HCE received a lot of high-quality submissions for the Toys & Games Issue – sadly, too many to fit inside the magazine! So we offered some of our shortlisted contributors the chance to be published on our website. Below are just a few of the pieces we loved. This is a poetry exclusive – happy World Poetry Day to you all!

Keep an eye on our website for more great writing like this, in the run up to the release date of Toys & Games…

My Father’s World

Shirley Anne Cook


On Sunday mornings,
while Mother and I were in church,
my father was in the loft
fashioning his miniature world
of balsa-wood villages and stations,
with names like Hamworth
Junction and East Haven.
At precisely one o’clock,
he came down to take his place
at the head of the table.
Reeking of paint,
he sharpened the knife
then carved the meat.
When the meal was over
he ascended once more to his paradise.
Sometimes, if I’d been good,
he allowed me in that hallowed space.
‘But don’t touch. They’re not toys.’
So I sat on a tin trunk,
making engine noises,
as the trains wound
their way along the track.
I watched my father brush-stroke
his world beneath slanted light.
Large coal-stained hands
held each model tenderly.
Not one drop of paint ever fell on me.

Shirley Anne Cook is a poet and author of children’s books. Her poems have been published in a wide range of magazines and anthologies, and have won or been placed in a number of competitions. Shirley’s first poetry collection, ‘Turning the Map Over’ is available to buy on Amazon. She is a teacher and lives in Buckinghamshire. Website: https://shirleyannecook.wordpress.com/



Louis Gallo


The plastic camera
squirms with black light.
You, me, the dozens
already gone, a scorched tree.
Human hearts flap
like headless chickens
in a barrel.
Destroy these pictures.
They will not rub out of my eyes.
A cross rises from the chest
like a sturdy tendril.
The missing sharpshooter
hangs by his wrists.
He gnaws at the spikes
with his gums.
We have seen his face before
but refuse to remember it.
I could aim this spear
to meet the owl’s eye
in your brain.
Don’t panic.
The natives are all dead.
Buffalo float above the plains
like children’s dreams.
We hear they’ve made a comeback.
The jeep
rattles like tambourines
in our throats.
We are such sad,
rusting equipment.
Ideas pop like rivets
from a crankcase.
When did we disappear?
Who has taken our place?
Whom should I see?
One last domino –
all the rest have scattered.
I stand it upright and wait.
It begins to tilt on its own,
the final piece
that will take
everything with it.

Louis Gallo’s work has appeared or will shortly appear in Southern Literary Review, Fiction Fix, Glimmer Train, Hollins Critic,, Rattle, Southern Quarterly, Litro, New Orleans Review, Xavier Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Missouri Review, Mississippi Review, Texas Review, Baltimore Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, The Ledge, storySouth, Houston Literary Review, Tampa Review, Raving Dove, The Journal (Ohio), Greensboro Review,and many others. Chapbooks include The Truth Change, The Abomination of Fascination, Status Updates and The Ten Most Important Questions. He is the founding editor of the now defunct journals, The Barataria Review and Books: A New Orleans Review. He teaches at Radford University in Radford, Virginia.


Joseph S. Pete


An inchoate youth,
All jumbled and lacking guidance,
He confidently strode
Into the pool hall barefoot
So he could jam quarters into “Killer Instinct”
And mash buttons,
Extinguishing enemies and exploring a foreign mythology,
In a head-to-head combat arcade game
Where a dinosaur might decapitate a Babylonian Sorcerer
With a cheat code for a finishing move
He had to learn in a magazine.
Well, they kicked him out for not wearing shoes.
“It’s a liability,” they said.
“With the insurance,” they added.
He just wanted to be a nonconformist
And didn’t know how to do it right,
So he sheepishly complied.
Decades later,
He wore a suit and tie
In his newsroom,
And wrote up a new arcade bar
Trafficking in nostalgia
With a heavy pour of craft beer.
The portmanteau “barcade” came naturally.
New York City lawyers later emailed him about the article,
About how they had
A copyright for the most obvious of obvious portmanteaus.
They asked him to protect their valuable intellectual property.
“Bollocks,” he thought.
“Bollocks,” he emailed them back.
He knew fair trade law.
He knew his use was non-commercial.
He knew most things were rubbish, utter rubbish,
And this was the most rubbish of all.
You can beat a boss
At the end of a level
Through skill and mastery and esoteric knowledge,
Or you can not care at all.
You can advance
By not caring at all.
By not caring at all.

Joseph S. Pete is an award-winning journalist, Iraq War veteran and regular guest on his local NPR affiliate. His literary work has appeared in Dogzplot, shufPoetry, Pulp Modern, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Vignette Review, Pour Vida, Zero Dark Thirty, Flash Fiction Magazine, Line of Advance, The Five-Two, and elsewhere. He lives in the Chicago metro and was named Baconfest Chicago 2016 poet laureate, a feat that Milton chump never accomplished.