[cw: mild sexual references and suicide]

Stretch and other poems

by James McDermott


lgbtq kids   are   five   times   more

   likely   to have   attempted   suicide 

      stretch   armstrong was   a boy’s toy   I had him

         when I was five   a short muscular blonde 

            wearing   black trunks   made of latex rubber

               filled   with gelled corn   syrup   fifteen inches 

                  but he could be   stretched   to five feet   by boys

                     who wanted   to pull him   every which way

                        to test   his strength   to test   his endurance

                           to see   how far he goes   to see   all he 

                              can take   but if   he breaks   or shows   signs of 

                                 damage   he is   discarded   by men   who

                                    account   for three quarters   of suicide

                                       the most common   method   being   hanging

Action Man and Ken

ken was   a fashion doll   with a dimpled 

smile   bent   arms   a head   that turned   who did   lines 

of clothes   ken had   friends   in alan sherwood 

in brad   he had   a girlfriend   in barbie

I wanted   ken   barbie   to be   just friends 

I wanted   my ken   to wear   barbie’s clothes

I wanted   my barbie   convertible

to be driven   by ken   I wanted   ken 

to live   in barbie’s house   with action man

who was   muscular   poseable   plastic   hollow

I wanted   ken   to play with   action’s man’s 

hand gun   blow pipe   rapid fire shooter 

I wanted   ken   my action man   to be 

partners   in crime   couple   of lads   bf’s


I am one   when   gay   age   of consent   is 

reduced   down   from twenty one   to eighteen 

age six I   had a five year old boy   who 

was a t y beanie kid   named   boomer 

a boy   with soft   pink   felt like skin   naked

bar tartan shorts   tight   ginger curls   blue eyes 

he was   full   of beans   under   stuffed   to be 

more poseable than   the other   soft toys

he was   labelled   with heart shaped tag   his name

birthday   august eleventh ninety four 

written   on there   the tag   attached   to his

right ear   a poem   on there too   which read 

I like being   noisy   it’s lots of fun

then I get   attention   from everyone

a toy   model   miniature replica 

to toy   flirt with   an idea   feelings

a doll   puppet   a pet   name   for dorothy 

a doll   a barrier   on a racecourse

material   with the intention of 

promoting   pretended   relationships 

James McDermott is a queer writer based in East Anglia, UK. Their plays published by Samuel French include Rubber Ring and Time and Tide. Their poetry collection Manatomy is published by Burning Eye. James’s poems have been published in various magazines including The Gay and Lesbian ReviewThe Cardiff Review, Popshot QuarterlyInk Sweat and Tears, SpeltDreichConfluence, Bitchin’ Kitsch, Queerlings and Dawntreader. James was shortlisted for Outspoken’s Performance Poetry Prize 2020 and Commended in The Winchester Poetry Prize 2020 judged by Andrew McMillan. Find James on Twitter @jamesliammcd and Instagram @jamesmcdermott1993