Little Vinny’s – by Stuart Pickford


He’s next to the drugstore at the mall.
A trickle of women in scarves and shawls
sit behind crushed velvet curtains
and turn plastic pages of catalogues
not looking for a dolphin on the ankle
but photos of before and after.

Some ask about his years as a medic
in South Korea where he learned his art,
others survey the map of the world:
each tack a happy client although
Saudi Arabia has none since
husbands tell their wives it’s haram.

Vinny’s felt hat rests on the desk.
He notes that if surgeons are sculptors,
he’s an artist in the quest for breasts.
Like a hairdresser, he chats away
about Angelina Jolie’s hip flap
and how nobody wants to wake up

with nothing. They say his tattoos are 3D
and help women get their girl back
but those with battered pickups
and no Medicare have flat chests so
he takes special care they’ve something
better to look at in the shower.

They slip out of their camisole tops.
Some wear bras. He tries a smile:
Would Madam care for pierced nipples
this time round? As you can always add,
Vinny starts with the lightest tone
and doesn’t avoid touching their scars.





Stuart Pickford lives in Harrogate and teaches in a local comprehensive school. He is married with three children. His second collection, Swimming with Jellyfish (2016), was published by smith/doorstop.

The Box – by Stuart Pickford

(For Geoff and Sarah)


The cardboard box is so light
she thinks there’s nothing in it.

Unfolding the flaps—leaves
laid out as rows of hearts,

old leaves from lime trees
on sheets of tissue paper.

She checks her dad’s writing,
his fluent tops and tails.

She’d mentioned in passing
about the calendar project.

Her children loved rubbings,
a shape opening another.

He must’ve stopped messing
with the old Massey Ferguson.

Walking the copse, he’d picked
each one, weightless in his palm,

the flesh of green gone,
leaving the hearts skeletal.

She lifts out layer upon layer,
lays them around her. He knew

how to fill an empty space
without crushing the gift.



Stuart Pickford is the recipient of an Eric Gregory award. His first collection, The Basics, was published by Redbeck Press (2002) and shortlisted for the Forward Best First Collection prize. His second collection, Swimming with Jellyfish (2016), was published by smith/doorstop. Stuart lives in Harrogate and teaches in a local comprehensive school.



Ice Queen – by Stuart Pickford


He drives her to Lake Simcoe. At the jetty,
fishermen are heading out to the huts.
She’s imagining live bait and hooks
when he swings the wheel, swerves onto the ice.

Earlier, she’d run her measured route,
pushed a personal best with her GPS.
After her shower, she’d wound the towel
into a turban, dressed with her back turned.

Now, she doesn’t look at him to say,
Idiot. He answers by hitting the gas,
speeds towards Georgina, the Ojibwa island.
The Chevy lurches. Swearing, they tip

into the crevasse that’s opened under pressure.
He checks the wedged front tyres, tells her
to sit tight in the back with the heating on,
the engine ticking over. He slams the door.

Light weakens. Trekking back he finds
the car’s silent—so far across the floes
to the island. He couldn’t make them understand.
Breaking in, his torch cuts up the darkness.

There she is, upright; her body wrapped
in white insulation ripped from the ceiling;
her cheeks made up with glitter, frost
in her hair; queen of the coldest stars.




Stuart Pickford works in a comprehensive school in Harrogate. He is married with three children.

15 Certificate – by Stuart Pickford


We’d found ‘Nemo,’ then ‘Shrek,’
could quote bits to each other:
“ogres are like onions.” Later,
goofy bloopers like ‘Honey,
I Blew up the Kids.’ If only.
Vampire stuff was for girls.

TV filled the week though never
the repeats of ‘Dad’s Army.’
Attenborough paced the forest
of our living room whispering
silverbacks feared water and
here was a mountain stream.

Come weekends, the cinema
of the sofa groaned at another
‘Miracle in New York,’ feel-good
settling like snow. But now
you know how to hack into Sky,
watch ‘Fury’ with your mates.

The world’s knocking at the door,
my beautiful boy. Come Monday,
you incline your hair for a kiss,
set off to school with your iPhone
on which you could tweet jihadists
selling the women of Kobane.




Stuart lives in Harrogate and teaches in a local comprehensive school. He is
married with three children.