Maybe there will come a day when one them isn’t there.  The man with the magazine decides there are easier ways to get to Heaven, or the man in the sleeping bag gets there first.

Or maybe he lives in a house in Tettenhall and the sleeping bag was only ever a ruse.

You take a different route to work, or get a different job.  In time the underpass will be gone; cars will become obsolete and the ring road will grow wild; long-dormant plants will erupt through the concrete, covering the city with a thick carpet of greens, browns and purples.

The man in the sleeping bag wakes up as you pass.

Spare change, please? 

You mutter your excuses and walk on, but the next day you buy a sandwich from the supermarket to assuage your guilt.  The man in the sleeping bag isn’t there, so you take the sandwich to work, which is what you’d planned anyway.  The man with the magazine is silent.





Jason Jawando writes fiction and drama. He has had short stories published in Crannog, Ranfurly ReviewProle, Bandit Fiction and elsewhere, and a short play was performed in a rehearsed reading at Birmingham Rep.  He is completing an MA in Creative Writing with the Open University.

Something beyond ourselves: three poems by Jean Atkin


The Horseman’s Word

I do most solemnly take upon me
the vows and secrets of horsemanship

That Word I know but do not tell, hearing
just the gait of that worked-out Galloway,
all hard mouth & spavinned hocks.

Catch up & halter the pattering
unshod ponies, my Word in their ear –
I shall not cut it or carve it, paint it
or print it, write it or engrave it –
curry their bellies’ fringe of guard hair,
grass-stained skewbald, strawberry roan
Royal, Misty, Dandy, Cherry,
my Bobby Dazzler bonny filly.

Here’s to the lad that can always conceal
And keep a thing hidden
Now the words go, like snow off a dyke.
Give me a good doer without wind galls or vice.
Crupper that Clyde & fettle his feather
& keep somewhere in the kist the fate
of the foundered horse
& the meaning of names –
Breakheart Hill & Killhorse Lane.

The Horseman’s Word was a secret ritual ceremony in 19th century Scotland.


Fiddlers Causeway

What there was, was a lane between drystone walls,
that took the hardland down to the mosses.

What there was, was its steepness,
rolling with limestones big as your fist.

You might forget the dairy herd lumbering,
full-bagged, weary, up to the farm.

You might forget the stones that pressed
through the thin bendy soles of our wellies.

Do you remember the rush and stumble of their legs,
their piebald hides, their spattering shit?

Do you remember the wetness and dark of the lame
cow’s eye as she hobbled up last on the causeway?


Hard Winter

After two months, it’s about hunger.
The sheep are tamer, come to call.

By day, ice breaks its heart,
weeps heartless tears.

By night, the stars freeze
to our slates.

Just now, in snow by the byre,
a wren like a dead leaf.

In electric light, the cat, on a bale,
washing her paws.


Jean Atkin




Jean Atkin has published ‘Not Lost Since Last Time’ (Oversteps Books) and also five poetry pamphlets and a children’s novel.   Her recent work appears in Magma, Agenda, Ambit, Poetry Salzburg, The North, Earthlines and The Moth.  She has held residencies in both England and Scotland, and works as a poet in education and community projects.