Issue 5 of illustrated literary magazine Beautiful Scruffiness. Featuring new and established writers from around the world.
Beautiful Scruffiness Issue 5 2012 Acknowledgements Katie Metcalfe / Editor & Publisher Phil Robinson / Designer Paul Watson / Art Curator Kim Pemberton / Proofreader Lisa Chinnery / Proofreader 3 Find us at: www.beautiful-scruffiness.webs.com Folllow us on Twitter: @B_S_magazine Search for us on Facebook and Myspace: 4 Editor’s letter So, you have finally found us! Don’t fret though, you’ve come at a good time. This issue is, admittedly, the best to date, with plenty of new writers and familiar names who will, without a doubt, satisfy your appetite for creative writing. For those of you who have returned to seek us out again, thank you very, very much. Your support is the glue that sticks the magic together. I don’t like to ramble, so let the creativity commence! I really hope you enjoy the truly exceptional writing and awe-inspiring art in Issue 5. If you have any feedback, we would love to hear from you. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a lovely letter to Beautiful Scruffiness, 6 Bute Street, Stockton-On-Tees, TS18 1NX Stay Creative. Katie Metcalfe. March 2012 5 Contents... 10. Skaroniate by Bob Beagrie 13. The (Almost) Suicide of World Man by Thomas Hendry 15. Dendrochronology by Clare Crossman 16. Lucky Dip by Julie Edgell 17. Martin Oblique by Brindley Hallam Dennis 19. Character Sketch by Steve Urwin 21. Paper Root by Katariina Vuorinen 23. Death Island by Daniel Petit 25. Control by Louise Pymer 26. Alzheimer by David R Morgan 28. The Soul of Charlie Marconi by Simon Van Der Velde 32. Found by Clare Crossman 33. A few dead republican girls by Rose Drew 36. Child Abuse by Nikki Woo 40. Mediocrity is not enough by David R Morgan 41. Offspring by Katariina Vuorinen 42. Scraping off the past by Rose Drew 45. Sharing of Books by Andy Humphrey 46. Sharm El Sheik by Angela Topping 6 47. Skin tight suit by Linda Mace-Michalik 49. Tasks for home and sloth by Katariina Vuorinen 50. The Sleepers by Julie Egdell 51. Your Kids by Jim Hugo 53. Kafka said to me by Simon Leyland 55. Iceland by Yinka Opaneye 58. The Scrimshander by Jonathan Firth 59. Elf Knots by Steve Toase 62. The Creative Writing Class by Marilyn Messenger 64. The boiling of jam by Angela Topping 65. Lines by Christopher Stewart 66. Mort by Becca Campbell 67. White Noise by Katariina Vuorinen 70. Book Reviews by Katie Metcalfe 74. Contributors 78. Artists 7 Literary Review by Carol Fenwick Beautiful Scruffiness 4 edited by Katie Metcalfe Katie Metcalfe’s fabulous literary collection fully embraces social satire, alternative, eclectic and humorous angles. Light and shade with huge chunks of northern soul – from the realist to the quirky, surreal, futuristic, to the present, it is all in abundance here. Katie Metcalfe, the writer oozes talent. Author of many works including One of Many Knots and The Absence of Trees and featuring in numerous literary magazines and journals including The Sentinel Quarterly and Teesside Artists’ Journal as well as being an inspirational therapeutic writer and workshop practitioner, her editorial work is also extremely impressive boasting a talented team of illustrators, artists, website designers and proof readers. Katie’s hard work has paid off, being entirely self-funded. This collection is sponsored by Paul Drew. An extensive collection, the polished and well presented appearance and overall execution of the magazine reads more like a book in its professional feel. The front cover “Bear Design” is a terrific illustration and Paul Watson, Philip Liddell and Daryl Watson deserve great credit for this and other excellent illustrations in the anthology. So for the content of BS4, from Metal Depression by Charlotte Ghost with the sensuous cacophony of words making you feel that you actually are at a metal gig. In fact mental health issues such as depression and addiction are strong themes in the collection of works assembled from an array of new, established, northern and Teesside writers and poets as well as those from as far and wide as The Hague, Finland and Abu Dhabi. The Intruder by Tom Haward about depression and a gritty tale of addiction in Redcar in the 80s by Sarah Dennis’ Drowning Crabs come to mind. Mental health runs through much of the poetry and prose with the Dickensian Miss Havishamesque character, in Bride to Be by Mollie Baxter, particularly poignant, this collection is nonetheless punctuated with some greatly humorous elements. A Design for Children’s Literature by Michael Brooks provides a hilarious micky take of the children’s literature industry while Evelyn’s Virtual Diary by Janet Olearski with the futuristic, sci-fi yet here and now social satire about mortality, the Internet and standards of literature is clearly not to be missed. In amongst all this is the creepy and apocalyptical poetry and prose, The Phoenix Year by Stephen Toase and Again rose up the Calling Waves, by Robert Allento name but a few. There are lighter moments with The Three 8 Davesby David Gaffney. Mornings After by Daisy Cains weaves together nature, realism and lost love together lucidly and profoundly with a touch of the cynical. Finland meets Middlesbrough in Kalle Niinikangas’s poem for Bob Beagrie, Maybe the Grey Man accompanies a touching piece about the Finnish air force and the author’s Granddad. The overall quality of the written work is extremely good. Green House Ganglands by Michael Pederson is a particular highlight with some terrific poetic and naturalistic imagery. I also especially loved The Last Witch by Andrew McCallum. The thoughtful nature of works such as Gold Waterby AJ Kirby discussing injustice and prejudice and A New more Clever Kind of Madness by J.J. Steinfeld are both interesting and insightful. From the lyrical poetry of Adrian Tellwright in Isn’t Life Wonderful, language of love from the Songs of Solomon to the satirical song style of Esa Ensio Hirvonen -Aiyah Leh there is also Horagalles, the cosmic pincushionby Thomas Hendry where myth meets The Wicker Man. In fact each piece of writing provides a unique literary voice captured to perfection by Katie Metcalfe. You have alternate character perspectives in New York Panic by Clare Fisher and tales of exploration in The White Zone is for…by Dominy Clements. Finale sums it all up. Ironically this is a collection you will love to bits. With Slice of the Moon Publishing, Big Eyes and BS5 on its way as I write it’s hats off to you Katie for this five star publication and your magnificent achievements. 9 Skaroniate Bob Beagrie (Skaroniate a.k.a. Moses Carpenter was a member of the Mohawk Tribe, who was part of a travelling group led by a man called Sequah. He visited Middlesbrough in 1989 and died in the North Riding Infirmary after developing Pneumonia). I know he understands he will never go home in the sweating flesh-pot of his frame in this world of physical things. My Prairie Flower Oil, my Snake Potion will not chase away the bad spirits that seethe in his chest, filling his breath with rattles and wheezes. The spit-damp corn fetish I hung on a string around his neck has not soaked up his fever. And if I were to lift his gleaming trumpet to my lips and blow a long, low note it wouldnâ€™t restore him. The nurses cradle little hope for him even seeing dawn, 10 and when he is gone I will pay for his funeral in this damp sooty town. Oh, we shall have such A Grand Spectacle: A circus parade! Bands will play As we plant him in foreign soil. But tonight a stinking river-mist cloaks the terraced, gas-lit streets of tired workers and from the trees creep moose, deer, beaver, bear, wolf, sliding through Cannon Park to peer into the windows of this darkened ward, where I watch his fish-mouth gasp and know he understands that he will ride home in the beak of a golden eagle â€“ (the boy who walked a different path) already it circles the steel works, circles flare stacks. I can almost hear its wings flap. 11 12 The (almost) Suicide of World Man Thomas Hendry An old man tried to hang himself in a girl’s back yard. At 21:09. The suspect quietly entered into the garden of 12 Bale-Worker Rd, and, having mustered the strength to tie a rope around his neck, hoyed himself up into a large tree. He was (if you pardon the pun) dead set in doing himself in, and, more disturbingly, he showed a degree of level headed self-control extremely rare in suicidals. When the girl’s young son went to play in the garden the next morning, he found the old man half dead, gazing into nothingness. “Be a sport lad,” the old git said; “go fetch a bread knife from the kitchen and jab it in my chest!” So off the lad went to the kitchen. The lad’s mother was baking, and like all good mothers she asked her son; “Where do you think you’re going with that big knife?” Needless to say, it wasn’t long before she called the police and the old man was cut down from the tree and taken into custody. The girl was furious. Her tree was one of the few tall ashes left in Oslo, and now it was scarred with rope burns. Now in custody, the detectives brought in the psychiatrist to work his pseudo magic on the suspect. Before long, it was clear that the old man was wise, intelligent and sane, despite his self-destructive intentions. Clichéd of questions, the psychiatrist asked; “Why did you want to kill yourself?” The old man named Varalden Olmai knew not to disclose the true nature of his motives, so, instead, he opted for the standard “I just can’t go on,” treatment. The psychiatrist was little convinced, as Varalden Olmai’s blazing eyes told a different story. Not only could he continue with life, he was entirely focused as never before. The psychiatrist chewed his biro. The old man was a unique case, and it was not customary for patients to be unleashed while questions remain unanswered. Then again, pondered the psychiatrist, so unusual is this elderly chap’s case that a loop hole might be exploited to release him. It was the dogged nature of bureaucratic procedure to release or detain him on set established criteria. These imagined ‘levels’ existed only on a monitor screen, but determined the lives of so-called unstable men and women. After a long day of interrogation, Varalden Olmai was given a cell for the night. It was a white room with bed and toilet, facilities he was happy 13 >> to see. As he lay down on the bed, his thoughts returned to his attempted suicide. I hung on that windy tree for just one night, given to myself. ‘I peered down and I saw the runes! I clutched them; whilst the forces tried to pull me back up to the modern world. I was screaming, clinging to the runes with my finger tips. I clenched only one as I sank back to life. Not enough time to grab the other ones’. He lay on the bed with a mighty song in his head, composed beyond the grave. A portion of his strength had returned. The next morning, the shrink pushed a polystyrene cup of black coffee towards the old man. He looked upon it with contempt, then ignored it. “My concern,’ began the psychiatrist, ‘is that I see no attitudinal changes that would prevent you from attempting suicide again. You show no regret or remorse for your actions, but yet…” he weighed up, pretended to inspect his notes again, “there are no signs of psychosis, and you do not constitute a threat to others…save ash trees.” The joke fell flat. Radien was doodling on a sheet of paper. He held up a drawing of a runic symbol. “What do you see Doctor?” said Radien. “A rune I have found and a meaningful symbol. I cut it from among the powers.” Discomfort showed on the psychiatrist’s face. “Do you know how to cut? Do you know how to read?” The shrink tried to assert his authority, but was visibly unnerved. The sharp blue eyes looked into him. ‘No’ he said. Radien continued. “Do you know how to invoke? Do you know how to sacrifice? I know a spell no one in this city knows, it is called ‘help’ and it will help you against strife, sorrow and every grief. It is a spell that will help you to make the correct decision regarding my case.” His eyes were unblinking. “I advise you doctor, to take this advice: it’ll help, if you take it, do you good if you get it: fetch me another cup of coffee.” The psychiatrist was not amused. He picked up his phone, and approved Radien’s release. 14 Dendrochronology Clare Crossman Unrecorded as to why in 1949 the Lower Wood was felled. Stamped into the circles of cut trunks were bomberâ€™s moons, echo of axe blade, the scuttle of rats, gunshots and searchlights, make do and mend. Sleepers on utility sofas must have dreamed of bluebells, the unfurling flap of birds, the quiet drip of rain on leaves as they rested beyond the rubble. Slowly, new shoots of maple and oak became branches. A calligraphy widening in rain inking a canopy of split sun, on a woodland floor. For without the trees there were no conversations with wind or summer shrieks of children. No place to carve a lovers name or hide, cold fires, no sloes, no jam. Nothing written on the land in fence posts, barns, or eaves. Slowly, years were set down again in wood, that spelled this time: the wide surfaces of tables, bespoke, handmade and walking stick, the swinging of an open gate. A restoration of everything, reaching skyward and pealing in ring, after ring, after ring. 15 Lucky Dip Julie Edgell 1. when we were asleep. Suddenly his face became distant He was a Snow hoovering Gold Dust killer. like he was watching the world through painted glass. Swallowing Fantasy Sweeties devouring White Doves. The Hawk was also his Rainbows, Stars, Sugar. I heard him on the phone once, boasting about it to one of his druggie mates And yes he took Liberties and yes, it was magic. A fuckinâ€™ bone rattlinâ€™ post-weekend three day comedown man! But it was the Northern Lights that truly Now what is the point in living like that? fucked him over. And yes he felt nothing anymore. 2. He stopped going out succumbed to misery without cause. Stopped eating stopped sleeping stared at his father and me with malice. Sometimes I thought he would kill us 16 Martin Oblique Brindley Hallam Dennis Martin was neat on his feet once skipped to a missed heartbeat. He was words too big for his belly Martin was but where dared Martin not tread and which road took instead of that which was his own? Oh Martin might have grown and been a man. Always alone on the edge Martin was. Edge of the world was Martin where he might have casting all aside that trammelled fled. Home was the fleeing to which Martin might have done had he only one pace at a time begun. Quick Martin! Run! Run for your lives before everyone who stands by to cheer you on your way friends well-wishers old romantics >> 17 all those who love a lover dies. Martin was asleep walking Waking. Love never dies but sometimes lies beyond our reach. You must let go the rope to find out which wayâ€™s earth which way skies to fall through or towards. Words however well they scan or rhyme wonâ€™t make Martin a man while you waiting tears in your eyes. Martin must barefoot across the grass over thorns broken glass hot ash to come home. There he knows truth lies. 18 Character Sketch Steve Urwin Sam Thistlewaite turns to Mister Bungle the Beekeeper for advice, doesn’t want the world to know about his third nipple and bionic big toe. Sam has a tendency to slaver slightly at the sight of others eating because no matter how much he himself has consumed, he always thinks there’s room for whatever’s on another’s plate. When Sam was six he was chased by a randy bull on an outward bound course, and would like to exact his revenge by devouring every rump steak he can get his greedy mitts on. Sam feels most at ease with his Auntie Suzy who understands his need to feed and lets him enter her kitchen without taking his wellies off. Sam’s driving force is his sense of misadventure – a curiosity which often finds him sticking his snout in where it’s not wanted – occasionally landing him in deep water with the wild women of Washington or the local constabulary. The first thing people notice about Sam is his dusty grey eyebrows and savage pink hair. His best friend Jessie sports green teeth and a yellow goatee. Sam would like to forget the time she caught him with his pants down in the schoolyard some seventeen years previous, supposedly blind drunk on a bottle of pineapple juice. In close relationships Sam is a bit of a baby and requires regular cuddles lest otherwise sinking into alcohol-fuelled nihilism. He is hopeless at helping others in a crisis. When Sam gets angry he goes very quiet but looks like he’s simmering on the verge of a volcanic eruption or about to embark on some stupendous bowel movement, but usually grievance results in a few packets of chocolate digestives being scrunched into the bedroom shag-pile and hateful graffiti scrawled across the yellowing woodchip above the bogey-encrusted headboard of his childhood bed. Sam lives for today, always flashing the cash, pissed on payday after a night in the post depot then scurrying off on another spending spree. Reckless is his middle name. Sam’s weakness? Absent-mindedness in the extreme. He once sold his Suzuki then panicked, reported it stolen. He often calls his mum Grandma and infuriates Jessie who is always clearing up and finding wallets, keys, iPods, tobacco pouches, toenails and missed doctor’s appointments. Sam’s GP says he needs to cut down on the cheese and onion crisps, the Pepsi, the KFCs and megaburgers, the kebab meat and chips, the 16 inch pizzas and All You Can Eat For A Fiver at Greasy Lisa’s or he’ll explode. Sam is actually quite concerned that he’ll crash and burn his bulk by thirty five but says he couldn’t give a shit. All beefy bravado and porcelain heart. He sees himself as some sort of born-again jumbo Sid >> 19 Vicious cum Jimi Hendrix but curiously enjoys Rockabilly and Country and Western albeit with a spice of Ozzy Osbourne thrown into the mix on days when the dark clouds hang heavy above his speeding skull. 20 Paper Root Katariina Vuorinen They were not the soft, calming stories of the bedtime which threw me a rope. A root. The tangled pile of black and white became comprehensible lines, then words, then a world. The first word I read was a sheep, not far away from a first word I said, a bread. Suddenly I was surrounded by fields and forests. They gave me a native country, similar and different as the spruce and oatfield that spread at the backyard. Food and clothing are enough to raise a child, said my mother although she did not say it, but did it. So I did not grow a root, I surrounded the days and a narrow bed with pages and sentences, with castles and distant countries with extravagant families in the middle of love & adventure, and there was a place for me behind a paper door. I do not like imagination, my mother said, it is odd and stops me from being who I am, a person in a prison. But I tried to make her to read a story. To see a world, to see me. She did not. A rope fell over a gunwale of a Spanish boat, fell down from a tower, from a dense foliage of an oak tree. I grasped it. I became very light and too heavy, lost the soil under my feet, in my palm I held a root of a dandelion, of the wind and rain against a black forest. 21 22 Death Island Daniel Petit Rejects and the twerps disgust with new inmates of the road On the frozen wastes that yield no lust for the Rosetta stone On its moorland path Hansel and Gretel laugh At the silence that stones their foes at the house of darkness and palace of owls Where the cursed were changed to stone Where Job cries out to the Lord on the straight street home On the road to Death Island. Dr. John Dee interrogates Houdini in the foresight of a glass ball And Yeats consoles the King who goes on a chariot throne so small Titanic tears show no solace and he whispers alone Where Mohammad bows at the Pauper’s feet where rocks and statues were thrown By the healing river helicopters scream With gaggling shouts below On the shores of Death Island. The Sodom and Gomorrah of the modern world with its shadow of death paroles With the book of Enoch granting every wish for thirsty priests in courtyard cold They’ve been living in shelters many eves and morns And forgotten all they know Reciting every psalm of Jerusalem With salt lake tears they moan For the layman asking for Solomon’s key and is abruptly told About the graves on Death Island. The Anarchist and Hindu try to exchange each other’s souls Morris dancers jig the floral dance for the broken black flea waltzing home Singin’ ‘spring has now unwrapped the flower’ Then he refrains of no hope To the sailor girl wearin’ blue under the Pole star she follows They’re posted out with the black brigade To Bohemia in base metal and gold On the waves to Death Island. 23 >> The life-giver commands his son to earth to shake the degraded world But like the Eden of Genesis giving life he soon runs out of souls With pots of clay scorpion Buddha’s cajole ‘A gift for every home’ They warn like someone did before ‘practice magic outside the walls’ Where Aleister Crowley picks his nose Gazing at the pyramids of stone In the dawn on Death Island. The marching enforcers of militant truth stamp out all that is unknown They don their shoes and tip their caps to Medusa who stands alone Filling up the camps and forts at night Where even today Herod rules With tidy hands of large company clans He speaks to no man’s fool Of the offerings of parasites charmed to rule On the streets of Death Island. Now Beethoven sketches pages out from Dracula’s silent notes While all the living dead are raised and sold Christmas carols echo on the boats Carryin’ Britannia across the waves To break out its own mould Pilgrims trail along the states where there’s a thief on every rope For wars are raged and tyrants stage Over the fields of doom In the reigns on Death Island. Alexandria’s Lighthouse torches the way for the pirates of odes Guy Maupassant reads ‘Heart of Darkness’ cryptically for Dr. Moreau His servants bathe with Cleopatra’s say Who’s dying of malaria in Bauhaus folds For empires falling ‘neath the sea where the tattooed Prince must go With mentors and mighty who adorn themselves With every single rule On the map of Death Island. 24 Control Louise Pymer Watching, waiting for her to make a mistake. Checking and re-checking before and after you leave for work. Anything can trigger itA smear on the shower cubicle, Undercooked, overcooked dinner, Wore that cardigan again, Put the hairbrush back at an angle. But, Slowly it is learnt, Some things are broken in the process, (It doesnâ€™t have to be bones, That would be too obvious,) But it is necessary. Then, There are some evenings, She thinks she has done it all right. But, there are always new rules written. After a while she forgets, Forgets she could make decisions. She waits for you, With every muscle in her body tensed. Exhausted, she floats to the bottom, No longer able to keep her head up. 25 Alzheimer David R Morgan The old man in the sea doesn’t realise he’s swimming. He thinks he dreams it. He sleeps there for hours; for hours and hours. The day won’t wake him. Time knows he’s as brittle as seaweed. Little old man. You aren’t as fast as waves and you aren’t as strong as jetties. You are resting here. 26 27 The Soul of Charlie Marconi Chapter 1 Excerpt The Beach Simon Van der Velde I’m walking down from the Ship Inn with a silly grin on my face and plenty of warm Lindisfarne Mead sloshing about in my stomach. There’s no one on the beach, no clouds between me and the stars, just the sharp smell of kelp and the breeze throwing tiny grains of sand at the bottom of my jeans. It’s perfect, meditative. And then her teeth flash in that great black hole of her mouth, and she sucks it all away. ‘Champagne bloody Charlie. Ha ha. Can’t you see they’re laughing at you? Clever bloody Charlie, with his witty little insights and his pitiful twenty-two thousand a year.’ Natasha’s marching up towards me, a screeching silhouette against the sea with that long coat flapping, and her hair thrashing in the wind. ‘Good old Charlie Marconi, always first at the bar with a twenty in his hand while his kids go dressed like tramps.’ ‘Alright, Tasha.’ I hold out my palms. ‘So I stayed for another drink. I’m sorry.’ ‘You’re not just sorry, you’re pathetic.’ ‘Oh come on.’ I draw her towards me, fingers kneading at the back of her neck. ‘Can’t we just let it go?’ ‘Coward.’ She throws her head back, breathing hard in the darkness. ‘Look, Tash. The money, all that stuff. It doesn’t matter. Not everything needs to be a competition.’ I’m telling her, because that’s what this is all about; Tasha eating away at herself, worrying what they think of her, the MacKenzies and the Daltons with their shiny cars and Spanish villas. I can see her now, hunched on that bar stool, testing and rehearsing every possible remark until the moment passed, sinking ever deeper into her wide-eyed silence while the rest of us shouted, through the booze and the laughter, anything that came into our heads. The irony of it is that they think she’s marvellous. Paul Dalton’s practically in love with her, and I can’t help but see why, watching the light spark in her eyes, and the thrust of her cheekbones, even as the poison comes pouring out of her. ‘Life’s not a competition. Well that’s perfect isn’t it? So you can go on having one more drink, one more laugh, being a feeble excuse for a man who doesn’t give a shit about his family.’ ‘Tasha, that’s rubbish.’ 28 ‘Right, everything I say is rubbish. I’m just the little wife who’s supposed to shut up and let her drunken husband do the talking.’ ‘You know I don’t want that. Why do you think I told them about your recital, how brilliant you were?’ I reach out, touching her cheek, needing her to know that I understand. ‘I was trying to help you, to bring you in.’ I say her name, softer now, meeting her eyes as she steps towards me, reaches up, and knocks my hand away. ‘Patronising bastard.’ ‘Jesus Christ, Natasha.’ I feel the dull ache on my wrist and I know there’s no point in trying. If I’ve learnt anything in the last thirteen years it’s that there’s nothing I can say that’ll make a blind bit of difference, not when she’s like this. Don’t rise to it, Charlie, I tell myself, just shut up and ride out the storm. And that’s really what I mean to do. ‘You’re a bloody fool,’ she’s telling me, ‘dragging us up here, spending a fortune we haven’t got on that damn cottage. We could have stayed in Newcastle for nothing. But oh no, you had to have your way. “I want to take the boat out” – as if. You haven’t been near the bloody thing. Look at it. Look.’ She points up towards the village and I do as I’m told, looking at the outline of the dunes rising like great woolly mammoths against the sky. The boat is there, hidden in the tall grass beside Greeny’s clapped-out caravan. I picture myself sailing her now, alone on a close reach with only the sound of the wind, and the cut of the hull through the waves. The peace of it draws me like a dream. ‘Three days and you haven’t been near that boat. No, let’s face facts, you haven’t been out all year and you’re not about to now.’ She’s right. I imagine dragging the trolley down over the sand, and wading out into that freezing water, and I know I don’t have the strength. ‘You’re a bloody fantasist. Walter Mitty. Always dreaming, never doing. So intelligent. So bright. So well-fucking-read, and so-fucking-what. The same crap job forever, because underneath the big talk we both know you’re too shit scared to do anything else.’ I grit my teeth and push my hands into my pockets. My right hand closes around a woollen ball. I smile: Penny’s mittens. My left hits something harder, a stone, warm and coarse against my palm. I draw it out. ‘You don’t want a wife, you want a mother to indulge you, to tell you it’s the world that’s out of step. Well that’s not true, Charlie. The world’s doing fine. You’re the problem.’ The stone is grey now, like everything, but I remember it a few hours ago, bulging through Penny’s hands in the afternoon sunlight, pink as a 29 >> baby’s cheek, streaked with a bloody purple. Rough, but pretty in its way, like Tasha. And bloody too. I laugh and the thread snaps, the torrent of words battering down on top of me. I hear a wave break on the shore. The wind whistles a single note through the dunes, and it begins again. ‘Fine. Act like a five year old, and then you wonder why I can’t go on.’ But she can, she really can go on and on. ‘Nobody cares anymore, Charlie, not about your half-finished degree, or your half-written books or your half-arsed life. Don’t you get it? Dalton’s got his own showroom, even MacKenzie’s making twice the money you are, peddling his bloody pensions, and they’re all laughing at you. Mr. Smartarse, still on twenty-two piddling grand. They love it.’ My toes clench. It’s that repetitive thing that really gets me, winding herself up to this screaming pitch. And beneath all these ugly words there’s a sharp and simple truth. Natasha feels pain, so I must be made to suffer. Not just me, but anybody who’s stupid or vulnerable enough to take it. I see Penny’s face turned up towards mine, her soggy trainers slapping on the road. “I’m sorry for making Mum upset.” Eight years old, apologising because her mother’s a bitch. I hear my own pathetic answer and it sets my head throbbing. ‘You’ve got to make allowances, Pen.’ Make allowances. Christ. I listen to the gush of water, try to breathe with the rolling rhythm. The sea is black, the stone heavy in my hand. I want to do something physical, hurl it into the water, let it sink like the weight in my stomach. ‘I could have finished my training, been a solicitor by now, a partner, living a decent life instead of scrounging for everything, ashamed to show my face.’ ‘You’re right, you’re right,’ I hold up my hands, forgetting the stone until she starts back away from me, breaking rhythm, finding it. ‘I gave it up for you. Dropped out in my final year to have your baby because you just couldn’t stand the thought of an abortion. God, I was only ten weeks gone. People do it every day.’ ‘Don’t Tasha, please.’ But Tasha isn’t listening. I need to act, to lift the heaviness inside me, break the iron band tightening around my head. Now, it has to be now. I know myself as well as she does, if I put it off it will never happen. ‘Okay,’ I say, ‘Okay Natasha, that’s enough.’ Maybe she hears the decision in my voice. She shuts up, looking at me with those pale eyes, mouth closed, a glimpse of how things might have been. I step towards her, weighing the stone in my hand. 30 ‘You think my life’s perfect. You think this is my dream come true. Bad things happen to us all, Tash. We do things for reasons we barely understand, and sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t, but either way we have to live with the consequences.’ My hand falls, thinking about my own words and that’s all she needs. ‘Hah, more excuses. More clever, stupid reasons for not doing anything, for standing still, for wasting time.’ She leans in, close enough for me to feel the heat of her breath. ‘All because nasty Mummy wasn’t nice to poor little Charlie thirty fucking years ago.’ ‘Shut up, Natasha.’ ‘And we know why, don’t we. Don’t we?’ A ball of spit lands on my cheek. ‘Because you’re a fake, Charlie, right to the core.’ Her face looms towards me. I turn away but she hovers at the periphery of my vision, screeching on, endlessly for all eternity, with her hair flailing around her like a nest of snakes. I cannot look. I watch the starlight reflecting on the oily surface of the sea. ‘That’s why you’re so full of shit. Empty plans that never amount to anything. If you’re so goddamn clever why don’t you do something.’ So I do. 31 Found Clare Crossman This poem was found on an October morningcaught in the leaning shadows of high chestnut trees. It began on a path walking down to the river, where six horses, one piebald some with a white blaze were sheltering in autumn weather. Sun holding everything, the day catching wings and spiderâ€™s webs, in the chapel quiet it waitedholding its breath along passageways where plainsong was being sung in the distance, and etched faces and owls watched over. Out of the corner of my eye I saw them in the gardens: seventeen just out of school sitting together on a bench. Her hair jet black, his cut to rock star perfection, holding hands trying for the first time to kiss. So this poem became for them: all those who lean close trying to understand, to listen and discover what can be known of love. And also then for those who find themselves apart, and have to start again carrying only a bunch of early winter flowers when the chrysanthemums are fading and all the distances are echoing goodbye Despite this hand that moves across the paper, these words that feel, on such a perfect burning amber day as that was. 32 A Few Dead Republican Girls Rose Drew The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. Martin Luther King Jr. That’s what is needed after Roe v Wade is overturned completely: a few botched abortions a few dead daughters [the more beautiful the better] female Isaacs of rich fathers, whose broken hearts will become their guiding lights. But not toooo rich, a gold card buys a lot of doctoring; a private jet can fly someone anywhere— to France, say, where Gramma goes for Alzheimer’s stem cell therapy, or Switzerland, where the Old Man himself is said to travel for Parkinson’s. Just rich enough; just loved enough, a female Ronnie Reagan whose Nancy dad becomes appalled, stricken by grief, repents. Already, multiple States have multiple laws outlawing choice, stayed only by reluctant Federal hands: hands now untied, unleashed, fists curled to demand Power and Obedience, crushing blows on shameless sluts across the world, to send them, weeping, into the compassionate arms of their Savior..... 33 >> …….Well, that’s the plan. Like bowls of colorful condoms now removed from college halls so sexed up kids can just shower in cold water and tough it out, dammit; like scrips for The Pill unfilled by ethically compromised pharmacists who shouldn’t bring Religion to work in their lunch-pail; like the Pledges and Promises and whatnot of Chastity sworn before dad in the living-room yet forgotten by the bike shed; like all plans to legislate human sexuality, and yet forget that humans are involved— this plan will ultimately fail; fall victim to too many victims, an overturn doomed to being overturned. And except for the unfortunate daughters, who find themselves in bad circumstance, with no legal recourse, no medical aid, except for them, in a decade or two of the dying things will go back to what they were. All it needs are a few dead Republican girls woe be to them. In America, South Dakota and Mississippi passed legislation that denies abortion to victims of rape, incest, or even if the mother’s life 34 is endangered. This year, Kentucky has proposed legislation that decriminalises ‘justifiable homicide’ for killing abortion providers; in Georgia, lawmakers have called for ALL miscarriages to be ‘investigated’. 35 Child Abuse Nikki Woo The baby has colic. Such a little word. No one tells you what it means. It means he can’t digest his milk. It means he screams for hours and hours, and you can pat him and stroke him and soothe him and give him medicines at extortionate prices, and none of it makes any difference. I finally get him off at about 3:30 in the morning. A last little burp and he’s asleep. I lay him in the Moses basket like he’s made of glass, pulling the blankets up, praying to a God I barely know that his head won’t move, his eyes won’t flicker, that the screaming is over. I creep under the duvet, my face sinking into the pillow. He sneezes and I’m reaching for him before I know I’m awake. No. I hold myself back, remembering the rules. Let him settle himself. I peek over the side of the crib. Silence. Stillness. I lay back, staring into the darkness. A faint glow slides between the curtains. My eyelids fall with the rhythm of tiny snores. The cobbled street shines in the darkness, sloping up towards the cathedral tower. I hear the wail of sirens and the clack, clack, clack of leather on stone. I am running, darting between pools of orange light with the rain in my face and the fear tight in my throat. I turn the corner and the ambulance is there. Its doors swing open and I’m looking in at the bright light of a miniature hospital, machines I don’t understand, the long white gurney with a knitted blanket covering a tiny mound of stillness. The only movement is hot and red, creeping out beneath. I reach for the bundle, but a hand falls on my chest, pushing me back. A man in uniform, his face cold with contempt. I scream and the sirens scream with me, lights flashing from blue to green, winking: 4:53. a.m. ‘Charlie, Charlie, good boy. Alright Charlie, I’ve got you now. You’re alright.’ I clutch him to me, soothing us both until the pitch of his screams fall. I click the lamp on and swing my legs over the side of the bed. I try to stand but my foot slides away from me on the shiny surface of a book. I hold Charlie tighter and kick the book across the room, staring at its sleek blue cover. Hemingway’s story about an old waiter and a young waiter, chosen because it is five pages long. I’ve been stuck on page three for a week and can’t remember if it was the old waiter who wanted to go 36 home and the young one who wanted to work or the other way around. I don’t care. I turn the big light on and lay Charlie on the bed. His face is red, contorted in pain, knees pulled up into his tummy. I unswaddle him and undo a button on his sleep suit. I slide a finger into his nappy. It comes out clean. ‘Thank you Charlie, thank you, thank you. You are such a good boy. Such a lovely boy.’ I kiss his forehead. He screams louder, whooping between each breath and I feel the fear crawling down my spine. I hold him close and tell him how much I love him, but his screams drown the sound of my voice. I hold him in the crook of my right arm while I lay the cushion on the rocking chair. It slips off and I groan bending towards it. That clack clack clack is beating in my head and a new pain burns behind my eye. I know what it is but it can’t be, not now, not while Andy is away. I bite my bottom lip, determined. I will not have a migraine tonight. I sit in the chair, feeling one breast then the other, trying to remember which one was last – and anyway; should I start on the new one that is fullest, or the old one to make sure he gets the hind milk? I can’t remember. We’ve talked about it about a hundred times, and one book says one thing and the other one says something else, or maybe they didn’t. I can’t think. I know Andy was very certain, but he isn’t here. I feel a surge of anger. He isn’t the one who’s breast feeding. I undo the buttons on my nightie and pull out my left boob. It’s full and hard, dribbling. Charlie can smell it. He turns his head, mouth open. I sob. How could I be such an idiot. His medicine is in the fridge downstairs. He’s been taking it for eight weeks and it hasn’t done any good, but like Andy says, I can hardly expect it to work if I don’t use it, can I. ‘Sorry, Charlie.’ I close my nightie and go down to the kitchen with Charlie screaming at me in rage and frustration. The switch clicks and I blink into the light trying to remember why I am here. Something moves at the edge of my vision. I spin towards it. There’s a woman at the window, staring in, white faced, heroine chic. My mother after one of her nights. I start back, instinctively covering the baby and the woman jumps away from me. My own reflection. I have to keep it together. I have to. I tell myself over and over but the screaming drowns my thoughts, louder and sharper, a fish hook jammed into my temple. Paracetamol, that’s what I need. If I take some now, before the pain gets too bad the migraine might stop before it starts. 37 >> ‘Please Charlie, please.’ Paracetamol. I hold on to the word though the pain in my head tells me it’s already too late. A bucket of paracetamol wouldn’t touch this pain. Anyway, they’re upstairs in the bathroom, and there’s something else I have to do first. ‘Colief.’ I open the fridge and tip the tiny bottle out of its box. A piece of paper falls at my feet, instructions I don’t need to read written by a man. “Express a little breast milk onto a sterilised tea spoon and add four drops of Colief. Administer before every feed.” Right. Tea spoon. Shit, need to sterilise. I put the kettle on and wait, until it hisses, empty. I shift him on my hip, trying not to resent his screaming mouth, warm against my ear. I balance the kettle on the pile of dishes in the sink and turn the tap on, filling it, one handed, through the spout. The kettle falls. Water sprays across my nightie, and I swing away, shielding Charlie. His head swings back then thuds against my shoulder. There’s a horrible moment of whooping silence and then the next scream comes, yanking that hook in temple. The kettle steams and clicks. I balance a teaspoon over the sink and pour boiling water over it. I jam the handle between my teeth and take Charlie and the Colief back upstairs. He likes the stairs. His wails die to a soft gurgle. I wave the spoon above my head, cool down, I count to sixty and the minute stretches out long as that bloody gurney, but I see hot metal burning his gummy mouth and I keep counting, hating every second. Now I need both hands. Hold on. Think. Think. There’s nothing else to do. I lay him on the bed, knowing what I’m doing, the pain he’s feeling. I open the plastic bottle and squeezed four drops onto the tea spoon. My hand is shaking. I spill it on the duvet and start again, then I have to hold the spoon steady while I squeeze my left nipple, squirting milk onto the tea spoon in time with Charlie’s screams, knowing I am making him wait and wait. I lean over him and pour the milky medicine into his mouth, holding his head back while he swallows. The noise stops. His mouth opens and his tongue slides out. I snatch his little body off the bed and hold him to my breast. He doesn’t need any guidance. His one tooth bites down like a sabre-toothed tiger, sucking furiously while he looks up at me with those huge trusting eyes. I lower myself into the wooden chair, holding my back straight and my head up, listening to his lips suck and smack. I smile. The pain in my temple eases to a dull beat. My heart slows. It’s a good five minutes until my back begins to ache. I look at the cushion on the floor below my right 38 arm. Out of reach. The pain isn’t so bad, balanced against the throb in my bladder. I clench, working that pelvic floor, holding on. Charlie pulls his head back, whimpering, and I feel the wind bubbling out of him. ‘Good boy. Oh good boy Charlie, good little pumpy.’ I laugh at my own silliness and he latches back on, guzzling happily, pausing every few seconds to squeeze a little pump, and each one is magic, getting the wind out, easing the pain. Beautiful, rich and satisfying, like a blue veined Roquefort, with a hint of egg. He’s straining harder, face turning from pink to red. He squeals and I feel the nappy filling up. It keeps on coming, but he’s already back on, sucking like mad. His colour is back to normal, the frown lines gone, just his angel face looking up at me with those eyes. I reach round with my left hand. The nappy is full. The smell wafts up, sharper than before. I think about nappy rash, his bottom red and sore. I see myself taking him through to his nursery, putting on the heater, laying him on his changing table with the warm water and cotton wool, the cream and the fresh clean nappy. I long to do it but then I look down at him, watching his little mouth working and I can’t bear to pull him away. Should I stop him feeding, or leave him sitting in his own mess? I kick my legs against the bed in frustration. I don’t care about the bruises, that isn’t why the tears are welling in my eyes, why the steel hook is tearing through my temple. I look into those trusting eyes and I’m trapped, doing nothing while he sucks at my nipple and the minutes tick away. My tears make a dark patch on the tummy of his sleepsuit. I leave him in his own mess and I know that I have failed him. 39 Mediocrity is not enough David R Morgan (In the Bodleian Library, Oxford) I pursue decades of obscure study and publish nothing. The drunk reads maps of the skies under which he sleeps, and like the stars he is remote. In the eight-hundred section the drunk lectures me on T S Eliot. I sigh and offer unrealistically to trade my tie for his bottle, leather for his tattered tennis shoes. Ignoring me, he reads in a scratchy bass from The Waste Land. Neither of us is content. Neither can be. That is the point. Outside, bundles of books in hands, we watch clouds roll across from Wales. All I see is rain. Rubbing his weary eyes, he sees locusts, angels, artillery. 40 Offspring Katariina Vuorinen You lower bare buttocks onto moss devilferns climb inside Against stone, shame is without pollination, ashore, one’s own body is acknowledged before the interrogation. The excited child blends with the landscape. Finally, one has received information about piled-up people, fermenting drinks, blood linens, gets angry at the skin’s circular saw, junipers around and around, crooked legs, struck mouth skin through which veins do not show. L eft over, the losing ticket and the balloon, burst by a knitting-needle. The light of midsummer shows sharply, squeezes the pelvis. You didn’t want to sit up at table any more for the parting, you turned the grindstone in your innards chest full of wet leaves You turned the eyelashes, eyes’ secret drawn in black. The hidden books grew spores of force. Three oaths: I will not open, retreat, finish. Lips and eyes are still swelling from the blow the empty features of adults turn to face me in the two-dimensional morning the fog sighs, the loon sums up I begin at the beginning, the root of the spruce, and in the bends of the head there’s already new black ice, neckbands sewn tight, soon I’ll groom mother and low spirits to the rear, along the low shore with the iron rake. In the reading book, your lap is pushed full of your own children, better mosses inside, rammed into the throat with a lopped branch. 41 Scraping Off The Past Rose Drew Heavy scents enrapt me it feels like the idealized womb here, pulsing pampering surreal, embracing. White-clad workers know me by name, and smile when they say it: I love this place Kindness hides in a request for my credit card; I am beloved family who happens to pay I am here to shed my grief. I am here to lose my frown, grown deep and stern first at the somber shock of death and then from years of pain more physicalâ€” I am better now and want to look better too The woman who scrapes my face with sand, blasting off sun damage and life damage tries to engage me in small talk but I like to lay in silence, deep within my rite of passage, my vision quest in modern woods. Here, bottled water and baskets of crisp apples await my emergence. Years back this very day in June held horror, but even more, the annual night before this day. That night of stupid pleasure, nonchalance and happinessâ€” I have often dreamed of going back in time to warn myself: Back thru the calendar and the clock, screaming [I had seen this in a Twilight Zone episode, a woman phoned 42 her earlier self to warn of tragedy and it became my dream] screaming into phones of all our younger selves Don’t answer the door or Don’t give him the car keys or Don’t put the baby down to sleep call 999.... but then, time taught me, would she have merely died anyway, in some beeping ward, not breathing in the warm smell of her father, nestled in his firm yet yieldy arms, not listening to the soft snores of her parents in their darkened summer morning room, fan gently stirring early heat, birds, sun grasping the edges of the shades, how peaceful is that; we all die, some sooner than not. A little death, a small tragedy, a summer dream unending. I don’t scream back thru time anymore, trying to dial up that woman, the happy young mother stranger to true loss, no I give her her last night of perfection I give her her laughter, joy of a small soft face to kiss, a sharp pinching tug on her nipple every time but relaxing to a peaceful flow of milk ancient as all mammals, those two, ever First Mother and First Child ever perfect in their timeless act 43 >> and I leave them there. When I began my turning away, head thrust to a new horizon, the tug of them would drag me back, helplessly watching thru the window-glass of want and deprivation: Tiny Tim Rose out in the snow Little Match Girl Rose homeless Rose cast from Eden; until the pain of staying became the pain of leavingâ€” Time heals some wrinkles, and perhaps a doctorâ€™s hand the rest. I lay back on my scented toweled cot, close my eyes and welcome the pain of scraped skin. The psychic wounds have scarred over nicely, after all, time for the outer ones to match. 44 Sharing of Books Andy Humphrey It became a small tradition between you and me, to share our books. So every time I visited I took away a book, and promised to return it next time. Or when you came to me, and helped yourself to stories from my shelves, I knew you would return to bring them back. I think we didn’t know, just then, how much we needed one another. Sharing books was easier, a promise on a page, a guarantee that one day’s visit would beget another. I still don’t know how the sharing stopped; but I remember that last visit, and how warily I read you one more chapter from your Astrid Lindgren. And we parted. You offered me the book, because you knew, you said, just how it ended. And no thank you, I said, because we were half-way through. I wonder, now and then, if Astrid Lindgren could have been our lifeline, if the sharing might have meant I had permission to return it, and myself, in time. But I declined the offering, preferring to leave you with a story half-untold, instead of no story at all. 45 Sharm El Sheik Angela Topping As far from home as we have ever been, we gaze at strange stars in a desert sky, cold distant suns which long ago have died. As if assembled here on seventh day an alien world appears from wilderness a crazy Lego Egypt built on sand where palm trees tantalise in jewelled gowns; Anubis, bastardised and sulking, sits outside casinos with sarcophagi; a price attached to everything except the landscape: bluest sea and jagged rocks, magnificent against a dusty land; below the turquoise sea, fish cities thrive. The Call to Prayer trembles like a sigh. 46 Skin Tight Suit Linda Mace-Michalik Could I make of your skin an oversuit? Split you open, peel your veneer from off of your meat? I’ve no use for your carcass and would leave it where it fell, steaming, like the coiled entrails in the dust under gray skies, overhanging Cormac McCarthy’s Road. I can mime my fingers prodding, exploring the blood smeared sleeving that once clad your arms. I would step into the bootees attached by neatly shaved leggings to the crotch of the torso’s waistcoat. I’d force my head, as you did through my birth canal, twisting and squeezing my skull and my scalp in under yours. I’d emerge clad in you. My eyes >> 47 and my lips not quite matching your openings. How beautiful your young skin would look stretched over my old bones. But how would I bind the back opening, the one that I made to evict your flesh? I donâ€™t know. I wonâ€™t ever have need of a solution. I choose to leave you intact. Live as you will. I gave you your life. I will not take it back. 48 Tasks For Home And Sloth Katariina Vuorinen Love hurries children, the wolf drives you in a sharp landscape, a landscape crackling with lingonberries and wind, the wolf drives your pale head among pheasants and hares embraces and games are shut up in a tall enclosure. You extend the discovered word, the evidence of felling, forest falls to the floor of the mind evening makes a bed of straw on the ground the moon, the dry tip of consciousness, hangs in the North. You wrap the itchy blanket around you, the red stripes of buttocks streak the evening, you stay in the same position inside eczema and an expression And again the blankets must be fled. Feverish beasts gush from the forest polka caramels to chests you clear your head of smoke, fungi bury the old trees in tales of shadow and pursuit, at last you consent to sleep among them Your sprinkle salt for protection, repeat the magic word, a thousand words for girl. 49 The Sleepers Julie Edgell The Sleepers live a life of endless Carling cans With credit cards, the latest trends Saturday nights on the piss 3 daily hours of soaps. Watching lives of others and endless excuses why they canâ€™t. with crap jobs, loveless marriages. As though there is no choice. Do the sleepers ever wake in hours before dawn My family have been asleep my entire life and I read somewhere to find there is no happiness â€“ only distraction? too much TV is literally boring us to death. My friends are young but already they are napping sleepwalking past chances to try for something better, preferring the safety of that warm bed. 50 Your Kids Jim Hugo The moment that you feel inclined, to tell me that you find The Harry Potter books challenging; Stop! The moment that you feel inclined, to tell me that you find Sponge Bob Square Pants funny; Stop! The moment that you think I care for the information you might share about the fun you had on the bouncy castle; Stop The moment you find opportune, to regale me with the tedious tune your kid plays on the recorder; Stop! The moment that you feel the need to tell me that you’re both agreed that you weren’t truly alive until the day your child arrived; Stop Keep your stories to yourself, I’ve got no interest in Johnny’s health, I’ve never heard a kid say something funny. Keep your photos in your pocket, I’ve not done it so I won’t knock it, but it seems to me an awful lot of money. To throw away on the acne years of sulks and moods and vulgar sneers; of tantrums, tempers, and teenage tears. All that ignorance so irritating, All that arrogance so aggravating, and nothing is more nauseating than the day you catch them masturbating. But worse are those with sad delusion who bring themselves to the conclusion, based on talent only they can see that they’ve spawned a child prodigy. It doesn’t mean he’s Einstein because he can work a Bunsen burner. It doesn’t mean he’s Shakespeare because he’s mastered early learner. Just because he wrote a rhyme it doesn’t make him Shelley. Just because he does a dance he won’t get on the telly (although he might get on X Factor but that doesn’t count). It doesn’t make him Rooney because he can kick a ball. It doesn’t mean he’s Banksy because he’s painted on the wall. Although he might do well in politics now he’s learned to crawl. Please don’t think me unconcerned about all the lessons parents learn, but it’s not the stuff I want to hear 51 >> when I come out to have a beer. So next time that we have a drink, the second that you think, I want to hear about your kids; Stop! And keep your talk to four subjects; Music, football, beer and sex. 52 Kafka said to me Simon Leyland If you find yourself being questioned about a crime you did not commit, resist at all costs the impulse to be helpful. Where were you the night of April the tenth? I am unable to say from what place, from which dream, anything comes. If you were to commit a crime... I would prepare the hundred masks that must fit a single face. You would plan it? How many people cities, or roads does jealousy make us eager to know? I’d think about details. Like hair and fibres? Like boeuf à la mode, like water lilies, like Vermeer’s View of Delft. You went out to dinner that night? I observe, I speak with servants, I remember. But sometimes you do the things you think about? Nothing is as satisfying as the imagination’s rendering of it. Because you have a bad memory? Hours go by and I remember the tremors in my thighs. So how do you... I like to watch famished rats clawing and biting each other. Are you serious? The day my mother died she took her little Marcel with her. And how did it feel when you first put your hands around her neck? A slight ripple, like sipping linden tea or feeling a fingernail trail against a taut stomach. What was she wearing? A Fortuny gown, pleated red silk, and diamonds. Red shoes, of course. Everything of those days has perished, but everything was born again. Did you love her? I prefer to remain closeted with the little person inside me, hymning the rising sun. He would make me happier than she. There’s a lot of evidence. We have a lot of evidence. We have your hair. 53 >> I’d curl it to face the photographer. I’d wear my velvet jacket, and the apple trees would expose their broad petals of white. You were nervous? You put the body in the boot of your car? No, I would have laid it on an old satin coverlet, after which I would have consoled myself, if I felt well enough, by walking along the avenues. I would have taken my walking stick, I would have sung at the top of my voice. I would have taken a few grams of cocaine. Are you sorry? Ars longa, vita brevis. Which means? I am acquainted with sin, in one form or another. Dostoevsky writes about murder, but did he commit it? Laclos was the best of husbands. But you? I don’t invent things. I’ve become braver, thinking of my journey into the self like abseiling down a well without a rope. You used a rope? The trinity of braided strands, the coarse erotic fibres…. Inspired by the surrealistic work of Nathanial West. 54 Iceland Yinka Opaneye Reykjavík (R’vik) and Iceland in general are no places one visits expecting to experience at a manic pace. On the first day arriving at 17:00, every avenue of capitalist or cultural interest had closed. So I stayed in the hostel and just talked. In the real world, this is called networking but on holiday you talk and share ideas. Usually, it brings up the ‘well-worn tourist trail’ – in Iceland it was less a trail and more of a stroll. A strict traveller could lick the entire country in a fortnight, but to do so would miss the country’s real rhythm. I had gone away to celebrate my birthday and when the guys at the hostel found out an English guy prompted the group to give me ‘birthday bumps’ .i.e. throwing me up in the air for each birth year. The management got complaints from surrounding guests fearful we were English yobs on the lash, smashed on alcopops. The next day we (five of us) drove for over three hours trailing the puffins to an Island off Iceland (Vestmannaeyjar), hopeful one was too stupid to have followed the herd. Alas, they had all gone. The only thing we experienced on the Island was Iceland’s awful pickn-mix sweets, salty assorted liquorice and peppered chews. Like a sloe fruit it sucked the flavours from your mouth leaving a bitterness lasting long after you’ve spat it out. Tours don’t stoke any fire in me and so I was lucky enough to find a group of three others eager to trail the tourist route and complete the Golden Circle. Of the trio, Gulfoss was the most awe inspiring from its size and general majestic presence. However, we perhaps spent most time at the Geyser equally mesmerised by the natural upshot as we were by the strangely homoerotic, wrestling men sporting jockstraps, micro-shorts and 70s’ style porno ‘tashs! For the next two days I rode through Snæfellsnes, to the west of the country. Throughout I cocked my head out the window of our rented toy car, excited at the drive. I lost count and became a passive observer to the beautiful scenery; it’s difficult not to do so or else you risk stopping at every turning. Pictures, of which I took many, depress the true impact and vastness of these areas. It was the first time I’ve come to understand why people visit these remote spaces. And why they come back different. 55 >> Iceland only has one main motorway which circles the country. It skims the coast and can provide an excellent, albeit bland, method to hitting the main ‘towns’ and ‘cities’. Some of these, often tucked seductively between lush greens, hays and harvested fields, only help in illustrating why R’vik is viewed as ‘busy’. The towns of Arnarstapi and Helnar were particularly delicious: with a short walk (2-3km) between the two a recommendation. It was on the second day, trucking along in the minuscule car, that we saw a couple of suspicious characters, blackly clothed, running backwards, snapping pictures upwards at what we presumed was a window. I thought “thieves” but having got out of the car to ask for directions, tired and naked by foot. It was then we saw what they saw – the Northern lights. Barely-shoed, we zoomed into our car. Doors ajar as we sped towards more darkness. We just wanted the dark to better see the lights. We were like auto-cowboys, running ourselves out of town. The lights were so beautiful. Like heavy green glitter, tinged with pinks they morphed into fantastic shapes of the wind. However, it was our hitch-hike pick-up who was most excited. He yelped at the sky for over 30-minutes, snapping at it, cajoling it. They didn’t show on my camera, but just the experience was satisfying for me. Even now after the event their magic is still there. I never got to see the whole country, but the little I saw was wonderful. The people were so generous in spirit. I don’t think we realise how distant and automatically unforgiving it can be here in London. Mothers left their child-laden prams flanking pubs in the street & strangers fully partook in conversation with such ease. During our travels we managed to tear a petrol pump from its nozzle (!) – we were reprimanded with a smile! Through Iceland we rediscovered humane-ity. 56 57 The Scrimshander Jonathan Firth The scrimshander begins to scrape at a minke whale jawbone in the shadows of the concrete storehouse he uses for a studio. His thick fingers clutch and open, nimbly reciting the skills passed along the shores of tradition. Energy building, he leaps from side to side, gouging and drilling, bringing the pale bow closer to his mindâ€™s jagged fantasy. Swigging from a concoction of rum and fruit, he works in flurries, and circles the reptilian object like a predator. He is centred, solipsistic, alone with his craft.Â As he works, the sun is sinking until a final glow hits the faded ceiling. His efforts descend into brooding consternation; in a rising tide of fecklessness he can only dive. As darkness overpowers his workspace, the icons and glyphs begin to dance across his vision in rhythmic waves of movement.Â He wipes his brow, sits back, and sinks into the depths of a songlike trance in which he runs along the shore, slipping through the surface to swim with his prey in the silent deep. 58 Elf Knots Steve Toase Molly sat on the sofa, her legs folded underneath, and ran a sharp, glitter painted nail along the top crease. A moment of hesitation. Her hand went up to her hair, twisting the red strands through shaking fingers. Delaying. Putting off reading the letter that now lay on the seat next to her. She glanced at me looking for support maybe? Strength? I smiled, trying to say without words ‘It will be OK. This time it will have worked’ But the tears that started as she read the letter told me that it hadn’t worked and nothing was going to be OK. I sat next to her, trying to sound soothing and calm. But after three years all my words were tired and frayed. She buried into my shoulder and I felt, rather than saw, her crying. I picked up the discarded letter, the now familiar Fertility Clinic logo. Reading on I skipped over the official platitudes, the faux, recycled sympathy to get to the paragraph I knew was lurking at the bottom. “Due to funding restrictions you will not be able to enter another cycle of fertility treatment. We wish you all the best for the future and are sorry we are unable to help you with your desire for a family.” The paper felt sharp as I crumpled it up and threw the ball into the open fire’s flames with one hand, the other digging fingers tight into Molly’s shoulder as if the pressure alone would change the hand we had been dealt. Work had been tedious and the drive out of the city did nothing to improve my mood. The living room light was out. In the kitchen I could see Molly cooking, her back to me. She never cooked unless she needed a distraction to stop nerves getting the better of her. Shutting the front door I kicked off my boots and walked through, putting an arm round her and kissing her neck. “Good day?” I said, locking my fingers together at her waist. She nodded saying nothing. I could feel the tension in her shoulders, the question held in till she felt ready to talk. The candle guttered in an unseen draught. We sat on opposite sides of my Gran’s old table. I couldn’t taste the food, my mouth dry as I waited for Molly to tell me the unspoken thought that fluttered in the air between us. Topping up the glasses of wine she put the book on the table next to my plate. I picked it up, taking a sip from my drink. The cover was rough leather and smelt of buried bookshelves. Inside the pages had been cut 59 >> roughly, words written by hand. I turned to the page she had marked, letting the small piece of card fall out. Reading the pages, I kept glancing up at her. She looked nervous, as if I would say no, not agree to the series of actions laid out in the book. The dirt of the path stumbled downhill under our feet. Molly’s hand felt hot and swollen in mine, her breath punctuating the staccato of our footsteps. We crested the hill. This was a place of forbidden dancing, transgression, of witch bottles and rowan branches. Here the fates could be spun round and elf knots tied in their hair. The maidens circled us, their sin condemning them to eternity spinning in the moonlight. Molly leant against one of the stones. I walked round the other nine standing a candle in front of each, circling a second time to bring guttering flames to life. Pewter bowls sat in the centre of the circle, the light from the candles just illuminating the bread and wine inside. Molly stood up, the flickering light catching in her hair. The breeze caught her dress. She looked frail standing there, intoning brittle words. Her skin felt cold to the touch now frosting my lips. She took my wrist in her hand moving my fingers round over her stomach, over empty skin. The names of old goddesses hung in the air and we laid down in the dust. The whispering grass took up their chant “Aradia, Ishtar, Athena.” Molly straddled me, her breath getting faster and faster. She called to the ancestors that danced round us, out of sight. The creatures that dwelt in flame and shadow. She pleaded with the ghosts and the night to bring that tiniest flicker of life. Her fingers ran across my face, tracing the shape of my lips, my eyes, my hair. I pulled her closer to me, her head tipped back to the moonlight, twisting around, root and branch, until my back was to the sky. Her skin tasted of coriander and sweat. I slid my fingers between her thighs, knuckles pressing into my stomach. She pulled me to her deeper, her hands gripping my shoulders. Faster now, the voice of the land rose on her breath. My feet dug into the soil, drawing the spirit of the stone into me, Molly’s mouth followed the lines that mark my chest. The spirals made the last connection. I moved back, scuffing up fine dust. She turned away from me and I kissed the back of her neck, my tongue traced down her spine. My arms grazed her sides as I cradled her to me, stretching my back into the night air. The voices of the fire got faster. Molly’s voice rose higher and higher, time falling away into the roots and leaves. She laid forward onto the grass, ash from earlier beacon fires marking her skin My hands spread through the hill, blind water carving lines into my palms. I held Molly close till dawn, chasing away the night with dew whispered 60 charms, She silently cried into my shoulder, whether with joy or sorrow I do not know. 61 The Creative Writing Class Marilyn Messenger Weary of being urged by tutors to spill my emotional guts onto the page, I wanted to write a darker story; one that would show that I am not all about happy endings. What, in the name of Hades, was I thinking? The white walls are tired; they hold a grubby notice board and some yellowed scraps of sticky tape that grip the remnants of forgotten posters. Venetian blinds shutter the windows and, at one end of the room, an ancient storage radiator squats to sporadically blast out dusty heat and then clank disturbingly as it cools down. The lecturer smiles a bright, encouraging welcome as she places a sheet of paper on the first desk. “Could you all write your names on this, please?” Beneath one table, a wad of A4 pages is hauled from Ian’s backpack bringing with it a pack of cigarettes, pens and a mobile phone; all of which clatter onto the linoleum covered floor. When peace, and the contents of his backpack, are restored, Ian indicates the small stack of paper. “Helen can’t be here today, but she’s sent this for us to workshop,” he says as he shuffles my work into a neater pile on the table. “You have copies for everyone? Great. Well, perhaps we should begin with Helen’s work then.” Last night when I began, I did not intend to dig too deep. If anyone should, then surely I would know the danger of that. Although, as the writer, I have complete control, don’t I? The story is created by me and I dictate, ‘the end’, so it follows that I should be able to make it stop. Why couldn’t I make it stop? As an unseen spectator I feel so greedy for responses, for feedback, that I fear someone will sense my breath on their neck. I watch them go, my poor fellow students, into the darkness that has been mine alone for so long. My words, my carefully crafted words, drag them by the hand to the edge of an abyss and thrust them into the nightmare that is me. Nothing is hidden, though they wish that it was. Compelled to look into the heart of me, into the wrecked soul, flayed for so many years, they all glimpse the poor, raw, snivelling thing cowering on the page before them. Once is more than enough for some and they shield their eyes so that I can no longer observe their expression. At this point in my narrative some silently pray for the upturn; 62 the ray of hope, the bright silver lining to a black cloud of biblical proportions - one of ‘Helen’s Happy Endings’. They don’t find it. Not in this story. There is a dawning consciousness of where the account is leading and a slow prickle of apprehension as they begin to clutch at straws of cynicism. Here’s the collective shaking of heads and hesitant expressions of relief. This is just a story, isn’t it? Trust Helen, what is she like? Trust Helen when I am like nothing they have ever encountered? They should now know that my words will forever invade and pollute their sleep like toxic fumes. They should trust their instinct that there could only be one end to my story and it really is the one that they don’t want to acknowledge. Trust that my last sky was as blue as - they’re the creative writers; they can fill in the blanks. They should trust that I didn’t waver, not once. Not when I stepped into the lift and not when I walked across the roof. And I didn’t waver when I stood on the edge and felt the air, childhood soft against my face as I tilted into nothing, only to free-fall into everything. 63 The Boiling of the Jam Angela Topping I simmer essences of summer in this broad pan, their juices loaded with sugar, bubbles rise glassy like hot marbles. I’m capturing balmy days against the chill to come pouring dark stickiness into warmed jars to give away or keep and eat, share and shore-up against absences to come. It’s alchemy, this melting of base summer into ruby, emerald. It’s husbandry too, wanting to preserve. 64 Lines Christopher Stewart Tramline iron ore Curtain of liquid steel Red and gold On the train today passing through that secret country Of my grandfather’s veins. Curtain of smoke Jet of blue from chimney, The furnace a Hell I failed. Eston Hill’s mines, the railway lines A removed varicose vein. My grandfather’s tramlines Vanish at the point we could never meet – Eston Nab. 50 yards from furnaces The train’s scenic route Even when I trod the Black Path I was no nearer. 65 Mort Becca Campbell When I die and leave this earth I do not wish to see, No rock, no stone, no carvâ€™d words, in memory of me. Instead a pair of sturdy feet shall take me up a fell The Lake District with its earthen greens and mass of hidden dells When we reach the top and the views are all around I want to be scattered there and then so I can go back into the ground. 66 White Noise Katariina Vuorinen The black bear looks after me, combs my honey-smeared head with its nails loves me if I never stray beyond the forest the forest that has died twice over of the saw, of old age, lifts my head into the air nostrils and sinuses full of the wind of the manmade clearing eyes full of dust and seeds, tears, white willowherbs swish, autumn is coming. The black bear keeps a tallow-scented cabin here, I stay inside the furball under the wind, dogs can’t find a way out of here, the map’s runners, the mushroom-turners. Short paths, wintry protruders, stop abruptly trees left to seed continue the forest’s thought and far away still chimes the four-cornered room of the everyday, the bells sound the water boils, a small cloud rains in the coffee-pot fear’s compact-mirror remains, looking over a shoulder. Together with the bear I keep the cabin of eternal winter, wintering fat, anthill. Birds folded from napkins by friends remain in South Finland through the winter, feathers fly from dissolving swans, eyes itch in old beds, we’re tired out by the explanation of winter in humans and winter’s long ways when the slumbering bear’s fur smells of winter lair and marshland, and under the hairs I suckle the cub, I study the cheese recipe for black milk, rote-learning in which the rhythm of kettle, peel, and me, recurs apple and core darken 67 >> flesh becomes transparent and dissolves. The bear stirs the pot, cooks the bedsheet, I draw sorrows on to frosted glass – I swallowed them a thousand years ago – the irises fade from eyes as the day ends when the bear breathes the evening shadow into the room, the words I choose crumble the gesture is enough, it rises up on to two legs, takes me to the winter its paw presses against warm breast, cautioning you can’t be unpredictable to return to the feeling of departure I still keep that evening in the village’s last house at arm’s length and at the back of the lair the bear longs for a mistress, homemaker and settler, with the bear, I keep the simmering pot, nails black from scraping the bottom eyes black from stories I comb the track closed In the mornings the black bear combs my sweaty head. And in the mornings I take the blankets to the snowdrifts, the cold kills the unpleasant dreams which make us itch, yet I sink ever deeper into the central hollow of the bed the placenta of veins and grief grows heavier from year to year until I can’t push it out, the bear is picking berries, I lie outside and I let the sun cut the cabin’s subject in two, sew up with fisherman’s twine, out of pain I exchange the loaf for the cry of the human, the porridge spoon of the bear’s prey 68 and slowly, slowly I begin to smooth down the rumpled material that fills my breast the filling ball of the sun, a tale of the clothes that emit wind and sound and are transparent. 69 Book Reviews by Katie Metcalfe That’s What Ya Get! Kowalski’s Assertions / Brindley Hallam Dennis / Unbound Press ‘That’s What Ya Get!’ is an unreservedly hilarious and brilliant collection of monologues, from the viewpoint of Kowalski, a grouchy New Yorker living in England, with his tolerant wife Mildred. Kowalski is loud, cross, mightily funny and unwavering about his observations of life, the universe and the British. He is direct, loud and opinionated, with a memorable, thick New York accent. ‘That’s What Ya Get’ – gorgeously illustrated by Alex Halfpenny - is made up of 40 short tales, and, like chocolate covered popcorn, they are utterly addictive. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but ‘Kowalski Aware’ is fiercely funny. “We got signs on packets a nuts sayin, Beware, May Contain Nuts. Well ya sure hope so otherwise ya wouldna bought ’em. One a these days we gonna to have signs a bottled water sayin Beware Danger A Drownin. We gonna have signs on all food products sayin’, Danger A Chokin, Sickenin’, Allergic Reactionin’ An’ Dyin’ If Taken By Mouth, an’ we gonna have a whole loads of others sayin’ Danger A Starvin’ if’n ya doan.’ Another favourite choice would be ‘Kowalski Submits’ where the animated New Yorker thrashes out an aggressive letter to a magazine editor, to whom he hopes to submit his short stories. ‘I ain’t put in the five bucks for the tick box critique. I doan want no tick box critique. What the hell use is a tick box critique? You doan wann’em, doan ’take em. Hey, I doan wanna hear why. That’s yore business. You wanna take ’em, take ’em. I doan wanna know why. It doan make ’em no better than they was, you comes along an’ prints ’em. All in all, I had a really good time reading this hugely entertaining book, and I think Dennis has created an unforgettable character, who will, I hope, continue to rant, rave and rub fellow characters up the wrong way. 70 Shades Of Grey / Steve Urwin / Red Squirrel Press The moment I clapped eyes on this book, I recognised the artwork of Stephen Clark, whose distinctive illustrations appeared in issue 2 of Beautiful Scruffiness. I immediately fell in love with this gorgeously dark collection of prose Vignettes, diary entries and reveries. The collection is packed with realism and studded with grit, dirt and sweat. Steve Urwin is a master in picking up parts of the day and turning them into something extraordinary. ‘Passing the entrance, curiosity getting the better of me, I stopped for a look inside: sheepskins and an assortment of entrails littering the floor. Yes, a crimson colour it was; dirt showing through the blood. A fragrance of murder hanging in the air. I admire Urwin’s thorough examination of habitual living. It made me think of all the things I mindlessly do and forget about, some of which could be rich fodder for a piece of creative writing. Even simple things today are beginning to fill me with joy and satisfaction: returning from the dentist’s chair after having a tooth capped; standing in the kitchen, peeling potatoes and chopping carrots with an old knife, the blade sharpened so many times it’s half its original width. I urge you to get your hands on this book. You will not be disappointed. There is one particular line in the collection which makes me shiver and that I’ve already memorized: ‘No use asking the stars for guidance, I never learnt their names.’ 71 The Borders / Miles Cain / Valley Press Miles Cain’s debut collection is exquisite and extremely powerful. The front cover, a photograph by John Illingworth, is attention-grabbing and a strong portrayal of the work inside. I love the range and diversity in ‘The Border,’ the blend of humour and sincerity. Each poem is a little box inside a smaller box. What I admire most is its accessibility, something so valuable in today’s day and age. It is, quite simply, a wonderful collection to pass onto someone who is anxious about poetry. This collection would get them reading and enjoying poems again. There are lines that are pinned to my brain, and terrific images that’ll play over and over for a long time to come. Cain’s inspirations are wide-ranging and inspiring, often merging the bizarre with everyday events. He takes daily goings-on and transforms them into something very special. ‘Tongue,’ a poem about a woman who borrows her husband’s tongue is outstanding. I enjoyed reading this poem aloud, listening to each compelling word. My emotions were truly in action with this poignant piece. In the morning, she crammed it into her mouth, was gone before his dumb feet clumped downstairs, his jaw clattering with impotent noise. Diver, was an especially beautiful, mesmerising poem that made me all misty-eyed. The descent was so like you: straight, obedient, precise. Hitting the Mediterranean with a smart thud, a hatch opened in the surf and you fell from view. In ‘The Border,’ Cain pares everything down, and you are left with muscular poems, rippling with emotion. His ability to hone down an experience is exceptional. When reading ‘Car’, a poem about a man who lives in his banger, I was put in rather an uncomfortable yet inquisitive position. the first night was rough not much sleep, only chewing gum 72 for dinner. By the third day heâ€™d grown used to his own smell and the back ache. This collection is certainly deserving of your attention. I am delighted that I gave it mine. 73 Contributors: Bob Beagrie lives in Middlesbrough and is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at The University of Teesside. He won the Biscuit Poetry Prize in 2002 and in 2003 he was granted a Time to Write award. Publications include Gothic Horror (Mudfog, 1996), Masque: The Art of the Vampyre (Mudfog, 2000), Huginn & Munnin (Biscuit, 2002), Endeavour: Newfound Notes (Biscuit, 2004), The Isle of St Hild (Hartlepool Borough Council, 2004), Perkele, a collaborative bi-lingual pamphlet in English and Finnish written with Kalle Niinikangas, and Yoik (Cinnamon Press, 2008). The Seer Sung Husband (Smokestack Books, 2010) has been selected as a Read Regional title by New Writing North. A forthcoming collection, Glass Characters, is due out in 2011 from Red Squirrel Press. BHD is the author of A Penny Spitfire (Pewter Rose, 2011) and creator of Kowalski (That’s What Ya Get!, Unbound Press, 2010). His short fiction has won numerous prizes. As Mike Smith, he tutors creative writers here and there, and publishes poems, plays and essays. He blogs at www.bhdandme.wordpress.com. Clare Crossman has published two poetry books: Going Back (Firewater Press) and The Shape of Us (Shoestring Press, 2010). She won the Redbeck Poetry competition in 1996 and has been included in many anthologies: A Room to Live in, Poems for Kettles Yard and Contourlines (Salt Publishing). She lives near Cambridge with her husband. Julie Egdell is 24, lives in Newcastle and is currently writing her first play. She writes poetry, short stories and articles. She has been published in Cadaverine, Friction Magazine, Prole Books, Kenaz, The Wilds Anthology and Black Light Engine Room. She is looking for a publisher for her long narrative poetry collection, Sirens, a modern retelling of the Greek myth set in a Whitley Bay strip club. Steve Urwin is a diarist, ranter and multiple poetry slam winner from Consett, County Durham. He works as a freelance Creative Writing outreach facilitator and the editor of new INK BOMB magazine. Books include Tightrope Walker, Hypomaniac and Shades Of Grey. He also hosts Poetry Jam and Lamplight Open Mic Night. Louise Pymer, B.A., M.A., has a number of writing credits, including poems in the anthologies, ‘Writing for Reading Aloud’ and ‘The Strand Book 74 of International Poets’, and in Monkey Kettle, Popshot and Now Then. Louise’s poems cover a range of subjects and stories, from family relationships and identity to current news items. Rose Drew is from Florida, Connecticut, Florida again, and now York and is pursuing an elusive PhD involving archaeologically obtained human skeletons. Rose is addicted to hosting open mics, having co-founded three in two continents. York Spoken Word is now in its 6th year. Rose also co-owns a small press, Stairwell Books. Jonathan Firth lives on the west coast of Scotland and works as a teacher. He writes short stories, poetry and Psychology textbooks, and has previously had fiction published in Modicum Magazine and Touch Poetry. He also maintains a blog which explores what science has to say about creativity: http://wordingtheimage.blogspot.com/. Steve Toase lives in North Yorkshire and occasionally Munich, Germany. For the past eighteen months he has sent out little ghosts disguised as stories to haunt various publications. So far seventeen have found dark corners to hide in. To read more please visit www.stevetoase.co.uk or www. facebook.com/stevetoase1. Jim Higo is a writer, poet and performer from Hull. In 2010 he wrote and performed a one-man play at the Edinburgh Festival. He writes and performs comedy and poetry and is currently writing a new show combining both. His poetry has been published in several anthologies. David R Morgan teaches 11-19 year olds in Luton and lives in Bedfordshire. David has been an arts worker and literature officer, organiser of book festivals and writer-in-residence for education authorities, Littlehay Prison and Fairfield Psychiatric Hospital (which was the subject of a Channel 4 film, Out of Our Minds). He has had two plays screened on ITV and over 200 hundred poems published in national and international poetry magazines. Simon Van der Velde was born and educated in Newcastle upon Tyne where he trained and practiced as a lawyer. Writing, however, was always the real passion, and Simon left the legal profession in 2001, travelling widely throughout Europe and South America whilst developing his darkly poetic writing style. Simon has now returned to his native Newcastle where he lives with his wife and children. 75 Angela Topping is the author of four full poetry collections and four chapbooks. Two of these are for children, including The New Generation published by Salt in 2010. Her latest adult book I Sing of Bricks (2011) is No.7 in Salt Modern Voices. She is a freelance poet. Linda Mace-Michalik writes to self-medicate with words that are insufficient to convey the meaning she seeks. In lieu of any better way of communicating, she writes free-verse. The poems explore how the world and the people around her interact. If you catch a glimpse of what you already know in what she writes, then she has connected with you and what more could she ask? Jonathan Firth lives on the west coast of Scotland and works as a teacher. He writes short stories, poetry and Psychology textbooks, and has previously had fiction published in Modicum Magazine and Touch Poetry. He also maintains a blog which explores what science has to say about creativity: http://wordingtheimage.blogspot.com/. Leyland is a man who fell from grace and lives in a small cottage in the west of Ireland. Andy Humphrey is a freelance writer, part-time law student, trade union activist and former research scientist. His published output includes nearly 50 poems and a number of short stories and he writes his own opinion blog, The Poet’s Soapbox (http://poets-soapbox.blogspot.com). He has won numerous awards for his poetry including six First Prizes in national and international competitions. He spends much of his time promoting up-and-coming writers as a competition judge, poetry slam organiser, and MC of The Speakers’ Corner open mic night in York (www.yorkspeakerscorner.co.uk). His writing is heavily influenced by his favourite things which include twilight, fairy stories, English and Celtic folk music, and single malt whisky. His proudest achievements include surviving three years in Milton Keynes, and his ambition is to prove that dragons really did exist, and possibly still do. More about Andy at http://andyhumphrey1971.webs.com. T J Hendry is a writer and conservationist whose writing explores a mixture of sci-fi, nature and fantasy themes. He lived in Canada for a year, and has participated in conservation projects in Iceland and Hudson Bay. In this issue he contributes a piece from Terra-Subarctica, a loosely linked series concerning sub-arctic mythology in the modern world. 76 I’m inspired to see a different perspective. It’s always tempting to think all days are equally important, that you’re living them to the fullest, but that’s bullshit! Travelling allows me to reassess and ultimately appreciate what is great about where I visit, and where I normally call home. It offers possibilities in both worlds. Yinka Openeye Marilyn Messenger was born in Yorkshire and settled in Cumbria in 1988. Creative writing has always been in her life and she loves working with words in any genre or style. She is currently researching an archive of 19th century letters and wonders where they will take her own writing. Becca Campbell is a purple-haired northerner studying Environmental Science with an ambition to save the world and stop environmental destruction. When not roaming across fells and dreaming about snow, she studies, listens to metal or eagerly scrawls poetry on scraps of paper. In this issue she submits two poems that show a slither of the inner workings of her strange mind. Katariina Vuorinen is a Finnish poet. She has published three collections of poems. Her themes include feminism, childhood, sexuality and nature. Chris Stewart is looking for open-minded perfectionists with high expectations and patience. His spoken word performances have been described by Bob Beagrie as “oscillating between genius and lunacy” and he has been dubbed “The Audience Alienator” by Andy Willoughby. Watch his performances on his Youtube channel Zorki28 and decide for yourself. 77 Artists: Paul Watson: I live in a cold damp town in the north with my partner and three cats. A jack of all trades, I am currently focusing on illustration and my tattoo apprenticeship at Doc Black in the MetroCentre. www.facebook. com/bimface email@example.com Daryl Watson: I’ve had a passion for art since I was a small child. On leaving secondary school education, I immediately went on to study a BTEC National Diploma in Fine Art at Cleveland College of Art and Design. During the two-year course I discovered my love for illustration and fluid media. I am now studying a B.A. (Hons.) in Fine Art at Northumbria University. Malin Bergström is a writer, illustrator and comics enthusiast. She enjoys a good story, conversations with her cats and far too much bad TV and was recently reminded by a very angry bus driver to press the ‘stop’ button in time. Shona Dickson is a 19 year old Architecture student with a passion for fantasy art that started at a young age. She usually focuses on acrylic paintings and pencil drawings and is always interested in spreading her artwork around, whether it’s by commission, car boot sale or in a gallery. My name is Ruby Elliot and I have lived all 18 years of my life in London. I enjoy writing about the deep and delicate subject of mental health, incorporating my own extensive experiences, in a way that is often darkly comic and accompanied by my cartoons and illustrations. 78 Donâ€™t forget you can find us at: www.beautiful-scruffiness.webs.com