CONTENTS 13 Poetry by Charles Leggett, a professional actor based in Seattle, WA, USA. His poetry has been published in over three dozen journals in the US, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. 5 Poetry by Patrick Walsh whose poems have appeared in many journals in America and abroad, including Chronogram, Evergreen Review, The Hudson Review, The Malahat Review, Poetry New Zealand, THE SHOp, and War, Literature & the Arts. 7 Novel extract from Ellen Britton’s A Seed Must Die. Ellen began writing seriously in 2012 in which year she won the best short story award in the Allingham Arts Festival short story competition. She has had an article published on Writing.ie and two short stories published in Bray Arts Journal. 9 Poetry by Neil Slevin who is a writer from Co. Leitrim whose poetry has been published widely. Neil edits the poetry section of Irish literary journal, Dodging The Rain, and works as a content writer in Galway city. 11 Poetry by Christine Kelley who’s originally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She is currently living in Belfast while finishing up a Master’s in Poetry at Queen’s University, where she was a recipient of The Seamus Heaney Centre scholarship. She also studied for a Master’s in Literature at Villanova University. 13 Flash fiction by Kenneth Holt, a writer of fiction working from his native city of Los Angeles. He attended private schools before embarking on a twenty-year career in filmmaking. His writing has been published in Borfski Press,Thrice Magazine, Balkan Press: Conclave, Justifying the Margins, Medusa's Laugh: (twisted) Anthology 2018, Ghostlight, Magazine of Terror, New Rivers Press: American Fiction 2017, contest finalist, TulipTree Publishing: Stories That Need To Be Told Anthology 2016, contest finalist.
15 Poetry by Stephen James Douglas who is a Northern Irish poet based in Scotland. He was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and graduated from The Queen’s University, Belfast in 2010 with a joint honours degree in English and Film Studies. Having gained a Post Graduate Certificate of Education at Ulster University, he has taught in secondary education for five years and is currently a Teacher of English at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh. 17 Poetry by Elaine Reardon who is a poet, herbalist, and educator. Her chapbook, The Heart is a Nursery For Hope, published in 2016, won first honours from Flutter Press. Journals that Elaine’s poetry has been published include Three Drops from a Cauldron journals and anthologies, MA Poet of the Moment, and The Paddock Review .She’s recently been heard at Brattleboro VT Literary Festival, and Great Falls Spoken Word Festival. 18 Flash fiction by Noel King from Tralee, Co Kerry. His poetry collections are published by Salmon: Prophesying the Past, (2010), The Stern Wave (2013) and Sons (2015). He has edited more than fifty books of work by others with Doghouse Books, 2003 – 2013 and was poetry editor of Revival Literary Journal, Limerick Writers’ Centre in 2012/13. A short story collection, The Key Signature & Other Stories has just been published by Liberties Press in 2017. 20 Poetry by Brendan Connolly from Dundalk, Co. Louth. Brendan studied Antropology and Humanities in British Columbia. Writing since 1977, he has published poems in New York, Britain, and Ireland, in journals, magazines, chapbooks, and anthologies. Brendan is a recent inaugural Municipal District of Dundalk civic award winner, for his lifelong contribution to arts and culture in Dundalk, and HSE prize winning poet 2011 and 2015.
Automatic Pilot Automatic Pilot is a biannual print on demand and digital publication which welcomes submissions of poetry, short stories, flash fiction, micro fiction, and novel extracts from emerging, and established writers internationally, with an emphasis on accepting and rewarding a wider volume of writers than most publications. Automatic Pilot offers a platform for writers and poets to bypass the fierce restriction of legacy publishers, while having their work received more easily by a discerning audience, and getting rewarded generously. The showcase of talent received is amazing and a testament to the thriving world of literature which will hopefully survive beyond commercial restraints.
Editor Brian Bingham Publisher Automatic Pilot Printing CreateSpace Digital Publishing Issuu
Contributors Charles Leggett, Patrick Walsh, Ellen Britton, Neil Slevin, Christine Kelley, Kenneth Holt, Stephen James Douglas, Elaine Reardon, Noel King, and Brendan Connolly.
Copyright ÂŠ Automatic Pilot 2017. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or utilised in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
LAYOVER: EMPRESS HOTEL outside Kuala Lumpur This building rises nakedly up from rows of yellow three-story flats like an elegant wart from the crown of a dentist’s hovering knuckle. Lurching half-hour’s drive from the airport; lobby and halls suffused in prayer chants piped in through a subtle P.A. system. “Help in Time of Need” leads off the Gideons’ list of “Suggested Readings” from the worn bible they’ve “Placed” —next, as it happens, to The Teachings of Buddha—in what I’ll call the drawer of need. Now, techno dance beats debouch from a stoop below, across the street, next door to Naeshan Trading, where men in t-shirts are hunched at card tables under a naked bulb’s margarine light. An equivocal phrase, “drawer of need”: need drawn as baths are drawn—immersion; or sketched, in lines of a face—mundane, sweet, straining to become familiar in a nakedness dressed to the nines. NOVEMBER STORM BREAK So dense and swift these clouds, it’s the tanned olive moon that seems to move; as if into this wind your life will lean susceptible to imagery, the inwrought pull of all these metaphors we live in. Now look—the mien even of the drape is fraught with it: coronas, eyes recoiling off the ceiling; or a gaff trickles the storm drain; or a stage’s curtain murmur passing cars; the blowsy skein of each second, frozen-framed, a tea leaf scholium, a garden in a cartoon hurricane.
PHOTOGRAPH OF MALENCÓN STATUE, THE STARGAZER WHOSE BINOCULARS HAVE FUSED WITH HIS FACE The azure thins, bleeds to blood orange cuddling couple in silhouette boundaries blurred of clouds a bird drifting down Allons three cheers for flawless posture peerless votary let fall what thee befuddles what muddles still that starry heaven’s sprawled rune horizon incising your shadow-shawled waist where would-be hands resign assignment and surely should Your lens can only linger on fingers gelled to gemcan raining rice on a languorous lion augur-cocaine awaited and prayed upon weighed on the scales (i have scanned there too friend and found)—it only can hone what there will wend Who chafes to change the azimuth who has a hand so strange range o range us in azure thinned pure to blood-rust orange —Puerto Vallarta, 2006
SEPARATION ANALOGY Early in a literature course thinrimmed ageless professor arch arcane with starch in his chin a text’s themes the question (more koan) seems manageable yet a strong fear of being wrong rears screams
No longer captive, soon “reliev’d by prayer,” What happened ringing through the solemn air. I told my mother so, not two weeks later. Could say as much. And could not say it better. —Wooden O Free Shakespeare in the Parks, Seattle, WA, August 2001
in the blood while the mind can only scud helplessly above the next page as though both text and flood of thoughts whirl and would menacingly curl twine become foreign no bridge to the language’s gnarled swirl STORY I TOLD MY MOTHER ON HER DEATHBED “What happened?” comes a child’s voice ringing pure From out among the patrons. All can hear. And I am Prospero (a summer tour of parks), with beard and scepter, arms both flailing From out a caftan, stormily regaling My daughter with the tale of being thrown From power to this “full poor” life she’s known. And there’s a little present Shakespeare’s left, A shortened line of verse, to catch one’s breath— “What happened?” comes the child’s voice ringing then. “What happened?” comes the same voice ringing when Not ninety minutes later—all forgiven, At revels’ end—falls one last grateful silence: My daughter wending toward the changing tents With old Alonso’s son. And I imagine How all upon that island—“salvage,” human Or sprite; betrothed, bewildered (or a touch Besotted)—at the end could say as much:
Charles Leggett is a professional actor based in Seattle, WA, USA. His poetry has been published in over three dozen journals in the US, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
Little Deer in the Phoenix Park Translated from an Early Irish manuscript recently unearthed
Elegy is an Act of Defiance Like the green water that briefly shows clear As it rushes over the lip of the spillway . . . To each a glint, a flash, the miraculous
I walked in the Phoenix Park today And saw the ancient fallow deer herd; Something stirred within my soul And my old heart fluttered like a bird.
disclosure, While we merge headlong into memory. And yet I stand here before you today, An old oak, persistent as arthritis: Elegy is an act of defiance.
I had my running legs again And could drive stags into the ground — With a bound I gave chase, More relentless than the great-hearted hound.
There are obelisks on the edge of town, Granite angels dissolving and forlorn — So much sentimental clutter, a waste Of arable land. I could never stand That weary trope memento mori, as if Icarus
Scent and sound grew strangely keen: Hoof-thud, the earthy whiff of clods upturned; I discerned the musk of doe, of buck, And heard their breath as my lungs burned.
Needed to be reminded about gravity. You’d think to live this long means mainly to recall, But every new prospect compels the mind to more —
Now I merged with the drove, flowing Over tussock, ditch, and hill, One animal in its urge to motion, Beyond effort, apart from human will.
An Audi sedan with a rack on its roof Flashed its hi-beams at me: clear the crosswalk. The idle deer grazed, their massed antlers Like a grove of bare trees waiting for spring.
Swans, like limousines, pull away from shore.
Shadow at the Blinds The details of a life drop away And all one is left is alive — You thought this because you’re tired of winter
And recall how so many mornings in July Begin with a languid haze, As if summer, the night before,
Prevailed in a coup of clouds, Swept quietly down and imposed Its immovable atmosphere.
Like a year of perpetual day Is what memory has made of the years; The blank perspective jars. Afternoon has burned off, The ash a cold night with stars. What Was That? I see a knight standing in the trees, His armor gun-smoke grey. Dusk becomes his banner; The light has changed, his day is done.
And now the other night, The one that always wins, Rolls the flank of the facing woods, Forcing the bullet-shaped cars
To turn on their headlights.
After college, Patrick Walsh served four years as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division. He later returned to school to receive the M.Phil. in Anglo-Irish literature from Ireland’s University of Dublin, Trinity College. Patrick Walsh’s poetry has appeared in many journals in America
Evergreen Review, The Hudson Review, The Malahat Review, Poetry New Zealand, THE SHOp, and War, Literature & the Arts.
Mid-afternoon and dark clouds blotted out the light. Eileen glanced up from the computer screen when a flurry of hailstones rattled the window. She shuddered. It was early November. It would get worse as the year drew to a close. ‘Eileen. Come here for a minute!’ Paul shouted. Eileen threaded her way through the desks. The once spacious office she had shared with Joan Fairweather and Paul had been partitioned to give Paul a “private” office. It was his first private office and a sign of things to come. Paul Cribbin’s small publishing company had expanded after its amalgamation with a state funded educational books company under the chairmanship of Kevin Cox. It was a source of satisfaction to Paul whose ego expanded in tandem with his company. Despite coming up in the world Paul insisted that he wanted to remain on an equal footing with his colleagues. He prided himself on his bonhomie, so he hardly ever closed the door to his private office. He didn’t lift the phone to call a colleague in, nor did get up and go to the doorway to get attention; he gave a friendly shout from his seated position. Leaving the door ajar Eileen, unassuming, stood before his desk. ‘Close the door,’ he said in a quieter tone. She shut the door and looked towards him expectantly. A shaft of sunlight streaming between dark clouds through the window made it impossible to read his expression. He rose from his desk, turned his back on her and jerked open the top drawer of the filing cabinet. ‘I can’t recommend you for promotion,’ he said without looking at her. ‘Sorry, Paul? . . . what did you say?’ He didn’t turn around. ‘I cannot recommend you for the head of department position,’ he said. The silence lengthened. ‘Why not?’ Unprepared to answer, Paul turned and glared at her . . . unblinking . . . intimidating . . . willing her into submission. ‘I asked you a question,’ Eileen prompted. Paul returned to his desk and sat down heavily. He didn’t invite Eileen to sit down to talk as he would in normal circumstances. She stood opposite him, waiting for an answer, acutely aware of the antagonism in his attitude to her.
‘Attention to detail for one thing; you let things get by you,’ he said. ‘Like what?’ Eileen’s calm exterior belied the shock she felt at Paul’s unwarranted display of hostility. He appraised Eileen from top to bottom under bushy unkempt eyebrows, his blue eyes sparking with anger at her cheek and at his own impotence in the face of her simple question. How dare Eileen question his judgment. Rather than try to answer the question he resorted to shouting, implying she was as thick as two planks and bemoaning the number of errors made in what he considered a very busy office. When he ran out of steam, Eileen was still waiting for an answer. ‘Can you instance any specific serious mistake I made?’ She asked. ‘The quality of the work in your office is deplorable. All the assistants are making mistakes. It is insupportable that I should have to put up with it!’ ‘Where do I come into all this?’ ‘Eh? Well . . . there was something serious not so long ago. Ah . . . I have it now.’ He flipped through a jotter to remind himself. ‘This happened last November . . . ‘November last year! . . . For God’s sake Paul, you’re not bringing that up again!’ ‘You remember it, don’t you?’ ‘Yes, I do. So do you obviously. Do you also remember that I offered to remedy that mistake but you insisted that you would take care of it - that it was no problem? Why is it such a big deal now?’ ‘Had a more junior officer made such a mistake, I would have had him fired,’ he snapped. In the lengthening silence, Eileen looked steadily at him. Was there something else . . . something relevant? ‘It was a very serious error,’ he repeated. ‘You suggest that I should have been fired for a mistake that wasn’t serious last November, something that had no impact on the company, something that you couldn’t even remember without searching through your notebook! Is there anything else?’ His sympathetic concerned expression undid her. ‘Look, I didn’t want to upset you,’ he said. Eileen almost wept.
‘You are a very valuable member of staff. You are brilliant in many areas and I appreciate your work very much,’ he continued. This was too much. Either he appreciated her work, or he didn’t. He couldn’t have it both ways. Did Paul Cribbin really think a bit of plámás would heal the wound he had so carelessly inflicted? Did he expect Eileen to suck up his insults and his insinuations about the quality of her work? Tempering his nasty remarks by saying he appreciated her work wouldn’t cut mustard. ‘May I see my assessment for the job?’ Eileen asked. ‘Of course. It’s your right to see it. You can go to the human resources department and ask for it.’ He could have given her a copy there and then, she reflected, but at least he didn’t tell her that all assessments had been shredded as he had done before when a disconsolate applicant for an earlier promotion had asked. There had been a lot of distrust and disillusionment in the ranks when Marian Hayes a particular protégé of Paul’s had been been promoted way beyond her experience ahead of quite a few senior officers. ‘Thanks,’ she said automatically. She turned to leave. ‘You don’t know how much it hurts me to do this,’ he said. She turned again to look at him, her face implacable. There were tears in his eyes, a pleading hang-dog look. His unspoken plea for understanding only fuelled her anger at him. If he was disturbed by what he saw as Eileen’s intransigence, it was only because she had opposed his will. She had considered Paul a friend and colleague. His betrayal had cut her to the marrow. Observing that Eileen would not concede anything, Paul’s appeal for understanding and sympathy underwent a rapid change. ‘The work in your section has never been up to standard. I couldn’t possibly promote you no matter how much I liked you. You know that, don’t you?’ He liked her, did he? He had a funny way of showing it! ‘There have been many lapses when it comes to attention to detail. I’m always on the phone apologising for mistakes made in your section,’ he went on, not caring that he was eviscerating her.
Despite her rising anger, hurt and confusion, Eileen was keenly aware that Paul had not pointed to any error she had made, apart from the one the previous November. He referred to mistakes made in the section, a section for which he held the ultimate responsibility. Eileen was damned sure that of all the mistakes supposedly made in the section, very few could be attributed to her. He had better come up with something other than generalities if he expected Eileen to take what he was saying on board. If he had something to say about her work, he should say it straight out and give concrete examples of where she fell down. ‘Are you saying I’m incompetent?’ she asked, keeping her voice level. She was seething. ‘No, no, no. You are taking me up wrongly. You’re a valuable member of staff, but you are a bit shy.’ ‘That has nothing to do with my qualification for this post.’ ‘You must remember, we are looking for a future company director here,’ he said. ‘The post advertised was for a manager to oversee the running of the new fiction books department, and I am well qualified for that,’ Eileen said. When she turned again to leave his office he fired his parting shot. ‘Just so you know, Alice Byrne has confirmed my view of your work,’ he said. That was a bombshell. It was generally known that Paul didn’t have any time for Alice. Paul told Eileen in confidence, a couple of years before, that he intended to appoint her as his second in command. That was before the amalgamation after which, Kevin Cox the new CEO, insisted that Alice Byrne would be appointed as deputy to Paul and Paul, being the junior partner had no option but to accept it. There was no record of what he had said privately to Eileen when they worked side by side late one night, but Eileen assumed they had an understanding and that she would be promoted when the opportunity arose. Alice, Paul and Eileen had worked alongside each other for years and it had been an uneasy alliance between Paul and Alice. Extract from Ellen Britton’s, A Seed Must Die. Ellen began writing seriously in 2012 in which year she won the best short story award in the Allingham Arts Festival short story competetion. She has had an article published on Writing.ie and two short stories published in Bray Arts Journal.
Sewing the Sea
Fishing for water, sewing the sea, you sit at ease on a swept, beaten quay, passing no heed to time, tide nor in the distance, me.
Shimmering is your joy, the sun speckle bobbing your face and settling like stardust in your golden hair embrace. You are at labour, lost in your working world, another day’s laissez-faire, your legs sway with the freedom of the water’s flow, and where splashes freckle day’s outlook, life’s all moderate to fair because you’re free to stitch your ties, ones that will exert their own force, not now, later, in due course. And so, unmoved you return to your post, fishing for water, sewing the sea, almost. Shelf-Life That disused section reeks as if its books defecated at the thought of being left: their spines no longer fingered, pages no longer thumbed, words no longer read nor imbibed into some great consciousness where they can rest. They squat there, passive in protest, waiting for death at the bottom of a pit licked by flame that will be gentle at first but will burn them outside in until their remains are scattered and falling like snowflakes on Berlin.
The lobster’s guarding the phone again; that’s the reason I haven’t called you. He’s there, watching me with the reproach of my father whenever I’d done something parents don’t want their children to do even when there’s no harm in doing it, like using the word ‘cops’ repeatedly to describe policemen as if it were some sort of curse because it was all I’d heard them described as on my diet of American television. But I digress. The phone is there too, you at the other end of a line that traces its way from me. You most likely not even wanting me to call but there all the same, waiting for life’s next moment to set our beautiful ball of uncertainty rolling into some unknown valley where we will push it up the hills we find, Sisyphus-like, before letting it fall, never crossing the path of its glorious descent but embracing its fall because it is falling, because we have been falling our whole lives, into life, out of love, toward each other; because falling is part of the fun. But I have fallen already. The lobster cannot rescue me from this mire of delight I’ve been lost in since we met.
The Gaelic Chieftain After Cummins With the stars’ raining light my shadow’s flecked, stars that stream like tears from the eyes of a crying sky. Tears that streak the face of night in grief for what’s long lost; what I alone have won, I who will not die. Draped in ebony black I stand against your darkness, winds that shriek the curlew’s call. I know they howl to me of death but I must not yield to them. To them I will not fall. I who ride through time and space, my horse’s route not road nor rising hillside. I, whom all must pass and face to know my honour and my pride. Not even when this battle ends, daylight reigns and peacetime calls will I rest. I will outlive the dawn. I wait for it with sword’s embrace, my wrath guarding the West. My war will rage on. Wait For My Daddy-O Streetlights shot past like stars as you drove us in your car, Lizzy blared from the radio, the boys were back in town and although I didn’t know Philo's words, his air or tune you let me sing along; always my favourite line and song, Whack for my daddy-o, Whisky In The Jar. Till now I thought he sang for someone to wait for you. Still now I know I’d let you drive us to the moon.
Neil Slevin is a writer from Co. Leitrim whose poetry has been published widely. Neil edits the poetry section of Irish literary journal, Dodging The Rain, and works as a content writer in Galway city. https://twitter.com/neil slevin
Damselfly Ripples appear before you see his electric wings, nearly invisible and holding his body above the water as his legs skim and trail the canal. How could you miss a thorax set with vibrant turquoise like a lost gem half hidden in muddy reeds? You were watching a clump of bread bags sink down like cold plastic hands and nearly blinked past his quiet pirouettes and calculated dives. He touches down on a wild dog rose. The wings fold back to one unit as he inspects the weeds with setae bristling. Does he detect the peridot-eyed female who hovers just above? She makes a green crescent and brushes her tail to his thorax until they are an imperfect wheel rolling up the sky. For an instant, they are the gleaming fist of a long-dead god, who reaches down to part the luminescence of their bodies, before they fly too far. Grand Canal Sestina Kids scoop their fishing nets in schools of pike. They snatch a Beamish can from the canal’s rusted cache, and send a panic of green moorhen legs from the rushes. The bird slides through the next lock, cascading straight at the slimed wall. It scrambles atop the wheel of a bike mewling as the spoke turns. A boy sees the bike, calls to his brother, and drops his own pike. The fish flips acrobatically off the wall. With their nets, they dredge the handlebars from canal muck, and test the water’s depth in this lock. The younger brother pokes at the moorhen. Its sharp hiss makes the boy wonder if moorhens are worth upsetting over a drowned bike. The edge gives and tumbles him into the lock chamber. Like Alice, following his pike through a Wonderland, he imagines the canal hides a fish metropolis in its walls. He traces an algal trail along the wall fingering crevices where the moorhen can’t reach, combs the arrowheads of canal
weed, and shoves at the branch lifting up the bike. At last, he spies quick olive streaks: the pike. They mouth directions which lead to the top lock sluice. Through the slats, he spies a patch of lock floor where tyres and cans are swept against the wall. The cans are arranged as cells. Each is filled with pike hatchlings, hidden in tyre-ed rings from the moorhen. The grown fish drift and weave below the bike, luring the bird back to its bank of the canal. The boy decides the bike belongs to the canal where the pike can defend their nesting lock. He climbs home up the wall, hissing at the moorhens. The Lad Dog You swear the kids are leaving dog shit on the same patch of footpath by the square so shoppers at the Tesco will smear their boots or trainers every damn day. Or is it the lad dog? You know the one: he’s been loose and jaunting around Inchicore, his careless tongue flopped out, marking the place up with his anal glands. Or are they not one but a legion of ballsy lad dogs? All brown and white terriers off the lease, looking to bring more sturdy stooled lad dogs into the world. No, there he is on a lead with his boy, stopping to deposit his fragrant gift. The boy pats his satisfied pet, says, ‘Good dog’ and leaves the pile for clean shoes to smear.
Night Sound At first we thought children had escaped out a crack in the fence to laugh at midnight, and howl their capers from the cemetery wall where parents could not grasp their ankles, and haul them back to earth, or to sleep. But the calls gathered urgency with the ticking rhythm of a headboard slamming wall plaster. We swore then the sounds were really a woman instead, rewinding her throat to climax: her endless pleasure caught in the night wind. Our sleepless prying was answered at last when we saw a gingery tail sneak past the gate. Not a woman at all. But a vixen yowling her ululation of heat across the estate to reach other peaked ears in the river bracken.
Christine Kelley is a poet originally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She is currently living in Belfast while finishing up a Master’s in Poetry at Queen’s University, where she was a recipient of The Seamus Heaney Centre scholarship. She also studied for a Master’s in Literature at Villanova University. Her recent poems meditate on the human relationship with the environment.
“What on God’s green earth were you thinking?” Kay asked while spinning the tip of her cigarette along the inside contour of the ashtray. “I have no idea. I swear, none,” was the answer she received. “Communal living, Corinne? What about your VO5? I can’t imagine you without your tube of VO5!” she burst out, laughing, chuckling away. “Alright, K, I get it. Okay, that’s very funny. I’m glad you find this so amusing but I didn’t know what he had in mind. I thought we were going to visit his family’s cabin in the mountains. His story changed on the way up there. It got weird, kind of scary. There was something familiar about the idea I couldn’t shake. It’s hard to put a finger on.” “Well, Jesus Christ, don’t let Hollis find out. Whatever you do, C. Don’t let him know. He hates that little shit already. If it ever gets out that Ocean is trying to relocate you, and in with a bunch of hippies, it’s over. As in a doornail.” She then paused briefly and continued in a throwaway manner. “The old man just might drown him before the big day anyhow.” They’d already had this discussion. So why hit on it all over again? Just because of the anomaly in the woods? Corinne was only gone one week and came back no worse for wear. Not much, considering. The sisters weren’t likely to agree on this matter anytime soon. Kay switched ears while waiting for C’s response, despite the odds of getting one. It took a few moments to untangle the curly cord by candlelight. She arranged a few items on the table before her. “K, I need your support on this,” Corinne said after the break. She picked up her coffee cup only to set it back down in earnest anticipation. “I think you’re really honestly nuts, but … okay.” “Do you? Do you, K?” There was silence. An itsy crinkle came from Corinne who removed the cellophane wrapper from her pack of cigarettes. She fished one out, got it going and exhaled. “And never breathe a single word to Mom!” Corinne chimed in, knowing this would give her big sister another start.
Kay jumped right on with a reply because she did indeed know what Corinne was getting at. It’d remained somewhat unresolved even though more than 18 months had passed, making it an ongoing irritation between them. “I promise! I won’t! How was I to know those weren’t tomato plants growing in your backyard? How was I supposed to know THAT?” “Gosh-all, K. Couldn’t you have come to me first? Remember, ‘Mums to Mom’.” “How was I to know? I thought they were the biggest goddamn tomato plants in the whole world. I was excited! I pictured you winning the agricultural prize at County Fair ‘68!” “Well, they sure as hell weren’t tomato plants and Mom couldn’t wait to ask ‘Harrowing Hollis’ what Gerald had going on back there. She just couldn’t WAIT.” “HaHa! Oh, god! I imagined she might die that day. I really did, C.” “I know. And that’s what finally broke Gerry and me. There wasn’t any way he could handle Mom’s disapproval of him.” Corinne then dreamt back to a different time, wondering why Stepfather always needed to go so far. “You know, when I think about it? I kind of died a little that day, too.” “Hollis had to do it. Right, C? You know he did. Gerry couldn’t be around the kids, not while smoking that stuff.” “I used to believe that too, K. I’d been convinced of it. But it doesn’t seem to be the real problem. Not at all.” She followed with a drag off her cigarette and continued. “I could always tell, you know? When he’d come in from the garage with that skunk all around him, he had a look. He went a little cross-eyed. His one eye drifted around. Zany!” “Oooh! How he made me laugh, C, and Mom, too! She loves Gerry. She really does love him.” “I know she does. What’s not to love? That guy. He almost won over the old man. He’s the only one who’s even come close.” “Yeah, C. I think you might be right.”
“It would be nice to be right about something.” There was another long pause and then a sound of rattling and muffled curses came to Corinne through the receiver. She heard something drop and make a noise like it was being dragged across the floor. Corinne pulled the phone away from her ear and looked into the end of it as if she could see right through it into what was happening. “Phew, I’m okay! I thought I locked myself in the closet again,” said K. “K, are you hiding in the closet, again?” Corinne asked. “I have to! Well, I guess I do? It never does any good. Never did. David knows I’m in here. I don’t know why I do it!” “Just out of harm’s way?” “ A delay at best … old habits.” Corinne took a moment as an image slipped beyond reach. “Tell me you don’t have the card table set up in there?” “Well, yes. Of course, I do. That’s where I put all of my stuff while I talk to you.” “I can’t believe they think I’m the crazy one.” “You know what? David caught me smoking in here again the other day, but he didn’t just catch me, he heard me scratching at the door and pressed his ear right against it. I could see the shadow of his feet at the bottom crack and he was sniffing all around. He knew I had locked myself in even though I went completely still and pretended I wasn’t there. Then he just left me in here for a full hour before opening up! He says he’s going to divorce me over it! Can you believe that? He’s trying to get me into juicing carrots and says he knows a manicurist who can start a yogic trance to cure me. I honestly don’t know what to say about THAT?” “Maybe we should introduce him to Gerry’s prize winning tomato plants?” “Ha! He could use a stiff drink!” “… and then leave HIM scratching at the closet door!” There was a new pause, one without a whit of tension. “Hey listen, C. Maybe we’ll go out later? Just us.” “Call me back in awhile. And listen, seriously, never a word to Mom.” “Not even if Jesus commanded it, C.” “What’s with all this Jesus talk?” “I don’t know. It’s suppose to help, right?
“Never. It never once helped.” Corinne released as the shards of memory assembled into their childhood mantra. NeverNever - never a word “C, what is it? You okay?” “It’s just. I suddenly recall why I’m frightened. We had our trips to the woods. Am I wrong, K?” “The old man always did for his girls.” “Only we would know.” “Hey. At least you escaped the commune.” “K, were you born this hysterical?” “Of course not, every bit of it was earned.” “Yeah, every lousy bit.” “Hang on, sister.” “You, too. Hang on, sister.” END
Kenneth Holt is a writer of fiction working from his native city of Los Angeles. He attended private schools before embarking on a twenty-year career in filmmaking. His writing has been published in Borfski Press,Thrice Magazine, Balkan Press: Conclave, Justifying the Margins, Medusa's Laugh: (twisted) Anthology 2018, Ghostlight, Magazine of Terror, New Rivers Press: American Fiction 2017, contest finalist, TulipTree Publishing: Stories That Need To Be Told Anthology 2016, contest finalist.
Base, base, unlawful creation; Bastard spawns of warring nations. Ulster is trapped in between Gaelic Chiefs and an English Queen. War and strife for years and years Have fortified our gravest fears: Father England does not want us; Mother Ireland does not love us. Why brand us with base? With baseness? Therein lies our uniqueness. Who, in lusty stealth of nature, Were meant to be revered creatures. Revered in how we think and act, Our dimensions are as well compact. Our minds are generous, our shape is true, We are Planter and Gaelic too. Yet we are not them, we are not you – We are Ulstermen through and through! War and strife for years and years Have fortified our gravest fears: Father England does not want us; Mother Ireland does not love us. The Ulster Question has no answer; Gods, hear our cry, stand up for bastards! For Prometheus Castaway to the Caucasus; An immortal left to die A wretched death many times. Behold the malefic eagle; Winged retribution For your altruistic sins. Hold fast brave Prometheus! Your secret of fire burns bright In human spirits this night. Though clasped in Vulcan’s chains, Your suffering’s not in vain; Legacy’s in every flame. For you bold Prometheus, King Humanitarian; We live to serve our fellow man.
The Heart Collector Having had my heart broken My business is breaking Hearts With false promises I lure them into my Trap Snap And one by one they fall High on the heap of hearts. Lost I tiredly search for love Within the rotten mass. Red Telephone Box Defender of Her Majesty’s overseas territories. Standing to attention in your cast iron frame, Your currant red coat glows bright like a flame Casting light in the face of your enemies. Such settlements gave you slaves for free; a fair trade for British morality. In balance with cultural poverty; God-given imperial prosperity. Yet your ragged coat exposes your plight. Your flame flickers and falters as shadows smother you in a thick blanket of night. Lost cultures rise; you flee from the fight. Alas! Telephone boxes are hollow. The crown has fallen; The monarch takes flight.
Love Alone Is Not Enough She is Love of time untold, The Farandole of my soul. She is someone to behold, An arrow from Cupid's bow. Eyes formed in gentleness, Portals into timelessness. A smile to light the darkest nights, A star who outshone Aphrodite. As for Zeus, King of the Gods, Hera's love was not enough. As for me, either was she – For love alone is not enough. In this world of wanton want We want forever more. And I – I left her heart on the floor, For love alone is not enough.
Stephen James Douglas is a Northern Irish poet based in Scotland. He was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and graduated from The Queen’s University, Belfast in 2010 with a joint honours degree in English and Film Studies. Having gained a Post Graduate Certificate of Education at Ulster University, he has taught in secondary education for five years and is currently a Teacher of English at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh.
Primavera Forest / Bosque La Primavera
No moon sails alone in the sky the Weaver sits baskets at her feet creel of silk at hand
This forest holds my heart Este bosque sostiene mi corazón
Not one to need company she adjusts and readjusts her lengths of silk eternally balancing Do not come without your incantation Do not come without an offering Spinning life and beyond measured hanks of silk woven now and in-between Maria Elena In Brooklyn You could tell me about the baby carriages wheeled to cafes, bookshops, and parks, subway rides to anywhere, expresso, wine, teas, anything you want because it’s all outside your door. I could tell you how sharply the mint bites the tongue, how sweetly the violet mingles with rose petals, and how bitter the bite of dandelion greens.
Rio Caliente shimmers below us a waterfall tumble with clouds of heat we climb and and scramble carefully over rocks as we cross the heated mist sharp scent of pine and mesquite crackle under our feet as the sun warms the hillside below us the convent is tucked into a curve of river where women come to heal they are washed by the river it arrives in their innermost places as the nun muy vieja brings vegetables herbs and prayer The nun will look into your eyes to consider your chances and her resources Este bosque sostiene mi corazón This river flows through my heart Muy Vieja -very old Rio Caliente-- Hot River
I could tell you to watch the thorns when you reach for the raspberries. You could tell me how traffic hums past your building, never stopping. Music blares from the small restaurant, outside tables slip around the corner of the street. We listen for the sound of the barred owls in the late afternoon and watch the grass shiver when a mouse slips through. Maria, hold the sweet fern to your nose just outside my door.
Elaine Reardon is a poet, herbalist, and educator. Her chapbook, The Heart is a Nursery For Hope, published in 2016, won first honours from Flutter Press. Journals that Elaine’s poetry has been published include Three Drops from a Cauldron journals and anthologies, MA Poet of the Moment, and The Paddock Review. She’s recently been heard at Brattleboro VT Literary Festival, and Great Falls Spoken Word Festival.
In the photo-booth Eva gets self conscious, blinking when the flash pops. “It’s not me,” she screams out loud as the photo pops out. It isn’t; is a picture of an older woman with dark, not blond hair. Eva starts to shake, looks for the face of the photo-woman in the crowd. “It’s a trick,” she screams, “someone’s playing a trick on me.” People loo-bound stare or try not to stare as the case may be. She’d dropped her raincoat to be ‘respectable’ for the shoot, now, rooting in the sleeves with the torn lining, she scrambles to get back into it. A man in uniform is rushing from the train platform. Eva figures she’d better not get into trouble and, still shaking, walks over the black and white tiles as calm as she can. Eyes downward, she heads towards Pery Square. EV+A, the art exhibition is on, so she goes to it. Abstracts and realities, penises and vaginas, she takes them all in, imagines them together, wonder if her own will ever meet the other. Talking aloud at the exhibition, she is again attracting attention. The invigilator leaves the magazine and coffee she is mulling over and decides to follow Eva. A light brush of the edge of Eva’s coat with an exhibit is all it takes for the invigilator to snap at her: “Right, that’s it, OUT!” “I beg your pardon, this exhibition is named after me. I was born Eva – E.V.A. in 1977, I’m older than this boloney.” The invigilator’s mouth is open, unable to speak, but again wanting to avoid trouble, Eva skips out the door. Tripping down O’Connell Street next, she tries to remember a coffee dock that will serve her. She ducks down a side street when she spots her mother in the distance. “Thanks be to Jesus, she didn’t see me. Thanks be to Jesus, she didn’t see me. Thanks be to Jesus.” She says it over and over. Then “bitch”– she addresses her mother as if she was in front of her. “Bitch. Bitch. Bitch.” She is still saying it when she realises she’s wandered past The Hunt Museum and peeping over Mathew Bridge. That’s when the strange woman appears, runs her fingers through the threads running from Eva’s winter coat, then touches her shoulder. Eva rabbits her head round into the woman’s eyes: “Bitch! You’re another one of them. Bitch. Bitch. Bitch. You’re like my motherbitch, well here’s your bitch of a fucking photo and now please hand over mine!” The woman has her hands Sacred Heart-like, open, helpless.
The photo has fallen into the water, is being washed to the mouth of the Shannon. “Give me my photo,” Eva says, “Now. I want it now.” “Listen dear, I don’t have any photo or anything belonging to you, how could I, I’ve never seen you before.” The lady calms Eva down with a cup of coffee outside The Locke Bar. Eva smokes a cigarette. A light drizzle falls, but not enough to wet them through the trees. Eva explains that she had had a passport photo taken at the train station and when it popped out it wasn’t herself at all. She goes on to tell the lady she was going to the passport office to get away from Limerick, would go to Shannon and find a cheap flight to anywhere. The woman said she’d help her, but assured her she’d been nowhere near the train station, didn’t even know where it was, had just parked her car and was here today to see the EV+A exhibition. The woman decides Eva needs a new winter coat and that she will treat her. Eva objects: “You’ll ruin your day, you’ll miss the exhibition.” The woman tut-tutts the protests and marches Eva into a succession of department stores until they find just the right coat – dark blue, “for the blue in your eyes dear, don’t worry about the price.” “But, I can’t just accept this from… Ah ah, don’t even look at the tag, dear,” the woman says and snips it off. Eva slips the coat on her shoulders as the woman goes to the till. She is still admiring herself in the mirror, wondering if she might attract fellas when wearing it, wondering if she’ll accompany her new friend and go back to see EV+A all over again, make that invigilator eat her words; when over her shoulder she catches the disapproving eye of her mother’s cheap spectacles. “Well, well, window shopping again, are we? When are you going to come and visit your poor mother, haven’t seen you since Easter?” Eva shrugs, “I’ve been busy, doing stuff, my friends and I spend a lot of time together, I am just here shopping with…” Eva looks around for the woman, wondered about the crux of not knowing her name and not being able to introduce her to her mother. But the lady is nowhere to be found. The mother still stares as Eva toddles over to the till. The cashier presses the coat receipt into her
hand, wondering if she needs a bag for the old one, explains that the lady had ‘fixed up’ but had to dash off. Eva fumbles for the woman’s photo in her pocket, then remembers it’s gone down the Shannon. She wonders if she’ll dash off too, go to EV+A again to thank the lady; but then her mother might be good for a coffee.
Noel King’s poetry collections are published by Salmon: Prophesying the Past, (2010), The Stern Wave (2013) and Sons (2015). He has edited more than fifty books of work by others with Doghouse Books, 2003 – 2013 and was poetry editor of Revival Literary Journal, Limerick Writers’ Centre in 2012/13. A short story collection, The Key Signature & Other Stories has just been published by Liberties Press in 2017. www.noelking.ie
The Journey (To Our Lady of the Snow)
Mother, remember the man who was here? That was your father, my daughter, my dear.
McGillicuddy strode the church his hob nailed boots chimed hymns untutored in the whisperwood he loud pronounced his sins.
Was he a big man, so long, I was young; His heart had grown small then, my darling, my son. Where did he go then, couldn’t he stay? Home is the heart and he just went away. Where do their hearts go when men go away? Hearts break in pieces and parts of them stay. I have the part when he lifted me high! I have the park part when birds filled the sky!
August had no sins as such September took an insult October came and went again November struck a false blow. Father, I forgive the man that sore insulted me and I ask forgiveness for the fifth by the insult of the tree.
I have the piece that can never forget, Snapshots of memories, hurt and regret.
The priest thought of the woman and dropped his own small stone go home, my son, and when composed the church shall have a poem.
Was it a long way, the road that he took? He wrote once to say he was looking for God.
A Sacred Kind Of Morning
Where will he find Him, if not in the heart? Child that’s the journey, its end and its start. Snowdrops Lord grant me the courage of the snowdrop that breaks the back of winter, melting snow, that witnesses to life and strength in weakness and all that tired hearts must need to know. This spring is seems all were not born as roses that crocuses and snowdrops play their part to raise their tiny voices “Easter’s coming” “Oh suffering fragrant rose now take thee heart”. Thorntrees In the windfall month of September Christ’s blood appears on the hawthorn tree and it is the red reminder of the blood He shed for thee. In the stillborn months and driven thorns, thorns deck the blackthorn tree and they are the cruel reminder of a crown made by you and me. In the risen month of April Christ’s love doth flower the whitethorn tree and it is the very symbol of the love He bears for thee.
All night my heart had burned an ember’s ache till after dawn I rose and walked the bank and entered somehow into earth’s first morn the birds in silent worship and the hills trice blessed by light and water, incensed haze, a mist that hung like tabernacles veil the sunlight on the holy water’s tongue all made my spirit groan, a happy grief, no poem or prayerful brush could capture, cage, the solemn mystery of creation’s praise, It was, in short, a sacred king of morning.
Arrival A dancing day, a cosmic kiss, home at last, a sense of bliss. Cherry blossom, sculpted psalm, snow topped mountain, sparkling calm. Above, below, without, within, a web, a tree, a wedding gown. All is pristine, all is one, pellucid, crystal, wonderful. Sing my senses, sing my soul, pantheokalas, eternal goal!!!
Brendan Connolly studied Antropology and Humanities in British Columbia. Writing since 1977, he has published poems in New York, Britain, and Ireland, in journals, magazines, chapbooks, and anthologies. Brendan is a recent inaugural Municipal District of Dundalk civic award winner, for his lifelong contribution to arts and culture in Dundalk, and HSE prize winning poet 2011 and 2015.