empathy ISSUE TWO
FIFTY GEORGE SQUARE
EDITOR IN CHIEF
Hope Belle Thomas Cameron Osato Emumwen
Julie Gardner Joseph Glover
Allie Kerper & Paige Smith
FICTION EDITOR Sam Le Butt
Brie Kimble Daisy Lafarge Allison Langer Kate Marshall
Clare Robertson Moore Mel Shewan Sarah Smith Daisy Thomas Kandace Siobhan Walker Kevin Zambrano
CONTENTS editorâ€™s note 5
Editor-in-Chief Naomi Morris introduces The EMPATHY Issue
features 8 13 18 23 27
Sloan Therapy: Allison Langer GonaĂŻves: Nadine Gonzalez White Noise Lobster: Nilsa Rivera Law & Order: Michelle Massanet Dude, Not Darling: Hope Belle
poetry 33 35 36 38 42 45 46 48 51
purification air: Daisy Lafarge scarification air: Daisy Lafarge I Hope Everything Missing in Us Disappears: Yvonne Amey Here is My Silence: Alycia Pirmohamed Ariel: Alycia Pirmohamed Kitchen / Love Poem: Kandace Siobhan Walker Thomas Kinkade: Kevin Zambrano There is Nothing to Know: Daisy Thomas Respite: Sarah Smith
fiction 54 56 63 68 72
Post-Retreat: Kate Marshall HEART MATTER/S: Sandra Hunter The Woman Who Walks: Julie Gardner The Crab and Butterfly: Clare Robertson Moore The Twa Sharons: Mel Shewan
contributor information 78
You can find out more about all of our contributing writers and artists at the back of the issue.
ABOVE: ‘Forest Cafe’ Fairfield Guyver
editorâ€™s note â€œIn times like this, empathy is one of the most important acts of humanityâ€? Empathy is the peek through the window of an ambulance, a sometimes unexpected glimpse at horror, joy, the mundane. We stop and look for the thrill, or for the momentary eclipse of our own worldview for something different.
As all of our staff are MSc Creative Writing students at the University of Edinburgh, we understand writing and reading to be one of the most pertinent forms of practising empathy. This is just one short(ish) collection of work assembled through the effort of our wonderful editors - that can spur us to further understanding the viewpoints of people other than ourselves.
These moments take us out of our own somewhat limited view of the world and give us an escape. But these are also moments that temporarily expand our understanding of other beings, shrinking the at times impenetrable gap between self and other. A reminder that there are multiple experiences of life to have at any one time.
In times like this, empathy is one of the most important acts of
humanity. Art is important - it is one of the first steps towards the world becoming its more compassionate version (for I believe this compassion does and will always exist), even if it is at times uncomfortable, even if it is not always an easy read. Enjoy, share, discuss.
Sloan Therapy ALLISON LANGER talks about the difficulties and frustration of being the mother of a child with ADHD.
I sit staring at Lina, Sloan’s new therapist. “He’s seven and he’s killing me.” I tell Lina that Sloan was always hungry. He drained both my breasts and screamed for more. He was the master at busting out of a swaddle. At four months, he got a respiratory infection and needed antibiotics nebulized twice a day for forty-five minutes. At eighteen months, he fell walking into the house and received six stitches just above his eyebrow. In preschool, he put a hotdog down a girl’s pants, kicked his teacher and spit on the director. This week in first grade, the talking and pushing got so bad that Sloan’s teacher took away his playground time then moved him to a desk in the corner. At home, anything can set him off on a screaming, throwing, cussing fit: a tag that touches his skin, a drawing gone wrong, or a frustrating math problem. Homework is a disaster. He chews his shirts and pencils and cannot sit for longer than ten seconds. Sloan loves to eat, but according to Sloan, nothing is ever cooked right, tastes right or is hot enough. He makes piles with the taco meat then drops the piles into a water glass to see if the meat will float or sink. The plate and the water end up on the floor, a mess he refuses to clean up. I scream at him. Send him to his room and follow behind spitting my words with rage, “Clean
ABOVE: ‘No.3’ Kandace Siobhan Walker
“At home anything can set him off on a screaming, throwing, cussing fit”
up your fucking mess! You’re acting like an asshole.” Why does he have to be so difficult? I know I get out of control. I wonder what Lina is writing down. This mother has lost her shit. This lady will be an annuity. I tell Lina that Sloan is crazy. He’s erratic, has outbursts and a violent temper. He has zero control! I tell her about the trampoline. Sloan’s sister, Blake was on the tramp with us. He was pissed because he wanted me to himself. So, when the game of trampoline chase didn’t go exactly as he thought it should, he began calling us cheaters. Blake and I left. He started screaming, “I hate you! I hate you, you fuckers. You fucking cheaters. I am going to kill you.” Days later, he tells me that he doesn’t really hate me and that he doesn’t want to kill me anymore. I believe him. I tell him I know he said those things because he was mad. “Like
when you called me an ungrateful, little piece of shit?”, he asks. “Yeah, like that.” I really want Lina to suggest some ADHD meds that will fix my son and our family. But she doesn’t. Instead Lina tells me that kids like Sloan are really tough, that I am doing a great job, that I can tell her anything and she won’t judge me. So, I tell her, “Sometimes I wish I’d never had him.” Lina asks about my other kids. I tell her that Jackson was two years old when Blake and Maclain were born: identical twin girls. Cute and hellish. So much harder than I thought. When the twins were sixteen months old, their pediatrician told me Maclain’s heavy breathing and difficulty swallowing food was because she had a ring around her esophagus. An operation
to snip the ring was scheduled, but a week prior to the surgery, Maclain choked on a French fry and died. When I got pregnant with Sloan, I was forty-one years old and only eight months into grief. A baby would fill the hole in my body and in our home. Lina says, “Wow, that’s a lot to put on a child.” Lina looks into my eyes. I feel her trying to gauge how her words hit me. My eyes well up. I stare at Lina. I wonder if my mom ever sat in a therapist chair and complained about me. I was not a nice daughter. I didn’t like being told what to do. When asked to clean my room, I refused. I didn’t care if I lost my dessert or my TV time. I rationalized that dessert would only make me fat and that I’d rather read a book than watch TV, exactly what Sloan says to me. Also, like Sloan, when I was asked to get ready for school, I dawdled. “You are going to miss the bus”, my mom would scream. “Your brother is ready and I only had to ask him one time. Why do you always have to be so difficult?” I imitated her mean look while repeating her words under my breath. Behind my bedroom door, I listened to her rant on and on about how if I would just listen. As I got older, we continued to fight. She felt that I would be better off if I wore her clothes, studied more, hung out with her friends, and ate vegan. I didn’t. She told me that I was nothing like the little girl she’d wished for. Like the little girl she was to her mom: kind and adoring. Our arguments always ended with her screaming, “I hope you have a child just like you!” I think, well mom, you got your wish. Lina hands me a tissue. She repeats,
“That’s a lot to put on a child especially one like Sloan.” Lina explains that Sloan might have sensory and executive functioning issues, proprioception dysfunction, or mild autism. I barely know what any of those things mean, but still, I am relieved. I’m not a bad mother, I have a child with special needs. In the car on the way home, I calculate the cost of Lina every week, therapy for his proprioception dysfunction and sensory issues, karate for his self control, run club for his energy and someone to help drive him around while I cook dinner and drive to golf and gymnastics. The total monthly cost is $1660. That’s $19,920 a year. How am I supposed to afford that? The next day, I found Kirk Martin’s website offering help to parents of children with
“When I got pregnant with Sloan, I was fortyone and only eight months into grief. A baby would fill the hole in my body and in our home”
ADHD for only $150 a download. That’s less than one visit to Lina. I downloaded. Then, I power listened for two days. Kirk described my son. He described me. He described the struggle: we react, lose our shit, and take away privileges. Children feel like they cannot do anything right, end up with low self-esteem, and become angry and violent. Most parent/child relationships never recover. Kirk, like Lina, recommends that parents start by controlling themselves, staying as calm as possible, not reacting. So, last night, after asking Sloan to brush his teeth and get ready for bed I let him dawdle. When I saw him slither to his room, on the floor, pretending to be a snake, I let him. I felt my heart rate speed up, but I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. Then I calmly walked in and kissed him goodnight.
ABOVE: ‘No.10’ Kandace Siobhan Walker FOLLOWING: ‘Drawing’ Caitlin Hazell
GONAÏVES NADINE GONZALEZ spent a year in a remote part of Haiti, where as a Western-trained doctor, she experienced the tension between conventional medicine and traditional beliefs.
“On that first day, as the driver raced recklessly along narrow unpaved roads, I withdrew into myself and blocked out the world”
Retired yellow school buses are shipped to Haiti and sold into forced labor. You’ll find them lined up at crowded bus stations, crammed with passengers, four adults to a seat, kids on their laps and baskets stuffed with red feather hens at their feet. Early one morning in the late nineties, I boarded one such bus for a three-hour trip from Port-au-Prince to Gonaïves to begin a medical residency at the local hospital. Over the following year I’d make that trip numerous times, staring out the window at the changing landscape: beaches, mountains, fields, and long stretches of hard brown dirt. But on that first day, as the driver raced recklessly along narrow unpaved roads, I withdrew into myself and blocked out the world. Up until then, my life was in Port-au-Prince. Everything beyond was foreign territory. I was ten when my family moved from New York to Haiti. My father, a practicing physician, walked out
on what most would call a comfortable life—a decision based on nostalgia, not common sense. A decade later, when I was preparing to leave, he urged me to stay, follow in his footsteps and attend his alma mater, the state-run medical school. Of all my siblings, I resembled him the most. Perhaps he saw himself in me, thought I could carry on his legacy. But my dreams were not limited to an embattled Caribbean nation. The rural residency year was meant to be my last in Haiti. My focus was to return to the US and catch up with the rest of the world. But the bus was like a time machine, taking me back. Gonaïves is a hard place. The coastal city is plain, flat, and coarse with sea salt. The people are not particularly welcoming. Mosquitoes abound. That was my assessment at the time, anyway. I had only chosen it for its proximity to the capital. But even if it had been a seaside paradise, I would have still dreaded spending an entire year there.
I arrived at Gonaïves, a newly minted MD. Credentials aside, I wasn’t prepared for my assignment. Six years of study and I didn’t feel like a doctor. In my mind, the doctor in the family would always be my father. The first time I was called “doc,” I almost looked around for him. Still, I’d studied and trained and passed all the required tests. I expected to do some good, if no harm. With the bar set so low, how could I fail? But fail I did. Things did not start well. I had a hard time connecting with the people I was meant to serve. Part of it was my fault. I was in my late-twenties, but I looked like a child. I imagine my patients took one glance at my tiny frame in the lab coats my mother had starched and pressed, compared me to the male doctor I’d replaced, and thought to themselves: “Nan kisa nou pran la?”
(“What fresh hell is this?”) There was also the matter of my chronic tardiness. Slow weekends in the country held zero appeal to me. The plan was to take the five a.m. bus from Delmas, my neighborhood in Port-auPrince, and arrive at Gonaïves by eight. Gridlock traffic made that schedule impossible to keep. So on Mondays, the busiest day of the week, I’d show up late. When I walked past the clinic’s overflowing waiting area, my patients greeted me with cold silence and dirty looks. And as I met with them, I began to understand the science-based advice I was trained to give wasn’t what they were seeking. Gonaïves was reputed to be a hotbed of vodou activity. Terrified, my mother had equipped me with a zombie repeller kit consisting of a Bible, a rosary, an amulet of the Virgin Mary, and a small
“Gonaïves was reputed to be a hotbed of vodou activity. Terrified, my mother had equipped me with a zombie repeller kit”
LEFT: ‘No.11’ Kandace Siobhan Walker
flask of holy water imported from Lourdes. In Port-au-Prince, discussions of vodou were cultural, not spiritual. Its iconography characterized our art and its rhythms influenced the popular music of the day. If the nation couldn’t shed the stereotype, it might as well embrace it. In Gonaïves, the practice wasn’t theoretical or metaphorical; it shaped daily life. Some nights, deep in the darkness, the city hummed with drums and chants. The sounds reached me in my dorm room above the hospital. If it were all chanting and drumming it wouldn’t be so bad, but their beliefs seeped into the clinic. The first time a patient refused to let me start an IV or draw blood, I was puzzled. The nurse tipped me off: the healer who’d referred the patient to me had advised against it. Any perforation of the skin would undo whatever he’d done. My role in this health care system was limited. I could use my stethoscope and blood pressure cuff. Nothing else. Not that I had much more. The clinic was a room with a desk and an exam table. The ER was a larger room with a few cots and IV stands. Lab tests were limited. There were no specialty clinics to speak of. The faithful worshiped at many altars. A young mother of three kids had severe anemia and complained of weakness. I wrote her a prescription for iron supplements-and birth control. She shyly declined. Her pastor wouldn’t approve. Children were gifts from God, she assured me. “Is your pastor going to help feed these kids?” I asked. She conceded that I had a point and accepted the prescription. I doubted she took a single pill. Children were everywhere. I watched them running barefoot on the side of the road all those long trips back and forth to the capital. What kind of future did they have? It was the age of Internet cafés. And yet in their world, a man wasting away
from AIDS was widely believed to be under a death spell. Their neighborhoods had dozens of churches and very few schools. Their fate was left in the hands of the Almighty or a chorus of other gods. And when I stepped off the bus, exhausted, coated in sweat and dust, I worried about my own future. I was practicing a watered-down version of medicine that yielded to religion. With a growing sense of panic, I began applying to grad schools in Florida. Before the end of the year, I was accepted to a public health program. Only then could I finally relax. Gonaïves and its strangeness no longer frightened me. In the evenings after work, I’d take walks to the waterfront. At night I’d sleep peacefully to the beat of the drums. I used my time on the bus to sketch the landscape, rendering the countryside in rough pencil strokes. Finally, I began to connect with my patients. With so few resources, what choice did they have except to knock on all doors in search for answers? One day, an elderly woman came to the clinic wanting only for me to prescribe a pill to keep her hands from shaking. The signs of Parkinson’s disease were obvious, but I did not have the tools to properly diagnose or treat it. “I want to thread a needle again,” she told me. She felt useless. And so did I. The woman left, resigned to her fate. And I had a better understanding of mine: I couldn’t heal her. Even with all the advances of modern medicine at hand, I likely still couldn’t heal her. The most I could do was listen and hold her hand steady. The rest was up to the gods, the Almighty and all the others.
ABOVE: ‘Portrait of Roy Walton’ Thomas Cameron
White Noise Lobster NILSA RIVERA has spent her whole life confronting the reality of her own hearing loss. Here she talks about the struggles of partial deafness.
Every year, I’m supposed to get a hearing test. Every year, I am terrified of what my audiologist will say. This year wasn’t different. A month before my fortieth birthday, I figure I should get a hearing test as a baseline for the years to come. My hearing loss started during my early childhood. As the oldest child of a deaf woman it was expected, but I never really knew it was not normal to hear. The only abnormality that I noticed was my mom’s speech. My family didn’t speak about deafness or hearing loss. It was just the way things were. When I was seven years old, I sat in a classroom, isolated in a daydream. The teacher sat me in the first row, and every few weeks, she would ask me, “When is your mother taking you to get a hearing test?” My mother never did. I was shy so I kept to myself. I was an only child, my parents were strict and moved a lot, so I was used to being alone. I remember looking at the other kids in the lunchroom, talking to each other and
playing around. I wished I could be as outgoing as they were. When I interacted with other kids, they made fun of the way I spoke. “You speak funny,” they said, which made me self-conscious and I spoke even less. Eventually, someone mentioned that I spoke that way because I was from New York and I assumed they were right and used the excuse for years - I still let people think that sometimes. As I grew older, I made few friends and sometimes they would tease me too but I always thought it was just my speech. When I misunderstood something, I thought it was because I was distracted. A lot of people miss a word here and there.
Then I had my own child. When my son was five years old, his teacher suggested a hearing test because he had a speech impediment. The audiologist smiled as I explained my family’s medical history. She said, “Your son is mimicking your speech. He’s not hard of hearing, you are.” She told me to get into a metal closet with a bullet-proof window and asked me to press a button every time I heard a sound. I failed the test. I was 25 the first time I was prescribed hearing aids. For the first time, I heard the annoying sound of the ceiling fan in my living room and the lawn mowers outside of my bedroom window. I heard voices overlapping each other, and the wind, the windshield wipers, the clicking, clapping, thumping of every object around me all at the same time. I heard my husband’s voice coming in way too loud. I also heard the static of my hearing aids every time my hair or glasses brushed against them. Every time I moved, I heard a squeal, like a microphone malfunctioning. I craved silence.
ABOVE: ‘No. 7’ Kandace Siobhan Walker
For years I didn’t wear the hearing aids. Once, during a job interview, the interviewer asked, “What is the correlation between HIV and TB?” I said, “I think we can use TV to spread HIV awareness.” She smiled. “Well, I meant Tuberculosis but good answer.” I will never forget the embarrassment. As my career started to grow, I was denied a promotion because I wasn’t assertive. Some of my co-workers also mentioned that I was too quiet. I started to see the value of socializing and networking but it required so much effort from me - and still does. Listening and understanding people requires my full attention. I listen with
“I create an invisible funnel that focuses only on that person. If someone else speaks, those words do not reach my brain”
my eyes, body, and ears. I watch body language, read lips, strain to hear, and even feel for the emotion or energy the person is communicating. I tune out other conversations, other movements in the room, and anything that can distract me from the person speaking. I create an invisible funnel that focuses only on that person. If someone else speaks, those words do not reach my brain. If I want to listen to someone else, it takes a couple of seconds for my brain to switch to the next person speaking. This effort is exhausting and I’m not always willing to give it. Socializing ends up low on my list of priorities because it is so difficult and overwhelming. When people gather in groups, there’s a tendency to get close to each other and talk in a low tone. I get that it’s nice to be considerate of others in the room but I can’t pick up on whispers, especially when those voices are competing with other sounds in a crowded room. I went to a business luncheon once with about ten people from my
department. When the waiter asked me what I wanted to eat, I noticed the menu had lobster at market price. I asked what market price was. I heard, “It’s a special with white noise. Market is white noise, is white noise, and if you want white noise, it’s white noise.” I asked again and the waiter spoke louder. I created the funnel and tuned out all the background noise. “It’s a special with lobster. Market is white noise. It’s white noise and if you want white noise, it’s white noise.” By that time, some of my co-workers were looking, which embarrassed me so I just said “Ok.” After I received a four-inch lobster tail with no sides, I ate quietly. A coworker asked, “That’s all you gonna eat?” “Yeah, I’m not that hungry.” Then I got the bill. $125. My whole department had to chip in to help me pay for the white noise lobster. After that, I avoided lunch with co-workers and labelled myself an introvert. My husband says, “You read lips, you’re good.” I do read lips, which means that I have to constantly look at people’s lips moving. Some people can take that as flirting and others get self-conscious. I was once talking to a co-worker who has a low voice. He slumped over the keyboard as he taught me how to pull a report. He was looking at his keyboard, typing, and talking at the same time. I leaned in to look at his lips and didn’t notice how close we were until he looked up and his face was inches from my face. He smiled and spent the whole week after that flirting with me and licking his lips. In the doctor’s office, I was put in another metal closet with a bullet proof window and asked to press a button each
time I heard a noise. After the hearing test, the doctor said, “You haven’t been wearing your hearing aids.” I confused the statement with a question and answered, “Not really. Only to work and class.” She frowned and stared at me sternly. I bit my lips, fumbled with my purse, looked down, and asked, “How did you know?” “Your hearing is getting worse.” I tried to ignore the heaviness of my chest and my heart beat racing. My speech would get worse and people would struggle to understand me. I tried telling myself that people who loved me would learn sign language but I knew that was a lie. People would just ignore me even if I was sitting at the same table with them. I would depend on others to handle certain errands for me because it would be hard for me to communicate. Phone conversations would disappear. My friends would disappear. Not having a conversation with a stranger is not as bad as not being able to have a conversation with a loved one. Losing my hearing would make me invisible. The doctor lowered her head and motioned her hand so I could look at her, instead of my hands. I glared at her lips moving slowly. She pronounced her words like a mom when teaching a child how to speak. “Soon you won’t be able to understand people. You will hear them but you won’t understand because your brain won’t process the words.” Little by little, I was disappearing into a subculture that most people didn’t even notice. When I got back into my car, I sobbed, and put on the black hearing aids I had earlier stuffed into my pocket.
ABOVE: ‘1 AM’ Osato Emumwen FOLLOWING: ‘No. 9 half tone’ Kandace Siobhan Walker
Contains reference to sexual assault
MICHELLE MASSANET blocked out her sexual assault for years - until she watched an episode of Law & Order SVU.
We’re driving. There’re no cell phones, no internet; it’s the mid ‘90s. It feels like freedom when the windows are down and the music’s on. He said, “Anywhere you want to go! What do you feel like? I am at your beck and call.” Steven was tall, handsome, and charming. Full of this positive energy I couldn’t get enough. He used big words, and drove a nice car. It was only our second date, but it felt so easy to be with him. “Dancing! Let’s go dancing.” He was so nice, not like the others with their macho facades. I felt a trust, an easy laughter.
Olivia Benson was in the middle of consoling a young woman, repeating the phrase often heard on SVU. I was binging after a work-intense few weeks; this time it was the latest season of Law & Order SVU. Somewhere between my pad thai lunch and the haze of back-to-back episode consumption, it happened. I stared at Olivia Benson. “Whatever, happened it’s not your fault. “You didn’t ask for this. “It’s. Not. Your. Fault.” I began having a very visceral reaction to what she was saying. I almost choked. Why? What was happening? It felt as if a wall I had built many years ago was crumbling, and fragments of what was on the other side were becoming visible.
Out dancing, he spun me round. I love the spins. La Salsera they would call me. Other men would ask him, “Can I have a dance with her?” and he’d wave me on; he liked watching me dance. He wasn’t jealous. What a wonderful thing, I thought.
What was he going to grab? But my eyes closed. I was happy and too tired to notice anything more than the softness of the pillow as my head went down. When I woke up, it was too late. I was pinned down. I was so confused. I apologized. “What’s happening?” I asked, panicked. I said no; no, no. I thought I was stronger. I thought I was smarter. I could hear my father’s voice in my head. “Don’t get stupid.” I shouldn’t have been here, this was all my fault. I knew better. I knew better. I knew better. I knew better. My fault. I begged. He got violently stronger. How am I so weak? And just like that, it was done, he kissed my hair and walked out of the room.
“It felt as if a wall I had built many years ago was crumbling, and fragments of what was on the other side were becoming visible”
“Oh my god! Is it really you?” I spun round to see the parents of a friend of mine; they were beaming at me and Steven. “I didn’t know you were in town? How’s college? Who is this handsome young man?” The questions were harmless, sweet and doting. We laughed along, sharing funny stories. The evening grew late, and the parents drifted away. He turned to me. “We’re pretty far from your house; do you want to crash at mine for a little while? Perfect gentleman. I swear I am.” Giving him my best side eye elicited more pleas for trust. I believed him. It was a beige block in a sea of apartments; newly built, nondescript, and advertised from the highway with signs saying, “If you lived here, you’d be home by now!” “Go ahead, get some rest…” Maybe if I hadn’t drunk so much… “I’m gonna go grab something …”
Suddenly all the details I’d missed came sharply into focus; the smell of CK One, the blue of the sheets, the lack of any personal items. My crying was silent as I ran to the bathroom, but rose in volume when I saw the clear shower curtain. There was nowhere to hide. No amount of scrubbing would take it away. I decided I to erase it. I was good at erasing things. The Incident was over. Olivia Benson was still on my television screen, comforting and assuring. “You’ll get through this…” she
says with her arm wrapped around the girl. I was reeling from the 19-year-old memory I had totally erased. This episode wasn’t even about date rape. I sat there, silently crying for that girl who never spoke up. I cried for that girl who decided that she wasn’t going to acknowledge what happened to her. Crying because everything was coming into focus. It’s five years after the Incident. “You have a problem, you know that? You tricked me into loving you and now you’ve turned on me. It’s like you’re asexual.” Cesar was everything I ever wanted. At least I thought so. Was I sabotaging? “I don’t have a problem Cesar! But if it was up to you, I’d wake up every morning with your dick in my mouth.” I felt guilty resenting him as his possessiveness increased. The angrier he became, the more I withdrew. I knew he
loved me, but how could he understand when I denied it myself? However, I never denied the fallout. I rationalized it. My fault. My fault. My mind is back on campus again and it’s… One month after the Incident. I was drinking too much water. I needed to cut back; getting up to pee at 4am was killing me. Something was wrong with me; I couldn’t function on campus past 3pm. I didn’t even like carrots, why was I eating carrots? I had to see someone, stat. The doctor’s office was traditional; photos of his family, large mahogany desk. It felt warm, with a big picture window facing campus. I would be okay. He walked in and I thought of a sweet, suburban dad. He had on a bow tie—it was polka dot. It was all I could look at as he started to talk to me, not with
concern or compassion, but with disdain and disappointment. “This is a real shame; you are a young girl, with your whole life ahead of you. Did you even use protection?” I could only blink. “Do you hear me? This is something that could have been avoided, now your whole life…” I stared at the bow tie. In the distance somewhere I heard him talking, but my mind had shut him down. I needed to find the nearest Planned Parenthood and camp there. I would not become a statistic. I would not be like the others. I KNEW BETTER. I couldn’t tell a soul. Especially my mom, I knew she’d try to convince me to have it. I knew what I had to do. Back then they made you wait, 8 weeks they said, and when it came time for my appointment, I was lucky, there were no protestors outside. I was completely detached. Afterwards, my friend and her mother picked me up and took me to IHOP. It was Feb 11. I slept for the following three days. Those closest to me would ask what happened? I made a mistake, I would say. Nine years after the Incident. I got a phone call from my mom. She was in shock. “Do you remember Steven?” she asked. My silence gave her leave to continue. “They found him dead in his car. Can you believe it? They say it was drugs, pobrecito. I feel horrible, I never
liked him and I had no reason to not like him and now he’s gone.” How could I tell her? I stayed silent. She felt guilty about not liking him. There would be more relationships where I would Stop. Play. And Repeat the cycle I started with Cesar. Two years was always my limit. Not even knowing why I was the way I was. That’s the problem with erasing; you can’t connect the dots. Two weeks after Olivia Benson. I take my mom out for Mexican food. She’s always telling me about Jesus. I love her so much I would listen to her tell me about aliens in the garden if it made her happy. She never stops asking about my relationship potential or if I have anything on the horizon… she remains so hopeful. I had to tell her the truth. Afterwards, through her tears, she musters, “Goddamnit; I felt so guilty about not liking him that I bought his headstone. I knew there was something wrong with him.” Nowadays, I wonder, when is the right time to tell that special person in your life about this type of incident? I haven’t figured that out, but I do know that a weight has been lifted. I know myself better now. And the last guy I dated? I told him, and for the first time, I was ready to face the issue with honesty instead of avoidance. He was kind and caring. We didn’t work out in the end, but for the short time we were a part of each other’s lives, we were honest.
Dude, Not Darling HOPE BELLE writes about supporting her young transgender son through childhood, and planning for his future.
I am asked regularly what the challenges are of raising a transgender child. The only thing I can conclude is that the child is not the challenge. I mean, they are of course. Here is a shout out to all the single parents! There is a crushing, crippling responsibility that comes with parenting and there is so much to do; so in the end listening to and loving my child is not what I found difficult. I thought it was cute how this kid rejected anything ‘for a girl’. The questions…while holding up her pink polka-dot cup: “Why is this cup for girls Mummy?” “Is this music for a girl?” “Macaroni cheese is for a girl right? It became easier to just summarize, “None of this stuff is for a girl or boy, it’s just stuff and choices.” But the list of stuff was piling up; toys, trousers, tops and socks, sports, friendships, activities, interests, colours,
hair styles, swim wear, shoes. The answer was always the same: “You get to follow your heart’s desire kiddo.” Her heart’s desire was hilarious. While browsing the sale aisles of the ultra-feminine Monsoon store, my 3-year-old was pointing at something excitedly “Look Mummy, I want one!” I spun on my heel thinking the first request for a dress had come. No it was the fire extinguisher secured to the wall. The “sting-squisher”, to give it its proper name. “Please can we take it home mummy? It’s on sale.” I couldn’t buy my daughter the store’s health and safety equipment, but I could respect her choices. But then, age 4, the questions took a turn. “Are sons just as loved as daughters Mummy? “Of course!” I would reply. “Well, can I be your son then Mummy? I’m not a girl. I am a boy and my name is George. No Thomas like a tank engine. No Pip. No Thatch. No Freddy. That’s it Mummy, my name is Freddy. I will ask everyone to call me Freddy from
unhappy and I was overwhelmed by how much gender allegiance dictated our day. I did what any other fretful, tired, anxious parent would do and asked Google. I read stories and studies, child-led approaches, poetry of voiceless existence. Hidden history revealed itself. Scientific findings and lived experiences of an inconvenient identity. Rightful demands for equality, protection, completed educations, health care, family life, respect and inclusion. Where are our allies? I was learning that gender is more than outside decoration and laughable stereotype. Trans is a valid identity. In the charity shop a few days later the volunteer shop assistant praised Freddy, “You must have been a very good boy getting this tractor today? Freddy’s eyes bore into mine begging me not to betray him. We smiled and nodded and left the shop, outside Freddy gave me a big loving hug and said “Thank you for letting me be a boy Mummy.” From this day on Freddy has been my son. He, him, his, whatever; love. He needs my love. And yours. Fast forward five years and there are days when Freddy does not love himself. Rather he does not love being transgender. He can struggle to hold his own in a minority. He first learned the word transgender when watching the CBBC My Life show I am Leo. “I am like Leo Mummy, I am a transgender boy.” He used this new word with gusto and pride. But he gets tired of telling everyone what it means. Progress for inclusive education is slow, our
“Most parents want to see their child thrive but this child was unhappy and I was overwhelmed”
now on. You do the same too. Tell them my name is Freddy and I am a boy.” And so it continued. “No Mummy. I do not want to wear a tutu and be a snowflake in the nativity. I WANT TO BE A SHEPHERD.” “Look Mummy, I have cut my own hair to look like Robinbatman.” “Look Mummy, I can pee standing up!” The swimming costume got surreptitiously unpacked and hidden then later cut up in two such was the determination of this tiny child to not wear anything that would let people assume they were anyone other than male. Refusals to leave the house because the clothes weren’t ‘boy enough’. Even pink cotton pants that wouldn’t be seen by anyone other than the wearer and their laundry fairy would be hidden under the couch for weeks. Most parents want to see their child thrive but this child was
authorities in education worry far too much about the negative impact visible diversity will have upon children. In our experience Freddy’s friends needed very little support to accept his transition. Is it really radical to suggest we should be embracing a child’s ability to understand diversity? Rather than signing off on a policy promising support and inclusion but which is still only words on a page instead of meaningful change? For Freddy using the word transgender to describe himself has given him some freedom from the fixed idea of what a boy should be. He enjoys a rich world of play and exploration. How he is assures me that this child age nine has the capacity to love and care for others and himself. I love to watch him invent and create, use languages and love friendship. He is learning and growing. Phew! I can relax. Oh Shit! Here comes puberty. Hips growing, breasts budding, first bleed, betrayal of the body. Hormone blockers? Bone density tests, hours of assessment, invasive procedures, binders, packers, cross sex hormones, first crush, first kiss, Snapchat and Insta rejection, spots and getting it wrong. Shitty statistics telling him he is fifty times more likely to attempt suicide than his cis-peers. Daily Mail headlines and worse, Daily M ail readers… No! I did not do this to him because I really wanted a boy. No he hasn’t had any surgery. No I don’t know if he ever will have surgery, but did you know if you support and accept him then he is just as likely to succeed as his peers and continue to grow with confidence? No it is not a trend.
Transgender people have always been here. I don’t have a looking glass into Freddy’s future. I won’t be the one making his decisions, but as his mum I can prepare him for adulthood in his childhood. Assuring him he is valid, that he is equal just as he is. But is this enough? I would rather teach every child we meet about the harmful myth of gender binary than have one more conversation with Freddy about transphobia. It is not ridiculous to hope that he will never have to protect himself against hate. But I still try to give him a thick skin for the real world. The charity Mermaids have come to our rescue here. What better protection than a community of families like ours. Freddy and I spent the weekend at an outdoors resort in the Scottish Borders. That Saturday night he lay spread-eagled across the bunk with rainbow facepaint smeared across his cheeks. He was exhausted from a day of tree-climbing, swimming in the lake, picnicking with new friends in a forest wigwam and hours of football on the lawn. “Mum, did you know some doctors helped Jake to look like he does now? He used to look like a girl. Do you think doctors can help me grow a beard when I’m older?” “Yes, doctors can help you to have the puberty you want.” He fell asleep dreaming of the possibilities. Not afraid. Progress indeed.
“As his mum I can prepare him for adulthood in his childhood. Assuring him he is valid, that he is equal just as he is”
ABOVE: ‘spring’ Osato Emumwen
Daisy is a Ph.D student at the University of Glasgow, reviews editor for MAP magazine, and winner of an Eric Gregory Award 2017. Daisy’s first pamphlet, ‘understudies for air’, was published in August 2017 by Sad Press, and it has already achieved acclaim. Sophie Collins (author of Who is Mary Sue and small white monkeys), chose it as one of her White Review Books of the Year, noting that “it is difficult to believe that this is Daisy’s debut publication”. These poems are taken from this pamphlet, which can be bought online from sadpresspoetry.wordpress.com, or found at The Scottish Poetry Library.
pestilence air wind tugs through the rushes, scouring raw the rounded peaks. you recall a girl, teased so long for being riddled with headlice that, though her mother could never find trace of them, began to believe not only that she was infected, but that the nits had subcutaneous strategies: that they had littered, hatched and begun to move beneath her skin. she once pulled you aside and told how, at nights, she dreamed of a neat grid delineating her scalp, and peeling back the skin in parallel strips to make a swift, merciless harvest; the way she had seen the school groundsman lay lengths of fresh turf in the muddy field, kicking the clodded whorls of earth and watch each of them unfurl and merge seamlessly together, a fresh lawn shaken from embryo. though she never told you how these dreams ended, you imagine that she woke often and stared at the ceiling, her quick fingers waxing and waning in the dark
scarification air it may strike you as pointless all this talk of the air. the air, as it is commonly known, has many points, but language is not one of them. it stung at first, the talk, but the sores of exposure eventually scabbed, dried into shapes we dreamed we could decipher: squat like cuneiform, prone to infection, healing to tissue under each sickle moon. we carried on, in spite of. to sing ourselves sick; rub grit in the wound. before all this began I knew a young boy, not yet distinct from his mother, buckled to her side like an undeveloped shoot. how one innocuous Saturday in a department store, riding a lift between the ground and third floors, he glimpsed her on the other side, standing by the loungewear. he thrust out an arm just as the doors came swooping, jamming his limb between their teeth. he must have mistaken you for a mannequin, the nurse told his mother, â€ƒ
his skin in ribbons. in reply she claimed her son was delusional; she’d been standing beside him the whole time. somehow, the boy later told me, the bandages came to be left on too long, the calico net left to fester in his skin so that to this day, the inside of his left radial head is rough as a whisk and bears its woven imprint. do you mind? I asked, and he said no, that it reminds him of where he belongs. I didn’t ask where. we both wondered but didn’t say perhaps it was an early leak of the air that conjured the image of his mother. or perhaps, by that point, she was more mannequin than woman. who can say? I don’t like to question my motives too much in the field. it slows me down. you can take any good thought and trace it back, far as it will go, to find a bad root growing in every direction
Yvonne has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida. She teaches college English and her poetry, fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The Cypress Dome, Vine Leaves Journal, The Los Angeles Review of Los Angeles and elsewhere.
I Hope Everything Missing in Us Disappears These little fractures of light we call stars, mom,
helped me find my way
I became in the infectious-green meadow, in the moist folds
of lifeâ€™s filthy abdomen.
I could see my eyes were not the ones you raised me with
they were made of fire
and little plastic melted objects when I closed them. I said fuck a lot to everything sideways still rose way too early for me
yet the sun
of flames falling from the clouds was another version of me
giving lousy directions to the blind.
I walked along the windy rain & everything looked so forestry even the parking lot seemed less troubled. if
be for us who the fuck shall be against us, cousin, I love you like a wrong turn straight into a mosh pit.
Even bin Laden enjoyed a wholesome game of volleyball
with his slow son Dad would remind us at the dinner table [though we knew he meant it!]
I missed the sound the names made when we ran our fingers over tombstones, the way the moss turned everything in the cemetery an old-green
donâ€™t tree limbs look more interesting dead?
Bones and family
There are no more holes in us, mom, at the last gas stop
will break when ignored. we filled them up
we are Ameys; syphilis runs in our family.
ALYCIA PIRMOHAMED Alycia is a Ph.D. student at the University of Edinburgh. Her work has recently appeared, or is forthcoming, in Prairie Schooner, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, wildness, Grain Magazine, and Vallum Magazine. Her work was also selected for the 2018 edition of the Best New British and Irish Poets Anthology. She is the Creative Writing and Reviews editor at HARTS & Minds, and she co-edits the multilingual publication, The Polyglot.
Here is My Silence This antagonistic serrated version of myself is not unlike the coyotes we watched stalk the ice. I want to explain. To tell you how these fires around me were never started by PREVIOUS: â€˜Oak Câ€™, Joseph Glover
my hands. But I do not explain how you are a universal experience I long for. I am not that coyote, that half-bitten nail shaped truth. Yes,
sometimes I stay awake reading not science fiction, not my favourite lyric poems, but brutality. Here is the ebb and flow of anger, and enough sorrow to last three more days. Sorrow I, Sorrow II Sorrow IIIâ€”do you understand that this is the title of everything I make? I see my eyes everywhere, in all things and when I say eyes, I mean envy. Believe me. Sometimes I whisper in the dark as your arm reaches across the skin it took months to let you see. I canâ€™t blame you for not listening. I blame you for not listening.
ABOVE: ‘A Painter’s Still Life’ Joseph Glover OPPOSITE: ‘No Title II’ Joseph Glover
Aerial In this dream, I fly over a canyon filled with faces. I am guided by a garland of my motherâ€™s voice, the slip and echo of contralto, a stammer in the low height of the troposphere. It weaves water into silk and silk into saree, and in this dream, I become a wren with pleated feathers, a songbirddaughter eating sweets. How many of those faces are my own? How many daughters eating jelabi, how many canyons filled with versions of selves that I have shed
and shed and even killed? I am shaped like my country, but only one of them. I am shaped like loss. I wake up not as the bird, but as the canyon. BELOW: â€˜No. 4 half toneâ€™ Kandace Siobhan Walker
ABOVE: ‘Molly’s Birthday’ Fairfield Guyver
KANDACE SIOBHAN WALKER Kanadce is a writer, photographer and filmmaker. She is currently writing and directing a short film in collaboration with the ICA and Dazed Media, as part of the STOP PLAY RECORD programme for young filmmakers. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, New Plains Review and Obsidian, among others.
Kitchen / Love Poem
Blued with laughter, I was wordless
with the joy of the thing. We were just alive right there, at the bus stop. Then coming in waterfall, all kinds of words like happy birthday, sugar, heaven, trumpet, baby, Earth, atmosphere, glacier, the number three, green, plantain. I was able to say only,
very softly, having lost the breath to say anything that would punch right through to the everyday magic of waiting with you in the sun,
in the deep afternoon
of a future. Why was I amazed at this rushing vocabulary? All I got was us, garden, lightbulb, all-stars, pinkie, diamond, everything, wow. All I was able to say was,
KEVIN ZAMBRANO Kevin Zambrano lives in New York City. His poetry has been published in Gargoyle, Sentence and Into the Teeth of the Wind.
Thomas Kinkade These days everyone calls me a motherfucker. I don’t know why. I’m a painter of light, a purveyor of beauty. Now I want to be young again, back when I moved with her gently through tall stalks of grass. We trampled them like elephants. I don’t know anything anymore. I don’t know what to like. Please play now, my memory, like a tape recording. Don’t be a motherfucker. We went to a zoo once, she and I, and rode an elephant. I could see all its bristles shine in the right light. She kept her arms around my waist. We got down gently. We were sixteen, I think. How much older could we be? We met at that party where I stepped on a bee. She told me I should have been wearing shoes. I like that she sounded unconcerned, but took my foot gently and with tweezers plucked out the stinger. I screamed, “Motherfucker!” We were at our old Russian neighbors’ house. There was no light over by where we sat, next to that creepy marble elephant. Yesterday I sold a painting of an elephant standing on one foot, glorious as can be. I went to the circus and said I’m a painter of light, and they let me in, got out the animal, posed it like a beast of Carnage, Hannibal riding, that motherfucker. It was undersold. The auctioneer let me down gently.
She taught me to paint, moved my hand so gently. My fingers were clumsy and thick like legs of an elephant. When I moved to Pasadena I kept painting like a motherfucker. We exchanged letters. I told her I wanted to be a painter, like her. I wanted to paint things like nighttime rivers, juniper groves, villages of lamplight. In one of her letters she told me I should paint light. She meant that my hand was heavy, that I should paint gently, but the other meaning’s the one I took to like. I want to be a giant, the elephant in the art world’s galleries. I want to be an artist everyone knows, and a rich motherfucker. Last I saw her, we tiptoed across the floor, light as elephants, over across the cracking wood panels. Gently, gently. She turned and said, “I like you, I really do, you motherfucker.”
DAISY THOMAS Daisy is a poet living in London. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Creative & Life Writing at Goldsmiths.
There is nothing to know A spider spent the whole morning behind the curtain wrapping a ladybird in its web (and I did nothing to save her). It sounded like I was reading incantations to summon the dead but I was just muttering along to the record player. It’s a crying shame the volume isn’t loud enough to drown out my singing along. I wish I could sing along. When I stand on the riverbank after lunch with my eyes watering from the cold, I think I could live forever on the water. Me, with long grey hair, colourful cardigans made of alpaca wool, and a pet parrot who only knows how to say indistinguishable. Often, a grizzly bear strolls by looking pitiful in his expensive walking boots. He tells me a lot about otters. Every detail I’ve never wondered about. Their shit smells like jasmine and they are so hideous up close, have you noticed? I wish there was something left for me to become expert in. I wish
I could be sent back to the olden days; an authentic peasant girl with a bonnet, blisters from churning butter all day, and a dreadful fear of all the king’s men. I could become expert in boredom. I could invent astrology and get hung for sacrilege. It’s true I think every song was written about me. I am so busy being everybody. BELOW: ‘Respect Sex Workers’ Brie Kimble
SARAH SMITH Sarah lives and works in Glasgow and is studying for an MLitt in Creative Writing. Her short stories, poetry and flash fiction have been published by New Writing Scotland, Leaf Books and Duality the Book.
Respite eight of us, filling out four columns of a form first today’s date: 14 slash 8 slash 17 your name, my name & type of cancer secondary breast: patient slash carer our therapist deftly concertinas a screen, protecting us from distractions, but still a perspex kettle bubbling in the background, slurp of a fridge’s rubber suction seal occasional spikes of soprano and bass slipping in all the way from the end of the corridor she switches on a white cube of music and draws our attention to the surroundings: birch trees, columned beyond a windowed wall brown bark circled like peeling sellotape; one man’s amplified voice box breathing; the bird-like woman giving her husband a break; a cherub-man tight in rose pink sweater blinks, can I take you home with me? she smiles, lays her hand on his arm.
LEFT: ‘limmy’ Fairfield Guyver FOLLOWING: ‘mini me’ Fairfield Guyver
Po s t - R e t r e a t In this piece of flash-fiction by KATE MARSHALL, a woman accompanies a recent acquaintance on his way to scatter his mother’s ashes, evoking pain of her own along the way.
“I’m not upset,” Patrick said as he drove one-handed down the unmarked mountain road. Rain sheeted the Honda’s windshield. Leaked through a jagged cut onto the dash. Patrick was my ride down. I met him at the Buddhist center. It was the first anniversary of his mother’s death. “We should pull over.” My seat belt was beyond shelf-life. He didn’t wear one. He stabbed the brake. The car fishtailed, knocking me against the glovebox. “Slow down. We’ll blow a tire.” “This is nothing. I drove all night to deliver Vivian to Dr. Kevorkian. She didn’t want to miss her nine o’clock.” I choked back dinner. Touched the door handle. I wondered how hard I’d smack the road if I jumped. Patrick rubbed at the fogged-up windshield. “She trucked Dad to Dr. K when I was twelve. Made me promise to take her when her heart got bad.” “Mmmmmm.” The smell of old socks and burning oil filled the silence. I pressed my palms together and counted my in-breaths, as the tires bounced over rutted terrain. Patrick hunched his shoulders, squinting through the opaque glass. “I wasn’t upset. I was Vivian’s driver. After she picked the day, I was relieved.” “Un-huh. Right.” Empty pop cans shifted next to my feet. I massaged my shoulder. Though about pulling the emergency brake.
ABOVE: ‘No.6’ Kandace Siobhan Walker
“Touched the door handle. I wondered how hard I’d smack the road if I jumped”
“The state did an autopsy before I could burn her. Her heart wasn’t that bad.” “Stop.” I didn’t want to think about my sister’s three pounds of bone ash holed up in an ice bucket urn on my spare room bookshelf beside her wall facing photo. Five years since the ‘mercy killing’ that her daughter and I called murder. Dying together in love, the boyfriend wrote, before pressing his Ruger to her temple. Afterwards to his heart. Her real MS. His kidney transplant failure. “Vivian’s in the trunk. They won’t let me spread her at the center.” We rammed a pothole. The wheels churned up mud. Patrick rocked the car forward and reverse until the engine died. He laid his head on the steering wheel. I kicked at the floor mat and shivered as the temperature dropped. “She didn’t die right away. A glitch in the machine.” My sister died slowly. Right away in the end. We sat, wrapped in our coats. I pictured the knoll above the creek where my sister had been with her first lover. I opened the door. Cold rain misted my face. I touched Patrick’s arm. “Come.” We crossed the road and climbed an embankment where Patrick stopped in a clearing. He bowed his head. “To Vivian,” he said after a long pause. “What a road trip.” He opened the box.
HEART M AT T E R / S SANDRA HUNTER blurs the themes of consumption and sacrifice with love and loss, in an unsettling story of a womanâ€™s body and its trials.
When goats hear bombs they shake like babies. They have difficulty standing. Their milk stops. They can go blind.
The goatâ€™s heart has atria like two small ears. You can dissect it easily.
You can also cook it and eat it. There are YouTube videos for both options.
What is it like to eat the heart of some other creature? Do you think about the heart beating inside the owner just before it was killed by a bomb; a machete; a man with a small calibre weapon? A heart that has died from fear will taste different from a heart that is unaware of approaching death. There are reasons to eat the heart. This happens when you need protein, thiamine, folate, and B vitamins, you want to build muscle, to reduce aging. And it is low in fat. There are reasons to eat your own heart. This happens when you find there is nothing to tie you to this other person you swore to remain tied to; when your vitamin intake is disproportional to the loss of sleep; when you are losing or gaining weight.
Eating the heart Each chewy mouthful tastes like rain. Each mouthful looks like strawberries but is sour-dry like grape skin.
This This This This
is is is is
where I used to go. where I was almost enough. when I wasn’t afraid to be unclothed. where I stabbed myself for going too far.
No mouthful reminds you of being in love because that mouthful devoured itself. The withered leaves. The part that should have been cut out. If it had been excised it might have grown back and you wouldn’t be sitting here with your knife and fork asking the person to your left to pass the ketchup.
Acts apparently associated with the heart
You may not speak the act
You may not speak the slithering of lips
The thick-fleshed entry
The cock-and-cunt hunt
You may not speak revulsion
You may not speak the stomach’s revolt
You may not speak
You may not speak
She met him.
Blooming cumbrous clouds around stammering fingers. The moment’s scent crushed on contact. The urgency to move and the fear of moving. The wanting of
skin and the too-muchness of touch. The fingers intrude, the palm defends. The knee between the legs. Memory: A newly knowledgeable school-friend told her, He lies on top. And you open your legs.
Why canâ€™t he open his legs? Why does anyone have to open anything?
Thick, blunt-fleshed entry.
To bleed into towels, sheets, nylon carpets.
To have something squeezed, wrung out.
To tear: pull, rip, overflow
He presented the
by-product of an emotional experience.
He wrapped the
blood/bleed: an emotional experience.
He gave her the
Bruise: an emotional
Woman Body Receptacle for food, fear, warmth, fear, blunt instrument, sharp instrument. The hands are the enemies. They are hammered, bent, stuck in doors. The fingers and wrists break too easily. They mend and grow back strangely. Sometimes they are not yours anymore.
â€œHer body sighs and sheds itself, skin by skin, fewer anxious falterings, misknowings, alonenessâ€?
If you let them dry out, they curl into themselves. Brittle leaves.
Once the drying process is complete the hands cannot be opened again.
Once the heart dries out it cannot be re-hydrated.
The body shakes with autumn, the soft susurration of falling. Come the winter the body will be covered with snow. Come the spring, the melt will soak the body into the earth. New lovers coming to the forest with their green hands and lush skin will lie down, turning and turning, on top and beneath, and their hands will discover and retreat and hold and release. And they will smell the steaming earth and feel how alive they are.
Feeding. Clutching. Feeding. Clutching. Whose hunger, whose satiety?
Her body sighs and sheds itself, skin by skin, fewer anxious falterings, misknowings, aloneness. Her body is subject to weights: loneliness, shame, guilt, knowing too much truth. Her body, tuned to the turn of her head, has mislaid its upper, fine-spun register.
There must be help for this.
ABOVE: ‘For Chris’ Brie Kimble
She is actually rubbing her hands. I’m going to be your husband’s new best friend. She hands over sample tubes, ointment to be vaginally inserted twice a day.
What happens after I—? How long should I wait before I—? The gynecologist doesn’t look up from writing the yummy prescription, Oh, it’ll be like being a virgin. Your first time. But you’ll get used to it. The woman, shaking as she leaves the office, dumps the ointment in the nearest trashcan. Chin up. Heart-rate up. You get used to it, the tearing, the carpet burns, the bruising, the fingermarks. What is wrong with/wrong/you/wrong
This woman, standing at the bus stop because there is nowhere she can go with this heart, this bounding, re-beating, re-beating, pattering of goat’s feet. She reaches inside and pulls out the organ, pulsing and gasping and surging and lurching up to batter her face. She tears off mouthfuls, the flesh squirming and shuddering even as she swallows, swallows back the blood. She vomits, heaving and gasping, as the heart climbs back out and lies in twitching pieces on the wet sidewalk. She scoops the pieces into a plastic bag. Once they are rinsed properly, they can be diced and cooked, onion and ginger, and covered with a shining cap of golden pastry. Her husband will love it.
BELOW: ‘no shade’ Osato Emumwen
The Woman Who Walks In this story by JULIE GARDNER, we follow Maureen through her quiet, contained life, experiencing her small pleasures and humbling woes with a human tie that is as instant as it is affecting.
No one waits at the tram stop by the High School and when the tram whispers in, no-one gets off either. There is no-one to see the woman who is walking along the pavement beside the track. She is walking downhill now, towards the city centre, where even on a day as cold and unwelcoming as this, the shops will be full of bargain hunters and people wanting to spend their Christmas vouchers. I say there is no-one to see this woman, but that’s not quite true, is it? I’m watching her, and now I’ve drawn your attention to her, you are watching her too. There is nothing remarkable to notice. She wears a long, quilted coat, sturdy boots, a blue woolly hat, black leather gloves. On her back, a small, grey rucksack bobs as she walks. What is she thinking as she walks down the hill, past the Arboretum gates, towards the university buildings? Let me tell you. Her thoughts skitter and swoop. Much of what she thinks is mundane, practical. She considers whether she should buy milk, reflects that she is glad to be back home though she enjoyed spending Christmas with Andrew, Evie and the two little boys. She looks forward to meeting up with her friend Sarah in the morning, thinks she will lend her the novel she has just read. She remembers that her library books need to be returned before the weekend, anticipates the sewing class she has recently enrolled on, hopes she will enjoy it as much as the last one. She comes to a fork in the road. It doesn’t really matter which way she goes. She has no planned destination, she is just walking because she likes walking. She has contemplated joining a walking group but she values the freedom that walking alone gives her. She can choose where she walks and how long for, can set the pace, change direction on an impulse. She goes to the right, carrying on alongside the tram track towards the theatre. Now that you know what she is thinking about, are you interested? What can I do to make you care? After all, you have your own worries and
“But it’s Maureen I want you to think about, and we must hurry if we are to catch up with her”
concerns, why should you bother yourself with this ordinary woman as she walks along the pavement, her grey rucksack bobbing up and down? In a few days there will be students here again, heading towards lectures or going back to halls of residence, carrying laptops and cardboard coffee cups. Today though, it is relatively quiet; an elderly man waits at the tram stop, a man and a woman hold hands as they walk past, heading in the opposite direction. Across the road a woman with a pushchair talks angrily into a mobile phone while the child wails miserably. Maureen, for that is the name of the woman we are watching, would like to cross the road, unstrap the child, lift him into her arms and comfort him. She hates to hear children cry, hates to see them ignored when they are distressed. She knows it is none of her business, understands that she does not know all the facts, carries on walking. Which of these characters interests you most? The couple holding hands? The angry woman with the wailing child? We could turn around now and follow the hand-holders back up the hill, or we could cross the road and find out more by listening to what the angry woman is saying. Have you forgotten the elderly man who was waiting at the tram stop? What about him? Too late for him I’m afraid. The tram arrived and he got on it. He has disappeared from our lives before we even really noticed him. But it’s Maureen I want you to think about, and we must hurry if we are to catch up with her for she has continued to walk. The pavements, now that she is closer to the city centre, are more crowded. Can you see her? She is waiting to cross the road near the shopping precinct. The lights change and the waiting pedestrians move like two advancing armies. She turns left, walks past the bank and the pound shop, keeps on walking. She is walking with a purpose now, has decided to call in at the cinema to pick up the January
programme so that tomorrow she and Sarah can decide which films they will see. When she comes back down the cinema steps it has begun to rain. She looks at her watch and is surprised to see it is already past twelve. She decides to take the tram back so calls in at Sainsburys to buy milk and a newspaper. She takes her two items to the cashier, disliking the automated tills. The young woman who serves her is engrossed in a shouted conversation with a man who is piling up kitchen towels, telling him that she’s never going to drink red wine again. She hands Maureen her change without looking at her. Maureen puts her purse and her shopping into her rucksack, lifts it onto her back and leaves the shop. The rain has eased off and she decides that she will walk back home after all. She gets back to her tidy house just before one, heats soup and listens to the radio news as she eats. She checks her phone but there is no message from Sarah about tomorrow so she texts her, ‘Still okay for tomorrow?’ Her son often teases Maureen about the way she uses punctuation marks in her text messages. It pleases her to do so, feeling that she is making a small mark, literally and metaphorically, her own quiet campaign. The afternoon is peaceful, domestic. Maureen waters the houseplants, replaces a button on a cardigan, sweeps and mops the kitchen floor. She takes down the Christmas cards and makes a neat pile of them on the coffee table then settles down with a cup of tea, looking forward to finishing her library book and doing the crossword. This evening she will cook herself a simple meal and watch television for an hour or two. Now that the holiday period is over, there will be something to look forward to most days. Her sewing class, coffee or lunch with Sarah, a trip to the cinema, a bus ride out to her sister. Are you thinking that her life seems dull? Perhaps you’re right, but if you could knock on her door now and ask her if she is happy with her lot, she would be quick to answer, telling you that she has much to be grateful for; a loving family, good health, friends, a modest but comfortable home, enough money to get by. “Yes, I am happy,” she would say, and she would be telling the truth, for she has learned to accept that which she cannot change, to find contentment in gentle, uneventful living. But we are interrupted by the sound of her mobile phone. She searches for it in her rucksack then empties out the contents onto the coffee table. By the time she has found the phone, it has stopped ringing. She sees she has missed a call from Sarah. Smiling, she returns the call, answered straight away. But this is not Sarah, it’s a man’s voice. For a moment she is confused, thinks she has somehow called the wrong number but then she listens and begins to understand. “I’m so sorry, Peter.” Her voice is calm, quiet. She listens some more. “Thank you, yes, please do that … Yes, of course. Is there anything? … I know. Just call if you think of anything. Anything at all … Goodbye.” She stands quite still. She stares at the table top, littered with the contents of her rucksack. She sees her cooling tea, the tidy pile of Christmas cards. She
RIGHT: ‘No.8’ Kandace Siobhan Walker
hears a click as the heating comes on, a distant siren, the swish of puddles as a car drives too fast on the road outside. How can Sarah be dead? She’s meeting her for coffee tomorrow morning. She was fine last time they met, just a few days before Christmas. She’s never ill, doesn’t even get colds usually. Surely there should have been some warning. She hadn’t said anything. Never seemed out of breath. Never complained of pain. Sarah, her friend since the first year of secondary school, her friend for over fifty years. Sarah, who was there for her in those awful days and weeks and months after Ted died. How will Peter bear it? And Matt and Emma, both of them with young families? Sarah dead. She’s no age – sixty-eight, always laughing, always wanting to try something new. Maureen stands in the darkening room, cold, alone, bereft. What now if you knock on her door and ask her if she is happy with her lot? Would she even hear the knock? Perhaps she would welcome the chance of human contact, someone to talk to, someone to give her a hug, to offer comfort. Would you remind her that she has much to be grateful for, a loving family, good health, friends, a modest but comfortable home, enough money to get by? All still true despite this sudden, devastating loss. But no one knocks on her door. Minutes pass, the room grows darker still. Stiffly she kneels beside the coffee table, puts the mobile phone back in her bag along with the other things; her purse, a pack of tissues, tube of polo mints, bus pass in a leather wallet, pen, small diary, glasses case, hand cream, paracetamol tablets in a foil pack. What’s this? A leaflet; the programme from the cinema. The tears come then. Still kneeling, still silent, tears fall and fall and still fall. Later she stands, switches on the light, takes the cup to the kitchen, pours the cold tea down the kitchen sink, rinses the cup and places it on the draining
“What now if you knock on the door and ask her if she’s happy with her lot?”
board. Slowly she goes back to her sitting room and stares out onto the street. The rain continues to fall, silver streaks caught in the flickering beam of the street lamp. The bushes in the small front garden bend and thrash in the wind. Parked cars line the narrow street. Behind the closed doors of the houses surrounding her, there are people she knows, people she likes. They like her too. She is a good neighbour, friendly but quiet, undemanding. Some of them remember Ted, remember the day the police came to her door and told her there had been an accident. She remembers that day now as she looks out onto the unpeopled street. Words and images fly through her mind, carrying with them all that she is, all that she has been, all that she might become. She peers fearfully into the future and sees herself frail and alone, a burden on her family, on society. Smells the piss and shit of incontinence, hears the incoherent babble of dementia, tastes the torpor of nursing home lounges. Bitter thoughts battle to take control. Sarah has escaped all that, not for her the indignity of extreme old age, not for her the loss of husband, friends, independence. She has escaped. She is the lucky one. Maureen pulls the curtains to but still stands, unsure of what to do. Eventually she turns, goes back to the kitchen, makes more tea, sits at the kitchen table, sips the hot liquid gratefully. She thinks she might phone Andrew but she does not do so and eventually she sees it is past ten o’clock. She has not eaten but weariness overwhelms her. Slowly she climbs the narrow stairs. Tomorrow she will wake early, after troubled, fitful sleep. Her first thought will be that Sarah is dead. She will weep again, for Sarah, for Sarah’s family, for Ted, for herself. But then she will get up, get dressed, drink tea, eat toast. Later you might see her again as she walks beside the tram line.
The Crab and the Butterfly Through a series of compelling yet oblique images CLARE ROBERTSON MOORE explores the traumas surrounding illness and fragility.
RIGHT: ‘Le sententiose imprese’. G. Simeoni Rouille, 1561. Courtesy Warburg Institute Library
The crab weighs down greatly on the butterfly. Outside the sun shines terribly brightly. Its warmth offers no comfort. It is a beautiful day for others. She—a woman in her 70’s—speaks with her family: three grown-up children and a husband. He—who holds her hand tightly, white knuckled but no fun in sight— knows this is the last chapter. Less haste more speed. Laughter too loud, they reminisce; an elephant herd keeps its calf under tight surveillance to provide some protection from what might come. They stand too close. There are others too; some huddle, perhaps instinct kicks in. I did not want to know. A pleasure ground, once free to travel, overseas safaris, children and all the other good things middle class family life offered. Her slim fitting attire suggests an otherwise healthy life, signifiers of the well-to-do: black wax jacket, a well-made leather bag and shined shoes. I did not want to know. Unkempt nails make me feel displaced. Waiting. I am mostly aware of turquoise paint against an otherwise deadened backdrop. Turquoise, blue, starkly, brightly restores, Virtual real hues. I think about the Bajau: a small refugee community who live their whole life on the ocean. I learned of them from my newsfeed. They are forbidden from setting foot on land and they are known to suffer from ‘ground sickness’. I google turquoise and discover it has been thought of as a bringer of good fortune; when
worn round the neck, or wrist, turquoise can even protect against unnatural death. But if it changes colour, the wearer will have good reason to fear the approach of misfortune. Less haste more speed. I am mostly aware of turquoise and I didn’t want to know the rest. I did not want to know because I knew. I knew that this family had a time frame. I knew that this would be the beginning of a slow, unfolding trauma. I knew what was likely to come. Less haste more speed. She must be in her seventies now and that is such a long time to live. Knowing that there are others in our situation I thought might bring some comfort but it does not. Witnessing the suffering of another human being is painful. I force down a deep rising wave of anxiety. Another couple passes through. She is tall and blonde and slim and truly beautiful. I think for a moment that I’d like to look like her. He is well built but no longer in his prime. I can see the greyness in his face and a scar that reaches from one ear to the other, crossing his skull. I wonder if it has come back now. Less haste more speed. Sometimes they are inoperable. A brain tumour is a growth of cells in the brain that multiplies in an abnormal, uncontrollable way. Malignant brain tumours are ‘high grade’ and either start in the brain or spread into the brain from elsewhere. They’re more likely to grow back after treatment. The butterfly will not mate. It will not fly or fulfill its potential in the
“Forged empathy is something that comes with ease to some and less so to others”
manner that a butterfly, or this kind of insect, normally would. It is not a case of survival of the fittest. It will not be granted its freedom. It is immortalised forever as a reminder, less speed equates to more haste but there is not much time left now. All that the butterfly lives for is haste. With one cycle of the lunar phase, this creature must experience all that is real and in existence in its short life. Waiting. Our doctor says he’d love to prove his colleagues wrong and that professionally speaking, if he could, it would be a great win for him—it is not often that his colleagues are mistaken in their diagnosis. I wonder if that is his sports car parked in the grounds. I forgot my keys. I walk back through the corridor and see the doctor for the second time; he laughs with the staff now, momentarily I feel deeply offended but life goes on. Dr Drana said that—that life must go on—that that is the only thing left to do now, to live, as best we can, for as long as we can. Less haste more speed but all that the butterfly lives for is in haste. I want to join in on the joke they share. Forged empathy is something that comes with ease to some and less so to others. Tell me you are sorry, tell me you want to help, don’t tell me you hope it will be over soon, for my sake. A moment in time, like now, cannot be measured in the usual fashion, you are here now and this now is eternal. The crab weighs down greatly on the butterfly. It holds on tightly. Its claws tear mercilessly at the butterfly’s wings. Even if the butterfly was able to break free now, in this very instant, the damage would have been done. The butterfly will not mate, it will not fly, it will not fulfill its potential in the manner that an insect normally would. It is not a case of survival of the fittest. There is not much time left now. With one cycle of the lunar phase, this creature must experience all that is real and in existence in its short life. There is not much time to waste. Festina Lente — make haste slowly.
BELOW: ‘up close n personal’ Osato Emumwen
The Twa Sharons An unconventional art teacher connects with her new, misunderstood student in this piece by MEL SHEWAN
I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys. The Song of Solomon Ch.2 V.1
It is the third week of the Autumn Term and Sharon’s beloved class are murmurously absorbed reworking Plate 18 of Goya’s Disasters of War, Enterrar y callar, into an abstract image using only straight lines. Think of the horror my lovelies, she tells them, think of the horror of it and bring it out; no use otherwise. Remember what he said. War is a prodigious flowering of rage. Yes you can darlings. Yes you can. You can do anything you want with straight lines. Remember when we made parabolas from them. But it’s the violence, the violence and the rage, the flowering of rage you want. Remember Guernica. Plenty of straight lines there my beauties. Well, straightish. And you know rage don’t you? You know it well; you’re teenagers; it’s your milieu. She walks amongst them. Loving them as she would her own; not that that’d be happening. Cervical cancer at twenty-five. Sharon does not see the face at the window set into her classroom door, but she has been teaching for twenty-five years and twenty of those with consummate skill and sensitivity. She feels the twitch in the atmosphere like a twig softly breaking under a stealthy foot. She looks about. A good many of the class are looking towards the door. Following their gaze she sees a girl’s face at the window: fat, pallid, pimple-slabbered, set about with black hair all awry and afrizz like a bad road; huge alien, pooly eyes glinting shards of bitumen from a vantablack. How can that be? Don’t let her in, Miss she’s mental, advises Maire, a girl of exquisite, life affirming, destructive beauty who’d go on to model shoes for Malona Blahnik, write Gaelic
LEFT: ‘botanics’ Fairfield Guyver
Chick Lit and suffer terrible bouts of depression for long years after crushing to death one of Mum Cat’s kittens in a drunken stumble. Well Maire, dearest, we’re many of us afflicted with that condition in one way or another, so I won’t be holding that against her. And sure, considering yourself, isn’t this a case of the pot and the kettle? But I heed you Daughter of Ivernia, as always, so I’ll check out what the crack is with madam in the corridor, thinking: if that face is at all a marker of the bearer’s heart I need to go carefully. The face with the astonishingly beautiful eyes, screaming to be released from the rest of it, has disappeared. Sharon heads for the door. The class watch. The face is there again. Sharon opens the door, sensing the ululation of unease sifting through her darlings as she enters the corridor. Gently now, gently and smiling, she closes the door behind her. Steady, warm gaze, but taking in the angry shoulders too, looking for the dip there foreshadowing the blow; the hidden knife. Not the hands Uncle Frank tells her; don’t look at the hands, Shary; it’s in the shoulders you’ll see the blow start. They’ll dip. He showed her. The blow starts in the shoulders. Can I help you, love? Ah now that love’s a mistake; I’ll be getting I’m not your fucking love, but no. In fact the face seems to settle a little into something approachable. The girl, also called Sharon, hands over an envelope. In it is a message from Authority asking Sharon to look after Sharon for a spell. To avoid confusion, we shall hereafter call the younger of our Sharons Wee Sharon. Sharon is often sent
troublesome children to look after, and often without warning. She has an easy, calming way with them and Authority feels that even if she didn’t, the possibility of disruption in an art lesson is of little consequence anyway. So with Drama and what’s left of handicrafts. She remembers benighted Willy O’Strack. The lad spent most of his time in what was once a boisterously productive metalwork room drilling holes in razor shells to make mobiles his teacher sold at car boot sales. Come along in then. Sharon introduces Wee Sharon to the class. Here’s my namesake, dear ones. Sharon, welcome to our class. Some of that blessed number smile little smiles; some sigh little greetings. Maire shakes her head, but a little. Right, let’s find you somewhere to work. Sharon leads her new charge to a desk where it seems Jackson Pollock has been busy. It is a sunny corner and it is a bright September day. The desk glitters. Wee Sharon’s hair glitters too. Sharon thinks of Turner’s words to Scott Trimmer: if I could find anything blacker than black I’d use it. But it wouldn’t have been the hair he’d have gone daft over, though that was a rare, deep black, but the eyes. He’d have gone daft for the eyes. A landscape in themselves; imperishable if painted true. A quiet, sunny corner in a quiet sunny room. The light bears witness, thought Sharon, thinking again of Turner. Sharon pulls up a chair as brightly bespattered as the desk and sits opposite Wee Sharon. She waves the letter softly to and fro across the desk. This says you don’t want to talk to the teachers. Well now that’s fine with me, for there’s a good many of them I don’t want to talk to neither. And anyway, in my classes verbal communication is not always necessary. We often communicate telepathically. In fact, she tells Wee Sharon, from your eyes—which are probably the most beautiful I have ever seen, in life or in art, amongst the living or the dead—I can tell you will be the perfect subject for telepathic communication. Wee Sharon understands nothing of this but is pleasantly shaken by all this stuff about her eyes, and as it’s the first compliment she’s ever been paid—we must discount her Auntie Sally remarking on those eyes when Wee Sharon was but a few weeks old, for her mother’s sister did not live to compliment her further, being murdered shortly afterwards by her husband, terrible taken in drink, as was often the way in that part of the country—and, as there is something about this teacher that draws Wee Sharon out of herself, she is moved to do something she has never done before and ask a teacher a question: What’s tel-ep-th-y? Telepathy Sharon? It is sending messages without speaking aloud, using brain waves only. Only certain kinds of brains can receive such messages and I see from your indescribably beautiful eyes that you have the right kind of brain. Shall we try it? Wee Sharon nods. Good. Let’s just make sure we have everything we need. Like a priestess about the sacred rituals at the altar of her goddess, Sharon lays before Wee Sharon offerings of graphite, charcoal, pastel crayons and a sheet of A2 heavyweight cartridge paper: two hundred and twenty grams per square metre, handmade in the United Kingdom by Seawhite’s of Brighton. One of a book of twenty-five
“Telepathy Sharon? It is sending messages without speaking aloud... Shall we try it?”
leaves. Now we are ready Sharon. You have everything you need. Sharon sits across the table from Wee Sharon. Give me your hands Sharon. Wee Sharon hesitates. This is another new experience. Don’t worry Sharon. All will be well. Holding hands helps transfer the energy needed to contain the message. Now get ready to receive my message. I am going to telepathically communicate to you my instructions for what you are to do during the lesson. Are you ready to receive? Wee Sharon, her eyes bright for the first time since Auntie Sally’s day, nods her heavy black head for the second time in a long time, the years shifted enough by the weight of light; the colour and kindness in the room. She senses, though barely, for the first time, the unquestioning devotion of the acolyte. Sharon grips her hands gently—Wee Sharon, still adrift in all the rotten years, does not immediately respond to this kindly pressure. Then she does. Sharon closes her eyes, inhales deeply and arches her head back. She holds her breath until she no longer can, then brings her head forward in a swooping rush of exhalation, steadies herself and opens her eyes, smiling deeply into Wee Sharon’s delighted astonishment. OK Sharon. You got all that, yes? Yeah, Miss. Yeah Miss. I bet it’s been a long time and a long time since she’s used that nomenclature of respect, thinks Sharon. We’ve come a long way already. That’s great. I knew telepathic communication would work with you. You are a special person, Sharon. You will find fulfilment. Will you be able to get on now? Yeah Miss. Good, just let me know if you want any help. No need to put your hand up or call out, just send me a telepathic message. Wee Sharon worked away, entranced within her new self, often sending thoughts out to Sharon, which Sharon unfailingly returned. At the end of the lesson Wee Sharon had produced a work not unlike Max Ernst’s Forest and Dove in its linear quality, though more colourful and
RIGHT: ‘the simpsons’ Fairfield Guyver
the bird was uncaged, perhaps symbolizing Wee Sharon’s release from the conventions of normal discourse, which she was nevertheless, ever afterwards, able to engage in with, if not charm, a certain rough graciousness that gave her a reputation amongst her peers as a good listener and a strong shoulder in times of trouble. She also dropped three stone, found a long lost neck about which she hung startling works of her own devising and a well defined, if not delicate bone structure which, like the soft blemishes, being all that remained of her acne, attracted both men and women inclined to submissiveness. Her black hair, being coarse, she had cut into a bitter crop which intensified the beauty of her eyes to such a degree that those she looked upon drew back as if struck; only always to draw and stay the closer, for she rejected no one she beguiled, which is as rare as judging none by your own yard. After graduating with a Distinguished First from Edinburgh College of Art she went on to win the Turner Prize and pioneer telepathic techniques in art education. Her wealth she distributed amongst the poor. Her work would live beyond the life of the planet, adorning the walls of many an extra-terrestrial home and inter-galactic Civic Centre. But to return to the moment. Sharon was effusive in her praise. Got up the Max Ernst on the class computers and pointed up comparisons to the wonder and admiration of all. What shall you call it Sharon? Wee Sharon falls into a delighted shyness staring at her besmirched artist’s hands. You can tell me telepathically if you like. OK Miss. Are you ready to receive? I’m ready Sharon. They take hands across the table, exchanging the pressure of beloving. Wee Sharon inhales deeply, arches back her heavy black head, holds her breath until she no longer can and exhales with a swooping rush forward. Oh Sharon, what a brilliant title. Just right for your picture. Perfect. She turns over Wee Sharon’s picture. Just write your name and the title on the back there and I’ll get it mounted and put up on the wall. Wee Sharon writes in a hand still to be formed: Sharon Anita McBeth The Picter Miz an the clazz Likd.
CONTRIBUTORS FICTION JULIE GARDNER is a retired primary school teacher who lives in Nottingham. She is currently
studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University.
SANDRA HUNTER ‘s fiction won the 2017 Leapfrog Press Fiction Contest, 2016 Gold Line
Press Chapbook Prize, October 2014 Africa Book Club Award, and three Pushcart Prize nominations. Her story “Finger Popping” won second place in the 2017 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction. Her story collection TRIP WIRES is out in June 2018, the chapbook, SMALL CHANGE, was published in August 2016, and her debut novel, LOSING TOUCH, was published in 2014. She’s just finished her second novel, THE GEOGRAPHY OF KITCHEN TABLES, set in post-apartheid South Africa, and is working on the sequel, FISSURES OF MEN. She is a 2018 Hawthornden Castle Fellow and a 2017 MacDowell Fellow.
KATE MARSHALL is a freelance writer living in Boulder, Colorado. She has studied at various
University of Iowa summer programs. She writes short fiction, poetry, memoir and longer works. She has previously published her flash pieces in Iowa Writes: The Daily Palette, Mused-Online Literary Journal and The Palette. She loves scintillating conversation, the outdoors and all things animal. She also works as a psychologist.
CLARE ROBERTSON MOORE is a writer and emerging artist. In 2106 she completed her MA
in Contemporary Art Practice at Edinburgh College of Art. Working under the pseudonym Automated Luxury Clare has had work featured in 44AD gallery, the Talbot Rice Gallery, the Edinburgh City Art Centre, the Biennial Project in Venice and has been published in Jaws Journal for art writing. Clare has recently completed a residency at Hospital Fields.
MEL SHEWAN is an Edinburgh and Inverness based artist and performance poet, originally
from the North East, with a background in teaching Literature and Drama. Over the last year she’s been interested in exploring ways to combine her poetry and painting, leading her to try her hand at writing short stories.
POETRY YVONNE AMEY has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida. She
teaches college English and her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in The Cypress Dome, Vine Leaves Journal, The Los Angeles Review of Los Angeles, and elsewhere.
DAISY LAFARGE studied Fine Art and History of Art at the University of Edinburgh and
is currently completing her PhD on Creative Writing at the Universty of Glasgow. She is Reviews editor for MAP magazine, and was awarded an Eric Gregory Award in 2017. Her pamphlet ‘understudies for air’ is out now, published by Sad Press. Daisy’s work has previously appeared in Poetry London, the White Review, the anthology of Best British Poetry 2015 and Poetry Review.
ALYCIA PIRMOHAMED is a Canadian-born poet living in Scotland. She is a Ph.D. student at
the University of Edinburgh, where she is studying poetry written by second-generation immigrant writers. Her work has recently appeared, or is forthcoming, in Prairie Schooner, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, wildness, Grain Magazine, and Vallum Magazine. Her work was also selected for the 2018 edition of the Best New British and Irish Poets Anthology. She is the Creative Writing and Reviews editor at HARTS & Minds, and co-edits The Polyglot. She received an M.F.A. from the University of Oregon in 2014.
SARAH SMITH lives and works in Glasgow and is studying for an MLitt in Creative Writing.
Her short stories, poetry and flash fiction have been published by New Writing Scotland, Leaf Books and Duality the Book. For more information, visit www.sarahsmithwriter. wordpress.com or find her on Twitter @truesarahsmith
DAISY THOMAS is a poet living in London. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Creative
& Life Writing at Goldsmiths. Contact her directly for her birth chart.
KANDACE SIOBHAN WALKER is a writer, photographer and filmmaker. Canadian-born,
Welsh-raised, she lives in South London. Since completing an MA in Black British Writing at Goldsmiths, she is currently writing and directing a short film in collaboration with the ICA and Dazed Media, as part of the STOP PLAY RECORD programme for young filmmakers. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, New Plains Review and Obsidian, among others.
KEVIN ZAMBRANO lives in New York City. His poetry has been published in Gargoyle, Sen-
tence, and Into the Teeth of the Wind.
FEATURES HOPE BELLE lives and works in Edinburgh providing a special kind of silliness for children
on special occassions.
ALLISON LANGER is a Miami native. She graduated from the University of Georgia and has
an MBA from the University of Miami. Allison moved back to Miami in 2000 to launch her own photography business which she still runs today. She is a single mom to three children, ages 7, 10 and 12. Her stories and her voice can be heard on Writing Class Radio, a podcast she co-produces that shares stories and writing lessons from her Wednesday evening writing class. When she is not taking pictures or writing, Allison can be found at the Dade Correctional Institution where she teaches memoir writing as a facilitator for Exchange for Change. For more information, visit www.writingclassradio.com
NADINE GONZALEZ was born in New York City and grew up in Haiti. Eventually, she moved
to Miami, Florida, and fell in love with the people, the weather, and the unique mix of cultures. She started her first novel while in law school and her modern romance novels reflect this vibrant city. Nadine shares her home with her Cuban American husband and their beautiful son. For more information, visit www.Nadine-Gonzalez.com
MICHELLE MASSANET has established herself as an international producer/director after
co-founding NomNom Productions in Montreal, in 2013, with her partners from the UK and Moscow. Since co-founding Garnet Productions in 2002, Ms. Massanet has been showing off the best parts of Miami and the US as a Producer/Director for prime time and cable networks. She has worked as an independent contractor for the following companies: HBO MTV, VH-1, MTV Latino, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, Sony, AXN, BBC, CBeebies, Warner Bros., DreamWorks, Columbia Pictures, Telemundo, Univision, CBS Production, Canal +.
NILSA RIVERA is a writer who has performed in Miami’s Lip Service: True Stories Out
Loud, The Cream Literary Alliance Inc, and the Writing Class Radio podcast. She’s attended writing workshops at the Miami Writer’s Institute, Eckerd College, and Sundress Publications. Her debut novel, A Raging Need to Kill (forthcoming), follows the life of a human trafficking victim, who after escaping, sets off to kill her captors. For more information, visit www.nilsawrites.com
ART THOMAS CAMERON works with a wide range of reference materials and subjects. His recent
work has focused on paintings of interiors, urban scenes or simple holiday snapshots. Cameron staged his first solo exhibition at The Sutton Gallery in September 2015. His second solo show, Dream Sequence, ran throughout the 70th Edinburgh Festival.
OSATO EMUMWEN is a recent graduate Interior Designer from The Glasgow School of Art.
She is a graphic designer and illustrator, having studied and lived in London, Glasgow and Paris. For more information, wisit www.osatoemumwen.myportfolio.com or find her on Instagram @ osato.emumwen
JOSEPH GLOVER graduated with a first class honours degree from the Edinburgh College of
Art’s Photography Ba (Hons) course in 2016. His current art practice is concerned with a search for the developmental knowledge of the symbiotic relation between image and text. This searching relays into images that investigate ‘personal selves’ and ways of seeing. His most recent collaborative project “Pared Light” was shown at the Scottish Poetry Library in 2017, with friend and poet, Fred Spoliar. Find him on Instagram @josephglover.photo
FAIRFIELD GUYVER is an English Literature graduate from the University of Edinburgh.
She now lives in London and works for frieze as Publishing Trainee. She is also the designer for CUMULUS, the co-founder of Crows Nest Zine, and a former cheesemonger.
CAITLIN HAZELL is an artist from the countryside. She was chosen for Bloomberg New
Contemporaries 2017. She firmly believes in the existence of aliens. Find her on Instagram @caitlin.hazell
BRIE KIMBLE is a Masters student studying Environmental Graphics. Originally
from the suburbs outside of Philadelphia, she moved to Edinburgh to attend Napier University. She’s passionate about social equality, veganism, pastels & the moon. For more information, find her on Instagram @briekimble
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS THE EDITORIAL BOARD AT 50GS WOULD LIKE TO THANK: Josh Simpson Jane McKie, Robert Allen Jamieson and Claire Askew Briana Pegado Clarissa Wilson Alycia Pirmohamed Russell Jones Ross McCleary Patrick James Errington Kirsty Heggie Ailsa McEwan Abie Dobie, Rhayna Kramer and Mark Diaz The University of Edinburgh and the Festival of Creative Learning
And, most importantly, we would like to thank all of our contributors for trusting us with their wonderful work.
Our Editor in Chief Naomi Morris would like to dedicate this issue to Ezra - a very important person who taught her a lot in too short a time.