Never Walk The Same Road Twice


Never walk the same road twice, Dadda used to say, always with a stutter and a bit of spittle on the chin; one hand waving a short, crooked finger, the other hand clutching a bottle of gin.

Taking a big swig (our Dadda could make spirits gloonk), his eyes widened and his cheeks would glow in hellfire oranges and reds in the fading light of the paraffin lantern’s show.

They’ll learn your every move. Never walk the same road twice.

Sound advice, but only in theory, of course, for I had not a clue who they were – who exactly to be on the lookout for – and, from our neck of the woods led only one road to school, the sheriff’s office, and the grocery-cum-liquor store.

Dadda had ‘moods’, and he was quite adamant that my little sister and I (Both apples of your mother’s eyes!) follow his orders, because his mind was ‘shaped’ and functioned like those of the military kind.

At the break of dawn, (Look, the moon’s still snoozing!) after a thorough inspection
of our uniforms and patched little knapsacks, (Only three boiled eggs and last night’s chicken bones!) we saluted and started our march, armed to the teeth with sticks and stones.

Not allowed to travel the conventional way, Lucille and I, hand-in-hand, would start our ‘stroll’ at the edge of the forest, where the eucalyptus stands tall and towers over
the black swamp that stank of decay.

We marked each path, using Mama’s old ribbons on tree trunks and bushes; we were on our guard not to cross paths, so we named them all, from Sugar Cube Lane to Sunset Boulevard.

When the trees changed colour and the leaves came down in delicate feather-falls, our ‘roads’ became muddled—we were confused; pretty soon we were strolling on Sunset Sugar Lanes and Boulevard Street Cubes.

Every time we strayed, they would come up behind us.

Lucille spotted one first, a goat-headed creature in a flowing white dress, on hands and knees, darting from tree to tree.


Three times I was hit in the back, each time with the same range weapon, a fist-sized white stone, covered in peculiar scribbles and characters, black, and also blotches of tree gum and peacock feathers.

Our morning march soon turned into a morning mission, for Lucille was petrified;
most days Dadda and I had to
get her dressed for school, sometimes inside-out, sometimes back-to-front.

At the start of winter, the creatures seemed to have grown in numbers; we spotted them regularly through the branches, reflections in cracked mirrors, some with deer skulls and big old antlers, others with god-knows-what-fur, and on some occasions, even a few dressed in shiny black leather.

I plugged Lucille’s ears with mud, grass and, leaves so that she wouldn’t hear their haunting breaths, their hooves over broken branches and twigs that went off
like a thousand little explosions in my head.

On the first day of spring I came down for inspection, but Lucille wasn’t there; Dadda sat by the window looking awfully lonely in his rocking chair, his bottle was empty and his eyes moist with tears.

You’ve walked the same road twice and now they’ve taken my daughter; my dear little Lucille is gone, she’s disappeared.

You can imagine my distress. During the last few weeks of snow I had carried her to school, for she refused to walk where they go, she couldn’t even bother; and although she ‘forgot’ how to speak, and she seemed to have shrunk, she held onto me like I was our mother.

Insomnia embraced me with spiky white arms, feeding me phlegm, overwhelming my daydreams with all of its usual charm, helping me plan my final revenge, pulling me through each day closer to them.

After inspection one morning, the sun was already hot, I sprinted away to get a head start, but stopped at Mulberry Road. I hadn’t gone too far. Making a left at Wolf’s Paw Street, I circled back home, only to find that I wasn’t alone:

Dadda emerged from a door in the floor, dressed in Mamma’s bra and her favourite silk night gown. Even the deer’s skull on his head seemed to frown.

I gloonked his spirit with the empty gin bottle, getting in a kick, and also a throttle; four times I cut him, one for each season, and oh! what a feeling when Lucille jumped down from where I’d hidden her in the ceiling.

Imagine the look on Dadda’s face when she ‘kissed’ him on the jaw with his military-style binoculars. His face wore an expression of shock and awe.

‘Listen to me, Dadda, because I’ll only say it once: never come between a brother and his sister—and one more thing: never walk the same road twice,’ she said in a paraffin lamp whisper.

words by Ramon Ramirez

art and photography by Craig Hopson

Pub Religion


His brow grows thoughtful at my question –
vexed, even,
if you take into consideration his high forehead,
now crumpled like the pages of a shithouse magazine.
Tasting the venom on his tongue –
forked, no doubt –
he mulls over a response by biting down on his bottom lip.
He downs his drink and belch-orders another whiskey and lime.

The bartender’s eyes flash brass-belled pleas,
Go home already, lads!
but there’s no way in the deepest pits of hell I’m heading home,
not before the man with the magazine frown responds.

A heavy-set barmaid senses trouble;
she’s wiping away –
authoritative strokes –
the impregnated smell of cigarette butts
and stale ale from empty tables.
The front door jerks open –
the wind, thin,
yet strong enough to breathe life into the dying embers,
smoking to light the fireplace with devilish fire tongues.

The silhouette of a man appears the entrance –
axe in hand –
shower curtains of rain behind a set of shoulders so broad,
he could be a walking brick shithouse
wearing stained magazine pages for clothes.

He shuts the door.
The windows rattle.

A raven,
nestled in the neck folds of the giant’s leather coat,
cocks its under the man’s long, matted locks;
the bird registers its new surroundings
with a flash of intelligence
in the black marble of its whip-smart eyes
before grooming its weather-greased feathers.

My drinking partner breaks the ice
by choking on a cube;
spewin’ and spillin’ the rest of his beverage
down the front of his shirt,
over the cherry wood counter.

His face is pale,
his lips the colour of dead maggots;
no need for him to reply to my query;
the answer I’m looking for walks toward us,
growing larger with each echo of his heavy boots,
hand crafted,
the finest crocodile leather money can buy,
shining like the silver of his whiskey flask
reflected in the raven’s eyes:

Bacchus is alive.

words by Ramon Ramirez

art by Craig Hopson

The Man with the Mermaid Tattoo


The Man with the Mermaid Tattoo

He can feel gravity’s pull
deep in his heart
a graveyard echoes:
Not much to live for
now the kids are gone,
wife hooking somewhere in the city streets.
He pours a double vodka,
mixes it with the pulpy bits
in the bottom of a grape juice carton;
stirs it with a plastic Chinese take-out chopstick.

“No need to drink from a cup.”

The syringe is cracked;
the ashtray full;
the scabs over the mermaid’s nipples
on his forearm itch.
He leans forward,
kisses her full on the mouth:

“Never have your eyes looked so alive, my love.”

When the rat poison burns his blood,
he clears his throat, and coughs up bile;
he straightens his tie
because he’s got style.

The Mercy Hour

The Mercy Hour

Taste tranquility at dusk.
Emotion-dust settles
and all is forgiven,
if only a fleeting thought,
the day’s memories
into gully-knifed street bellies,
reshape hopes-
those glued-together dreams
that push up
from within
gully-knifed street bellies’
pus crusts
only to be picked up at dawn
(or trampled into tarmac cracks)
by the soles of shoes.



And so it goes,
the termite-infested closet doors busted,
hinges rusted,
a shiver and shake
when the truth breaks;
the skeletons come tumbling down,
a skull bounces off the coffee table,
cracks the glass top, stained brown;
a femur shatters last night’s vodka bottle,
and a rib bone, grey,
picks at the butts in the ashtray.

And there you stand
with your head in your hands,
nails chipped and broken,
and the musty smell of your towel
plugs your nostrils as it slips off;
and you ask yourself:
do I pick up the pieces and fix the closet,
or do I go outside and have a garage sale?

words by Ramon Ramirez

I had better not scratch

I had better not scratch

It itches,
this odd blood in my veins;
An irritation
that throbs irregular venom-stings,
tumefying the heart
like a lie whispered to a child: Come with me; I won’t hurt you,
words that dance
over milk carton pictures;
words that swim around
in broken parents’ cereal bowls.

It itches,
this invisible darkness;
wild, white fire
stripping away the core of the soul,
softening bones,
like a branding iron on the skin of a heifer: Sh, sh, it’s only a cow,
a marking that leaves
more than just number;
a marking that lives
under the skin.

I had better not scratch.

Instant Noodles at Dusk

Instant Noodles at Dusk

Dusk’s last breath puff up the curtains
in a flash of the post traumatic kind.
A crocheted-cliché,
peach-purple duvet
drapes the mountains in war paint;
Redwood generals’ shadows on attention,
and disorderly Pine infantrymen
struggling against the wind
(some broken, most wounded),
shattered limbs on display.

The war hero sighs into the bowels
of an instant noodles cup;
dumplings shiver
((uncooked liver))
when he whistle-whispers untold stories
of courage
and guts
served on government-sponsored battlegrounds;
no-one listens,
save spiders with hairy legs
that hang on his every word.