HCE received a lot of high-quality submissions for The Brutal 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.

Keep an eye on our social media for more great writing like this, in the run up to the release of The Brutal Issue…



Clive Donovan


[There can only ever be one queen]


When Melissa develops a mouth she feeds on jelly
for five golden days of royal drops then stows away,
in darkness wrapped, coiled in home-spun silk;
her metamorphosis a mystery.
Then on the eighth day she bites and chews herself out.


Now her first task is to kill the others
– larvae, pupae, winged or not.
Pitiless she stalks the breeding chambers,
thrusting her stinger again and again into sisters.
The queens have no barb and can sting repeatedly.


After three vicious days of death she will mate,
in flight relieving fifteen lucky drones of sperm.
When the old ailing queen has gone to swarm
Melissa will replace her as the egg machine,
creating mechanical bees until she dies.

CLIVE DONOVAN devotes himself full-time to poetry and has published in a wide variety of magazines including Acumen, Agenda, Prole, Erbacce, Salzburg Review and The Journal. He lives in the creative atmosphere of Totnes, Devon, often walking along the River Dart for inspiration. He has yet to make a first collection.