ISSN 2053-6119 (Print) ISSN 2053-6127 (Online)
Featuring the works of Elke. T.B. Stevens, DJ Tyrer, Abigail Dufresne,Ceinwen E Cariad, Haydon, Simon Costello, Ana Spehar, Paul Hammond, Karen Petersen, Michael Lee Johnson, Rhea Cassidy and Gabriel Ertsgaard. Hard copies can be purchased from our website.
Issue 72 September 2018
A New Ulster Prose On the Wall Website
Editor: Amos Greig Editor: E V Greig Editor: Arizahn Editor: Adam Rudden Contents
Editorial Elke T.B. Stevens;
1. Among The Masses 2. Beyond The Mists 3. No Tale To Tell DJ Tyrer; 1. Cave-In 2. Genocide 3. Hunger 4. Weâ€™re All Americans Now Abigail Dufresne; 1. Big Brother is Watching 2. Meridith New Hampshire 3. A Proper Poem 4. I Wonder If My Lover 5. I held my anger 6. Onward At Church Or Easter Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon;
1. Father 2. Execution 3. Scratch Cards Simon Costello;
1. After The Sea Cracked 2. Develop Ana Spehar;
1. let me be free 2. forever yours 3. I had to do something Paul Hammond;
1. Morning War 2. Blurred Fuss
1. A Special Realm 2. Three poems 3. The Aching Truth Michael Lee Johnson;
1. 2. 3. 4.
Old Men Walk Funny Just Because Bad Heart Canadian Seasons Exiled Poet Injured Soul
1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
1 2 3 4 5
Gabriel Ertsgaard; 1. War Murals 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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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€œGorseâ€? by Amos Greig
“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light. ” Aristotle Onassis. Editorial 2018 continues to be a difficult year for us my father has been hospitalised several times, he’s needed surgery and blood transfusions, a lot of blood. I have a great deal of respect for the medical staff and for those who donate blood, due to their diligence and care I still have my father. That means a lot to me as it was he who first exposed me to the world of poetry whilst I was still at Primary school, he would bring me to poetry readings and debates in the Linenhall Library and more. Other issues include my permanent and persistent back injury I’ve attended the Pain Clinic this year and had several tests done on circulation etc the end result is there’s nothing more to be done sadly and now I’m awaiting ENT specialists for my hearing as I’ve severe tinnitus and perforated eardrums. My hearing is fairly bad at the moment. The ongoing political impasse of my country drives me crazy I’ve been watching friends struggle with their businesses and then there’s the uncertainty of Brexit. I may have to consider options. My dad has had to close his companies’ doors for a while this is the first time in 30 years. I apologise if this editorial has been all doom and gloom but there’s a silver lining pages and pages of prose and poetry we hope you enjoy the work contained within and as always, the work remains the Intellectual property of the artists who produced it...
Onward to creativity!! Amos Greig Editor.
Biographical Note: Elke T.B. Stevens
Elke T.B. Stevens, born in the city of Antwerp 1980, Belgium growing up in the middle of one of the smallest Nations in Europe. With roots coming from Belgium trying to find her bearings in Northern Ireland. Elke was 37 when she made the choice to come to this emerald island and follow their passion. Having dyslexia and passion for the written word makes this journey to become a good poet a challenge. With a passion for English Elke chose Ireland because of luxuriance, richness in the English language. Writing was always a passion of them but there was never a lot of room to pursue this passion. Learning English made her more Conscious about language and gave the push to go for their dreams and passions. She grew up with one brother and an age difference of 7 years, so most of the time Elke had their imagination to keep them company. With two loving parents how support them in their endeavours of life, they did not have the most luck in life but the bound and love is strong. Elke is a beginner poet, finding her bearings, hoping to grow in time as a writer.
Among The Masses There among the masses she is standing firm and grounded, with the weight of the world on her shoulders. I wonder how the world looks like through her eyes, if she is seeing all the colours, is she trying to keep it together? There among the masses she stands enjoying the beauty of the coming twilight, listening to the tales of a ghost's past, suddenly feeling like autumn in summer. I wonder if she hoping for better days? There among the masses she is floating with the drift to uncover the mystery of what it is she feels that keeps her moving. I wonder if she sees the dream within herself. There among the masses she is flying she dares to be free she dares to let go, she feels like a fool. I wonder if she knows her heart is ready to blossom among the loved ones. There among the masses she is floating she uncovers her mystery she finds the fool within herself. I wonder if she will ever show me her smile and laughter. There among the masses she stands enjoying the beauty of autumn a waiting the coming twilight of summer. I wonder if she feels de warm sun on her skin if she can hear the laughter behind the dark cloud. There among the masses she is standing firm and grounded she is free from the world's war her shoulders strong and her mind free from worry. I wonder if she knows the woman she became if she feels the strength within herself? Elke Stevens 28/04/2018
Beyond the mists Beyond the mists where dreams come to be, silence lays a soft hand of solace, where voices tell a story of times to come and sounds become a singing song, time clears the sky to a coloured rainbow where my fantasy is free and my soul feels silent a love story awaits a brave heart. ÂŠ Elke Stevens 10/06/2018
No Tale To Tell
Truth has been told when secrets have no tale, when the sound of reason has a voice. A sweet reply of thought aligned in heartache, although pain heavys the heart and oldens the soul. There remains a sweet laughter, when secrets have no tale to tell and imagination seeks memories of never told stories. Drawn to the melody of unravelling a mystery in the voice of reason, where like-minded walk and burning hearts made sweet. When the sound of reason has given a voice, a soul is made wiser.
Elke Stevens, 20/05/2018, Belfast
Biographical Note: DJ Tyrer DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing, was placed second in the 2015 Data Dump Award for Genre Poetry, and has been published in issues of Amulet, California Quarterly, Carillon, The Dawntreader, Haiku Journal, The Pen, and Tigershark, and online at Atlas Poetica, Bindweed, Poetry Pacific, and Scarlet Leaf Review, as well as releasing several chapbooks, including the critically acclaimed Our Story. DJ Tyrer's website is at http://djtyrer.blogspot.co.uk/ The Atlantean Publishing website is at http://atlanteanpublishing.blogspot.co.uk/
Cave-in By DJ Tyrer The caverns and potholes Have got together to protest Against all the spelunking Going on these days To make their point They’re holding a cave-in...
Genocide By DJ Tyrer On a mountainside Beneath blazing summer sun Or in winter's snow Huddled underneath canvas Fleeing bloodthirsty killers
Hunger By DJ Tyrer Sharp pain A stomach’s mumble An impolitely-timed rumble A slight sensation Tired or bored The urge is not ignored Sharp pain A stomach’s groan In a crowd or all alone All-consuming fire Terrible exhaustion Going without a portion
We’re All Americans, Now By DJ Tyrer Somehow, somewhere along the line, it happened Thanks to Coca Cola, Hollywood and a strange worldwide malaise Everyone, everywhere became American Just in time for Americans everywhere To become embarrassed, bemused, bereft Those born that way, rather than mutated Transforming themselves into bitter Canadians A poorly-affected, disaffected guise The only people in the whole wide world Who aren’t Americans in name and deed A sad, perplexed body cast adrift In a world to which they don’t belong A world they helped create and in which We’re all Americans, now
Biographical Note: Abigail Dufresne Abigail Dufresne is a twenty-one year old poet, actress, and costume designer from Rhode Island with training in acting, design, movement, and devised theatre from Shakespeare and Company, The Stella Adler Studio of Acting, and The University of Rhode Island. At this point in her career Abigail finds herself drawn mostly to devised theatre and Shakespeare for the opportunities these provide to engage with both poetry and acting within the same medium. She looks forward to exploring how these disciplines can also live within other forms of art.
Big Brother Is Watching. (Abigail Dufresne)
I wanted to push off into the crashing, Batter against bridges Be swept away by currents
You preferred the shore No sharks on shore No undertows to rip away your red tide sister
I wasn’t allowed to kayak without you, And you weren’t willing to hold all my fire Even with all that water, my flames are still reckless
We were both cradled by waves, Rocked by the sound of seagulls, Ate our sandwiches out of plastic buckets
Last month I fumbled every fiery part of me into the open mouth of a kayak for the first time in years, Held the paddle in both hands, still pretending like I know what I’m doing, Each stroke splatters lake water onto my face, It gets into my mouth, I am smiling so big
You own a kayak of your own now,
Step into it with much more grace than the hot coals on my feet could ever manage, There’s a hook for your fishing rode and quiet patience to sit in
We fished together once, I spend the whole morning casting the line; my flame soaring with it, Warning all the fish to stay away I suppose,
You cast the line once And pull back a fish,
My fire burns all the more furiously, Lighting up the dock just enough For you to throw the fish back by my light.
You cut the spurs of your fish hooks, They slide out more easily, you say. Catch and release.
I take waves in the face just to see my flames tumble, My throat stings from the salt that gets in while I smile, I dig my toes in as a brace for the crash,
Brother, I am scared to turn around, I don’t know what waves would hit if I’m not looking, If I did turn, I know I’d see you on shore, With a flame just as steady and bright as before.
Meredith, New Hampshire
This town Smells like Sunscreen
So many little grubby hands Dripped with ice cream I can almost see them now Gearing up for summer
This town Smells like Books that havenâ€™t been read yet
They sit on the shelves Waiting for gentle hands Dripped with ice cream To peel them apart one by one In the scalding sun
This town Smells like Anxiety
That might just be Me though.
Maybe I should Get ice cream, My hands aren’t quite sticky enough For this place.
I’m the foreigner With soft, Clean hands, I don’t quite fit,
The door handles all slip a bit Under my tentative grip.
A Proper Poem (Abigail Dufresne) Today I wrote A proper letter On proper paper With a proper pen. I put it in A proper package With a proper book To go along. I drove to the Proper post office And obeyed every Proper posting Along the way. I pulled into the Proper post office With a Properly pleased smile On my proud face. I promptly got out of My proper car, Walked up to the Proper post office And it was Positively closed.
I wonder if my lover Makes art about me
If he turns to his creation And says
This is for her, Never to see, but it’s hers non-the less
I wonder if there’s Art that I don’t know is mine.
Lover, This if for you,
It says, You make me smile,
Even from so far away, And maybe, just maybe,
Your smile is that soft and Your voice is that kind and
It is not a trick Of the distance.
This is for you, Never to see, but itâ€™s yours non-the less.
I held my anger So tightly So long That my knuckles split And dripped blood onto the carpet. Today I opened my hands and found Nothing I looked at you and felt Nothing Maybe I’ve always felt Nothing And it scared me, I’m supposed to feel something, Right? We kissed and your tongue tasted like Nothing I tried to flavor it with all the ways I’d seen Movie couples kiss. We fucked and from beginning to end I felt empty. I tried to fill it with all the songs you played, How can something that sounds so beautiful Be nothing? But you didn’t write the music It belongs to someone else. You threw a grenade into
A pit of nothing, There was so much room for The explosion. But no matter how big the bang Silence will always follow. And I am grateful for the silence. I reached into the nothing And plucked out the songs I like.
Overheard At Church On Easter (Abigail Dufresne)
He is risen
Biographical Note: Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon . Ceinwen lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and writes short stories and poetry. She has been published in web magazines and in print anthologies. She graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Newcastle University in 2017. She believes everyoneâ€™s voices counts. @CeinwenHaydon https://www.facebook.com/ceinwen.haydon
Father (Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon)
Tenby’s sandy seashore un-warmed by late October sun has drawn me after dawn. Here, I learnt to walk my hand in his – and now he’s gone. I hug my body tight and l stand and watch the waves. Waves building and breaking. My raw sleepless eyes strain and I glimpse a blue bottle, tugged along, pulled under by currents, then bobbling back up again. Under a drift of creamy foam edged with sandy brown, like lace from Bobber’s Mill, it sails to my feet. Bombay Sapphire, full and stoppered tight. I drop to my knees on the wet, cold sand – I ease off the cap, and sink great gulps of gin – my own communion Bobber’s Mill – site of a lace mill in Nottingham
Execution (Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon)
A hornet stirs, zings and zithers, buzzes and whines, a frazzled question-mark it hits my smeary window pane, frantic to be free, to fly unfettered in the summer breeze, again. This waspish prisoner mocks my own imprisonment, and I fear its stinging tail. And so, I swat it, squash it.
Scratch cards (Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon)
Cardboard temptations, vivid patterned, trick hope to flood my head. I scratch games with furtive scrapes to reveal nothing. Or worse, a pound or two to snare me. These pretty cards shame me, my poor girlâ€™s pointless greed for choice and opportunity. Cardboard temptations.
Biographical Note: Simon Costello Simon is from Co. Offaly, Ireland. His Poems are published in Rattle, The Stinging Fly, The Galway Review and elsewhere. In 2017 I was the winner of the Ekphrastic Poetry Challenge (October) & editorâ€™s choice for US poetry magazine Rattle. In September he will begin an MFA in writing at Manchester Metropolitan University.
After the Sea Cracked (Simon Costello)
I saw him drag up his boat-filled belly raving about someone, something. Then really said what he meant, spilled his guts to the world, the town flooded with his deep-blue words. I escaped on flotsam, pinched between debris. He trawled the streets, netted everything that passed; food for his hunger, photos to fill his eyes, a daughterâ€™s hands like fins in the deluge.
The drowned bobbing between each meander. No idea what set him off.
Develop (Simon Costello)
You moving under every inch of her. My palm holds where your soft skull might be, snug under your atmosphere of mother. Your seed-heart strung up, valving rhythmic duds. Soon youâ€™ll descend like a sun, or a body ghosting a photograph; biding in its darkroom, waiting to be seen.
Biographical Note: Ana Spehar Ana Spehar. is from Croatia, but living in Cork for last two years. Her poems were published in A New Ulster magazine, Boyne Berries magazine and Solstice sounds.
I had to do something, (Ana Spehar)
I had to do something, With the love I’ve kept inside. I couldn’t make it vanish, It didn’t want to hide. So I’ve put all my love Into poems, into lines. Now it lives in my verses Breathing through the rhymes. And it moves to the paper Straight from my heart, This love that won’t let me go, Love from which I can not part. Your eyes are alive in my poems, Your smile shines in the lines. And my broken heart, It bleeds through the rhymes.
Forever yours (Ana Spehar)
I don’t have you, and probably I never will. But you have all of me. My soul, my heart, my kisses. All of it Forever yours will be.
I don’t have your love, not even a smallest bit. It’s something, to me, you’ll never give. But you have all of mine, all of my love is Forever yours, until I live.
Let me be free (Ana Spehar)
How lonely a heart can be, A heart that wants to be loved And at the same time free.
I want you to love me, But let me be me. I want you to love me But let me be free.
Biographical Note: Paul Hammond .
Blurred Fuss (Paul Hammond)
If I’m honest, I went to that party hoping to meet a guy. I think most straight single girls, no matter how they might mask it, have a small part of themselves that hopes to run into their dream man every time they do themselves up for a night.
While I wouldn’t say that I was desperate for some intimacy, I was certainly lonely. No one is fully themselves after a break-up. Or maybe we are fully ourselves, but that self is too much for us to take. I don’t know. But on the way to that gaf, the ex-girlfriend’s parting words still probing my ears, I wasn’t unwelcoming to the possibility of some female attention.
Mind flattened. Eyes capturing nothing. Door opens to unknown face. A smiling face until meeting mine. Sees my distress. Points to toilet. Nod of appreciation before limbo strides up steep steps. First drops of vomit escape grinding jaw. Settling on new shoes. Fuck. Need to hurry.
It was a good party. Bopping music, lively debates, and full of hot guys. As well as some very drunk ones. Yeah, I think it’s fair to say that I was enjoying myself.
The party itself? It was decent, yeah. I could have done with being in a better headspace. But objectively I suppose, the night had something going for it.
Into the toilet. Hunching, crouching over bowl. Banishing funky poison from tired organs. Last line of spew offers long-awaited and undeserved relief.
A few guys caught my eye, so I tried to catch theirs. Some came straight over like dogs with a ball, others were playing harder to get, or were shy, or just uninterested. I guess I never really know. But it was fun talking to these guys. Some of them too nervous to finish a sentence, others too drunk to start one.
I wasn’t doing much socialising at the party. My friends were baked by the time I got there, and I’m not much of a man for weed. My first two hours were spent sipping cans in an armchair, hoping nobody noticed how pathetic I looked. I remember having a few brief conversations, one with some locked lad asking me for a can. I gave him one.
Sobering up. Just a little. Standing up in the bathroom. Mouth smelling like shit. Need a can. Out the door. Back downstairs. Passing an argument. Probably about abortion. Fucking abortion. Seeing loner in chair. Plenty of cans on him. Should head over there. Try to smile at him. Fucker looks lost. Chat for a while about nothing. Asking for booze. Question navigates its way through my slurs. Gives me one. Sound man. Should leave him be. Asking his name. Too drunk to comprehend. Was a nice name I’m sure.
I was getting some mixer from the kitchen when I bumped into him. We sat down and began to talk. He had a nice smile, an inviting smile. He wore that look of brokenness, as if his life were turned in on itself, the only place where it could be safe. But I guess I liked that. He seemed to think enough of himself not to be loser, but not enough to be a douche.
Yeah, she was nice. Made it easy for me to talk to her. What I mean is, she guided the conversation, filled in any pauses before they could become silences, that kind of thing. I could tell she was interested in me, I wasnâ€™t totally clueless. But that didnâ€™t make it any easier to make a move to kiss her, considering where my self-esteem was at.
Can drained. Head hanging. Aware but an awareness useless without words to express it. Ogling girls before they look away. Might lie down somewhere for a nap. Body begging for a break. Just need to source an empty room.
I could tell he was low on confidence, his habitual gazes into the black of his can whenever I watched him too hard were enough to confirm as much. But that was okay. He was cute, and I was enjoying the conversation.
I find itâ€™s hard not to go into a defensive place when chatting to girls, especially the hot ones. It seems like parties proceed with a nagging desire for the attention of one of the beautiful women walking around, but no matter how friendly or pleasant they seem, a great internal leap must be made to go and talk to one of those women, never mind do anything else. When one
then stumbles upon a woman who does show an interest, the next fucked up reaction is to strive not to lose her company. God knows when it will come about again.
The night was bundling along, and there is only certain amount two semi-drunk strangers can chat about, so I resorted to some obvious flirting, hoping to speed things up a little; stroking his knee, applying my lipstick, all the while laughing at every fucking word he said.
I was surprised by how well it was going, I continued to talk, and she continued to listen, displaying no inclination to leave. She even had her hand on my knee at one point. It was then that I knew I could get physical. All the signs were there, if not more.
I was pleased when he leaned in to kiss me. It showed a semblance of initiative, something I was starting to wonder if he had. The kiss was average. His breath stunk of booze, and his technique was unrefined and sloppy, with an abundance of tongue wagging.
Kissing her was nice. Maybe more of a relief than anything else, but Iâ€™ll take relief. I guess it was when I had my tongue down her throat that my confidence began to rise, among other things. I kissed her some more, before leaning over to ask if she wanted to go upstairs, maybe find a room.
I was hesitant to go upstairs. I guess I had begun to sober up, and people were already starting to leave the party, including a couple of my mates. I think perhaps it was the fear of another
wasted night that pushed me up those steps, another night reinforcing those lurking doubts. I thought I should do justice to the time I had spent getting to know this guy, if nothing else.
We moved ourselves upstairs and found a room that looked like it belonged to a young girl. A bit fucked up, I now realise, but I was horny at this stage and the other rooms were occupied. I was starting to relax a little more since the kiss, even taking her hand as we walked up the stairs.
I suppose I began to feel turned off when we ended up in a child’s bedroom. He seemed to care very little that this was the case and had lost whatever withdrawn vulnerability that had drawn me to him in the first place. He became more forthright, taking my hand, leading the way and all that. But there was something forced about this façade, like it was a version of himself with which he had only dabbled before. Like a cloak he forgot to pin around the neck and could slip off at any moment. I think it was in these moments that the idea of having sex with the guy had begun to lose its appeal for me.
The room was dark when we went in, but I assumed it best to leave the lights off. I haven’t heard of many people with a preference for bright sex, all the bits on show and that.
The fact that he didn’t bother with the lights, I don’t think resonated with me at the time. I couldn’t claim to be on board with the idea of revealing to a stranger every crease and crevasse of my body. A hefty distribution of shade is always an ally in these situations.
I led her to the bed. We sat there for an awkward moment until I put my hand on her thigh and leaned in to kiss her. I remember there being something different about this kiss. As if she now only tolerated the presence of my lips, whereas before she was prepared to dance with them.
He kissed me again on the bed, and while part of me commended his initiative, the rest of me had forgone all desire to share such intimacy with him. Whether it was the foul breath, the oncoming sobriety, the unicorn bedposts or just the inauthenticity of his new-found purpose, I no longer felt what I did for this guy, and struggled to entertain his slobbering kissing as a result.
We continued to kiss for some time, even if her enthusiasm was minimal. I was horny just from the kissing and wanted to take things further. I began by placing my hand on her stomach, just below her breast, before stroking gently upwards and feeling around her nipples. I then kissed her neck, her forehead, her ear. She seemed open to all this, even enjoying it, especially when I kissed her neck. My efforts were not reciprocated, it must be said. I felt like all the work was being left to me, but I guess that was fine, I was turned on anyway.
He started to move things forward. His hands became more curious, as did his lips. Things were going better for a while, probably because I was no longer in the direct line of his breath. At this point, I began to relax. I thought to myself that a few more minutes of this wonâ€™t do any harm. But even as I became more tolerant of his touch â€“ in my mind â€“ sex was off the table. I
had lost the original attraction I had toward him. He had become nothing more than a bodiless pair of hands and lips providing a neglected body with some brief moments of pleasure.
She seemed into it. Like, really enjoying herself. Groan after groan ensued until I felt like all she wanted was for me to undress her. I know girls like it when a guy is dominant and takes the lead in these situations, so I thought it might appear weak on my part to ask for sex; or to confirm whether she was ready for sex. As far as I was concerned, her body was doing that for me. I stood up and took off my shirt. She smiled. A sure sign she wanted to see the rest of me I thought.
When he began to undress himself, I couldn’t help but laugh at the excitement in his movements. He was so pleased with himself, tearing off his shirt as if were on fire. I knew it was time to tell him that the show was over. At least that’s what I should have done.
She began to stand up as I unbuckled my pants. To kiss me some more, I assumed. She put her hand on my shoulder, and leaned in, as if ready to share something terribly important. I know what she will say, I thought to myself. It will be sexier if I don’t let her say it and take the lead, I thought to myself. I put my hand on her lips and moved her back toward the bed. She kind of laughed as I did this, which I took as a good sign.
I guess I found his persistence cute. He really wanted to fuck and was clearly following some sort of advice on ‘what women want’ from the internet. Truth is, women don’t want guys who
search ‘what women want’ on the internet. His body was following a script that his eyes betrayed. But at that point I thought to myself, got to admire the effort.
I then leaned her body back toward the bed until she could no longer keep her balance, until she was lying on the bed. I followed suit, lying above her with my weight resting on my elbows. We kissed again before I decided to remove the rest of my clothes, in the hope of incentivising her to do the same. She then put her hands on my hands, ushering them away from my belt buckle. I figured she was merely signalling that she wished for some more foreplay, that I was in a sense jumping the gun. There was little to no verbal communication at this point, everything that needed to be said was being said physically.
My first act of resistance was to stop him from undressing. I ushered his hands away from the downstairs lobby in a not-tonight-or-any-other-night-bucko kind of way. He took little discouragement from this, seeming to increase the workload of that wet tongue and those wandering paws.
Waking against will. Head spinning. Aching. Heavy. Dry mouth lined by pieces of previous vomit. On the carpet next to bed. Must have fallen asleep here.
I felt the urge to step things up, show her I meant business. That I knew what I was doing and wouldn’t be denied. My previous passivity with women had gotten me nowhere. My ex’s infidelity broke us up, but what I hadn’t realised in time was that her infidelity spawned from
my inability to please her. Sexually, I mean. My actions were typically reactive, never proactive. Looking back, it was always her responsibility to initiate physical contact, and intercourse as a result. It took many aimless re-visitations into our shared intimacies for me to pinpoint the error of my ways, and to relinquish myself from the role of pure victim. Blame for the relationship ending could not be bestowed upon her infidelity alone. And while she was wrong to cheat, I was just as wrong not to have bettered myself while I had the chance. A mistake I was desperate not to make again.
I couldn’t say that I was worried yet. To be honest, I found it funny how oblivious he was to my disinterest. I assume he justified every one of my reluctant movements and unenthusiastic pecks as me playing ‘hard to get’. And that really, beneath the coldness, I was desperate for him to fuck me. His persistence still felt like a boy desperately trying to play grown up. I sensed no harm or evil in him. Just a kid called up from the bench for the second time, trying not to fuck it up the way he did the first.
Shit. Not alone. People getting it on. Sounds intense. How the fuck do I get out? Ah shit, fucking head is killing me, need some water. Be a bit creepy to lie here listening. Be awkward though to excuse myself and leave. First option is best. Just stay quiet and stick it out. By the sounds of him I doubt he’ll be too long anyway.
Something strange was happening to me. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was living in the moment. Whatever combination of one-euro lager, self-pity and sleep-deprivation I was experiencing, it seemed to have succeeded in ridding me of what were typically quite
tormenting inhibitions. I felt energised, and not just in the my-dick-is-hard-let-me-put-itsomewhere kind of way. I felt empowered at a deeper level, as if a pool of clotted masculinity had burst its thick shell and now joined scarlet blood in flooding my veins. While there was little communication in those moments, I was convinced she was enjoying herself as much as I was. In fact, in those moments, I was convinced everyone must have been enjoying themselves.
Things began to take a turn. His hands, rather than caressing my body, started to dictate my body, solidifying my place on that mattress. I then felt his body weight collapse onto me, leaving me unable to breath for a few moments. I excused this mishap as a case of drunken clumsiness, but it was at that moment that I felt a strong urge to leave. Not from any serious sense of fear, but out of a distinct lack of comfortability with this guy.
Jesus, these two take their time about it. Both still clothed. Might be a while here yet. Heâ€™s more into it than her by the sounds of it mind. Generally happens that way though I guess.
Our bodies began to merge closer. It felt like we were becoming one. Me, the masculine force, leading this woman and with her the world behind me. She, the receiver, perfect foil to whatever I was that night. Graciously absorbing my strength beneath me, huddled safely within my arms.
He took off his underwear. His entire weight then crashed onto me for a second time and I grimaced. I said his name, but he wouldn’t listen. I said that I had enjoyed myself but that this was never going to happen. That I wasn’t one for getting together on first meeting. That I was on my period. That I had no condom. He merely laughed at what I was saying, while his arms continued to pin me to the mattress. I began to panic. Twisting my torso beneath his sweatladen forehead. His face had changed. It had lost its innocence and now wore something of a demented mask, tongue wagging beneath gaping pupils. I was frightened and wanted out. I wanted to scream for help but for some reason felt myself unable to do so. As if his mind had seized control of me the same way his body had.
Christ. That girl doesn’t want to be there. She’s not into it at all. What the fuck is he doing? Get off her man, she’s not up for it. The fucker’s sounds like he’s gonna go ahead regardless. Head pounding. Heat rising. Jesus Christ. Why the fuck am I here? Should have got up and left when I woke up. Just gunna be awkward now. Fuck awkward you pussy. This bastard’s gunna rape her if you don’t do something. Where are her mates? They should be looking out for her. She’s gone quiet now. That mean she’s decided to go ahead with it or what?
I don’t remember her saying anything in the way of resistance. As far as I recall, we were silent save our gasping breaths as things got hotter and hotter. I could see no reason for her not to want me, I had done everything right. I was learning from previous mistakes by taking the lead and driving our intimacy. If she was in any way uncomfortable, I thought it was a good kind of uncomfortable, like a flood of overwhelming pleasure so strong she couldn’t be sure if she was enjoying it or not.
I was frozen. My protests had lapsed into resignation for reasons beyond my understanding, if there were any reasons at all. He unhooked by bra and was licking my tits as his hands fumbled around with my skinny jeans. I simply lay there without being there. Abandoned my doomed body to tend to a wounded mind. My memory fades at this juncture. Probably because there was nothing to remember. I was no longer there in any sense beyond the material.
Have a bad feeling. Sheâ€™s quiet now but thereâ€™s no way she wants this. Could have had her drink spiked or anything. That fucker, what a sick bastard. Need to stop it. But how? Do I just go over and wrestle him off? Do I say something? The lights maybe.
She was naked save her underwear when the lights came on. I have never felt closer to the dark than I did when it vanished that morning. My thoughts were spiralling, I remember myself trying to process where I was, what I had been doing, and whose voice it was shouting at me. That confusion increased as she pushed me aside and ran out the door.
The light reunited my lost body and mind. I was present again and shoved that monster away from me with watering eyes. I wished to leave without being seen. From the party and from everything else. I dressed while running, not even bothering to check why the lights were turned on. I was nowhere, head down, begging my body to forgive me and to carry me somewhere. Anywhere, but that bedroom.
Lights on. She looks fucking upset. Poor girl. Best look away while she changes. Should say something to your man. Or to someone else. Gardaí maybe. Not sure. Nothing beyond attempted rape anyway from what I could hear. But still, attempted rape. Dude might have done this before or could do it again if I don’t say something.
When she left I turned to see my drunken acquaintance from earlier in the night. The one to whom I gave one of my cans. He looked as confused as I felt.
Shit. That’s your man who gave me a can. Seemed sound enough earlier.
I waited for him to say something, I knew not what he had seen, heard nor thought.
‘What the fuck was that man? I was lying there and heard her say she wasn’t up for it.’ ‘Yeah no, lost the head a bit, been a rough few days. Just got dumped.’ ‘Oh well fuck, I know that feeling.’ ‘Yeah, guess I got carried away man, fairly drunk to be honest.’ ‘Can happen I suppose. Sure I was out of it before the party even kicked off.’ ‘Yeah haha, I remember you downstairs. Barely picked up a word you said.’ ‘Haha, don’t remind me, I was a fucking mess.’ ‘Haha.’
‘Listen bud. It was nice to meet you. Look after yourself, you’ll find someone else I’m sure.’ ‘Appreciate that man. Good luck yourself. And yeah, hopefully.’
I felt relieved after our short exchange. As if the token of single can erased any record of what I had become in that room. Whatever information he had I felt confident he would keep to himself. Not really any of his business anyway.
Seems like an alright lad. Going through a tough time. Don’t want to rock the boat. Could have misheard anyway. Maybe she was just a bit tired or something. Got my own shit to worry about. Plus, still a bit drunk. Couldn’t be sure what happened. No point causing any fuss.
Moon-blue light of dawn reflecting the empty cans. Abby’s eyelids stirring. Then relaxing. Stirring again. Opening. Head spinning. Groin thrusting to the ceiling, letting muscles know that time is up. Time to move. Conscience rebelling against unwilling body. Arms stretching to relinquish midnight stiffness. Reaching. Hairless legs pushing couch’s arm. Lingering drone from unamused mouth, detesting the sacrifice. Final push. Core tucking. Head raising. Body upright. Morning war. Won. Mess. Cans standing like pawns on a chess set. Smirnoff bottle behind as king. Champagne as queen. No coasters. Fuck. Much to do. Carpeted tobacco. Buds on floor. Vomit smell from kitchen. Drunk steps. Grasping door handle like sea-buoy. Smell stronger in the kitchen. Neongreen residue decorating the sink. Polluting the place. Fragile hand twisting tap for water. Aid for vomit stench. Aid for bone-dry mouth. Mouth still dry but vomit gone. Plastic bag for cans. Press beneath sink. Bags almost gone. Two left. Rip. Not the first time. Rip. This time. Something nice about that rip. Something nice about the finality of it. Dawn’s blue veil brightening. Steadier steps back into living room. Job to do. Black sack welcoming totalled cans to new home. Two at a time. So much fucking alcohol. Throbbing head unsurprising. Table stains under departing beer. Should have used cloth. Need bleach to
sort them out. Certain rhythm to cleaning though. Meditative punishment for a night of sin. Last cans. Place looks a bit better. Room’s half-light navy invaded by artificial bright. Shit. Forgot to check phone. 12 Missed Calls (Mum) What the fuck. Violet fingernails scroll through manmade bright. Calling Mum… … … Luminence extinguishes. Room shrouded again in half-dark. Shit. Need to charge. Bag of cans strikes floor in cacophonous haste. Where the fuck did I? Shadow scrambling in halfbright. Pressing switch. Lights on. Charger appearing on couch, cast by violet fingernails into life source. Restless pupils awaiting power. Please Enter Pin Code Done. Calling Mum… … … Hello? Hello? Abby? Shite reception. Yeah…yeah…Mum it’s me. Tone typically raised when addressing parents. I…I… tried calling you. I know…I was asleep. Why were you calling me? Is something wrong?
Tone raised higher with apprehension. Background murmurs on phone-line. Things being said. Male voice. Must be Dad. Look Abby. It’s your sister. Something happened to her. We are in A & E, Beacon hospital. Silence. Words not forthcoming. Abby? Abby? Are you still there? Consciousness cultivating a thousand thoughts, not one lending itself to a response. Hello? Abby? What do you mean something? What happened? Is she in trouble? Hands shaking to a beat matched only by pumping heart. She’s alright. But you should get down here immediately. Shite answer. What…just tell me what happened…why can’t you just tell me what fucking happened? Head scorching. Eardrums whistling. Abby…love…we’re not quite sure yet. We’ll explain all when you get here. The Doctor is waiting to speak to us. Wait…mum! Simmering blood begging for more. Just get here as soon as you can darling.
Okay…okay. On my way. Mind fucked back to sobriety. Wringing hands accompanying wringing thoughts. Conscience interrogating mother’s every word. She’s alright. What the fuck is alright? Purse. Keys. Phone. Fags. Light. Gathering at a gallop. Coat hanging to one shoulder as doom slams shut. Dawn becoming morning. Streaks of orange dissecting seas of night-blue cloud. Marlboro Gold pulled from packet. Lighting. Dragging. Inhaling. Exhaling. Running. Dragging. Inhaling. Exhaling. Running. Running. Running. Onto main road. Taxi coming. Hand outstretching. Light off. One behind. Light off again. Fuck. The one time when. Another. Light on. Thank Christ. Pulls up. Door open. Ass flung onto leather seat. Beacon Hospital please. Okay, no problem. Taxi does U-turn. Better feeling. On the move. Won’t be long now. Music playing. Kendrick Lamar. Not now. Music only an irritation to a dissolving mind. Daring troubled psyche to sink further into gloom. Could you turn the music off by any chance? No answer. Excuse me…could you please turn off the music? If you want. Must have heard the first time. Tried to ignore.
Taxi moves. Familiar sights coming and going. Somehow unrecognizable today. Somehow blurred. Red lights mocking. Every pause. Every momentary ceasing of momentum like a sick joke. Getting closer. Five minutes maybe. Get money ready. Fifteen quid should cover it. Purse opening. Receipts appear like white flags. But no cash. Fuck. Shit. Loud enough for driver to look back through corner-eye. Ehm…I need to stop at an ATM please. No response. Not a talker this one. Must have heard though. Sorry…could we st… Yes. I heard you. Prick. Fucking say so then. Distaste for driver offering some relief to dizzying thoughts. SPAR. Door open. Wasting fucking time. Taxis need to get card machines. ATM sign hangs at the back. Violet streaks pressing and receiving. Cash in hand. Back through shop. Outside. Orange streaks now parting to accommodate crimson sun-sheet, penetrating holes where clouds let their guard down. Door opening. Taxi moving. Music again playing. Fucker. Welcome sight. Sign for Beacon. Ugly area. Barren wasteland. Buildings like boxes dropped and stitched onto innocent green. Hospital. Driver charging fourteen quid. Twenty given. Fiver change. Door opening. Anxious juice racing. Clean place. Too clean. Too white. Something sinister about it. Impatient strides pursue reception desk. Greeted with manufactured smile sandwiched between scarlet lips.
Hi. Can I help you? Yes. I’m looking for my sister…eh…I mean…I’m looking for Cindy Cosgrove. She was admitted to A & E recently. Scarlet lips glance down. Scrolling computer screens for an answer. Yes. She is still in intensive care. Go through those doors on the right, down the hall, and you’ll see a sign for the waiting room. A step closer. Hurried pangs of sole on marble following orders. Through the door. Down the corridor. Passing expressionless nurses. Corridor is long. No sign yet. Where the fuck is the sign. Frantic inhalations of air. Artificial lights glaring at each step. Each panging, clobbering step echoing through the corridor. Murmurs ahead. Sign appears. Thank fuck. Murmurs becoming babbles becoming voices. Panicked voices. Sign drawing nearer. Nearer. Almost there. Parents. Heads bowed. Whispering something. Unaware of daughter’s presence. Mother’s cheeks lined with Mother’s tears. Father staring at something, or maybe nothing. Turn of two heads. Presence felt. Two-heads rise at sight of second child. Safe child. Relief. Hugging. Gasping tears. More hugging. Question cans wait a moment. Hugging ceases. Twoheads share a glance. Look at Abby. Share another glance. Seem intent on steadying themselves. Enough is enough. Anticipation crippling at this stage. Must ask. What...what’s going on? Where is Cindy? What happened? Two-heads struggling for a word between them. Anger rising. Tell me for fucks sake!
Room’s other dwellers look up. Very loud. Who gives a fuck. Two-heads finally ready to speak. Mother takes the lead. Cindy is hurt. She is in a stable condition but is quite beaten up. The Doctors are in with her right now. Stable. Stable is good. Better than unstable anyway. So, she’s okay like? I mean, not in the worst kind of trouble anyway. Silent nod from Father. Three-quarter family taking their seats. Two-heads rising. Expecting more questions. So, what happened to her? Was she in an accident? Was she hit by a car or something? Two-heads share another glance. More worried than the last. Steadying themselves again. Mother opening mouth to speak. Shut down by Father. His turn. It seems Abby, from what the doctors are saying, that Cindy was hurt by someone. What the fuck. What…hurt by who? How do they know? Another pause. Shared glance. Becoming unbearable. Who the fuck hurt my little sister? Mother readying herself again. We don’t know who darling. Well fucking ask Cindy then! I’ll go in now and do it myself. Shuffling of legs. Preparing to stand up. Father’s hand on leg. Forcing her stillness.
You can’t go in at the moment Abby. Doctor’s orders. Daughter-hand removing Father-hand. Mother-hand reaching onto daughter’s shoulder. Well, when can I see her? Soon love. Why didn’t you ask who hurt her? Two-heads glance again. Why didn’t you ask who the fucker was that hurt her when you saw her? Voice fanning the room. Dwellers staring. Although compassionate staring. Pitiful staring. Stares filling present frailty with fear. Father leans forward. Preparing a whisper. She wouldn’t tell us Abby. What? We asked who harmed her, and she wouldn’t tell us. Mind scrambled like a bad map. Like a map of moving street and letters, all squirming like earthworms. Confusion met with two-head’s melancholy. Familial triangle unbalanced. Fragmented. Breaking. She wouldn’t tell you? Why not? We don’t know love. She barely said a thing. I don’t understand. Why wouldn’t she just say what happened? Mother wincing. Father leaning back to comfort her. Slow sobbing into Father’s sweater. Distilling the sobs to the point that they sound indistinguishable to laughter. Sobbing
ceases. Mother-eyes meeting daughter. Fearful eyes. Eyes emptied of tears. Mother leans forward. Very far forward. Mother-nose and daughter-nose almost touching. Embracing ahead of a final revelation. She didn’t say anything because we think she is embarrassed. Embarrassed? Embarrassed about what? No sense being made. Mother’s strength shrivelling. Words disappearing. Father steps in. About being raped. Brain slowing. Nerves tingling. Stomach diving into the deep. Pause. Nothing to say. Wall-staring. Head dropping. Still nothing to say. More staring. Silence. Breath-holding. Nothing. Pause persists. Then whimpering. Father this time. Trying to conceal. Failing to conceal. Triangle broken. Thoughts again forming. Questions still to ask. How…how…do we know this? That she was r… Sentence unfinished. Interrupted by Father-tongue. Doctor told us. Father-eyes glance below. Damage down there.
Eyes closing. Confirmation. Mystery solved. Silence. Waiting. No more words. Waiting. Stillness. Waiting to see her. Nurses in and out. Anticipation rising each time. Waiting. More nurses. Not this time. Someone else. Waiting. Waiting. Family of Cindy Cosgrove. You can see her now. Triangle rising. Following blue uniform. Further down corridor of artificial bright. Just want to see her. She’ll talk to me. Next door on the left. Be warned, she’s awake but quite drowsy. Brown doors. Windowless. Portal to escaping unbearable morning. Resolving unforgivable act. Mum, Dad. Do you mind if I go in first and speak to her? Two-heads looking puzzled. Eager to see just as much as she. Look shared. Compromise agreed. Okay Abby. Come out and let us know when you’re finished. Turning. Pushing. Brown door opening. Light striking. Natural light from a sun now fully up. White room. Everything white. Stepping forward. Sister next to window. Reclining on machine-bed. Hospital clothing. Head bandaged. Face lost in white cloth. Not lost enough. Cannot hide bruising. Violet cheeks. Navy eyes. Closer. Sister turns. Noticing. Smiling. Closer. Not smiling. Crying. Closer. Closer. Able to touch. Touching. Hand in hand. Four-eyes crying. Crying. Then trying. Trying to speak.
Cindy…Cindy…what happened to you? Crying stopping. I got beaten up. Are…are you okay? How do you feel sis’? Was pretty sore before now. But they gave me something to help the pain. Were you knocked out? No. I remember everything. What is everything? Conversation slowing. Ceasing. Cindy looking anywhere but sister-eyes. I…I just got mugged leaving a party. Two guys were punching me and then ran off. Lying. And did they do anything else? Testing. No…ran off when someone started shouting at them. Took my bag though. Lying. Becoming excruciating. Are you sure there’s nothing else? Yes. Heart sinking. Don’t understand. Cindy…it’s me. Your sister. You can tell me things. You know?
Tears simmering in four eyes. No budging. I know Abby. And I told you what happened. Now please, stop asking. I only ask because I care, please, describe what happened. Tears boiling. Blood flushing violet cheeks to treacherous rouge. I fucking told you what happened. I was mugged, and I was beat up. That’s what happened now fuck off with the questions. I’m beat up, but I’ll be fine. Tears streaming on both sisters. Arms folding. Stalemate. Waste of time. No. Must try again. Cindy, I love you. But you’re lying to me right now. Voices raising. Fuck off Abby! Just please fuck off leave me alone! And tell Mum and Dad to fuck off too! Backing away. Hurting. Thinking. Wanting to speak but nothing to say. Backing away further. Further. Turning. Pushing. Brown doors opening. Fake-light returning. Two heads staring eagerly. Well Abby, how it she? Is she okay? Thinking. Recalling sister’s furrowing brows above darkening rings. Ferocious Cursing. Thinking. How to put this? No.
Biographical Note: Karen Petersen Adventurer, photojournalist and writer, Karen Petersen has travelled 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.
A SPECIAL REALM
The train ride to the little hamlet on the south shore of Long Island lasted an hour, and I saw that the town hadn't changed much since I was a child except for the "For Sale" signs everywhere. I had lived on one of its main streets, a broad avenue filled with overarching maple trees and Victorian houses--a stone's throw from the local grocery store and the high school. In those days my father commuted by train three hours daily in order to be able to live "in the country." He worked at various editing jobs in New York City, none of which he held for long, much to my mother's great irritation. His was a highly creative, enthusiastic mind and although he should have been playing his violin or working on one of his inventions, he instead got up every morning at six and came home every night at seven after a hard day dutifully trying to edit some dull textbook.
I used to run to meet him as he came through the door, the smell of pipe tobacco and train smoke hiding in his tweed jacket. A tall, handsome man with thick, black hair and a great sense of humor, he'd sweep me up into the air in a big hug, and although I didn't understand it at the time, he was like a god to me.
Our little house stood in the middle of the block in a tiny yard, a small red brick cottage with a peeling black roof and faded green shutters tucked away in the woods behind a larger house. Soon it was going to be torn down to make way for some developerâ€™s scheme and I was lucky that a local realtor, an old friend from high school, had called to let me know I could visit one last time.
As I opened the old door, light streaked across white walls cracked with age. To the left of the living room was a small kitchen, and next to the sink were the hanging spice racks that my father had built over thirty years ago for my mother. I was surprised they were there; a precise reference to a physical past that still existed.
The living room, with its bay windows, was bright and sunny, and the curved stairway in the corner was unchanged. The windows were a lovely feature of the house and the light that spread through their slender frames gave the room its warm emotional tone. It was through those windows that the neighborhood kids had peered the first day my baby brother had been brought home from the hospital. I remember my father proudly holding him up for all to see, wrinkled and red and bald.
Behind the living room was a small room under the stairs. For me, death lived there. That was the room where my father had quickly wasted away and died of cancer one damp, rainy day in March, two months after his 43rd birthday. I had no use for that small room, now or ever, and hate March to this day.
As I went upstairs the floorboards creaked just like they always had. The bedrooms were tiny, and it was hot and stuffy. Summer nights the air had often been so still I'd lie in bed sweating, and the crickets and other insects would be buzzing and creaking, sawing away out in the woods. But they'd suddenly quiet down when my father began to play his violin and I'd lay there, listening to the sound drift up as he'd play for friends. He'd play for hours--Brahms, Debussy, Bach--and the most sensual memory I have is of lying there in the warm night as that beautiful
music floated around me.
Walking back down through the living room, I wondered if the other tenants had ever discovered the secret hiding place I'd had in the front closet. I felt behind its molding to the left of the door. There had once been a loose panel inside, which you could take out, revealing a space between the wood and the insulation. I felt for the panel and it wobbled, sliding quickly into my hand. I carefully groped around in the dark and felt an almost square, heavy object--a book.
Taking it out into the sunlight I saw that it was a book of fairy tales, a present from my father when I was ten. I had loved this book and thought it lost. As I opened it, admiring the turn of the century illustrations, I found a yellowed memoir in my father's handwriting. Just after his death thirty years ago I had found it among his papers and hidden it from shame. It was called
My Childhood, 1930-1940
"It seems, now that I look back, as though nearly everything I had was second-hand: a secondhand home, second-hand parents, and second-hand love and affection. The one thing that was first-hand was the knowledge of want and need and the inner hunger for acceptance by a family which itself was hungry for acceptance. It hurt me to be poor, and to have the knowledge of poverty and the pretense of social worth to cover up this poverty.
My mother, step-father Paul, and myself seemed like outcasts compared to the rest of the
'relatives' group. My relatives made me feel that something was wrong with my mother because we were poor. They had all married well, except my mother, who had married first a blue-collar laborer who had abandoned us, and then a sculptor.
I hardly ever had new clothes--always somebody else's second-hand, worn out coats and pants. I wore shorts: short pants, until I was twelve, and when I did get my first long pants Paul complained so much about the cost that he ruined the occasion for me.
At the Rectory School, I went without a haircut for four months because no one would send me money, and when it finally did arrive it was too late. The boys had been calling me sissy, so in desperation I tried to cut it myself and ended up looking even more ridiculous. How I hated it there! I had been sent to this school to be gotten 'out of the way' but I had no friends since my poverty was so embarrassing to the others.
But there was one thing that gave me great pleasure. I loved to play the violin. When my mother insisted on auditioning me at The Julliard School of Music in New York City to impress her sneering family, I cried all day. My self esteem was so low by this time that I felt my worthlessness and lack of talent, as well as my excessive demands for attention would surely be discovered, and I would fail.
The sad part of it was, I did fail. This one incident stands out more than any other, and hurt the most."
My poor, dear father. I saw now how this sensitive little boy with no self esteem became a frustrated man who never fully realized his talents. He'd gotten no emotional or financial support from anyone over the years, as a child or as an adult. Trying to have a creative life was difficult even for the luckiest, and a man like him in the end just fell through the cracks, stuck off in some dusty corner of a publishing house to edit books no one else wanted. But he'd given so much to me--God, how I missed him. Father, I love you, I sobbed in the empty room. Please come back.
Outside, the afternoon shadows had lengthened and become what had always been for me a magical time, best summed up in that wonderful word that even by its sound evokes the sense of strange presence all things have at this hour: dusk. It was then that my friends and I had often played hide and seek. Mysteriously, one of our companions had sometimes been a rather malignant ghost from the woods who would flit about the trees while we were playing one game or anotherâ€“always scaring the pants off whoever was unlucky enough to see it.
But there was no ghost in the woods now, only the fading sun and an occasional squirrel crackling the underbrush. Perhaps it left when all of us moved away--but come to think of it, I don't remember seeing it after I entered adolescence--so maybe it was still there somewhere in the shadows, hiding and waiting for other children to arrive.
I went back to the city and found myself thinking more and more about my father as the months went by. I wished so desperately for a grave marker I could visit and talk to, something tangible, especially since my mother, brother and I had never properly mourned him or formally honored
his memory. He had been cremated by the Navy at sea, as he had wished, and thanks to my mother,his painful memory had been put away as quickly as possible. She'd kept some photos but gotten rid of all his clothes and sold our piano. I'd carefully hidden the violin, which I now had in my own apartment. I liked to keep it as a sort of talisman.
One rainy night I noticed that public television was doing a special series called "The Golden Age of Television." It was selections from the 1950's U.S. Steel Hour. I had ignored the series but the show that night was supposed to be particularly good so I stuck in one of my videotapes that had an empty hour left on it. I'd often use up videotapes this way, sometimes watching what I'd taped later, other times taping right over it again without even having seen the first program. Tonight though, just by coincidence, I sat down to watch while it was being taped.
The show was called "A Wind From The South," a teleplay by James Costigan, directed by Daniel Petrie, and whose opening song "A Soft Day" was sung by none other than Merv Griffin. It starred Donald Woods and Julie Harris, who had been nominated for an Emmy for her role in it. Perhaps it was the nostalgia of seeing something from that early black and white era of television that made me watch it that night, or maybe the heavens had been aligned in a special way.
The show was about a brother and sister who happily run a country inn in Ireland until a stranger (Donald Woods) shows up and the sister falls in love and the brother feels abandoned. The plot gets rolling when Donald takes Julie out to a local dance for the first time, leaving the brother
resentfully behind to run the hotel.
But as I'm watching a kind of miracle happens. A great gift really.
I'm watching the television, watching Donald squire Julie into the dance hall, when the camera pans around the room and stops on two good-looking men in dark suits. They are really very handsome and I suddenly have this queer feeling all over me as the camera follows them dancing with their dates. A sort of tingling envelops me and then it's as if time has suddenly stopped and every neuron in my brain is firing simultaneously.
One of the men is a young Roy Scheider and the other is my father.
There he is in black and white, moving about from within this glowing screen and all of a sudden I'm crying, sobbing, bawling from astonishment, love, grief, happiness, shock. I've seen my father again and I've got it on tape, I've got it on tape! There he is, in a dance scene that only lasts less than a minute, but there he is. Thank you, God, for this strange electronic miracle, this beautiful resurrection from the grave.
For it was a miracle. When I told my mother what had happened she said that, yes she remembered he had had one brief part in a tv show in the '50's. This was the only time my father had ever been filmed and it was something more than coincidence--the odds of me watching,
much less taping that show had literally been a million to one.
My father may have felt a failure professionally but he made it onto television, albeit in a small way, and for a brief moment was in the living room of anyone who was watching that night, all across the nation. For a moment a door in the universe had opened and he came back again, handsome and vibrant, back into his family's life for a few brief seconds. That was something incredible I think. And although my father may have felt he failed as a violinist, to me he always played the most beautiful music, and told the funniest jokes.
In My Backyard –for Billy Collins
Attempting a spring day’s meditation reading, drowsing, the birds all a chitter. Then the neighbor gets caught up in yet another project: buzz saw on loud thump goes the cut wood –the only land on the block to go down in value. Another neighbor, a crew cut tough blowing feathers around the yard with a leaf blower set on high. Well, somebody was high. Trucks back and forth, kids screaming, planes overhead, dragging the air basso profundo. The birds persist, despite. Then the Landscape Doctor arrives across the street, big, noisy hose, spraying the trees with God-knows-what. Five minutes later a little fly shows up –a pollinator, a beneficial insect but it’s writhing from the poison so I squashed it. That fly ruined my day.
On Alfred Russel Wallace â€“for Carl Jones, MBE
It was wonder that drew him to nature, to a great apprenticeship with the Amazon; he learned to eat ants, travel with fish hooks, mirrors: the jungle was his Cambridge. Although to some he would remain an itinerant bug collector (with a fondness for beetles) in that he was unsurpassed as he sought his scientific fortune in the infinite tropics. On the way home his ship caught fire and sank, thousands of specimens ruined in the ocean deep. Yet on he collected, never losing the sense that the natural world was endless. Once, he found himself adrift in the Sargasso Sea 700 miles from shore intimately acquainted with tropical disease, torrential rain, and although betrayed by Darwin on his return, he survived. He lived a mystic married to science, revolutionary, counter-revolutionary, a heretic in Darwinâ€™s court, but in old age while others were dozing off he looked at flowers, and marveled.
Catology I want to be reincarnated as a well-loved cat as long as I don't need to eat mice or cat food but sit by the wood stove on a brisk Fall day, watching the wandering leaves through my window. I want to be reincarnated as a well-loved cat who can snuggle with my human in the night and lick my fur and not get hairballs or if I do, politely throw them up on the kitchen tile. I want to be reincarnated as a well-loved cat able to lie on my back in deep surrender, safe in my old age, dreaming cat dreams and while gently purring, slip off to cat heaven.
The Aching Truth
Sean was a shy man. A rare type in the social landscape of British society--he desired neither more nor lessâ€“and was perfectly content just as he was. To be known, to be seen, to be understood, was not what he desired; indeed, all he desired, and all he'd ever desired since the death of his father when he was very young, was to be inoculated from heartache.
So in a misguided effort to control his life he'd become very precise. Precise in where he put things, what he wore, what he ate, and he was so defined that some might call him mummified. But deep under all those bandaged layers beat a small lonely red heart, thump, thump, thump.
He'd come to America as a grown man with his mother, and they settled out on eastern Long Island where she had some cousins. She bought a small home with an old barn in the back and he'd fixed up the barn and moved in so he could have some kind of privacy.
They were Irish Catholics, and although Sean wasn't devout, his mother and her cousins were. He'd go to Mass once in a while to keep his mother happy but the whole scene really wasn't for him. Especially when all the parishioners would stand outside after Mass and socialize. His mother was always trying to fix him up with one young woman or another, which made him deeply uncomfortable, although he wasnâ€™t quite sure why. These women were quite attractive but he found he had nothing to say to them.
Heâ€™d gotten a job at the local greenhouse and discovered a certain kind of contentment working among all the plants. Plants would never disappoint. The job allowed him to walk to work and all the locals would see him each morning at 8 and every afternoon at 5 on his way to and fro, whistling and singing as if he hadn't a care in the world. And in a way, he didn't.
Except for his heart, that is. He hid his loneliness, pretending it didnâ€™t exist. But when he went to Mass and his heart opened to God as the organist played Bach, he was overcome by the power of the music. He knew then the aching truth, and would shake and become embarrassed by his loss of emotional control.
He carried his sense of privacy with him to work, but there he had an easy smile and a friendly, somewhat reticent manner. The customers loved him because he was helpful without being intrusive. His blue eyes were striking, and people considered him handsome, and once in a while he would uncharacteristically burst out with a funny joke and laugh heartily at his own silliness.
But that was all heâ€™d permit himself.
One week there appeared a new yard hand, a young man named Pablo who had come all the way from Mexico to eastern Long Island to find work. Like Sean, he had some relatives there, and like Sean he liked the low key, almost soothing, atmosphere of the greenhouse. He was a beautiful young man who had been a struggling artist in Mexico, and everyone remarked on his beauty.
During his work breaks Pablo would sketch and lately had taken to sketching Sean. This made Sean blush furiously but on some level he was secretly pleased since no one had ever singled him out for anything.
One day as Pablo was sketching Sean he noticed a small yellow jonquil pinned to his shirt. “That’s perfect for the greenhouse–a celebration of Spring!” Sean said.
“Oh,” Pablo replied, reddening slightly. “This isn’t particularly for Spring. Don’t you know about the language of flowers? The Victorians used flowers to convey messages with flowers all the time. It’s still very popular in Mexico. I think it’s kinda cool.”
All of a sudden Sean knew he didn’t dare ask what the jonquil meant. He felt a kind of vertigo, as if he was wavering over a precipice which might destroy him somehow. This feeling shocked him.
So he just nodded.
Nothing was said again for the rest of the day and Sean, now intensely curious, practically ran home to look up this new bit of information.
He stood in front of his computer aware that he was about to cross a threshold. Time slowed and there was a feeling of immensity to the action of pressing the power button and watching as the screen came to life.
He typed in “What do different flowers symbolize?” and a link came up. He stared at it for a while, and in a kind of trance, clicked on it. He scrolled down to jonquil and saw ‘The meaning of this flower is twofold. One meaning is that of desire and another is domestic bliss as well as friendship.’
He was flooded by confusion. He thought they were already friends...
So then he looked at another site and saw ‘Love Me, Affection Returned, Desire, Sympathy, Can you return my love?, I desire a return of your affection...’
His body tingled all over and he saw to his shame and embarrassment that he was aroused. ‘Dear God, what was happening?’
The next day he saw Pablo had a sprig of flowering almond on his lapel. ‘Hope.’ There was no ambiguity about that.
Sean said nothing and tried to avoid him. That night he couldn’t sleep and tossed and turned as if in a kind of fever. He finally slept for a few hours and at dawn awoke, and impulsively decided to go early to church for the first Mass.
But as he sat down, all the flowers on the altar seemed to be chiding him. He knelt and stared at the crucifixion, but found all he could think of was Pablo. He was so very beautiful.
He got up abruptly and left. He could not have these thoughts in a house of God.
As he sat in his backyard with his coffee in the warm Spring sun, he found himself staring at a cheerful patch of yellow cowslips nearby. They were so full of life. He would pin one of those on his shirt for work, why not?
His mother came out of the house all of a sudden, clapping her hands. “Sean, you need to get a move on or you’ll be late!”
Sean grabbed the flower and put it through his buttonhole. There wasn’t any time to look it up.
His mother eyed him scornfully. “What are you doing with that on your shirt? People’ll think you’re some kind of nancy boy!!”
Sean waved her off dismissively and strode off whistling.
It was a busy day at the greenhouse now that Spring was here. He only saw Pablo once, and that was brief but momentous. Pablo was driving a forklift in the yard when Sean came out and crossed over to the next building. Sean waved but Pablo just stared, stalling the machine. Sean shook his head, laughing, and went inside.
That night he looked up the meaning of cowslip and read ‘You are my divinity.’ Sean understood what he had done and felt the electricity of desire course through his body again. But this time he
embraced it, albeit trembling and with a feeling of intense guilt.
The next day he chose his flower with care, picking a white clover from the lawn. It meant ‘Think of me.’
His mother just stared at him as he went out the door.
Sean arrived at the greenhouse earlier than usual. Few people were around when Pablo came up to him behind the counter. His dark, almond-shaped eyes seemed to look right into Sean.
He lightly touched Sean’s flower and said softly, “I do, all the time.”
In his lapel was a rose of sharon blossom. “Do you know what this means?” he whispered to Sean.
Sean shook his head and felt faint.
“Look it up tonight,” Pablo smiled and walked away as Sean found himself leaning into the counter to try and suppress his violent trembling.
When he looked it up later Sean saw that it meant ‘consumed by love’ and he was overcome with excitement and misery simultaneously.
This secret word play went on for several weeks as Sean’s mother became more and more distant. Sometimes he would catch her off guard and see how worried she looked, for to her and all her relatives, homosexuality was a terrible sin and the person committing it was an outcast to all.
The more and more his longing for Pablo increased the more disturbed Sean felt, torn in two by the beliefs of his family and his own feelings, newly awakened. The neighbors soon noticed that he’d stopped whistling as he walked to work. Instead, Sean walked quickly, head down, talking to himself and shaking his head.
As the warmth of Spring faded into Summer’s heat, one day Sean wore a sprig of butterfly weed in his buttonhole. ‘Let me go’ it meant, and Pablo responded with a cactus pin for ‘Endurance.’ That night, Sean went to church and prayed, and even though the altar flowers mocked him he knew what he had to do.
The next day he wove sprigs of forget me not from his mother’s garden into two bracelets. He came into the house and put one on her wrist and gave her a hug and a kiss. “Goodbye mother,” he said smiling, and left.
When he saw Pablo at work he put the other bracelet on his wrist and kissed him passionately, then and there, right in front of everyone. Then he turned and began to walk home, this time taking the shortcut along the railroad tracks rather than the road.
The engineer on the 8:51am Westbound later said heâ€™d blown the whistle over and over, trying to get the man off the tracks. But the man had headphones on and had just kept walking until the screeching 200 ton train had inevitably hit him from behind. As the train slowly ground to a halt, the engineer saw what was left of Sean's torn body land in a meadow of wild Queen Anne's Lace behind the greenhouses. The meaning of that flower is sanctuary.
Biographical Note: Michael Lee Johnson Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era and is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. Today he is a poet, freelance writer, amateur photographer, and small business owner in Itasca, Illinois. Mr. Johnson published in more than 1037 publications, his poems have appeared in 37 countries, he edits, publishes 10 different poetry sites. Michael Lee Johnson, Itasca, IL, nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards for poetry 2015/1 Best of the Net 2016/and 2 Best of the Net 2017. He also has 167 poetry videos on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/poetrymanusa/videos. He is the editor-in-chief of the anthology, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1530456762 and editor-in-chief of a second poetry anthology, Dandelion in a Vase of Roses which is available here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1545352089. Michael is also editor-in-chief of Warriors with Wings: the Best in Contemporary Poetry, a smaller anthology available now: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1722130717
Old Men Walk Funny (V2) (Michael Lee Johnson) Old men walk funny with shadows and time eating at their heels. Pediatric walkers, prostate exams, bend over, then most die. They grow poor, leave their grocery list at home, and forget their social security checks bank account numbers, dwell on whether they wear dentures, uppers or lowers; did they put their underwear on? They canâ€™t remember where they put down their glasses, did they drop them on memory lane U.S. Route 66? Was it watermelon wine or drive in movies they forgot their virginity in? Hammered late evenings alone bottle up Mogen David wine madness mixed with diet 7-Up, all moving parts squeak and crack in unison. At night, they scream in silent dreams no one else hears, they are flapping jaws sexual exchange with monarch butterfly wings. Old men walk funny to the barbershop with gray hair, no hair; sagging pants to physical therapy. They pray for sunflowers above their graves, a plot that bears their name with a poem. They purchase their burial plots, pennies in a jar for years, beggar's price for a deceased wife. Proverb: in this end, everything that was long at one time is now passive, or cut short. Ignore us old moonshiners, or poets that walk funny, "they aren't hurting anyone anymore."
Just Because, Bad Heart (Michael Lee Johnson) Just because I am old do not tumble me dry. Toss me away with those unused Wheat pennies, Buffalo nickels, and Mercury dimes in those pickle jars in the basement. Do not bleach my dark memories Salvation Army my clothes to the poor because I died. Do not retire me leave me a factory pension in dust to history alone. Save my unfinished poems refuse to toss them into the unpolished alleyways of exile rusty trash barrows just outside my window, just because I am old. Do not create more spare images, adverbs or adjectives than you need to bury me with. Do not stand over my grave, weep, pouring a bottle of Old Crow bourbon whiskey without asking permission if it can go through your kidneyâ€™s first. When under stone sod I shall rise and go out in my soft slippers in cold rain dread no danger, pick yellow daffodils, learn to spit up echoes of words bow fiddle me up a northern Spring storm. Do you bad heart, see in pine box of wood, just because I got old.
Canadian Seasons Exiled Poet By Michael Lee Johnson Walking across the seasons in exile in worn out house slippers, summer in Alberta prairiessnowshoes, cross-country skiing winter in Edmonton, Alberta. I'm man captured in Canadian wilderness, North Saskatchewan River. I embrace winters of this north call them mercy killers. Exiled now 10 years here I turn rain into thunder, days into loneliness, recuperate loss relationships into memories. I'm warrior of the trade of isolation, crucifier of seasons hang torment on their limbs. Ever changing words shifting pain to palette fall colors and art. I'm tiring of Gestalt therapy, being In and Out the Garbage Pail. I'm no longer an Aristotelian philosopher seeking catharsis. My Jesus is in a vodka bottle soaked with lime, lemon juice and disco dancing. Pardon amnesty I'm heading south beneath border back to USAto revise the old poems and the new, create the last anthology, open then close the last chapter, collected works before the big black box. I'm no longer peripatetic, seasons past.
Injured Shadow (V3) By Michael Lee Johnson In nakedness of life moves this male shadow worn out dark clothes, ill fitted in distress, holes in his socks, stretches, shows up in your small neighborhood, embarrassed, walks pastime naked with a limb in open landscape spacedamn those worn out black stockings. He bends down prays for dawn, bright sun.
Biographical Note: Rhea Cassidy
Rhea Cassidy lives in Dublin. She is a Masters Student in UCD completing her studies in Renaissance Literature. Rhea is an artist and poet, interested in topics such as love, mental health, fantasy and nature. These topics can be seen in all of her work.
Mark Conway’s third book of poetry, rivers of the driftless region, will be published by Four Way Books in April of 2019. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, Slate, Boston Review, American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review Online, the “Poema-Day” series of The Academy of American Poets, Ploughshares, the PBS NewsHour and Bomb. He lives in rural Minnesota.
1. (Rhea Cassidy) Do you hear it? The voice? The image? Every time your lids close over your eyes That refracted light Of shapes and colour Building and forming into something. Something. An outline of something that speaks to you. A blurred image Fruitful and tangible senses Colliding An eclipse of thoughts and ideas Formulating into nothing Like a puddle Stepped in too many times To be clear. like all the poems Formed in my head Forgotten Too late And left unsaid.
2. (Rhea Cassidy)
Look at these industrial sunsets Covered in concrete clouds An electronic visual Aesthetically pleasing to the false artist And impossible to recreate In its natural habitat. Unable to be possibly tamed By camera lenses. Its beauty only barely visible To the naked eye In oils on canvas.
3. (Rhea Cassidy)
I can smell the thunder through the curtains. Feel the lightning fill my hungry eyes. My ears filled with the clapping stampede of rain on the concrete and flow of dirty water out of drains. The trees are dancing but I can’t tell if they’re happy. Maybe they’re just as afraid as I am of the dark horses in the sky.
4. (Rhea Cassidy)
Storms are easy on days like this. The pouring of sorrow from thick glassy pools of green blue brown. Dancing on blankets and washed away by the smooth lick of a thumb. Down windows the sky cries. But for who?
5. (Rhea Cassidy) I have the taste of suburban in my mouth. Streets racing across my taste buds. Grass gardens and concrete driveways paved over my teeth. Filling my lungs with the prattle of cars and dog collars. Touching the sky is easy here standing on roof tops and the shoulders of parents.
Biographical Note: Gabriel Ertsgaard Gabriel Ertsgaard has served on the English faculties of Caldwell University in New Jersey and Wenzhou-Kean University in China. He earned his D.Litt. from Drew University in New Jersey with a dissertation on environmental themes in an Irish legend. (The Drew D.Litt. is a research doctorate, not a higher doctorate. The U.S. tends to be less systematic about these things than the U.K.)
War Murals (Gabriel Ertsgaard)
The haunting faces of murdered martyrs, each othersâ€™ killers matching grimaces stare from Belfast walls.
Let them have their say lest dark yesterday make a return call.
Cuchulain must scream his pagan fury. You must unbury pain to heal this seam. Embrace dawnâ€™s new light and grieve for the night.
If you fancy submitting something but haven’t done so yet, or if you would like to send us some further examples of your work, here are our submission guidelines: SUBMISSIONS NB – All artwork must be in either BMP or JPEG format. Indecent and/or offensive images will not be published, and anyone found to be in breach of this will be reported to the police. Images must be in either BMP or JPEG format. Please include your name, contact details, and a short biography. You are welcome to include a photograph of yourself – this may be in colour or black and white. We cannot be responsible for the loss of or damage to any material that is sent to us, so please send copies as opposed to originals. Images may be resized in order to fit “On the Wall”. This is purely for practicality. E-mail all submissions to: email@example.com and title your message as follows: (Type of work here) submitted to “A New Ulster” (name of writer/artist here); or for younger contributors: “Letters to the Alley Cats” (name of contributor/parent or guardian here). Letters, reviews and other communications such as Tweets will be published in “Round the Back”. Please note that submissions may be edited. All copyright remains with the original author/artist, and no infringement is intended. These guidelines make sorting through all of our submissions a much simpler task, allowing us to spend more of our time working on getting each new edition out!
September 2018’s MESSAGE FROM THE ALLEYCATS:
We’re exhausted by this year it weighs heavily on us. 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
Poetry and Prose featuring the works of Elke. T.B. Stevens, DJ Tyrer, Abigail Dufresne,Ceinwen E Cariad, Haydon, Simon Costello, Ana Spehar,...
Published on Sep 30, 2018
Poetry and Prose featuring the works of Elke. T.B. Stevens, DJ Tyrer, Abigail Dufresne,Ceinwen E Cariad, Haydon, Simon Costello, Ana Spehar,...