Category Archives: Fictional words

Black Widow- part 2

Where were we? Oh yes, on that afternoon in summer 1990 in the attic room where dust swam upwards in the beam of sun, we had reached the point where Magliaro invoked the image of Papa’s sperm stumbling across Mamma’s fecund egg and collapsing across its threshold in a pathetic burst of grappa fumes and tall tales of marches across the desert.  Or so I have subsequently imagined it in the aftermath of the act: Mamma with her chin cupped in her hands, listening politely as she always does when she watches the TV news. Never mind that. Imagine if you will, the intricate machinery of Magliaro’s brain, a classical model of a type: the creative bully on the cusp of adolescence.  Even with all the techniques of modern science it is impossible to pinpoint the mechanism of a specific notion entering the head.  We say ‘Eureka’, from the Greek ‘I see.’  What Magliaro saw was an image of me dressed in Mamma’s underwear.  Where it came from, I don’t know.  Perhaps it was due to having passed, at the foot of the ladder to the attic, the open door of her and Papa’s bedroom, and perhaps also, the topmost drawer of the chest had been left open.  Then again, maybe he had concocted the plan a while ago and been storing it for this moment.  As I said, I don’t know. While I was guarded by the Marchettis, Magliaro and Minchia went to fetch the drawer. Back in the attic they threw it down onto the rug and began sifting through the contents.  There were cheap white knickers and bras which Mamma had bought in the musty shop on Via Roma that was run by a pale, blonde woman who wore sunglasses all year round.  Later, in one of my first experiments, I visited that shop, but ran away when the woman asked if she could help me.  Soon after, a new supermarket put her out of business, but in 1990 she was still riding the crest of a local lingerie duopoly, and it is a safe bet that of my four tormentors, at least two of them recognized the same range of skimpy garments worn by their own mothers or older sisters.  That didn’t stop them whooping and cackling, examining the inside of the material in close-up for signs of shame and ridicule.  They found a box of hygienic towels and started flinging them out the window one by one. What was I doing during this time?  In truth I can’t remember clearly.  I think I was sitting with my back to the wall, sobbing quietly.  At least one of the twins was standing over me, as they had been instructed not to let me escape.  But all I was thinking about was getting the ordeal over with – they would become bored eventually, surely – and then I could clear up so that Mamma wouldn’t know what had happened. Magliaro pulled my trousers down while the others prevented my struggling.  He tossed each of my shoes out the window, and then worked the material off each leg.  My tee shirt was easily dispatched.  When I was in only underpants, the Marchettis looked at him for confirmation that the operation was complete.  He shook his head.  Only when I was completely naked did he select a pair of knickers and a bra from the pile and lob them through the air at me.

‘Let’s see you look like your Mamma, Vantozzi.’


A friend who became an elementary school teacher told me recently that teachers worry more about the perpetrators than the victims of bullying.

‘Sure, it’s hell at the time if you’re on the receiving end, but most kids come out the other side.  The tragedies you hear about in the press are a tiny minority.’

‘Bullies don’t top usually top themselves either,’ I countered.

‘Yes, but the reason they act aggressively is most often due to an abusive or emotionally neglected home life.  That fucks them up for good, while kids who are bullied often go on to be successful creators and innovators.’

Was Magliaro’s father, the genial, camera-friendly sindaco, a secret tyrant and sodomiser of his sons?  Did the mother, aside from running her salon, ritually humiliate him in some unimaginable way? All things are possible. Yet if Magliaro was simply born with compassion absent, then that is truly a terrible thing, and genome researchers should start the search for a cruelty gene which could be spliced out of every newborn to make the world a better place.


They tore a map off the wall and scrawled ‘sucks for fifty lire’ across it in ugly capitals with one of the pens that I had for drawing cartoons.  Then they took me outside.

Why didn’t I call to Mamma as the gang took me downstairs and out the back door into the alley at the side of the house?


When she shouted from the kitchen I told her I was going out and I would be back for dinner.  I wanted to protect her from the shame of seeing her intimate garments mocked by the so-called friends of her son. Our house was on the town’s extreme periphery, just one stubbly field away from the great concrete tentacle of the autostrada.  The gang combined to shove me scrambling up its embankment.  At the top we climbed the barrier and passed into the shadow of a gigantic sign telling lorry drivers to take a break every three hours to refresh themselves.  How does a camionista refresh himself?  Chain-smoke in a service station forecourt?  Chat up the bored serving girl behind her selection of panini?  Stick a few coins in the fruit machine then wish he’d saved them for more cigarettes?  The only incentive here was a dusty layby. Nothing but a view across the stubble to our miserable town: the roof of the school just visible next to the spire of the church where I’d been baptized.  We didn’t even have our own motorway exit sign; we were just an offshoot on the road to Campobasso.

‘Ten minutes’, Magliaro said.  ‘If you stay on the roadside for ten minutes we’ll not beat you to a pulp… and we’ll not tell what happened at school.’

I dusted the grains of dirt from my bare legs and adjusted the bra where the central clasp was digging into my sternum. The rigid cups were more padded against me than I’d expected, even though there was nothing to fill them.  As a final act before propelling me out under the sign, Magliaro jerked the knickers up my ass and smacked my buttocks with the thin stick he’d been carrying.  I heard the jackal sniggers behind me until they were drowned out by the roar of the first lorry that thundered by on the road to Rome.



Black Widow- part one

Mine is a dangerous business. Some would call it sordid, but I argue that it’s a righteous one, and given the economic and moral climate of Italy today, it’s a career just as ‘of its time’ as anything in website design. Actually I have an online presence. I find that certain chatrooms can be a very good place to meet the kind of people I need to meet. But I still prefer the old-fashioned way. I’ve got various friends who can help to get me into the right sort of venues in Milan and Rome. I’ll not keep you guessing any longer. I’m in the entrapment and blackmail trade.

I lead politicians and other public figures to compromise themselves with me, unaware that video and photographic evidence is being gathered. At the end of it I tell them my secret, the thing that could bring them down, whereas if I was just a normal prostitute they could carry on regardless, perhaps even increasing their share of the vote. It’s a simple secret, but you wouldn’t know it to look at me. The thing is I’m actually a man. You’re probably thinking now you should have known. There’s something a little, well, sculpted, about my face, isn’t there. Now you’ll be wanting to know about my physical apparatus, operations and so on. Well as it happens I have always had a feminine body. Slim, with narrow shoulders. But I did go to Thailand, and I did have some treatment. My chest was enhanced – and yes, I’m getting to it – down here I have the female parts, but – and this is the key – to put it crudely I still have a dick. How so? Well don’t worry about the details but I can tell you that it’s not so big and tape can do wonderful things. But that’s not what I want to tell you. You look like a curious person and I’m in the mood to talk about the past. I want to tell you a story. It begins, like many stories, one day…

…One day, desperate for popularity, I invited Magliaro’s gang up to my attic room. I was sure they would be impressed by the cobwebs draped like bunting between the beams, and the magic carpet Papa had won at cards from a Persian spice trader in the midst of the desert. I would show them the faded campaign maps pinned to the walls, and they would be so filled with awe they would immediately accept me. Magliaro smiled, idiotically, in response to Mamma’s greeting. She was mashing yams for one of her native dishes, and I felt a pang of embarrassment at the stares of the gang as they passed through the gloomy kitchen. Magliaro turned in the doorway and watched her pounding the boiled vegetable in a pestel, a movement that caused her buttocks to thrust out against the folds of her skirt. As we climbed the stairs he jabbed me painfully in the side.

‘Your mamma has a tight ass, Vantozzi.’

‘So does yours’, I said, not knowing whether it was a compliment or an insult.

The gang, consisting of ‘Minchia’ Squillaci and the Marchetti brothers, imitated Magliaro’s laughter like jackals competing to imitate the pack leader.

‘But she doesn’t offer hers to tramps for a lira a pump.’

At that age I was too young to understand that flesh could have a financial value. Mamma was valuable in so much as she cared for me; any other scale of measurement seemed impossible. So I let the laughter pass and led the little unit on, up the narrow staircase to my den of secrets.

‘So this Papa of yours was a big shot in the army?’

Magliaro was strolling around the perimeter of my attic, hands linked behind his back, an emperor inspecting some colonial protectorate. An ordinary bully would have contented himself with ripping the yellowed maps off the walls and trampling them underfoot, or scrunching them into balls and tossing them out the window into the dusty yard below. But Magliaro was more subtle than that. In class he rarely got into trouble, and most of the teachers considered him a mature and honourable character. He was the captain of the school football team. The fact that his father was the sindaco may have helped, and it would have done him no harm either that his mother cut the hair of most of the women in the village. But I can’t deny, there was something about his manner that was naturally impressive: a self-assurance in his bearing that marked him early on for a position of authority.

‘He fought in the second world war’, I said proudly.

‘That was quite a long time ago wasn’t it?’

I sensed that Magliaro was drawing me into some sort of trap which I was powerless to avoid.

‘It finished in 1945’, I said. ‘Forty five years ago.’

‘And how old are you now, Vantozzi?’


‘So when you were born he was already a pensioner.’

The logic was faulty but the accusation accurate.

‘The sperm that made you was senile,’ Minchia crowed.

Magliaro put his arm round my neck.

‘Only a black whore would take a dick as old as that,’ he said.

Later, as a teenager, I asked myself how much truth there had been in Magliaro’s jibe. I listened to Fabrizio de Andre sing Via del Campo, and wondered if Papa had been that lost old he-goat who slept with Mamma in a moment of lustful adventure then married her out of loneliness. Had I been created from a union between a prostitute and her client, from which Papa had emerged onto the street ten minutes later smoking a camel en-route to a grappa at the bar?

On a school trip to Genoa’s aquarium I slipped away to make a pilgrimage to that famous street. It was easy to imagine an old soldier doing odd bits of work at the docks, being drawn to the house where paradise is found on the first floor. And, walking down the narrow street between the peeling buildings that seemed alive like a coral reef, a fearful fourteen year old staring wide-eyed up at the shuttered windows, the thought entered my head that the same possibilities were open to me. What if I was to ask that scarred bottom-feeder selling roasted chestnuts where the brothel was, and then swim up a dark staircase to the room where girls with eyes the colour of the street awaited? And if I was to commit the act that Magliaro and the others so often talked about, emptying myself inside a strange woman to gain the all-important status of manhood? I panicked at what was possible and hurried back to join my classmates. Amazingly, I managed to find everyone clustered round the portholes of the shark tank. Prof Morelli even believed my story that I had lost them trying to get a better look at the suckers on the octopus.

It was half-true: running to catch up, I had seen a massive octopus clamped by its cups to the glass window. The sight was so alien that it made me feel normal again. Even to this day, octopi and squid have a tendency to occupy my dreams with their ink squirts and vast luminous eyes.


Dressing Up

Funny how
your disease seems beautiful to me
with this special foreign
language I dug up
like a treasure chest
dress-up box
of furs and silks,
old velvet, tasselled, jewelled words
made like gloves for the tongue
the way your spine
went from untouched honeycomb
white helix of bone
moulded and soldered by surgeons
unfolding into a brittle bike chain
metallic mixed with porcelain
how they found out
about the schwannoma
and you were under construction
the subject of manuals and meetings
the way they spoke of you in
their methodical medical rhythms
reverberating through
your lumbar vertebrae
translating what we didn’t want to know
over-production of abnormal cellular elements
without control or limits
spinal metastasis
destruction of peripheral fibres and nerve sheaths
corrupting the epidural
soft tissues and spaces
fluid cushioning the cord
these little phrases
rhinestones on your tumour
black onyx flies
on dried white faeces
dressing the wounds of the word

Rebecca Ross

No Odes for Toads

No one has written you an ode,
a love note, an unsigned valentine,
so perhaps it’s time, to pen you
a line of verse, the OED’s finest,
my bufo bufo,
to let you know
that when you waddle, clammy
as a coddled egg, my skin
wobbles to gooseflesh; so you see
we’re not so different, you and me
when I sprout the same pimples
you flaunt on your haunches,
your staunch, stippled paunch
-and may I just say,
that puffing lung tent of ventral
leather sets me a-quiver;
each croaking billow of
doughy breath blown
tickles the cockles
of my ventricles.
I expect no-one’s told you
that the dead-leaf green
of your crusty coat,
the whorls and knurls of your knees
or the albugineous bulge
of your eyes,
are simply divine;
they’ve only kissed your sticky-out
snout to see if you’ll turn
into a prince,
but since we’re being upfront
I would kiss the blunt, dank
jut of your lips,
without hope for a hunk
in bloomers or gilded
I’d just be glad
to be clasped under your
nuptial pads,
on a slime-strewn
marital bed,
because I love you
– warts and all.

Rebecca Ross

Looking for Louise

I didn’t care
at first.
She was neither here nor there.
But before I knew it
she was everywhere.

I heard about her;
horse’s mouth,
and all before,
I knew it was childish,
had my ear to the floor.
I heard it was unhealthy,
but I didn’t care –
wanted more.

I gorged on whispers
gluttonous ears
with adipose lobes
gobbled up scraps
feasting on fat and rind
any murmur or mutter
from the fluttering scrap book
of your memory
I could hear the shutters of your mind
flickering and stuttering
with her voice playing
over each reel
peeling through the top shelf scenes
and seeping through the sheets
the music of your wet dreams
the quickening beats
and breathing
drum of my lungs
with the thrash of the headboard
her laugh crashed and broke like a wave
and when I came
I heard her moan your name.

She lingered like garlic
on my fingertips
her scent slipped
through the darkness
as you slept
crept like the burnt up flesh
of a secret cigarette
it wouldn’t budge
from your shirt
and you must have known I could smell it there
and here
the festering rot
of the onion squirrelled away in my plant pot
the fish in my vent
the dog shit on my shoe
that unseen stench
the only person who couldn’t smell it was you.

I traced her like Braille
all over your skin
each pimple and wrinkle
imagined her cold
frigid fingers
on your prunes and your winkle
each mark I etched
on your back
only deepened the tag.

She left an acrid taste
in the purse my mouth
like bile hacked up
and swallowed
milk sallow and soured
on my citrus scoured palette
she rusted my tongue
made lemons of my words
and each crumb of mention
each titbit of tattle
was guzzled down whole
by this swollen toad nesting in my throat
kicking like a foetus to get out
the L word
I could hear, I could taste, smell, touch
I just couldn’t bring my gullet to vomit it up.

When I finally found my tormentor,
stitched together –
Frankenstein’s monster –
I was more afraid
of who had made her.

Rebecca Rosss

Surface Tension

I once spun a woman,
Rumplestiltskin-thin fingers
threading tendons to gold.
I soldered each strand of sinew
over a shining wickerwork of bronze bone;
wired her with veins of copper,
stitched a slim skin of mercury over her,
and slotted blinding eyes of silver
into the hollow crock of her skull.

When she was perfect, solid and still,
I slipped the damp poultice of my tongue
across her cold steel-clamped lips,
over the smooth grooves of her breasts,
down to the metallic between
her iron-gartered hips.
But I was foolish, hasty;
only when she bit and burned against my touch
I recalled the laws of chemistry:

She was bubbling, boiling, melt-
in-the-mouth slipping
out of the oil-silver camisole
of her skin.
I saw the waves of electricity,
the red-sweat of heat through her body,
as she danced in blood-
coloured gloves and stockings,
ligaments tight prawn-pink and white
curled on joints, barely covering
bones, whole, milk-melded and nimble
as needles.
She glistened crimson-gossamered,
cardinal, scarlet
as a meat counter,
organs draped around her,
each a pealed peach, pulsing like a vulva.
She told me everything in juicy,
carmine silence, her eyes seductive

and wide, as she sucked in her gunmetal tongue
leaving me cold, conducted.

Last Rites


He always got what he wanted
blut, knochen
he was my first.

He wanted me brutal as the German tongue
so I bleached myself
Aryan blonde
wore arse-skimming skirts
knee-high boots and leather
let him fuck me till it hurt
he liked it best when I bled
he said I was the one
said he’d never loved anyone
like me
so I let him bleed me dry
until my soul was starched
parched and brittle as deadwood
but I wouldn’t die for him
I’d kill for him instead
and dance across the biting bones
of half-grown bodies
children we’d half-known
it wouldn’t be quick and it wouldn’t be clean
they’d pay with their scrawny little lives
to keep our romance alive.


Ambling, wind-bitten with trembling toes,
cold-blooded gales snatched at my skirt
and snuck into my shoes as I dragged them through the dirt.
Standing on Saddleworth,
blue-lipped as those in their thin-roofed graves,
not hearing the screams in the blank expanse,
muted in one slice of a knife
by the man of my dreams,
who came back with his spade
and bleeding blade, or string
if he was feeling exciting.
Came back inviting me to a funeral in reverse;
I’d get to know them better in death
than when they were alive in my Renault hearse.
I’d see my breath hang over their faces,
as I knelt next to the pit he’d made,
holding the hot water bottle body of my dog
and posing for a photo.


But I wanted more;
wanted mine to be the last face they saw
before I slashed short their life,
to see my eyes flash on the steel
as I held the hard and throbbing handle.

It was the only way
to stoke the flames
on the burning pyre
of our desire
to feel his grip on my hips
and the sharp stab
and slide of him inside
filling me to the brim
until I leaked hot thick salt
from every pore
and screamed to die.

And then,
when he pushed me aside,
I’d beg him to do it again.


Myra, Monster, Devil’s Wife –
heartless, soulless,
cold and hard as ice.
that’s what they said –
but what would they know?
And what was I supposed to do
after they threw away the key,
blub every night?
Start a children’s charity?
I wasn’t going to get out anyway.

As I lay awake that night
I knew the grey rot
cement sky
ceiling of my cell
was the lid of hell
and I writhed
imbibing the flames
sweating and moaning
his name
as my pulsing pink
tumour of heart
shuddered and stilled
my eyes boring through
the hoary lid
I laughed my last and said:

bury me on the moors.

Rebecca Ross