The Boy from the Badlands

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2017

Rob McFadden, he’s a bad un –
he’s a nasty, gone-off pasty
full of sweaty brawn and internet porn.
Steer clear of his beery back streets
and his alt-right tweets.

He’s a bad lad
an his dad said he’s a mad ed.
I’ve seen him eatin cod and chips
with skeevy teeth and rotten lips.
He dun’t have salt and vinegar –
he just has crack and poppers –
and his eyes are bleedin beadier
than Roy fuckin Cropper’s.

Rub McFadden’s lamp an he’ll chew you
in his greasy gums –
do you in the slack of the black eye
and keep the good un for your mum.

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Grubs

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2015

Nob Ed.
He’s a grubby little bastard
and he lets the grubs out, dun E?
He wouldn’t keep the blood flow out
of his grubby little tuber spout if he could, wood E?

He likes to pitch a big top
tent and in his white make-up tin-pot head
it’s meant as a compliment. Ignorant
wanker is what E is innit? Wham bam thank you mammy
when his clammy little mussel’s slid its way down your neck
and you’re sleepin with the fishies swimmin in your keks,
hung out to dry like his shrivelled little swiveller,
grubby little fuckwit in E?
Not like me.

He let his little chicken-bobbing, apple-handed,
izzy-wizzy-let’s-get-jizzy, smutty, silly putty
bouncing turkey baster masturbater out din E?

Like that bluebottle you swatted but it didn’t go flat
on the window, did it?
And its abdomen cracked and a million grubs came out
and it was beggin to be burst.

Ranger, Wizard, Fighter, Thief

by Chris Buchanan
Short story, 2014
The four of them embark on an epic quest to defeat a mighty evil, as anyone can tell by looking at them. They are brave and true, as you’d assume. What might surprise you is how bloody annoying they are.

First

There were four of them, which is not at all unusual with this sort of gang. As is the custom, they were as diverse in appearance as any four people could be. An elf, a wizard, a knight and a barbarian. Daggers, staff, sword, hammer. The corners of the world. How these little groups meet and end up as friends quite so often is a mystery, but they do and these had.

The travellers ducked into a quaint old hay barn, following the wave of the kindly farmer who had lent them shelter. They saw dry, cracked muck, scrap wood and rusted equipment. Moonlight on a butcher table, maybe. Hardly a heroes’ welcome, but they felt it was better than another night outdoors with a little more gold in their pack.

The barbarian dumped their supplies and his weapon immediately and asked for more beer the moment he was seated. He wore the uniform of his people: long, fair hair, straps and buckles, furry pauldrons and greasy skin.

The pale elf with the blades and leather all over him leaned in, slightly as he could, and muttered, “There are two kinds of hospitality on the road, my friend: those where we get drunk and make allies, and those where something else happens. I fear this is one of the latter.”

Respectfully, “Aye, Swicewise.”

Swicewise, his name. Continue reading

Zoe in Me

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2014

I used to gaze into my navel all the time. It’s deep
and big, and clever and quiet. It seemed
like I could never get enough, all warm guts
and playful, static fluff and special smells
that seemed to tell of things you could only see
from the inside of a t-shirt, sized XXXL.
It was the navel of a poet.

Some poets have holes in their hearts, empty
and sucking like wounds, lonely, hungry
and down in the dumps of their chests,
but my blood pumps fine. It’s just red wine
and pasta and pies that sluice through tubes
and patter on my breast ’til I come to rest
an eye on my belly.

But Zoe is stuck in the button. Five years
it’s been now, and I curl up and tell her,
get out! You’re the girl that got away, yeah?
So get the fuck away and get out my curly hair.
She’s cluttering up my space, living in my place
and lately every pissing poem’s still about her.
It’s just embarrassing.

I want my navel back, blissfully empty, mysterious,
black with the absence of certain knowledge –
serious, studious, moody as fuck and bleak
as an ink blot period – a great big belt line firmly
buckled under it and locked up. I want to look
under my skin, get wise, see it all, from A to Y
and write about that.

Let me gaze into eternity,
feel empty,
mutter wisdom and musty skin
again.

Slug Guts, or Entosthia Gymnosalianga

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2013
From the collection Growing Up Too Fast

A boy spread strawberry jam on his toast, his father watched
and they stood a minute.
How come strawberries taste wet and bitter, he asked,
but jam is good and sticky?

The father looked over the tinged brown glasses he kept
from another century.
Because strawberry jam, he brass-rasped, nearly wept,
is raw slug slurry.

The stuff of ground, slain slugs is just too delicious,
so we call it squashed berries.
We grown-ups say it’s jam, tar our lives complicit
in sweet, shared atrocity.

Slugs’ organs are too tasty not to eat, the boy heard
and stale nose-breath eased onto him.
Strawberry jam is a clever word, lad. An old word.
A good word. A euphemism.

The father’s rusty eyes, round, brown, rested
and the boy glanced about.
His fingers stuck to the jar’s surface
where the juice had gotten out.

His flecked red tongue firmed in his mouth, clinging
at stained teeth like a prisoner.
The residue in his throat sucked, unreasoning,
begging for slime and moisture.

The father said, they bury the skins in the mud. His eyes
seemed heavy on his skull.
Each speck is scraped from flesh, slid off knives
’til the jam men’s pits are full.

The father’s iron, scratched hands scooped the toast
and the jaws did their lifework.
There are always good words, groaned his hard throat
with pip cracks and red slurps.

The boy reeled, reading ingredients, his father fed
and they stood a minute.
There were clever words in the kitchen and there was bread.
The jam was good and sticky.

MOTHER OF SNAILS (catfish)

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2013

See the big black one?
It lives in tropical South American rivers
and floodplain lakes and it says here
it’s called the MOTHER OF SNAILS
(catfish).

She’s a TITAN in her tank!
Plated powder-black, sat still,
watching with a milky filmed eye,
obscured to protect your sanity
for what good it may do.
You have come to the basement aquarium
and you have seen the LEVIATHAN.

The base of this glass is like the depths
of the Earth. The MOTHER OF SNAILS
(catfish) waits, observing the darting,
open-mouthed wretches before her, weird
like a darker Pluto under water (or a catfish).

oxydoras_niger11

She is CREATOR
of snails
(catfish)
sifting the sands for detritus
and life and spitting it out
with her sort of

funny, Poirot mustache, a-
it’s a catfish.

Spider Spiding

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2012

I saw a spider spiding
and you know it saw me too.
You’re not supposed to see them spide.
They always know when you do.

You’ve seen them spinning thinning
wettened strands of flattened flax
and standing, guarding statue-still
like soldiers by their cracks,

those black cracks in your paint-peeling ceiling,
the ones that used to be yours
until the spiders came and stayed
and spided and left you the doors.

You know what spiding is to spiders
and you know you’d never admit it.
We all pretend they’re just trappers and catchers and
crawlers and creepers and nothing else in it

but they’re spiders. Voracious with it, traitorous,
pernicious and vicious inhuman little
blighters with their spiding, biding their time,
day and night as they wait, saving their spittle,

saving their flies, slavering hideous bile on their smiles,
disguising the spindle sharpened taloned legs they’re hiding
behind their manifold red eyes and fangs and other rattling swords,
there just to dampen the sickening silence of spiding.

If you see a spider spiding,
they’ll always see you too.
You know they like their spiding secret.
You won’t know what to do.