Thursday 14 July 2022

A Crackle in the Code

by Nick Gisburne

She listens for a crackle in the code,
A tone to take her number to the top,
A hack to ring and redirect the load
Before the Level Niners make it stop.
The gutless goons in Rationing Control,
Too scared to file a deviance report,
Are destined for a dirty prison hole
When every cracked computer comes up short.
Result. She kicks the cypher where it hurts,
And patches in a rogue, erratic route.
Too quick for any override alerts,
The shuttle dumps its payload down the Chute.
    Enough to feed the Starvers for a week,
    And squeeze the Corporations till they squeak.

Twisted Dreams

by Nick Gisburne

The cellar, hot, is thick with heavy hush.
We pitch our keys to fill the broken bowl.
Amused, I see familiar faces blush,
While others itch to strip a stranger’s soul.
Enthusiasts, extremists, freaks, we thirst
For nightmares we were never meant see.
As host, I reach to pull the lucky first,
The sleeper set to share a dream with me.
I nod. She smiles. We mixed our minds before,
A year ago, the best I ever had.
In therapy for seven weeks, I swore
To ride her malice, mutually mad.
    We splice our minds together, skin to skin,
    And shiver as the twisted dreams begin.


by Nick Gisburne

Hello. I’m here to mummify your wife.
The process is expensive, this is true,
But think of what she added to your life,
And what her wrapped remains can do for you.
A goddess. Just imagine. Here, to stay,
A symbol of devotion without end,
Immortalised, on permanent display.
Prepare to make new memories, my friend.
It’s messy. I will prise her chest apart.
Canopic jars; in these the organs dry.
Egyptian salt, to pack around the heart.
And bandages; the best are all I buy.
    And here she is! The birthday girl! Surprise!
    I’ll cut her throat. You catch her when she dies.

Wednesday 13 July 2022

A Reproductive Tweak

by Nick Gisburne

Two prototypes are married overnight,
A wedding blessed by powerful machines.
Expressing unconditional delight,
The avatars receive robotic genes.
Upgraded from the programs they replace,
Their systems are superior, sublime,
But physical connection, face to face,
Becomes a mountain neither clone can climb.
Their interface equipment is unique,
Ejaculating data fast and free,
But only with a reproductive tweak,
A defect their designer did not see.
    A fix is found, though clumsy, imprecise:
    A double-ended digital device.

Sixty Ticks of Paradise

by Nick Gisburne

The city’s scarlet threadwalk blazes bright,
An artery for lower-tier trade.
The nervous and the naughty thrive at night.
Immoral expectations never fade.
The locals know exactly where to go
To book the perfect body for their kink.
Infection-free, no worries ‘down below’,
And every artificial limb in sync.
Seductive scammers prey upon the rest,
The out-of-block inebriated dopes.
A reckless jacked-in hookup to the chest.
For some, a stretcher terminates their hopes.
    Synthetic bodies, bonded to the brain,
    For sixty ticks of paradise, or pain.


by Nick Gisburne

Sacrifice a sliver of your sight.
Sacrifice a tortured trace of time.
Sacrifice the day, but spare the night.
Rise to meet the rhythm, not the rhyme.
Sacrifice whatever makes you whole.
Sacrifice compassion, pride, and peace.
Sacrifice the splinters of your soul.
Reach, to find the rapture of release.
Sacrifice no more you can spare.
Sacrifice, to dazzle, to deceive.
Sacrifice, pretending that you care.
Give this world a message to believe.
    Sacrifice? How vacuous, how vain,
    Feeding on a feast of borrowed pain.

The Secrets of the Box

by Nick Gisburne

Along the filthy river, near the docks,
Two mudlarks labour, scavenging for scraps,
But neither sees the battered metal box,
The lettering, the leather of the straps.
Inside it, secrets, soiled by tides and time,
Forgotten, under centuries of silt.
The two, content to stumble in the slime,
Are blind to what such wisdom might have built.
More precious than the world could ever know,
The secrets of the box, the prize inside,
Uncovered by the river’s falling flow,
In minutes will be swallowed by the tide.
    Delighted by the artifacts they find,
    They have no sense of what was left behind.

Tuesday 12 July 2022

Trouble at the Tables

by Nick Gisburne

There’s trouble at the tables. I’m confused,
Expecting special pleasure as a priest.
The seven psalms of summoning I used
Have strangely failed to find our host, the Beast.
Belligerent, I bang the golden gong,
And, etiquette be damned, I kick it, twice.
Now somewhat of a spokesman for the throng,
My blasphemies are painfully precise.
The ruckus rouses Lucifer at last,
Advancing in a hedonistic haze.
His entourage of naked ghosts, aghast,
Attempts to reignite the Devil’s blaze.
    Ashamed, he holds a heathen orgy, free.
    No martyrs, but it’s good enough for me.

A Secret in the Sand

by Nick Gisburne

I find a stone, a secret in the sand,
And wonder why it shows itself to me.
A perfect circle, hot within my hand.
Upon it, symbols, signs I strain to see.
A map to mark the movements of the moon?
The mystery, I sense, is more than that.
Directed to another, distant dune,
The desert opens out beyond it, flat.
A vast expanse of smoothly sculpted stone,
Its patterns match the talisman I hold.
I somehow understand that I, alone,
Control a key, unfathomably old.
    I step inside and see the symbols glow.
    They call me, to unleash what lies below.

Government Guidelines: Friends List

by Nick Gisburne

Your list of legal friends has been approved,
Excluding some outside your social grade,
While others, deemed disruptive, were removed,
Imprisoned for the treason they displayed.
A mandatory, state-assigned review,
Of citizens with whom you interact,
Confirms that some, but, luckily, not you,
Installed illegal counter-code when tracked.
This government is pleased to now report
The list, with some redactions, is complete.
Do not attempt to contact or consort
With anyone not cited on your sheet.
    Recorded pages in this package: one.
    Your friends, your list, from now, forever: none.

Monday 11 July 2022

The Butcher

by Nick Gisburne

The butcher breaks a ration pack of meat
To satisfy a thousand starving souls,
But other sources, smuggled from the street,
Are found to feed the tower he controls.
No animals survived the Great Malaise;
The labs alone supply his block with beef,
But, in these tense, intolerable times,
The truth cannot compete with blind belief.
With backdoor-bartered sacks of something raw,
Irregular but copious supplies,
The butcher’s grinder fattens every floor.
They live, but somewhere, somehow, someone dies.
    They know. They must, but none complain or care.
    The butcher feeds them all, with meat to spare.

Strangers From the Sky

by Nick Gisburne

My five-year-old designs a cure for ‘that’.
When pressed for proof, the proof is what we give.
But now they want to ‘have a little chat’,
And swiftly seal the street in which we live.
More science is efficiently applied,
A mist she made to medicate the mind,
And, while they sleep, we leave our home, to hide,
Protected, saved, by others of our kind.
We seem to be the cause of some concern.
The media, fixated, find ‘a threat’.
Enormous opportunities to learn
Are precious, yes? But no, not here, not yet.
    The world we try to help would rather die
    Than take the hand of strangers from the sky.

Curious Remains

by Nick Gisburne

She picks apart the curious remains,
The bones of crooked skeletons, the skin.
Most precious are their perfect metal brains,
And all the silent secrets locked within.
But force and gentle coaxing fail alike,
Resisting any science, trick, or tool,
Until she sees a strange electric spike.
The brains, inert, as one, contract, and cool.
Beyond the pain her freezing flesh can bear,
Transfixed, she sees them split along a seam,
And, swimming in a fog of frigid air,
Unspeakable perversions choke her scream.
    “I said this planet wasn’t worth the cost.
    Excuse me, miss. We’re tourists, and we’re lost.”

Sunday 10 July 2022

Look After Them

by Nick Gisburne

“Look after them,” she begs. “They’re not all bad.”
She leaves you with a box of silver keys.
A witch, you once imagined, maybe mad,
But now you simply wonder, “What are these?”
An empty house, with no one coming back.
Within, perhaps, the answers that you seek.
Another key, ungainly, bigger, black.
No harm to see inside, to pry, to peek.
Her living room is clean, old fashioned, quaint,
The kitchen cluttered, filled with copper pans,
And, from the cellar, whimpers, whining, faint,
Beyond the hum of old electric fans.
    Her pets. Malnourished. Sick. Or dead, a few.
    In dirty cages, copies, clones, of you.

A Way to Kill My Wife

by Nick Gisburne

“Propose a plan, a way to kill my wife,
And quickly blame another for the crime.
The swift and simple ending of a life
Demands the perfect cover, every time.”
The puzzle, at the interview, unique,
Is just the quaint conundrum I enjoy.
Impressed by what I tell him, in a week
I find myself at work, in his employ.
The fantasy, the fiction, falls apart.
Arrested, I am questioned and accused.
The stabbing of a woman, through the heart.
My prints upon the knife the killer used.
    No plan is ever perfect. Nor is he.
    His counterfeit confession? That was me.

The Resurrection Rack

by Nick Gisburne

Corrected by the officer in black,
Her bloody fingers take the test again.
Admission to the Resurrection Rack
Demands she must submit, to serve such men.
A second-rate machine could beat her best,
But this is not a measurement of skill.
The ruthless persecution of the test
Performs a purpose: break a woman’s will.
Already dying, swollen with the pox,
Today will be her finish if she fails.
Before the pain, before this brutal box,
They promised life, reborn, if she prevails.
    The Rack is one more level of their lies.
    The test is endless. Everybody dies.

Saturday 9 July 2022

A Piece of All of You

by Nick Gisburne

I bought a piece of all of you today.
The medium through which you speak is mine,
So, if there’s something you would like to say,
Behold the contract. Study it, and sign.
A thousand pages no one ever reads,
A jambalaya, laced with legal traps,
Bestows the freedom every speaker needs,
Until I taint the recipe, perhaps.
Protected, every letter, every word,
The chance to say exactly what you mean,
But, if the truth becomes a little blurred,
I can, of course, correct it, sight unseen.
    Say anything. Say why, say when, say what,
    Until I disconnect you. Free. Or not.

More Than Talk

by Nick Gisburne

They tell her she will never walk again,
Defeat the bleak appraisal of her fate,
But every word, the stroke of every pen,
Is crushed beneath the courage they create.
Determined to be free of what they said,
She lifts a middle finger to the lie.
Offended by their apathy, instead,
She finds another morning to defy.
Tenacious, more than many, more than most,
Dismissing every argument to stop,
When others fall before the winning post,
She crawls a mile beyond the point they drop.
    They may be right. They say she’ll never walk.
    But life is more than trauma, more than talk.

The Secrets

by Nick Gisburne

I suffer for the secrets I must keep,
The misery I struggle to contain.
They threaten me, remind me, as I sleep,
A careless word would cripple me with pain.
The secrets, undiscovered, soil my soul,
A tarnish on the silver, on the shine.
The life I cannot live, the spark they stole,
Corrupted, cold, will never now be mine.
A hostage to the horror, to the hell,
The knowledge there is nothing I can do,
I speak because the curse I cannot sell
At last, my friend, today belongs to you.
    Forgive me for the burden I must give,
    The secrets too depraved to let me live.

A Thousand Contradictions

by Nick Gisburne

The features in the photo don’t belong.
A crooked, yet profoundly handsome face.
The tangled hair, the nose a little long.
A figure of unquestionable grace.
The emptiness of cold, uncaring eyes
Belies that mellow, mesmerising smile.
Delusional, but infinitely wise.
A face I want to love, and yet revile.
A paradox, a mystery, unsolved,
A thousand contradictions made the man.
Around his distant star my world revolved,
A disregarded pebble in his plan.
    The father I would never want to be,
    But every part of him is part of me.

Friday 8 July 2022

Machinery and Man

by Nick Gisburne

Inheriting unfathomable wealth,
He covets what his money cannot reach:
Eternal life, in precious, perfect health,
A barrier no medicine can breach.
But cities last for centuries, and more.
Replaced, renewed, they endlessly endure.
Why not a man, with metal at his core?
Seduced, he sees the future, and the cure.
The assets of an empire build his dreams,
Impossible complexities resolved,
A body of astonishing extremes,
Machinery and man, combined, evolved.
    With only steel and circuits in his head,
    The law declares him damned, inhuman, dead.

Thursday 7 July 2022


by Nick Gisburne

If I can smell you, Demon, so will they.
You stink of stale cigars and blistered skin.
That underlying odour of decay
Needs pulling out, or pushing further in.
Your colour? Always loved it. Blood and black,
A timeless, classic combination. Fine.
But all that pagan magic on your back?
No spells. I mean it. I will snap your spine.
The claws can stay, the horns will have to go.
I’m thinking what to about your tail.
I know it took you seven years to grow,
But sitting on a stump is not a fail.
    It’s Christmas, so relax, they’re just my folks.
    They’re Mormons, though. No booze. No Jesus jokes.

Proud of Every Piece

by Nick Gisburne

She kills, but always keeps their living hearts,
In bleak machines, in cabinets of glass.
Their eyes survive, with other, precious parts,
Preserved in pretty cages, bronze and brass.
A throat, a voice, a neck, from chin to chest,
When fitted to the bellows in a box,
Repeats the final pleading of the guest,
Rekindled with a stream of sparks and shocks.
The favoured few, undead, undamaged, whole,
Are whipped and worked, automatons, her slaves,
And sometimes, from the darkness of her soul,
She drags a dream, demanding what she craves.
    Curator, killer, proud of every piece,
    An artist, filled with rage she must release.

The Sisters of Secretia

by Nick Gisburne

The Sisters of Secretia tend the Nest,
Euphoric in the strands of seeping silk.
Their bodies, born to burn, to bleed, are blessed
To purify the poisons of its milk.
Infected fibres, tendrils of decay,
Enfold the fevered flesh of those who serve.
A feculent miasma, cold and grey,
Exposes and enlightens every nerve.
The Nest selects a sacrifice, a slave.
Her Sisters hum a hymn of grief and grace.
Voracious for the fertile flesh they crave,
Appalling swarms of sickness flood her face.
    The Nest, replete, releases its reward,
    A filthy milk, to feed a starving horde.

Wednesday 6 July 2022

Finally Revealed

by Nick Gisburne

How devious, how dangerous, you are,
An avalanche of swagger and contempt.
Deceptions, tangled, twisted, shield your star
With lies, a hive of treacherous intent.
Corruption is concealed, mistakes ignored,
Denials part and parcel of the game,
And any broken pieces on the board
Are swept aside, while others take the blame.
The forgery is finally revealed.
Your former friends betray the beast beneath,
Too stubborn, even now, exposed, to yield,
A tyrant, without weapons, without teeth.
    Surrender. Now. Accept the fate we planned.
    We do not ask or offer. We demand.

Tuesday 5 July 2022

Flip the Feed

by Nick Gisburne

The tower shafts, impossible to climb,
Are swamped with greasy sewage from above,
But, as the curfew cannons mark the time,
She activates a treasured traction glove.
A copper locket holds her father’s face,
A hologram she captured as a kid.
The glove he gave her saved him, twice, in space.
The government who failed him never did.
She hauls herself to decadence, to greed,
The opulent abundance of the Ring.
On high, among the pipes, she flips the feed,
A simple but extraordinary thing.
    A message to the mighty where they sit,
    A thousand tons of toxic human shit.

She Is

by Nick Gisburne

A ghost, a nightmare, always near, she is.
Reminders of forgotten fear, she is.
The pain of every tortured nerve, she is.
Whatever damage you deserve, she is.
A broken promise, never whole, she is.
When love is not inside your soul, she is.
Suspicion, scratching at your sight, she is.
The wickedness you failed to fight, she is.
The anguish of a crippled heart, she is.
A chain your weakness pulled apart, she is.
The woman only you could hurt, she is.
Abandoned in the dust, the dirt, she is.
    They speak of her in whispers: “She was his.”
    And in your dreams, your misery, she is.


by Nick Gisburne

Her body pinned, constricted at the neck,
He shaves the insurrection from her skull,
A warning to the watchers on the deck:
Identity is nothing for a Null.
Seditious twists, forbidden beads and braids,
In symmetries too subtle to be seen,
Are shorn and scraped with blunt, unpolished blades,
A crimson smear where meaning might have been.
Injustice done, he throws her to the floor,
And waits for her to thank him. She does not.
A ripple from the Nulls; their pleas implore
Their sister to be servile or be shot.
    She mourns for it. The hair was all she had.
    Defiant, she will die, and she is glad.

Monday 4 July 2022

The Smallest Step

by Nick Gisburne

Not brave. Not that. Determined is the word,
To battle all the bullshit of the day.
Disabled? No, I’m over that. You heard.
I’m punished by the worries in my way.
I’ll race you, and I’ll beat you, fair and square.
The only way to stop me is a step.
I’m rolling like the road was never there,
And suddenly I’m not. A problem? Yep.
Look hard. Look harder. Tell me what you see.
A wonderland for walkers, not for wheels.
Imagine you were sitting here, with me.
You see it? I do. This is how it feels.
    The smallest step is bigger than you know,
    But take them all away, and watch me go.

Somewhere Not So Hot

by Nick Gisburne

The halls of Hell are locked to sinners, sealed.
The gates which guard Eternity are not.
The damned, their crimes successfully appealed,
Are psyched to shower somewhere not so hot.
Indecent demons sizzle on the ice,
Their passion pokers shrinking, shrivelled, cold,
While minor monsters check the small print, twice,
Before they start to steal Jehovah’s gold.
The occupying angels are upset,
Their whiteness stained by heathen shades of red,
But Jesus warns, “You ain’t seen nothing yet,
Until you’ve had the Devil in your bed.”
    The beard, the boss, the magic man upstairs,
    Is done with it, and simply sighs, “Who cares?”

At the Breach

by Nick Gisburne

Our ships, our souls, assemble at the Breach,
The best of us, to turn away the tide.
The prophecies are punishments; they teach
Apocalypse, but never how to hide.
We failed to see the limits of the lie,
The fallacy that each of us, unique,
Oblivious, untroubled, could defy
A destiny so infinitely bleak.
And so we fight, in unison, in space,
A terror unimaginably vast.
The endlessly expanding human race
Has met its match, its nemesis, at last.
    Outclassed, outgunned, outnumbered, sevenfold,
    We gather at the Breach, the brave, the bold.

A Secular Assassin

by Nick Gisburne

Ignored, she knows that time is on her side,
But none will hurry here to let her in.
A surly watchman, taller, just, than wide,
Identifies the markers on her pin.
Her legion is unwelcome in the Wilds,
A secular assassin least of all.
His eyes, disdainful, wicked, like a child’s,
Dismiss her, but he opens up the wall.
The soldier priests are pleased to let her pass,
Unwilling to conceive she comes for them.
The name, the crime, the sentence, carved in glass,
Bestows in her the power to condemn.
    She finds him, sleeping, just a boy, in bed,
    And sends a single bullet through his head.

Sunday 3 July 2022

The Cinder Seller

by Nick Gisburne

A shadow in the dirt, among the dogs,
The cinder seller medicates her skin.
A morning of insanitary smogs
Is promised, if the Weather Sat will spin.
The Flawless, in the Spindles of the Wheel,
Are pumped and primed with zero-algae air,
But she, a Squalid, far too blue to heal,
Delivers dirt to bums beyond repair.
Her cinders, scraped from filters in the Fan,
Will suck the slime from breathers thick with snot.
She trades for trash, for carbon if she can,
Whatever shit they steal, however hot.
    Another dying orphan cracks a smile,
    Excited for a cinder from the pile.

A Precious Relic

by Nick Gisburne

The guard is ancient. Always, he’s asleep,
The company too poor to pay a pro.
Beyond his broken snores, disguised, I creep,
Behind the crates of carvings, to the crow.
He stares in silence, sees inside my soul,
A riddle of antiquity, a rock.
A precious relic, he alone is whole,
The last, perhaps the greatest, of his flock.
The hands of heathens touch him every day,
Enslaved by superstition, backward, blind.
Revealed at last, I come to steal away
A talisman the gods themselves designed.
    The guard is ancient. Had I wondered why,
    My hopes would not be dead, and nor would I.

The Knocking Box

by Nick Gisburne

Her eyes are only inches from the box.
She scans the circles, dusky, deeply etched,
Bewildered by the rapid, rhythmic knocks,
Which quicken as her fingers shake, outstretched.
Relentless repetitions, waves of sound,
Reverberating echoes round the room,
Provoke emotions fearful and profound,
A spiral of delight, despair, and doom.
A simple touch evaporates the lock;
The cypher of the circles disappears.
Recoiling at the sight inside, the shock,
She flinches as a sound assaults her ears.
    Two screams of joy, enough to wake the dead.
    Two sweaty fairies, banging on a bed.

Saturday 2 July 2022

Night Is All I Know

by Nick Gisburne

“Come out! Come out!” I’m happy where I am.
“It’s safe! It is!” It’s not. It never was.
“The war is over!” Couldn’t give a damn.
“Why not? Why stay?” I’ll tell you why. Because...
They burned the only homes we ever had,
And put us in this prison, years ago.
At least we lived, and one day I was glad.
The darkness made me. Night is all I know.
“Who else? Who’s there?” This wasn’t what I planned.
“How many more?” Bad luck. Bad karma. Fate.
“We’re coming in!” You’ll never understand.
“We’re here to help!” Too little, far too late.
    Forgotten. Not surviving. Starving. See?
    So many. Now there’s only meat, and me.

A Flaw

by Nick Gisburne

A fix to make the system better, best,
She crushes every weakness, every flaw.
Incompetent executives, impressed,
Imprudent with their powers, give her more.
Correcting deeper levels of design,
She introduces havoc of her own.
No longer beneficial or benign,
She patches with impunity, alone.
Convinced there is a bolder, better way,
A future without compromise or fault,
She works towards the moment, here, today,
When life, reprogrammed, shudders to a halt.
    A flaw. She sleeps, assuming there are none.
    The system waits, but who will switch it on?

Friday 1 July 2022

The Mirror of a Memory

by Nick Gisburne

The spirits drift inside her dreams. They feel,
To trace whatever twisted trail they can.
With slender, supple fingers they reveal
The mirror of a memory, a man.
Forgotten in the rubble and the dust,
The sediments of time are swept aside.
Reluctant to remember him, she must.
The portrait is too harrowing to hide.
The face she finds is one she never saw.
The shadows show a man who might have been.
His passing is a rip, forever raw.
The spirits stole her son at seventeen.
    A memory of what will never be.
    A mirror, filled with dreams too dark to see.

The Presidential Brain

by Nick Gisburne

You’re crazy, but I like your face. You’ll do,
The rough and ready knucklehead I need.
A pair of pistols, Deringers, for you,
And money for expenses, as agreed.
You’re curious. Allow me to explain.
The motive for your mission is a lie.
A bullet in the presidential brain
Will not complete the story. This is why:
He never was the president at all.
A clever copy, clockwork to the core.
The government, a shill, a sham, will fall,
A storm to reignite the Civil War.
    Tonight the world will tremble at the truth.
    Good luck to you. Good hunting, Mr Booth.

Something I Am Not

by Nick Gisburne

I can’t be sure. I think I’m one of them.
My senses say I’m human. Would they lie?
The core of any mechanoid, the stem,
Is built to bend reality, or try.
Mechanicals who don’t know what they are
Were banned before the latest batch was bred,
But avarice has always raised the bar;
For money, gangs will hijack any head.
My paranoia doesn’t make me wrong.
I feel it. I’m a sabotaged machine.
By all the laws of life, I don’t belong,
Degenerate, unnatural, unclean.
    I will not live as something I am not.
    If I am right I’ll never take the shot.