ISSN 2053-6119 (Print) ISSN 2053-6127 (Online)
Featuring the works of Mark Young, Will Daunt, Dainel McBrearty, Gordon Ferris, Oonah V Joslin, John Lysaght, Nigel Ford, Karen Petersen and Rhiannon Grant. Hard copies can be purchased from our website.
Issue 67 April 2018
A New Ulster Prose On the Wall Website
Editor: Amos Greig Editor: E V Greig Editor: Arizahn Editor: Adam Rudden Contents
Editorial Mark Young;
1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
Upstairs Ranunculaceae Back to Square One Rabatical/ in edifices, edification/ gerontion Purient interests
Tim Noble; 1. Lydiard Park 2. From Cefyn Bryn, by Arthur’s Stone 3. The Stone Bull 4. Dharlan Valley Expidetion, 1979 Daniel McBrearty; 1. The Pigtail 2. Worker 731 3. Little Golden Men Gordon Ferris; 1. Preparation Oonah V Joslin; 1. Quare advise tae a buddin’ poet 2. Belonging John Lysaght; 1. Labyrinth 2. Forgiveness 3. Shaman Nigel Ford; 1. It’s a fabulous night for a dance in the moonlight 2. Have I told you lately that I oove you? 3. Poppy 4. Sails 5. Route 158 6. The Beach 7. Conspiracy 8. Desolation Man
Karen Petersen; 1. Taking Out the Garbage 2. Eternity 3. Noahâ€™s Ark 4. Elegy for Karin 5. Excuses for Idleness no. 137: Counting Pennies 6. Times Square Rhiannon Grant; 1. Another Old Lie 2. Ghost Question 3. Remember Remember 4. Victoria Square On The Wall Message from the Alleycats Round the Back
Poetry, prose, art work and letters to be sent to: Submissions Editor A New Ulster 23 High Street, Ballyhalbert BT22 1BL Alternatively e-mail: email@example.com See page 50 for further details and guidelines regarding submissions. Hard copy distribution is available c/o Lapwing Publications, 1 Ballysillan Drive, Belfast BT14 8HQ Or via PEECHO Digital distribution is via links on our website: https://anuanewulster.wixsite.com/anewulster Published in Baskerville Oldface & Times New Roman Produced in Belfast & Ballyhalbert, Northern Ireland. All rights reserved The artists have reserved their right under Section 77 Of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 To be identified as the authors of their work. ISSN 2053-6119 (Print) ISSN 2053-6127 (Online) Cover Image â€œMauriceâ€? by Amos Greig
“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light. ” Aristotle Onassis. Editorial April is the cruellest month indeed we’ve had internet issues, car troubles and more, but we’ve persevered and the issue is finally finished. What got me about the internet is how long it took to repair it turns out there were three faults all caused by corrosion of the lines. That’s the difficulty and risk of living near the sea and the recent storms we’ve experienced. Things should hopefully get back to a normal schedule now although this issue is being released on the last day of April start of May. I apologise to the readers and especially to the writers and artists who sent us work. I’ve a lot of emails to get through and work to read as well as several requests for reviews and blurbs. I’ll do my best to get through that as well. We’ve lost the editors cat this month sadly he passed away at home in his favourite room, I’ve suffered loss before but for some reason this was particularly painful. I’ve seen bombings, shootings and more, I’ve witnessed some of the greatest acts of depravity here and have enjoyed the relative peace afforded to us by the GFA. It’s not been without its ups and downs though. In 2001 my wife and I engaged in one of the first Nonsectarian mural projects in Denmark Street working with the children from the community. Here’s hoping to closer community ties going forwards and a further 20 years of peaceful coexistence.
Onward to creativity!! Amos Greig Editor.
Biographical Note: Mark Young
Mark Young's most recent books are random salamanders, a Wanton Text Production, & Circus economies from gradient books of Finland.
Upstairs, (Mark Young)
time marks time as Bryan Ferry sings John Lennon.
The overlap. Out of the same pool but. Taste. Time
was. Once was. Out of the same pool. So easy.
Hipness. Coolness. The Loch Ness monsters
that are only ever seen in unfocused out of date photos.
In another time wake up / wake into them. Now
taken from the wardrobe. Put
out on sound sy-
stems. Plucked, the seams let out. & even then
ill fitting though Iâ€™ll fit in to them for another year.
Ranunculaceae (Mark Young)
In summertime, Hortense, the purveyor of mauve balloons, sings outside the window until dawn. The irony of monks-
hood beckons. It is memory as slingshot, as failed amulet, a kind of slow death from poisoning by aconite.
Back to square one (Mark Young)
Why do jellyfish feel the need to beach themselves in an event involving strippers, prostitutes, & pay-perview sex? Has it something to do with an excess of suntan oil
unable to emulsify in the already climatechanged water? Then I fitted a CK BB to a customer's MTB & you could feel the difference in spin just turning it by hand.
Rabatical (Mark Young)
He ate Moroccan
to raise his level
in edifices, edification
Nobody was there when he visited
the Great Hall of The People.
You know you're getting old when the poetry of
Thomas Stearns Eliot rattles the bars of your cage. prurient interests (Mark Young)
We can't get borax here in the Netherlands so the things I use instead are glue or liquid starch. A lifeguard in his or her high chair might come with a bonus magnet but still won't guarantee
any better result. The lack of regulation is pretty interesting. Who would believe this shirt was brand-new when I got here? Naivety can be a gift.
Biographical Note: Tim Noble Tim Noble was born on 1/1/50 and grew up in Surrey. At an early age he developed a passion for mountains, literature and Shakespeare and this formed the pattern of his life. Tim taught English and drama for over 30 years and inspired the Shakespeare schools festival in Wiltshire in the 1990â€™s. He climbed whenever and wherever he could and his love of mountains and rock never diminished. When no longer able to climb, Tim spent summers in his farmhouse in the Auvergne surrounded by the landscape he loved the most. Tim died suddenly in November 2014.
Lydiard Park (Tim Noble) ('Learn of the green world what can be thy place.' Ezra Pound, Cantos 81)
From my classroom I can see how the school ends suddenly at a fence, where eighty trees, prefect-still, watch jealously over pockets of hot shadow.
This is an edge of order: released, pupils run the baize playing field to its border with domestic turf; then laze, flirt, shout and rest, furiously.
Two boys, keen to share the guilt of a smut of smoke, crash past a rash of nettles wilting by the stile, into the vast secret garden of the park.
Lydiard is landscaped in light. Here, all natural things need names drawn from art, because they're right, like a painting of a game: that flight of birds becomes a spurt;
a surgeon up a tree lops limbs in a theatre of air. The boys are lost for words, stop blurting smoke and gossip, stare into the maze of distance.
There are lessons to be learned, but back in school: how the green world has its place; why words earned there help us make our meanings, and when to ask the questions.
From Cefyn Bryn, by Arthur's Stone (Tim Noble)
From Cefyn Bryn there is no sign of Yellow Top or Thurba Head: these buttresses lie buckled under millstone grit and harrowed land. Held tightly in an ancient sine, they reel and dip beneath the weight of menhirs high on Cefyn Bryn that keep the 'home of Arthur' from the light.
But from the shore at Culver Sand the limestone walls lurch in and out like palsied warriors who would shrug off the tyranny of gritstone and mythic grave. By Kilboidy, East and Western Slad; down Redgut, Blackhole and Tears Point, these riddled, pitted limestone walls breed caves that undermine the settled land.
On Cefyn Bryn ancient gritstone fears the slow dissolve of myth in time; tries to hold the land in fee to dreams; spurns the scientific truth in caves. For, at Mitchin Hole and Paviland - hidden in the folds of Gower's coast - lie bones of mammoth, horse and man, sheltered by the lime for thirty thousand years.
The Stone Bull (Tim Noble)
No hunter brought this bull, snorting, to the deep cave: he was artist-penned, full profile, ochred to a wave
of rock. Never cow-licked by tongues, but drools of lime; nor trapped by cunning, but tricked out by design, this prime
beast's held by painted hands. They have ringed him, humbled his hooves' tattoo on sand to a trip and stumble
under old stalactites. His haunch is volcano: an eye of malachite rolls and glares at us. Though
his heart throbs lodes of ore, rust leaks from crystal veins. Made before matadors, he faces endless pain
from stick-men with huge spears.
His bellow is fossil; but it can't stop the fear spurt of each spore that will
tether him for ever as the priest-artist meant it to, perhaps. Whatever lurid tourists invent,
his pigment blood on stone's more sacrificial myth than art: animal bones litter the labyrinth.
Men kill what they revere most - in manger or stall; by suffering each year, this bull holds me in thrall.
Dharlang Valley Expedition, 1979 (Tim Noble) (for Nick Pitts-Tucker)
Watch the super eight film again. We're led by your spread fingers: pointing; explaining; prising the prismatic; stabbing at maps on Sersank while our flag snaps overhead. Your best recorded line? The jeep, lurching to the abyss, scares; but you cut the crap - nautically: "On the port beam, so to speak!" Pitched food-light in Dharlang, the porters hold breath and hearts as you scan the valley, seeking the secret pass amongst myriad peaks. We ford the river; then you gently scold us up a rotting glacier (alley of fear) to pass and Kingdom of Zanskar. Point now, and I'll follow you, high or far.
Biographical Note: Daniel McBrearty Originally from Donegal, Daniel McBrearty is currently a second year student at NUI Galway. He has only ever worked one job, as a night shift worker who was tasked with drowning crabs in a fish factory. This confusing and lonely job inspired much of his amateur poetry. He has never been published.
The Pigtrail By Daniel McBrearty
A flaky strip of bumpy tar, The scourge of bike, bus, and car, And in the middle, tufts of grass, A far cry from Dear London’s paths. It holds itself in steep incline That’s foiled the driver several times. Silent until Summer Days When it becomes a motorway. A million awkward gawky eyes, Who seek where mountains kiss the sky, A harsh but temporary load, Upon a less than stellar road. No streetlamps, nor dull cat’s-eyes, To save the drunken drivers life. I think it would be best for all, To peel my street from Donegal, And move it over, if we can, To somewhere like Turkmenistan.
And yet, No matter where I hang my coat, Which avenues I stride, I feel it in the depths of me, Calling me from inside.
The Muslim’s face their Mecca, So that they can pray the best, But when I dream my sweetest dreams, I’m facing northwest. It took too long for me to see, That the pigtrail had a hold on me So, laugh, but inside know it’s true: You don’t own your street, it owns you.
Worker 731 By Daniel McBrearty I still have dreams about the factory Where I had nothing distracting me From the breeze at my knees, the chill at my shuck, Or the Russian beside me who would murmur “Ah fyuck.” I was never selected for labour inside, I’d standing out there working late into the night, Getting paid by the hour, Eight-thirty-three, While moonlight and frostbite got flirty with me. Summer Lovin’, had me a blast; a million crustaceans all breathing their last. Myself with a hand on them, stealing their breath A watery life earns a watery death. The summer died, I did not grieve. I’d seen enough to know to leave. I hope, dear reader, you won’t know That place where crabs and students go.
Little Golden Men By Daniel McBrearty
Dedicate yourself to a skill or craft And pursue it all your life. Turn down employment and steady income. Maybe turn down a wife. Because this dream is yours. And when your hero stands on a platform, Near the end of his life, and maybe even yours, Calling the names of people who have died the past year, Feel the speech in your pocket. Tell yourself, “I have this.”
And back home, your family hold each other, And wait, to see if it, the risk, the chance, The class, the auditions, All the years, Were for nothing.
And if you win, your ears grow quiet, And you can’t hear a thing when you walk up To take the little golden man from your hero’s hand, Make sure you thank the white teeth there, But not the yellow ones you grew up around.
Because when you do, know there’s a young boy watching,
Smart, capable, dreaming of a doctorate, Who will throw it all away, For a little golden man, like you.
Biographical Note: Gordon Ferris . Gordon Ferris is a 59 year old Dublin writer and poet living in Ballyshannon Co. Donegal for the last thirty odd years. He has had poems and short fiction published in A New Ulster, the Galway Review and Hidden Channel..
Preparation. (Gordon Ferris)
Entering the hall door, I could hear Andy Williams on the stereo. I could hear my Mother singing along quietly, as if embarrassed, even though there was no one there to hear her. As I made my entrance she turned the volume down on the record player in one movement, without interrupting her knitting . “Ah your home on time, thought you were going to be late, were you with that one from the south side?” My mother had met my girlfriend Anna once before, I got the impression she didn’t like her. “I Was with Anna, we had a good day, we went for a walk around Stephens Green” I said, with hesitant contempt, almost under my breath. Mother lit another (Craven A) Cigarette. Where does she get these strange brands from I wondered? “I hope you managed to stay out of the pond in Stephens Green this time.” She replied glancing over her glasses in my direction. “Will I ever hear the end of that, so I fell into the pond, and made a show of myself going home on the bus soaked, it was ten years ago,” I answered. “And it’s still funny after all those years, did you get something to eat when you wear out. There’s beef leftover out there, I can put a plate together for you if you like” she said shifting forward in her chair as if to get up. “No, stay where you are listening to your crappy music, I’ll grab a sandwich, do you want tea? That’s a stupid question, when do you ever turn down tea” “I’d give you a crack on the ear only I’m nice and comfy here with my Andy serenading me” She muttered distractedly picking up a stitch on her knitting. “Ok I’ll get you your tea, what time are we going to the club tonight.” “About nine I think, its early closing tonight, although we might be going to Burke's, they open late with their restaurant licence” She answered as I went on into the kitchen without replying. I could hear the faint sound of my mother still talking to the absent me as I put the kettle on and rooted in the fridge for something to eat. I got the beef out sliced four thick pieces, rescued four bits of already cut batch loaf, lovingly buttered them, preparing two thick sambos, as good as any dinner I thought. I went back into my Mother with her mug of tea. “Milk three sugars,” I said, with hesitant sarcasm. “Where’s the biscuits, you can’t be given me tea on its own , and don’t be going off leaving me talking to myself like that again, must have sounded like a mad one here “. “I said I was going to get something to eat, you weren’t listening, to wrapped up in your crap music.” I replied going back into the kitchen to get my sambo. Returning instantly to the living room with it to eat in comfort.
“Don’t let them crumbs get on the couch or carpet, if you do, you can get the hoover out.” My Mother scolded as I sank into the couch and picked up the Irish independent. The headlines said how Nixon is a not a crook, that's what he says. Major War is breaking Syria and Egypt invade Israel. I ignore all that and look for the music page, Rory Gallagher playing the Stadium, give me Eric Clapton or Jeff Beck any day. “Where’s Da, strange he’s not here asleep on the sofa snoring his head off” I asked me Ma. “He went to the Shamrock this morning with Mr Kenny and had to get his head down after dinner, told me to call him at seven.” She replied without looking at me and with no facial expression. It was sometimes hard to tell what she was thinking; speaking like a person drifting in a different world, we were a hindrance disturbing her thoughts. She would either sigh when answering our demands, or respond with sudden rage and anger. We kept away from her when we noticed her in these moods. Occasionally she would snap and lash out with whatever was at hand be it a wooden spoon or a metal ladle. You could get it anywhere from the back of the legs to the head. This very seldom happened, it appeared to me as if the pressure of having to do everything in the house and look after us lot would build up, she would just explode, blowing off steam. It would be over in seconds, she would be extremely remorseful. In tears trying her best to comfort whom ever got the beating. Seemed to happen to me a lot, maybe I was just a little bollox. I often ended up having dreadful migraine headaches after some of her tantrums. When the headaches were bad she would put hot clothes on my forehead, once for an extremely bad migraine I couldn’t shake it off, she gave me half a Valium, that knocked me out until the next afternoon. Most of the time it was a relaxing normal home, dad was out working most of the time and we were in and out all day if it was dry out. The only time we sat in together was after dark midweek watching Tv. Occasionally I would be sent to the van shop around the corner to get goodies and we would watch whatever was on the box that night, Ma would sometimes have her empress express which wear like liquorice alsorts on steroids without the liquorice, she would give us all one each and eat the rest herself.
I could hear stirring from upstairs, “There’s the owl fella now, I’ll put the kettle on.” “Good man, get me a refill when your there will ya.” Ma said holding her empty cup up. I often wondered how she can live in Dublin for twenty odd years and still have the gentle Kilkenny- Carlow accent, no trace of Dublin at all. I went back out to the kitchen and put the kettle on, I could hear the musical tone of me Da’s electric razor humming from the bathroom, soon I’ll get the aroma of his aftershave (old spice) wafting down the carpeted stairs and the weighted stair creak of descending footsteps. He was now in the doorway, his presence seemed to dominate the living room. Seemed to demand attention even before he said anything. He fixed his gold cufflinks on the sleeves of his purest white shirt. ” Kettles just boiled out there, I put it on when I heard you moving around upstairs” Mother said without batting an eyelid, winking at me, fingers to lips when Da’s back was turned going out to the kitchen . White lies were allowed per Mothers moral compass, just part of a
person’s sense of humour, if you don’t cause pain or draw blood, its acceptable. But what if you don’t bleed easy and are good at hiding pain? Silence for the merest of seconds as Dad raided the fridge preparing for his tea. No matter what the situation, or how busy a day he has had, Dad always had to have his four meals a day, breakfast, dinner, his tea and his supper. He could be only in from work at eight and have his dinner and tea one after the other, take a break until ten or half ten, then have his supper, obsessed with getting his four-square meals. He arrived back in now with a dinner plate loaded with some of everything that was in the fridge and a separate plate packed with batch loaf with a huge mug of tea. “Are you not having something to eat with that tea Da “. I said. “Its bad manners to talk when my mouth is full Son” he said in response. Mother burst out laughing, telling me.” That’d teach me to try and be a smart arse with the master smart arse himself.” Silence again as the diary of Irish agricultural life The Reardon’s was starting on TV. What shenanigans will we have in Tom and Mary s household, will Bengy and Batty behave themselves. If Da keeps eating now, we will find out unfortunately I thought. Mother lit another cigarette looking in the direction of the TV, with her eyes wandering off to some distant place, where did she go when she stared into space like that, was it back to the farm she was reared on and where we went every summer for the duration of the summer holidays. Exhaled Smoke drifted up towards the ceiling like lost thoughts escaping her never to return. As soon as Dad spoke to her she snapped out of her reverie. “Are we all ready to go, I’m ready anytime.” in Moms direction. Then turning to me he said. “And what about you, are you going like that, can you not wear slacks instead of those jeans.” he said speaking to both of us at the same time.” “I just have to go up and change my clothes, they’re laid out and ready upstairs for me. I’ll watch this first” Mother said. With me then muttering “What’s wrong with what I have on, I wore it out on a date already today, there still clean”. “Jeans, they’re working cloths, you just wear them when you’re working on the building site or on the farm, not when you’re going out socialising, and specially not when your entertaining a young lady.” “Young Lady my arse.” Mother said under her breath. “No point in my talking to you anyway, younger generation think they know everything. Even with no life experience you have all answers.” My dad complained. “Ah the big moral dilemma of the day, whether to wear slacks or jeans, should I comb my hair to the right or the left” I was saying when Mother jumped in telling me not to answer my father back like that giving me a light clip on the ear as she departed the living room to go up and get dressed.
The Reardon’s music played as Mother’s light barely audible footsteps could be heard ascending the stairs. Father reached over for the paper from the coffee table, “Well how did the exams go, wasn’t Friday the last day then?” he asked as he reached. “The last for now until September, results be in august. “Well, how do you think you got on, any point in you going back in September.” He asked me bluntly continuing with, “I put a word in for you at the pub next door to my place in Town and you have a start Monday week next. Apprentice Barman. Well paid, always plenty of work in the bar game, you never hear of barmen being made redundant.” “I guess my mind is made up for me then, I’m not going back to school so the results make no difference.” I said, annoyed that I wasn’t being given a choice. It was assumed i was going to fail, this is what hurt deeply. I buried my disappointment. Maybe they were right, maybe I was only suited to manual labour, recent new interests and encouragement by the English teacher were irrelevant. “Sure look, you can work away for the summer and if, by chance that you get good results in your exams, you can quit and go back to school with some money in your pocket, no harm no foul” He said, meaning I was going to fail so don’t build your hopes up. Mother appeared in the doorway with, coat, talcum powder scented make-up and Christmas present perfume on saying “You ready to go” “Quick slash, two seconds I’ll be ready.” Father said elephant strides up the stairs to the toilet. “Typical, rushes everybody than keeps us waiting.” Mother scolded.
Biographical Note: Oonah V Joslin
Oonah V'yonne Joslin (nee Kyle) was born in Ballymena, Co Antrim in 1954. Her first love was poetry and telling stories. Early poems were published in Ballymena Academy's magazine. In 2006 she resigned from teaching, joined writewords.org.uk and became addicted to flash. To her astonishment she won three Microhorror prizes. Oonah's stories and poems have been published in various print anthologies. The first part of her novella A Genie in a Jam, is serialised at Bewildering Stories. She was managing editor at Every Day Poets for 5 years after which she became poetry editor at The Linnet's Wings. Her book â€œThree Pounds of Cellsâ€? is available in Autumn 2016. ISBN: 13: 9781535486491 You can follow Oonah on Facebook or at her blog Parallel Oonahverse.
Quare advise tae a buddin' poet (Oonah V Joslin) Betimes as a wean I’d help Mammy tae dust. The Bust, eight inches high aye sat in the corner o' the cabinet but I wasn’t allowed tae touch it. He was that young an’ fair and looked tae be made o' honeycomb so I asked, Mammy, Is that yella man? Naw yella man’s fer eaten. Thon’s Rabbie Burns, mammy explained, the greatest Scottish poet ever lived. My luv is like a red, red rose, A Man’s a man fer a’ that, Ye Banks and Braes, To a mouse and Auld Lang Syne’s a wheen o’ what he wrote. We’d learned Ye Banks and Braes in school. I was impressed. I want to be a poet, I confessed, when I grow up. Aye, yer arse in parsley! she aimed a bussock at my behind, You’ll ha'tae up yer ideas a bit, she said. Poetry’s not a payin’ job and anyway, Mammy lot a hoogh gie fit tae burst, remember that ye ha'tae grow up first!
Belonging (Oonah V Joslin) I have the voice of no country. I don’t know that my native land was ever real; a place of fractures, born of volcanoes, rifts in its rocks that never truly heal. Even the old kingdom was united more by a turbulence of sea than land. But the blood, the blood was real between us, these days depicted (Pict) by the red hand. We were the Dal Riata. We were Scots. Feth aye, we were! Fought over and fought back, triumphed in defeat because Iona was our own and the Stone of Destiny belonged to us and spread our culture far. And yes, that blood was thick and bloody real between us, Aethelfrith, and the Ui Neills. Yet we were not planted as in new soil, but flowed here on the tides of history, left and returned through many centuries. Who will inflict a future on us next? In global politics we have no friends. But though I have no country and no voice, I'll remain Dalriadan to the end.
Biographical Note: John Lysaght
John Lysaght is a writer of poetry and fiction from Long Island, New York. He began writing poetry while a student at the University of Scranton, Scranton, Pennsylvania, graduating in 1968 with a B.A, in English and Latin.
Labyrinth (John Lysaght) A peacefulness Transfuses my Wounded spirit--Monastic stillness Encases me, As a hint of incense Blesses this space. Beneath the prayerful Forgiving gaze Of stained glass saints Among a procession Of red oak pews Within this hymnal setting At this cross entrance With bowed reflection And supplicant palms I choose a pilgrimage Of purgation, insight And purification, A spiral, spiritual traverse From emptiness to fulfillment From despair to enlightenment. Lighted candles circumscribe, Like illuminated sentries, This unicursal pathway Toward healing. Stepping with reverence, I enjoin this transformative journey, Meditation in motion, A revival, a rebirth, A chance to revise my story. The warmth of renewal Has kindled My mind and body, And, Although I have ended where I began, My entrance and exit being the same, I am no longer how I began, No longer who I was.
Forgiveness (John Lysaght) Even though I have known betterâ€Ś Scathed by hurt From within, from without, Cuts given and received, My anger festers Like an unfettered abscess Percolating in a revolving caldron. Shackled by vindictiveness, Constricted by self-loathing, With malice growing Like a vengeful strangling vine, My aperture for joy shrinks, As I limp along, My hunched back carrying The burden of reprisal. An epiphany, Prayer commissioned From above, Trickles down Like a cleansing rain To disinfect a poisoned soul, To revive my blackened karma. Did I abuse a scapegoat To preserve my anger? Have some offenses been perceived? Are transgressions indelible? Purgation through penance Pardon through repentance Sincerity without compensation, Shed shameful skeletons, Embrace the frailty of being Anger-letting restores Balance in motion, Forgive--And be forgiven.
seek atonement, pardon, pierce taboos; dissolve/resolve; redemption; genuflect; lies, mistakes, should haves; unchain; restore faith in self and others; liberation; let flow like a damless river; retribution; lance; salve/rebirth/contrition; self-scarring; make amens; accept frailty; absolution; give of yourself freely with no expectation of restorative justice can mediate a resumption of connection; human and divine forgiveness; compassion; need to allow yourself to be appeased; apologize 3x`s; bones tremble/heart aches; ; forgive unconditionally; negative impact on karma/karma blackened; pain keeps getting reborn and hatred will never cease; carry baggage of negativity; perform acts of charity/fasting/meditative introspection; pardon the offender and yourself; let go with no claim of compensation; perceived offense/scapegoat to dominion of darkness; dyspepsia/deranged digestion
Shaman (John Lysaght) Celestial canvas Fills with ebony, Reverent stillness hearkens--Nomadic moon conducts The forest`s ancient symphonic: Whiskered Screech Owl, Town crier signaling all is well, Watches wolf howl primeval Stir feathered flutists trilling Amongst verdant titans, And galloping waterfall Rushes, gushes to springs spraying Bullfrogs bellowing While rock scribe stoic witness Records the past and the passing, As the venerated wind exhales. From within this melody of nature, Song of timeless interconnectedness, Amidst the scent of smudge sage incense, Among plumes of sacred tobacco Mingling with the heartbeats of drums, A shape-shifter soothsayer, Transcendental healer Adorned of talisman Imbued with tradition Walking upon ashes of ancestors Peyote trance transported In search of guidance, This spiritual cobbler Mending scathed souls Emerges--His countenance creviced From purging illnesses, From combat with evil, From his quest to restore Man`s balance with nature, A harmonic between The temporal and spiritual.
Biographical Note: Nigel Ford . Nigel Ford is English and works as a writer and visual artist. His stories have appeared in the Penniless Press anthology, Howling Brits, and a collection entitled One Dog Barking, published by Worldscribe Press. He has been featured in several literary magazines in the US and UK this year, most recently in â€œDuendeâ€?. He is now directing a play ("Conspiracy") in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Itâ€™s a fabulous night for a dance in the moonlight by Nigel Ford
Have I told you that I love you? By Nigel Ford
Poppy Day by Nigel Ford
Sail by Nigel Ford
Route 158 by Nigel Ford
The Beach by Nigel Ford
CONSPIRACY a short one act play (ca 12 minutes)
SCENE 1. STAGE: 2 chairs back to back. EN AND NO SIT ON ONE EACH. EN: Is this yours? NO: No EN: It’s got your name on it. NO: Someone else must have put it there. EN: Someone else said it was yours. NO: It’s not. EN: I’ll chuck it then, shall I? NO: That would be a waste. It might be of some use. EN: You’re being sentimental, are you? NO: Practical. As I said; it might be of some use. EN: What would you suggest I do with it? NO: Give it to me. EN: I think I’ll keep it. NO: That would be your privilege END AND NO RISE SIMULTANEOUSLY AND SWOP PLACES NO: Are you to keep it? (note: not the same as “are you going to keep it?” but more “Will you be allowed to keep it?”).)
EN: I haven’t asked yet. NO: You need permission. EN: I need permission. NO: From whom? EN: Anyone would do. But permission is mandatory. NO: I thought there were exceptions. EN: I’m sorry to disappoint you. NO: In that case I’ll have it back please. EN: I’m sorry, that will not be possible. You have already been deregistered. NO: What does “de-registered” mean? EN: It is a common expression in our circles. NO: What does it mean? EN: As far as we are concerned, we are no longer responsible for your safety. Others will be examining your case. NO: You have thrown me to the lions. EN: Hardly thrown. Merely abandoned. NO: I’m a free agent now am I? Free to leave? EN: Of course. NO: No untoward thing would happen to me if I did? EN: I can’t promise you that. NO: You think I should stay put? EN: I’m not qualified to offer you advice.
NO: I have a good many supporters elsewhere. EN: Elsewhere is elsewhere. Because they are elsewhere they have no reason to fear. Ergo, they will not prove to be of much use to you. NO: I have received expressions of support locally. EN: I think you will find the support offered to be impotent. NO AND EN DROP THEIR HEADS AND FALL ASLEEP. NO CURTAIN
SCENE 2 NO AND EN RAISE THEIR HEADS NO: Have you heard anything? EN: Nothing yet NO: You could give it back to me. EN: Until I hear I think I had better keep it. NO: But… EN: Sshh!...I heard something. NO: What…? EN: They want it. NO: What for? EN: For evidence I should think. NO: I did what I thought was best. EN: But hardly for King and Country. NO: This is not the Middle Ages. We live in a global community.
EN: You might have jumped the gun. NO: You HAVE thrown me to the lions. EN: Don’t be such a scaredy cat NO, it was your choice. Nobody forced you. NO: I was a romantic fool. EN: We hope you still are. NO: So you’re still my insurance? You’ll back me up in any situation? Whatever happens? EN: You know our motto NO. Whatever will be will be. NO: Hardly a comfort. EN: Always best to keep on your toes, NO. NO: Could I have a copy of it? You can’t possibly expect me to keep the sequence of events in my head. That would be unjust. EN: We have no judicial intent. This is not a public case. It should not become a forum for public discussion. NO: A pen and some paper at least? Where’s the fun if I’m dead in the water? EN: I shall leave you now. We shall not meet again. EN LEAVES HOT (EN IN DISGUISE) WHO WEARS A WOOLLY HAT PULLED DOWN OVER HIS EARS, ENTERS IMMEDIATELY NO: Good morning. HOT: Is it? I’m not in a very good mood. NO: It’s a good morning for me.
HOT (shakes a sheet of paper): See this? NO: I could hardly miss it. HOT: Don’t get funny. You have trodden on toes. You have strayed from your designated area. NO: It was my designated area that led me astray. HOT: You should have seen it coming. NO: I’m a dedicated do-gooder. Not a nerdy pen-pusher. HOT: In which case you can always expect to get into trouble at times. NO: This is one of those times? HOT: Too bloody right. NO: There will be others. I suppose you realize that? You’re not going to stop me. HOT: Just give you a shove and a nod so you get back where you belong. NO: But you realize there will be other times? HOT: Otherwise we would all be out of a job. NO (Points to the sheet of paper): Could I have a copy of that? HOT: Don’t be impertinent. HOT LEAVES
SCENE 3 AC (EN IN DISGUISE) ARRIVES WEARING THE HAT AND GOWN OF AN ACADEMIC
NO: I’m most relieved to see a friendly face. AC: It’s a terrible thing. It’s a terrible thing. How can we help? NO: This should be made public. Otherwise I shall have no chance of justice. AC: Of course. We shall spread the word far and wide. We shall see to it that they will be obliged to try your case openly before the eyes of the public. NO: Thank you for your support and the exploration of my situation in your learnéd articles. AC: It’s not only your situation. We can’t have this! We NEED people like you to work on these issues. What would we do, the world do, without people such as yourself? Reduced to a scuffle, a rabble of self-indulgence! NO: Can you write to the people concerned? Protest en masse? An academic revolt. Worldwide. AC: It is worldwide. There are people holding up their hands in dismay all over the world. In every bastion of civilization. NO: Some other ammunition besides objective comment would be useful to me. I feel as if I’m alone on the front line. AC: Alas. That is the academic way. NO: O. AC: Once this is in the open I can assure you, you will find no shortage of job openings. Including a position with my own institution, which I very much hope you will find sufficiently attractive. NO: I intend to stay on where I am. My name is sure to be cleared of all suspicion. The allegations are totally unfounded.
AC: But the allegations have been made. Goodbye and good luck. AC RISES NO: Thank you AC: Goodbye. AC LEAVES NO: Goodbye EN RETURNS AND SITS DOWN EN: How are you getting on? NO: As well as can be expected. EN: You have understood your situation. NO: Reluctantly. EN: Don’t worry. No harm will come to you. Not of lasting nature. NO: I want this out in the open, before the public eye. EN: Out of the question. The powers that be won’t have it. NO: Are the powers that be those that I assume? EN: Doubtless. NO: The usual rabble of self-indulgent morons? EN: You should try and be more objective about your job. There are more sides to this than your own. NO: They would be those that are morally indefensible. EN: At the level at which you are working there are no morals. This is not an issue that can be debated at hoi polloi level.
NO: My ambition is to prove you wrong. My work itself is focused on proving you wrong. EN: True. We are all aware of this. Your work and the work of others like you, is essential to the balance of the human condition. NO: But we will fail. Is that what you are saying? That there was never any hope, that there never will be? EN: It is a tricky balancing act. Your work is essential. All sides of the coin are essential. NO: I shall fail. EN: Always
NO DROPS HIS HEAD AND FALLS ASLEEP. EN LEAVES.
SCENE 4 OH (EN) RE-ENTERS WEARING A ZORRO MASK.
OH: It can’t be as bad as all that. NO: (WAKENS AND STRAIGHTENS): Who are you? OH: Our hero. Keep your pecker up. NO: That’s very kind of you. But I have made up my mind. I require no hearty indulgence. OH: Right. What’s the plan? You can tell me. It will go no further. NO: I am not guilty. OH: True.
NO: Apart from this cowardly lot here, my colleagues in general support me. OH: Have they assassinated all the colluders and set you free? NO: No OH: Useless lot. NO: They give me strength. OH: Cowards and nincompoops. NO: The situation has wrenched me from the clutches of moral turpitude. OH: Quiet indignation is good. NO: I shall ignore them. OH: Better to listen and learn. NO: What could they possibly teach me? OH: How to continue. You trod on toes that fly the bunions of the FOU. NO: FOU? OH: Fond of Uniforms. NO: O. OH: Yes. NO: I should put my principles in my pocket. OH: Exactly. NO: Not provide information. OH: No. Donâ€™t do that.
NO: Confine myself to negotiations. OH: You’re a fast learner. NO: Bow my head. OH: Yup. NO: Toe the line. OH: Right on. NO: Fuck that. OH: If that’s your attitude I don’t see how I can help you. NO: And fuck you. OH TAKES OFF THE MASK – IT IS EN NO: It’s you again. EN: You’re a fly in the ointment. Nobody likes you. NO: I’m not competing in a popularity competition. EN: You’re an embarrassment to the institution that employs you. NO: Take a running jump. EN: A disgrace to your calling. NO: I’m not the one that’s being disgraceful. EN: There are powers at work to discredit you. NO: From which you are not disassociated. EN: That’s uncalled for. NO: Balls. EN: Your attitude won’t help.
NO: I don’t want to help you lot. EN: Others will be disinclined to take up the good fight. NO: Unless I roll over. EBN: Unless you roll over. NO: As I said. Fuck you. EN: There is no way you can win. NO: Perhaps not. But I’m not going to give in. EN: The outcome of your attitude might be that you’ll find yourself in real trouble. NO: Don’t you dare threaten me you piece of shit. EN: You realize of course that I shall be obliged to give in a full report. NO: Tell your masters not to expect a white flag. EN LEAVES
SCENE 5 EN ENTERS WEARING SOME SORT OF JUDICIAL HAT. EN TAKES THE EMPTY CHAIR, TURNS IT ROUND TO FACE NO AND SITS NO: Where are the other officials? EN: In the background. NO: Where are the public? EN: This is a closed hearing.
NO: The press, my colleagues, others in my line of work, politicians in many countries, supported the plea for this hearing to be public. EN: We took no notice. NO: Such arrogance. EN: You listen. We are not playing social games. You are no longer inside your fancy, make-believe democratic cloud. This is real life. NO: Where the big boys play. EN: Cheek won’t help you. NO: Nothing will help me. EN: Correct. NO: Come to think of it, I’m not asking for help. EN: We can’t have that. You’re supposed to. NO: No help needed. EN: That’s against the rules. NO: I can’t help that. You cannot put me in your position. EN: Surely you understand our position. NO: It holds no sympathy for me. EN: They are right. You are a danger to the order of things. NO: Correct. EN: A mischief-maker. NO: From my point of view and the unspoken view of my colleagues, friends, supporters and politicians sympathetic to my cause and vocation, you lot are the mischief-makers and a hindrance to the order of things being put right.
EN: Such arrogance. NO: TouchĂŠ EN: This gets us nowhere. NO: Did you expect it to? EN: No. NO: War will continue. EN: As you say. NO: I was unlucky enough to get stuck in the middle. EN: Piggy in the middle momentarily. NO: Sufficiently stuck to cause concern. EN: As you see. NO: I suppose I could view that as an achievement. EN: I donâ€™t see why not. NO: And my colleagues, friends, supporters and politicians sympathetic to my cause and vocation? EN: They too can pat both you and themselves on the back. NO: And what will happen to me? EN: Such human concern for your well-being surprises me. For a man incapable of selfishness. NO: What will happen? EN You will be informed in due course. NO: Will I be found guilty? EN: You could hardly expect us to agree to lose face.
There is no light in the bright and sunny day, there is no warmth in its optimistic heat. There are the two feet to look at, shiny black leather, above which pile thin black socks, disappeared into a mingle of dark trouser caverns, to the knees drawn shiny up, on which rest the elbows at the extensions of which the chin is cupped by hands. Harsh eyes stare into the unforgivingly cheerful optimism of the unheeding, loathsome day. ‘Cheer up mate! It can’t be that bad!’ ‘Can’t it?’ ‘How would I know? Just throwing you a kind word.’ The harsh eyes rise to meet raised eyebrows of uncertainty. ‘Thank you. It is indeed kind. Kindness is a lost state in some worlds. In mine for example. Not always. But now.’ ‘How’s that?’ ‘I’ve no idea. A blanket of dark, sharp unkindness suddenly fell and enveloped me.’ ‘I know the other bench is empty, but would you mind if I shared yours? I like a bit of company in the lunch hour. I enjoy a spot of human presence. Machines don’t provide much spontaneous feedback.’ ‘By all means.’ ‘Hermit in glass, are you?’ ‘I beg your pardon?’ ‘Hermit in glass. Not there but everyone can see you.’ ‘Apt.’ The harsh eyes returned to the shoes. ‘Could it be you have abruptly become disillusioned?’ ‘I was never illusioned. I know exactly what I have done. I found no other way.’ ‘Now you are looking again.’ ‘Without hope.’ ‘There is always hope, surely. You’re not old. You look youngish and healthy. Fit as a fiddle one might even say. It’s probably your head that needs a work out.’ ‘Hmm.’ ‘Would you like a sandwich? Salami and cucumber.’ ‘Eating would destroy my melancholy.’
‘Are you savouring it?’ ‘I am indeed. Very much so. And dreading the time when I must leave it and jump into my present cold water. Will I find anything different? Or the same old path. Probably the same old path.’ ‘You could wear more casual clothes. That might help. Formality can sometimes create the sensation of living inside a straightjacket. Perhaps you need to feel more relaxed.’ ‘There’s a high noon in the sunrise and no-one seems to care.’ ‘With more casual clothes you could resume your path and spend less time on washing and ironing.’
‘It’s the machines. They click clack all day long and they lose things. Clickity clack and it’s gone. All the work you did. All the strive and sweat. All the brain drip. Gone for ever.’ ‘You could do it again. Do it over.’ ‘No. Boring. Who wants to be bored. I want my handicraft back. That I do know. Upon that point I stick. The handicraft will be resumed. Bugger you lot. I want my handwriting back. I want the magic of leaving a trail of ink on cartridge paper from the golden nib of my carefully tooled fountain pen. Without it there is no joy. Only the drudge of creation. Write a book literally. That’s me from now on. Page by silken, bright white page. When the book is written it is written. No dependence on opinion. Or intrusions of advice. Pure ego unadorned. The only pencil of inspiration. There is no other. And it needs its total freedom. It needs to be not fettered. Without it there is no hubris, no book, no story, no explosion of imagination, no spell.’ ‘You don’t say.’ ‘It will be several. Who knows. Until the next. But of beatific drudge, melancholia, self-pity, worship, whatever it takes. I’m out of it. A book is written. There will be no copies, only the original. Signed by the author. It’s provenance inscribed on the fly. Passed up and down, back and forth, sideways and edgeways, hand to hand. Until it falls to pieces. There will be another. And yet another. One at a time. Read until it physically cannot oblige. No copies. It is only in the original wherein lies the truth of the story. Written in the silence emphasised by the scratch of the nib on the virgin space of the paper. When the scratching stops the silence is washed, is pure. A silence that inspires. The scratch once more. The inspiration is written. That is my only way. Thank you for listening to me.’ ‘Can I help?’ ‘I don’t know. Can you?’
‘If you are a writer, why are you sitting on a bench, wearing a smart suit and tie, staring at a pair of brightly polished shoes?’ ‘Good point,’ He rose, the harsh eyes stared at the sky and saw nothing besides a quick inspiration and purpose. The hands lifted the shirt collar and wrestled with the tie. The tie then laid neatly over the back of the bench. He shrugged off the jacket. Bent and untied the laces of his shoes, which he removed and parked tidily beneath the bench. He continued to undress, folding his clothes neatly onto the bench. Now unadorned, he stood and looked down into the face of the man who had befriended him in his hour of need. ‘Thank you.’ The man seated on the bench watched him leave, his body flashing between the shoppers until it died away.
Biographical Note: Karen Petersen
Adventurer, photojournalist and writer, Karen Petersen has traveled the world extensively, publishing both nationally and internationally in a variety of publications. Most recently, her poetry was published in The Manzano Mountain Review and Pilgrimage Magazine in the USA, Orbis in the UK, and The Wild Word in Berlin. Her poems and short stories have also appeared in A New Ulster in Northern Ireland and The Bosphorus Review in Istanbul. In 2015, she read "In Memory of W.B. Yeats" at the Yeats Festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the KGB Bar in NYC. Her poems have been translated into Persian and Spanish. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Classics from Vassar College and an M.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico and teaches English Composition at NNMC.
Taking Out the Garbage My mother is taking out the garbage -she pronounces it as a joke accenting the second “a” like it’s a French word becoming an “ah.” “I’m taking out the gar-bahge.” Hard to imagine Rimbaud taking out the garbage, or even the gar-bahge; Rilke–he’d throw it out the castle window. But Billy Collins could do it or maybe even Frost, on a snowy evening. Getting rid of things we don’t want is not as easy as it seems: we twist and turn, hung up on this word, that phrase, this house, that life.
Eternity --for Jonathan Thron, Los Alamos National Lab, USA Watching the iridescence of a dying orchid petal I wonder, are we like that when we die: Are the Northern lights the shimmering spirits of humanity glowing on Earth’s far horizon? Would it were so, then I could be comforted knowing that I was more than mere dust but less than the galaxies, embraced by the ever present radiance of the wandering solar winds as they flow through the Universe.
Noah’s Ark (a little light verse) I love the story of Noah and the Ark mainly because you can twist it around and still maintain the essence of the story. It could be sci-fi, or it could possibly be some crazy Middle Eastern guy holed up in a boat, drunk and stranded, at the edge of a vast desert. You can tell it straight as a myth or go for realism, basically do anything you want and still remain true to the ancient story. I hope Noah put the dinosaurs in the bottom or the whole thing would have tipped over. Always wondered about the insects... and the presence of those lurking vultures is too painful to contemplate. In the old manuscript drawings, is that a pie on the top deck? Was there anything in Genesis about Noah saving a pie?? My feeling is that it may be a grain store, though I like the idea that he saved the blackbirds by hiding them in a pie.
Elegy for Karin Gone when the leaves turned on a half-moon fall’s night “She passed, ” her friend said, his emotions hanging on a thread of autumn air. When she went we whispered she left us a little frailer, missing her unique song, although just around the corner her spirit which fluttered in the light still flutters there, a quiet thing.
Excuses for Idleness no. 137: Counting Pennies
My grandmother would visit England often and upon her much anticipated return she'd press into my hand some pennies for candy, back when those sweet delights cost little. These old pennies were proper things. A good size, a good weight, a good solid base on which to build a pound sterling one day. There was Britannia, secure behind her shield, holding out an olive branch, with or without a lighthouse in the background, and there was possibly even the young Victoria on the other side, with ribbons in her hair. I learned you could sew pennies into the hem of a wide skirt so it wouldnâ€™t blow up in the wind and there were some curtains at school with weights in the corners that I was convinced were pennies. One year I remember still being very small and in possession of unimaginable riches: half a crown! My mother took me to the bank and when I was given the exchange I had even more. Coins and coins and coins! Copper and silver! Too much to hold... But my mother explained to me how "more could mean less" and I've been a cynic ever since.
TIMES SQUARE: A New York Story
In his heart, Jimmy would always be an Irish street kid--a swashbuckling, blue-eyed, ravenhaired tough guy. Abandoned at eight, in and out of foster homes until he was fourteen, Jimmy was on the streets living off sex, booze and drugs until he was nineteen. But then he got lucky. One wild, crazy weekend in the bars of Times Square he met someone on whom all his Irish passion and recklessness would not be wasted--a sympathetic soul, his lover to be, Lew Dorfman.
Lew, who had been on leave from the Army for a few days, was the perfect complement to Jimmy. A quiet, unassuming neurotic who happened to be Jewish and born in Brooklyn, he was an only son, and the victim of pathologically devoted parents. But he'd escaped from Brooklyn-and them--by joining the army and going overseas. Three years later, his travels brought him back to New York and to Times Square, and for Lew Dorfman, Jimmy O'Malley was the most fascinating man alive.
This odd couple were my neighbors for ten years. We all lived in a shabby five story, rent controlled building half a block from Times Square, and I'd first met Jimmy at two o'clock in the afternoon, the day I moved in. I remember it well because my mother was with me. Great timing.
Leaning over the fourth floor railing, hair disheveled, one eye blackened from a fight or a fall-one could never tell with a drunkard--Jimmy grandiosely shouted down to the first floor elevator as loudly as his one pitiful lung could manage: "Welcome to the castle, my lady! I'm at your service..."
He may have been the swashbuckler, but I soon learned it was meek Lew who ruled the home roost. Lew became a changed man when Jimmy messed up, bellowing his displeasure at the top of his lungs for all of Times Square to hear. These twice weekly screaming events reached hysterical crescendos on Lew's part and would often end an hour later with Jimmy's lurching retreat to the bedroom where he could lock the door and be left to sleep the confused sleep of the innocent sot.
But it was all a ritual, and gave Lew an excuse to open the liquor cabinet and drink himself to oblivion in front of the evening news. Like many marriages, after the sex had ended these two didn't really have much to say to one another. Their mutual performances did seem to have a cathartic effect on their relationship though. After these bouts both would get along famously for a few days until some new drunken blunder by Jimmy would start it up all over again. I guess their boredom with each other ran in cycles of 72 hours.
The day after these fights I often ran into Lew in the early morning, both of us waiting for the elevator. All he could ever manage was a sheepish smile and a shrug of the shoulders to the effect of "What's a guy to do?" But we had our rituals, too, because I'd always reply with a
commiserating pat on his shoulder and a "Take it easy, Lew, okay? You're going to give yourself a heart attack!" before we went our separate ways.
I soon discovered that my neighbor Jimmy did have one ultimate redeeming quality, of which both he and Lew were supremely proud. He was an absolute genius at checkers. No one ever beat him, best of five. I learned this the hard way, my first summer in the building.
Often I'd go sunning on the roof, side by side with Jimmy, he with his whiskey and me with my iced tea. As the sweat would bead up on our foreheads, Jimmy would slowly turn to me, grinning from ear to ear, and say, "Do you think you can beat the Master this time, princess?" We'd play on his homemade checkerboard, made from a piece of old cardboard and I'd never win. It's not like he was an idiot savant or anything, it's just that whatever demons he was battling hadn't affected that part of his brain yet. I often wondered what this man could have done with his life if the booze hadn't gotten to him, but then again, in those days Times Square was filled with people like Jimmy.
For all the summers we played, and it must have been six or so, I only beat Jimmy twice, the odds of which I found incredible, because even blind drunk he could beat me. I felt better after Lew said that Jimmy as a young man had often made his living on the street playing checkers. Nobody had ever beat him then, but eventually Jimmy got bored and stopped playing altogether. He played with me now more out of loneliness than anything; Lew was on the road a lot, hustling insurance policies for one of the big companies.
The last summer we played checkers together Jimmy began to look more haggard than usual. I didn't say anything, because drunks always looked a bit under the weather and I'd given up nagging Jimmy about his health a long time ago. One day after we'd finished a game and I'd lost yet again, he hugged me and said, "You know, you have been a good friend and neighbor." I was startled. Jimmy had never done this before.
He took a swig of whiskey, stroked his Vitalis-laden black hair and looked at me, one eye cocked from the bright sun. "Hey aaa... I went to the doctor today..." "Yeah?" I said, nervously throwing what was left of the iced tea over the edge of the building. "So what's up?"
"He said I got cancer." Jimmy took another swig of the whiskey, a big one this time.
"Did he say how bad?" I felt intensely anxious all of a sudden.
"Yeah" Jimmy lay in the chair, squinting up at the sun and the blue sky, tracing the shape of the Times Square ball with his finger.
"Yeah," he repeated. "I guess I won't see that ball drop again this year."
I sat up from my chair. "Are you serious, Jimmy?"
"As God is Irish," he said, draining the bottle. "Hey, I'll see you later, alligator." And he got up
and walked away slowly, going downstairs to sleep it off in his cool apartment.
That night Jimmy and Lew's apartment was quiet. In fact, after that day, they never really had another loud fight. Jimmy kept on drinking heavily and Lew started going into the bathroom to weep secretly. I knew that because their bathroom was on the other side of mine, and I could hear Lew, night after night, as Jimmy began to waste away. They'd been together twenty-five years.
Jimmy went into the hospital in early November and I visited him just before he died. I didn't know what state he'd be in; Lew had just said to "be prepared." I'd brought Jimmy some red carnations but when I saw his shrunken figure, lying small and weak and helpless on the white hospital sheets like a newborn infant, I realized he didn't even see them. The best gesture of friendship I could give then was to sit quietly beside him and stroke his hand. The next day when I heard Lew really bawling I knew Jimmy was dead.
In the weeks after the funeral Lew wandered around unable to work or to eat. Some days, I would stop in to see if he was okay and leave a casserole or a stew. But he wasn't interested in company.
The Christmas holidays were dreary. When you have no money December is a lousy time to live in New York. I stayed indoors most of the time. And since I hadn't been expecting anyone on New Year's Eve, a knock on my door startled me. "Who is it?" I shouted, angry at being woken up from a good doze on the couch.
"It's Lew," came the muffled reply. "Oh!" I jumped up and opened the door. Lew stood there shyly.
"I was wondering if you'd like to come over for a drink and watch the ball go down--that is, if you have no other plans..."
"Yeah sure," I said grumpily and Lew beamed, obviously relieved to have some company.
Lew's apartment was a bit on the funky side, due to the years spent living with a well-meaning alcoholic who alternately broke, or attempted to repair, everything in the place. Furniture was mismatched and his moth-eaten rug smelled like a men's bar the morning after. But in spite of these things, the place had never lacked in hospitality, and for the holidays Lew had put up a few cheap pieces of festive glitter and tinsel.
With Jimmy gone Lew had no more hard liquor in the house, so we opened up a bottle of Taylor wine. We drank it, al fresco, out of styrofoam coffee cups. Lew lay sprawled on his big plaid couch, laughing.
"Whas so funny?" I was sloshed, and it was only 11:20.
"These stupid cups," Lew said, still laughing and looking at the coffee cup in his hand. "I don't have any glasses left. Jimmy broke them all, the bum."
"Hey don't start yelling at me, just 'cause he's not here!!" I joked. Lew chuckled and hung his head. "Don't worry, Lew," I tried to sit up. "I won't get on your case...Hey, tell me how you met Jimmy!"
"Mmmm," Lew was letting the wine do his reflecting for him as he sat up and pulled himself together. "...You know, when I went into the Army I was just a kid, I didn't know nothin' about nothin'. I got sent over to Italy during the occupation, which was a mixed blessing. I'd never been anywhere. For me at that age Italy was a beautiful place to go. All the wonderful old buildings and that fabulous food and wine...we had a great time."
Lew stopped speaking, briefly, and took off his glasses to clean them, as if this gesture would help him see the past more clearly. "But to be in an occupied country, after a war...there were horrible things that went on. We did as we pleased."
He gulped down his wine, then poured another cup and went on. "So we enjoyed the hospitality of many Italian families. There was nothing they couldn't do in their desire to please us. I remember one family in particular, in a little town near Florence..." Lew stopped and drank down his wine. He filled up the cup again.
"It was the town magistrate's house and they welcomed me with a tremendous feast. He and his wife ran back and forth from the kitchen catering to my every wish. He had slaughtered a pig
and roasted it and his wife had baked all sorts of delicacies. Such food I'd never seen! Their eldest daughter, who must have been about fifteen, kept my wine glass overflowing...I remember at one point, while everyone was speaking Italian, I asked for the salt and pepper in English. We were all so drunk that everyone burst into applause, thinking I had mastered some complex Italian phrase. And by then I had gotten so drunk that I believed it too, for a moment."
"At about 10:30, when dinner was over, having lost command of what little Italian I did know, I wobbled up the stairs to my bedroom, practically on my hands and knees."
"I can just picture it, Lew," I giggled, thinking of fat Lew in his Army uniform, buttons bursting, crawling around a Tuscan farmhouse at night.
His voice began to tremble. "Yeah, well, I opened the door and went into my room--it was hard to see by the candle light--and standing tensely the bed was the magistrate's fifteen-year-old daughter. She was naked, god dammit, she was totally naked!"
He covered his eyes with his hands at his shame of it.
"Drunker than I was, she lay down on the bed with this stupid smile on her face. Her legs were wide open. I was horrified, absolutely horrified. She was so young and innocent. My God! Can you believe this idiot magistrate and his wife had given me their daughter for the night!!" Lew's voice was trembling so much I thought he would cry. "They were prepared to go to any lengths to see to it that they and their possessions were left basically intact. I found out later that
some of the soldiers nearby had burnt down entire farms, so they must have been absolutely terrified of me! Terrified. And I was still a virgin myself, you know..."
"Well, do you know what I did, me, mister tough American soldier?" Lew's voice had gone up an octave, the way it always did when he was upset. "I ran outside and threw up. I spent the night in their goddamn barn, hiding in the hay. I couldn't bear to see them again, it was too humiliating for all of us. So I left just before sunrise. Thank God I was sent back to the States several weeks later because after that night, I couldn't wait to leave."
"Was that when you met Jimmy?" I asked, hiccuping.
Lew nodded as the tears began to roll down his face. "He was so handsome then, you should have seen him."
I wobbled over to the couch and gave him a hug. We'd turned the television on earlier, and the loudness of the announcer's voice suddenly caught our attention. Outside was the continuous tumult of the crowd, the fierce trumpeting of their horns as if to say "No, No, We defy Death, We defy Time, We will go into the New Year kicking and screaming."
"60 seconds, 60 seconds to the NEW YEAR," the announcer shouted above the din. The ball lit up and began its decent. As the ball flashed the arrival of midnight, a great roar of denial and acceptance erupted, then faded within seconds. They knew they were prisoners of Time.
"Well Lew, here's to Jimmy and a New Year," I clinked my cup to Lew's. "Yes," he looked sad. "Here's to Jimmy." ********** After that one evening of closeness, we went about our respective business like so many neighbors and didn't see each other for several months. But the ruckus coming from Lew's apartment told me his friends were beginning to come over again. I could hear them loudly and affectionately cursing each other out over too much booze. Even though Lew was slowly getting back into a new, different rhythm of life without Jimmy, some things never changed.
One day as I was waiting for the elevator, the yelling began in Lew's apartment just like old times. He was screaming at the top of his lungs at somebody, and I didn't know who, until the door flew open and out stormed a young Puerto Rican boy, a street kid really, dressed in Pro High-Tops, cut-off muscle shirt, and the ever present gold chain from which a cross of Our Savior dangled. The kid stopped short at the sight of me, confused, and Lew poked his head out to see what happened.
"Oh," he said, embarrassed, "Sorry to disturb you, my friend here was just leaving." The kid defiantly took a swig of the beer he had in his hand and glared at Lew.
"Yeah..." he looked at Lew with the calculating air of a shrewd businessman, "See you next week, right?"
"Maybe...call me." Lew still looked pissed off. The kid strode cockily to the elevator with that
phoney, inflated stride a lot of street kids use to look tough. "See ya, Lew" he said, as the doors shut.
Lew looked at me apologetically. "He's really a nice boy...He's been good to me since Jimmy's death. He just gets a little out of hand now and then, you know, wants more money..."
"Well, Lew," I said, embarrassed, not quite knowing what to say as this wasn't a realm I knew anything about, "I only hope you know what you're doing. Some of these kids can be pretty ruthless."
"Oh, I've been around a long time. I'll be okay." Lew said, nodding and smiling slyly as he closed the door. And he was, too, at least as far as I could tell. The cycles of screaming and repentance resumed. It seemed that Lew had found himself a willing partner, even though he had to pay for him. Their mutual needs for sex and money complemented each other just beautifully. There was no love there, but for Lew, anyway, it was almost like old times again.
He continued to see the kid for a few years, on and off, and our building continued to suffer through Lew's high voltage temper tantrums. I only had to call the police once and that was when the kid appeared at my door late one morning. It was Halloween day.
"Come over, man, I think Lew's had a heart attack," he said in a quavering voice.
"WHAT?" I said, adrenaline shooting into my system.
"Yeah, and I think he's dead," the kid was as white as a sheet.
I raced next door and there was Lew, slumped over on the plaid couch, eyes staring, skin like marble. "What the hell happened?" I shouted. "How long has he been like this? Did you call EMS?"
I fired questions at the kid. He looked like he was ready to cry.
"Quick, let's get him on the floor so we can do CPR. Come ON," I yelled at the kid again. "We've got to move fast--it's a matter of minutes."
We tried CPR, but the kid's breath only rattled about in Lew's lungs. I frantically called EMS again. The lapsed time was fifteen minutes and by now I knew Lew was brain dead. If EMS did manage to bring him back he'd be a vegetable.
EMS arrived ten minutes later, along with the police. I demanded to know what kept them. The cop, thinking I was some hysterical broad, said, "Look lady, calm down" and EMS gave me some garbage about how they'd showed up once and pressed the buzzer, but no one answered. I was apoplectic with rage when I heard such a blatant lie. A new buzzer system in our small building had recently been installed that was so loud it didn't matter where you were, you heard 'em all! What kind of idiots did they take us for, anyway?
The cop yanked me screaming out of Lew's apartment while EMS pronounced the obvious. Lew was dead. But when the kid told the police how Lew had died that was almost the biggest joke of all. His yelling had finally given him a heart attack, just like I'd always said it would.
Apparently, the poor kid had returned with Lew's dry cleaning and Lew had seen there was a smudge on one of the pant cuffs. He went nuts and started screaming until the big whammo grabbed him. Then he held his heart, went to the couch and keeled over. Dead.
But the real twist to this story occurred with the arrival of the New York City Medical Examiner later that day. He was a short, balding fellow in double knit slacks and a wide, ugly tie. After he had officially pronounced Lew he asked me to sign a release attesting to where the body would be, so that Lew's next of kin could find him. As I was signing the paper I said, with a touch of black humor, "I guess now there's another great apartment available..." The guy's ears perked up and he asked what I meant. I explained it was a rent controlled building and that Lew's apartment rented for about $350. It was only a guess, I added hastily as I saw the man's eyes widen.
"Would you mind giving me the name of your rental agent?" he asked in a high nasal voice. Lew had been dead for barely two hours.
"Sure," I said in astonishment, writing it down on a piece of paper.
"Do you mind if I use your phone?" he asked excitedly. That was the move that ultimately put
his ass in a sling. As soon as the creep left I called the press and let them know just how low our public servants had finally descended. And as it was Halloween, no less, the rental agent didn't believe this guy was for real. When she found out he wasn't a prankster she was revolted.
Well, the morgue guys finally came over seven hours later to get the body. By now Lew's skin was all blotchy because the blood had pooled just under the surface. This wasn't the Lew I'd known. He was gone. I looked at the lumpy sheet with detachment. That is, except where Lew's feet stuck out. I couldn't look there because those shoes were still Lew's. The shape and crease of them reminded me of how he walked, kind of shuffling, and all of a sudden I began to feel sad, really sad, because I'd never see that shuffling walk again.
The morgue guys and their stretcher smelled like something I didn't want to ever smell. I left and went outside to stare at the cracked pavement. Watching them wrap Lew's body up and store him like a filet was too much, even for me. As their black truck sped off through Times Square people were strolling about in their Halloween costumes. Earlier, one of the editors at Newsweek had called and confirmed that Lew's death had made it into the next edition because of the medical examiner's misbehavior. Lew and Jimmy both, I'm sure, were laughing like crazy out there somewhere, but for me it was time to move.
Karen Petersen New York City
Biographical Note: Rhiannon Grant Rhiannon Grant lives in Birmingham, UK, where she teaches Quakerism and philosophy of religion, writes prose and poetry, and keeps an allotment. Her published work to date has mainly been in academic journals but she has also contributed to some 'Pop Culture and Philosophy' volumes and has a book on Quaker theology for the general reader due to be published in 2019.
Another Old Lie (Rhiannon Grant)
The railway shines at sunset I would mess it, blood and guts. Death, they say, or glory but glory's out of reach when you're on the dole.
Ghost Question (Rhiannon Grant)
In this room is a question lurking unspoken and even unthought hidden from the doctors working. Here the patient they are quizzing cannot give the answer sought in this room is a question lurking? It's a question quite disturbing the answer feared and fraught hidden from the doctors working. Here am I, bare and hurting, seeing treatment come to naught, in this room with a question lurking. Did I earn this suffering? Can a solution ever be wrought? I don't ask the doctors working just weep with the question lurking.
Remember, Remember (Rhiannon Grant)
November remembers the foregoing, the gone: I'm a witch She's Catholic He's been gassed and shot. Light a fire in the woods and eat by an empty place; light a fire in the park and explore the kingless sky; hold a silence in the church and condone what you try to condemn.
Victoria Square, Leeds (Rhiannon Grant)
a discarded sandwich. a bronze by Moore. wingĂŠd Victory, sad; the twenty-two stopping by. red brick, white brick, concrete, stone; mobiles, prams, municipal plants. some friends meet, more people text. tobacco smoke and butterflies.
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April’s 2018’s MESSAGE FROM THE ALLEYCATS:
Sadly one of our editorial cats passed away. Can you believe it has been 20 years since the GFA was signed? Well, that’s just about it from us for this edition everyone. Thanks again to all of the artists who submitted their work to be presented “On the Wall”. As ever, if you didn’t make it into this edition, don’t despair! Chances are that your submission arrived just too late to be included this time. Check out future editions of “A New Ulster” to see your work showcased “On the Wall”.
We continue to provide a platform for poets and artists around the world we want to offer our thanks to the following for their financial support Richard Halperin, John Grady, P.W. Bridgman, Bridie Breen, John Byrne, Arthur Broomfield, Silva Merjanin, Orla McAlinden, Michael Whelan, Sharon Donnell, Damien Smyth, Arthur Harrier, Maire Morrissey Cummins, Alistair Graham, Strider Marcus Jones Our anthologies https://issuu.com/amosgreig/docs/anu_present_voices_for_peace https://issuu.com/amosgreig/docs/anu_poetry_anthology_-april https://issuu.com/amosgreig/docs/anu_women_s_anthology_2017
The late April edition featuring the works of Mark Young, Tim Noble (posthumously), Daniel McBrearty, Gordon Ferris, Oonah V Joslin, John L...
Published on Apr 30, 2018
The late April edition featuring the works of Mark Young, Tim Noble (posthumously), Daniel McBrearty, Gordon Ferris, Oonah V Joslin, John L...