Proudly published by The National University of Ireland Literary & Debating Society Funded by the Office for Student Activities Cover Art by Lisa Dunne Formatted by EMB Communicate Published by Impression Printing ÂŠ April 2014 All Rights Reserved
Editor’s Note I would firstly like to say that the editing of this year’s Literary Journal was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in a while. Having to be brutal and cutting pieces out was extremely difficult but I do hope that everyone will enjoy the Journal and the pieces that I have decided to keep. I would like to thank everybody on the Literary and Debating Society committee for helping me to make this journal into its physical copy. I must thank each and every contributor to this year’s Annual Literary Journal. While not every piece could make it into this year’s Journal, I would like everyone to know that world needs more creativity and it is wonderful people like you that make it happen. I would like to give particular thanks to our wonderful auditor, Miss Aisling Shalvey, for teaching me to be brutal with picking pieces, keeping me on top of everything and generally being the sweetest person. Massive thanks to Miss Lisa Dunne, of IT Carlow, for the inspiring cover art. My next thanks must go to Mr Eoin Byrne, without whom this publication would be a shambles. He also has the patience of a saint to put up with my finicky specifications and to Kieran MacCourt of Impression Print, who got our Journal printed in record time. Many kudos to you, Kieran. And my final thanks to you, the reader. Because without you, this whole thing would be pointless. I take my hat off to you (just kidding, I don’t have a hat). But cheers anyways. Caoimhe Burke Editor Vice-President with Responsibility for Literary, 2013-2014 NUI Maynooth Literary and Debating Society
Contents 1 2 4 5 9 10 13 16 17 22 24 26 27 29 32 33 38 40 41 44 48 49 50
A Breakup of Clichés 26th July 2013 Mortician Bruce Magmahips Crumbs Banality Blossom Mantra Villanelle Azure Tiger Snores Flotsam Untitled Call Me Al The Turquoise Night My Blue Babies An Animalistic Union Remembrance Frogs’ Legs and Overt Displays of Affection Lost Hope Strimming Devil Children Closing Time
Angie Mullins Dan Hillary Olivia O’Mahony Liam Doyle Caelainn Bradley Mark Louth G.E.G & O.P Aoife Kelly Graham Jong-Il Niamh Hammel Laura Mulqueen Paul Alexander Jennifer O’Leary Ciaran Shanley Paedar O’Dea Darragh Taheny Magdalena Fraczek Aisling Shalvey Angie Mullins Shauna Colgan Darren Ryding John Geoghegan Aoife Kelly
A Breakup of Clichés Angie Mullins “It’s not you, it’s me” he said, the words slapping me soundly in the face. I didn’t really want to hear anymore, but a morbid curiosity kept me rooted to my seat (I am a glutton for punishment) So I sat, and waited, and listened to the double edged compliments spewing from his mouth “You’re a great girl… but-” “We get on great… but-” “I’ll miss you… but-” I said nothing. “What are you thinking?” he asked Oh me? I’m just wondering who presented Countdown after Carol Vorderman left What the fuck do you think I’m thinking? “How are you feeling?” Swell. Chipper. Add synonym of choice And then, the final affront: The feeble plea of the hopes of further friendship And thus with an uninvited one-armed hug He was gone, and I was dumped. I lit a cigarette Disappointing, I thought. For an English student, he could have done it with a bit more style.
26th July 2013 Dan Hillary I snuck out of the office at about one. I had been wasting my day anyway: I only arrived in at half 10 and had spent most of it googling world monarchies. Just before I went I declared my findings to my boss. It was quality bullshit, and I was proud of it. Conor was off for lunch at the same time, so the two of us puffed off down the road with our undergrad smiles like a pair of taxidermied ducks someone chucked into a canal. I left Conor to go get a chicken roll, and hit for the bus. I wanted to get to Galway city before the shops to return a leather satchel my mam got me for my birthday (It was undertaker chic). Arrived at the bus stop and promptly set up my laptop-douchebag nook in the shelter. Somewhere between being annoyed at the local yob-kids for being loud and thick, and annoyed at the pencil skirt woman who also disapproved, but perhaps with a tinge of biological envy, he arrived and sat down. I suppose he fell in the category of Dirty Old Man, but I was reluctant to fully decide. His back arched around sharply, ending in a wobbling hanging basket for a head, complete with hair of under-watered geranium. He crossed his leg over his knee tightly, perfectly still bar that bobbing head, and a mouth that looked like he was fervently attempting to contain a hive of bees. Then with a bullet rhythm and a black hole for tone, he began to speak. I’M NOT HAPPY IN THIS LIFE I WANT TO BE IN THE NEXT LIFE I’M NOT HAPPY IN THIS LIFE I WANT TO BE IN THE NEXT LIFE I’M NOT HAPPY IN THIS LIFE I WANT TO BE IN THE NEXT LIFE I SHOULD NEVER WENT AWAY WITH NO EDUCATION AND NO RIGHT JOB I SHOULD NEVER WENT AWAY WITH NO EDUCATION AND NO RIGHT JOB I SHOULD NEVER WENT AWAY WITH NO EDUCATION AND NO RIGHT JOB I SHOULD NEVER WENT AWAY WITH NO EDUCATION AND NO RIGHT JOB I SHOULD NEVER LET AOIFE GO SHE’DA HAD ME I’D BE HAPPY I 2
SHOULD NEVER LET AOIFE GO SHE’DA HAD ME I’D BE HAPPY I SHOULD NEVER LET AOIFE GO SHE’DA HAD ME I’D BE HAPPY I WANT TO BE WITH HER IN THE NEXT PLACE NOT HERE NOT THIS LIFE NOT HERE NOT THIS LIFE NOT HERE NOT THIS LIFE NOT THIS LIFE I WANT TO BE BURIED IN FATIMA OR LOURDES OR THOSE NICE PLACES I WANT TO BE BURIED IN FATIMA OR LOURDES OR THOSE NICE PLACES I WANT TO BE BURIED. And with that he carefully counted €2.80 from a small leather purse and boarded the number 66. He did not look at me.
Mortician Olivia Oâ€™Mahony Slowly, he peels back blow-stiffened skin â€“ the last skirt a lady has to be lifted â€“ and knows her little grievances, the aches, the infected belly button piercing, the appendix removed years ago, the finger-tip sores where she chewed and chewed, when nervous. He does not take her heart in his hands but he knows her, a new number to scrawl down looped on greyish toes kitsch with red polish, even now. Slowly, he paints sleep into her cheeks, and promises that she will look lovely, regardless of the broken teeth.
Bruce Magmahips Liam Doyle The first lights of Friday night are coming to life and so am I, Bruce Magmahips. You see, ladies and gentlemen, I am Friday night personified. When these blue dancing shoes find my feet, I become a weapon. A fullyloaded seduction gun firing indiscriminately on the dance floor. Behind me you will find a trail of satisfied lovers and slobbering acolytes, you’re either one or the other. However, there are of course those foolish enough to stand before the Magmahips with a scowl and a challenge, and each and every one of them have found themselves danced into the earth’s crust. For some, the party is a game, a past time. For Bruce Magmahips, the party is a ritual, and I am the figure of worship. What I am trying to convey here is simple; I am Bruce Magmahips, and I am essentially the Hulk Hogan of having a good time. But wait, don’t scoop up your jaw just yet, reader, because there is more to my story than all of that. The year was 1988 and while the rest of the world was flailing their jellylike limbs madly to the music of INXS and Billy Ocean, I was residing on a now sunken island known as Sexocia. For seven years straight I had been partying with the indigenous Sexocians, who due to rare evolutionary adaptation did not require sleep. I was hailed as a god on that island and many a child was fed to the volcano in my honour, but after so many years away from civilization and modern technologies such as the arcade machine and the calculator, I knew that I had to return home. I bid farewell to the despairing Sexocians and made my way towards France on a raft made of human bones. As I waved goodbye to my people, their beautiful island was instantly submerged by a colossal upsurge of the sea. I lamented them for exactly five moments, then returned to the journey at hand. When I finally arrived to the coast of Nantes, I quickly realized that the world I had left behind all those years ago had changed irreversibly, and for the worst. Every single nightclub in France had been torn down and turned into an educational facility, care home or shelter. At first I was 5
simply astonished, then shocked, then aroused, and finally angered. This phenomenon was not confined to France either, I would soon find out that it was global. Everywhere, all over the world, sleazy nightclubs were being taken from their owners and promoters and were being turned into community centres. Disco balls were being smashed, Hawaiian shirts were burned, and coke dealers were going back to college. My world had been turned upside down. I relocated to Hamburg, Germany, where I spent nine months selling charcoal drawings of my own chin and injecting heroin directly into my eye balls. Though this went on for longer than it should have, I knew that the life of a tortured artist was not for me. I needed fire, I needed electricity, I needed danceâ€ŚI needed to be Bruce Magmahips again. But how does one man reinvigorate the worldâ€™s taste for dance and debauchery in the face of a fascist system of education and fair trade? He does so by bum-rushing the source of the evil; the United Nations. I threw down the charcoal and the syringe, threw on my favourite dancing shoes, did some stomach crunches, and speed boated my way to Manhattan with a heart full of hope and two fists of fire. Ladies and gentlemen, if I were to say that my journey was life-threatening and marred with intense personal danger, I would be lying. In fact, it was quite the contrary, I met some very nice people on my way to the UN headquarters, I even took a detour to Cuba and spent a weekend in a rented villa with a woman named Dominga. Even to this day, I send her flowers on her birthday. Of course, this was all the calm before the storm. Having pre-empted my strike, the UN had lined up some of its most skilled combat veterans to stop me at the gates of the headquarters. This motley crew of warriors included an armoured honey badger, several Japanese kabuki demons, Duran Duran and a robot version of myself.
Having studied martial arts for two days under the wing of Grand Master Po of Chicken Ball Mountain, I disposed of them all one by one using only my skilled feet and the odd head butt for show. It pained me to deliver cold, unforgiving death to Duran Duran, but at this point in their careers, certain doom was as good a gig as any. Having seen to all of the UN’s top killers, I sauntered into the headquarters, ready to unleash at least eight different flavours of fury on those responsible for making the world a better place. As soon as I kicked open the doors to the main assembly hall, I realised that there was something very wrong. I can’t remember whether it was the lack of people in the hall or the giant, pulsating brain hovering over the podium that I found most disturbing about the whole situation, but what I do remember is that I now knew the enemy. “Who goes there?” cried the giant brain. “I am he!” I cried back, unsheathing a sword that I had the whole time and that I just didn’t tell you about. “State your name human!” the brain screamed. “I am Bruce. Bruce O’Malley!” I roared, lunging towards the vile beast, my blade singing its song of death, “…but you can call me Magmahips!” As soon as I dealt that death blow to the squidgy demon, the entire UN headquarters began to collapse. It was by the skin of my teeth that I managed to escape with my life, and when I did emerge from the smoke and rubble, I was greeted by thousands of my followers. They chanted my name, they immortalized me in song, statute and story, and they drank deeply in my name. Soon after, the schools, care homes, rehab centres and shelters were all 7
torn down and the nightclubs began to return to every street in every town and city. Cocaine sales went through the roof, gang violence was at an all-time high, and the warehouse rave movement was just about to begin. For all of this, you have but one man to thank. Man? My apologies, mangod. But keep your â€˜thank youâ€™ letters to yourselves, ladies and gentlemen. Bruce Magmahips accepts gratitude in the only form he deems justified, and that is by keeping Friday night sacred. Also throwing children into volcanoes.
Crumbs Caelainn Bradley I would say, “If I can’t have all of you, I want nothing from you” – But it’s not true. I’ll take anything, Any crumb you have to offer, Any taste I can savour Long afterwards on my tongue, Remembering, a moment, a feeling, During dark hours alone in bed Wishing you were with me – But at least having these memories. I’ll take anything, Anything you want to give me. I crouch here on the floor. Throw me crumbs, And I’ll devour them, hungrily, And beg for more.
Banality Mark Louth “This isn’t my room”- these are the first thoughts that race through your mind on first waking on a Saturday or Sunday morning. The ceiling that you’re gazing up at isn’t yours, yet it’s still above your head somehow. This bed below you isn’t a bed at all but a couch. Oh, wait a sec. On further inspection you now see that the bed that’s really a couch is actually not a couch at all but is, in fact, a floor. A sitting-room floor. Don’t worry man, you’re not homeless or anything. In fact you’re the complete opposite of homeless. You have your own, better than basic, apartment. That’s right. You have that. Probably something that a lot of people don’t have, but YOU have IT. You lucky son of a bitch. Here’s the catch though. Most apartment dwellers actually wake up in their own apartment every morning, not on a bed that’s actually a couch but in fact a floor. They wake up in a bed, in a bedroom, a room designed for beds to be put in for the act of sleep. Remember sleep? So you’re probably wondering what’s the deal, right? Your deal is boredom. You wake up in different people’s living rooms most weekends since you were sixteen years of age, all out of sheer boredom and a terrible fear of solitude. So what do you do when Friday knocks around with his two mates Emptiness and Solitude? You go out and get so stinking drunk and swallow tablets to chemically alter your mood in order to fuck Friday and his mates off, the pack of spare pricks. In order to put depression on hold at the other end of the phone. To relive the pressure. To artificially fill the void. Void. Emptiness. 11am: Mugshot time. Sit up from the floor, lace your boots up. You gotta go talk to the wretch in the line-up in the mirror. Think you can pick him out? It should be pretty easy, there’s only the one guy. Ugh. Feeling rough. It’s bright. The hall is sticky and smells like stale beer. Where’s the mirror? Oh yeah, the bathroom. Stumble. Door. Creak. There he is. There’s the guy. You have a good long stare down. You don’t know whether you should have a laugh with him or punch him in his fucking head. Every Saturday, never fail, you can see the shit in between your teeth from Friday. More mouth ulcers? Great. Looks like its soup for 10
the week. Again. You could puke at this point. Ugh. Wait….yep. There it is. All the money that you spent last night is right there in that sink. It was either gonna be diarrhoea or vomit. You chose vomit. Fucking idiot. What that sink is full of right now is the emptiness that we discussed earlier. Void embodied. The way you feel about the world, the way you feel about people but most importantly, the way you feel about yourself is all right there. Mixed up with the battery acid that you call vomit. It’s as repulsive as you feel. Not only that but it’s simply routine. Go to the kitchen and grab your jacket. “Complacency”. Fitting, right? “Thanks for letting me stay man, I really appreciate it”. You don’t know if you mean it or not, you just want to make up for talking meaningless shit last night while grinding your teeth into dust. Open door. Close door. Scene. Into the void: Seek and destroy. Walking down the street on your own can be a terrifying experience. Walking down the street with someone else can be even worse, so count your blessings. You’ve got time to think. That’s all you can do sometimes. Think about life. Think about death. Think about all the things in between. Think about the emptiness. In all honesty dude, you’ve won the cosmic lottery but are too disinterested to even notice. You’re a young, white, middle-class male. Suburban youth. You don’t know what it feels like to be hungry. Or cold. You’ve never had to defend your home from invaders. Your independence was given to you, which you regularly forget. You’ve been loved and you have loved. Wait. Can you love? “I don’t know.” No worries, I don’t know either. You have a plateful but you’re just not hungry. There’s a pit there in your stomach and when it’s not occupied with shit, vomit or chemicals, it’s empty. All the butterflies are dead and the problem with that is there’s no cure for something being dead. They’ve been long dead. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. Again those two head-wreckers call around. Emptiness and his bonehead friend Solitude. This crisis cannot be avoided. However, the void awaits. Just get home and continue to analyze the breakdown.
Doorcode: Key: Lock: “Honey, I’m home”. Oh yeah. That joke isn’t funny anymore. New place haunted by old ghosts, that’s all it is really. Click. Door. Room is the way you left it. Lay yourself down on the bed that’s not a couch that’s really a floor but is, in fact, an actual bed. Here we go. You’re all alone now. Nothing to distract you. The photograph develops on the face of the ceiling above you. Its routine though, remember? Nothing to be afraid of. All you gotta do is wait five more days. That’s all. Repeat the cycle. Artificially fill the void. At least you admit it: Human 1: “Hey man, I haven’t been feeling great the past while.” Human 2: “Relax man. Brighten up. Here, have a can. Where did you say you were from again?” Banality. Emptiness. Friday night. Grab your jacket. Get some cans. Go to the show. Go to the party. Smile. You have Saturday and Sunday to think about it when you have to face the reality of it all. “I miss you. It’s not you that I miss though. It’s the void you filled”. Fill it tonight. Feel it tomorrow. Forget. Remember. Feel. Repeat.
Blossom G.E.G & O.P It was a Friday afternoon when I saw a peculiar fellow passing by. I was in my usual spot, relaxing, when he passed. I did not know him, or anything about him for that matter. Even the usual beings didnâ€™t seem to know him. I was feeling all right, with the wind passing through, and the sun gloriously shining from above. I could feel the warmth across the nape of my upper sides, and it felt good; refreshing; nourishing. Coming out of such a cold winter, where I had lost much, it felt relieving. I did not immediately notice him, for I was lost in my own branches of thought, but he struck me when he came close. He came close enough that I could feel him there, and even though I may not have been good at these types of things, I could almost feel him leaning into the grass to my side. I tried not to look as if I was passing much remark on him, although I doubt he noticed. I thought of my roots, and how different they were to his. Me, with my hidden sexuality and being quite sheltered to such things, thought he would not understand. Hell, I didnâ€™t even know how it worked. It was not that I was too young; in fact, I was quite old by his standards, but that did not matter. He claimed not to notice me, but underneath I could feel it. Underneath me the earth had aligned. It felt as such. It felt like the warm, yellow rays of the healing sun; the frost-biting, heavy, piercing rain; and the salubrious, invigorating vitality of the soil, had all combined to make this perfect moment. Yes, they each have had their moments before, and many, might I add, yet this moment felt different,strange. It felt erratic; quite unusual. I had never felt this before for another male. In fact, I was quite unsure I could, but given the moment, I was proved otherwise. My thoughts embarked on a roller-coaster of my past. I could clearly see the great fields I spent my youth in; the sun drifting slowly down to the plains, with her healing gift. How I longed for a companion, but alas, it was never to be. Not until now. Not until today, in this same field. If I 13
had known back then, in that distant past, that this future lay ahead of me, I would have acted accordingly. Yet, nothing of this sort mattered in this surreal moment. I had met my match, even though everything told me it was inappropriate. I fed off this feeling of impurity; for me this was a whole new era, a whole new existence, a proper reason to be. Instead of existing in the fields like my parents had wished, I longed for this new-found individuality. It was my reason to be. It was the soils of my passion; the reason to leave everything behind; I was a fallen acorn in the orchard of soul. Entwined in my thoughts, he approached me. I felt like blushing, but I refrained. One of my abilities, I found, was to hide my emotions. He sat down up against me, and my heart raced. I swayed with the breeze, almost nauseous. Not many had this effect on me. He sat down; I rustled. He leaned towards me; I fluttered. I hadnâ€™t felt like this in many years. Sometimes I wish my past had been different. I was routed to the spot, feeling every quiver of the earth beneath me. The place I grew up in was reliant on the earth for its resources, and I always felt oppressed. I wanted to change the notion that existence had to be in one place; one time; one reality. Many came before me and sought to change this oppressive life, and they all failed. The older I became, the more this reality dug its roots into my core, until eventually I was doomed to accept its harsh ivy-like grip. It had bore its fruit in my soul. Reality came back, and I found I was again stood in the same spot. Nothing had changed, yet I felt as if my previous world was abruptly ending. Many years ago I had had feelings for some of the ladies I had seen. However, now, it was different. In my public company, it was not frowned upon to have feelings for the same sex, but it was not... recommended. With these feelings established, one could not continue, in essence. Yes, society was about moral equality, but what good was equality in sorting out the issues of the state at heart? Being a rebel of 14
sorts, I, like many young before me, sought to establish a new regime based on equality. Now, however, I found myself in the heart of the subject; subject to my own subjections. The breeze was uplifting. It brought a rustle to my being. This peculiar young man was still seated next to me. It seemed he did not even pay attention to me; this made me long for him more. I felt mute. I could not speak. Even if I had something to say, it would not come out. He shifted his stance; I breathed with lust. He looked around, and I tried to mask my emotions. He did not see me staring. I felt relieved, replenished. Relaxing myself, I glanced down at what he was reading. Pride and Prejudice! I remembered the story from my youth. Darcy, and Elizabeth! Oh, my being rippled with happiness. I had heard many of the elders talking about it around me when I was a young one. I knew the story backwards! I went to take a breath and ask him about it, but no words would come. I was stricken! Nothing could describe my thoughts or emotions now. If I could have told him how I felt at this moment, I would have. With a sigh, he stood up. I tried to cry out to him, but he did not even acknowledge me. I felt slightly disconcerted, beaten, maybe even disenchanted. But as he left, my gaze was left staring at his back. I felt a longing to go with him, but I knew I couldnâ€™t. Nothing could change that I was not capable of following. He knew it too, but he would not turn to look at me. As he strode away, with the cold sun on the horizon, I felt a feeling of disdain coming over me. I longed no more to be here. I wanted to be with him. A drizzle fell upon my upper-most pieces, and it felt cold. It felt good. I could still feel. Surprising, at this point. I could no longer deny it. Not to me, not to anyone. I had feelings for a man. It felt satisfying to accept it. If I could follow him, I would, and to this day, I stand on that same spot, waiting. I had blossomed. He never came back. 15
Mantra Aoife Kelly Welcome to the massacre Swim the blood and vodka floor For the strobe-light-stroke experience A tenner on the door Push through crush of upright corpses Shrieking jabber of their jaws Grasp a block to prop your legs up For a pitcher poison pause Suddenly the stinging Stumbling sepulchre dissolves The lights are rainbow fairy magic That threaten your resolve And as it swirls you spot a body Like a body from a dream A Romeo that’s seen your Juliet Your Wham bam Dancing Queen His throat is gloss with poetry But then your head is soft with rum As the palace sways on tidal wave Of sweat and synth and drum And when the lights come on and daytime Pries apart your hazy tryst You sail away, inform your comrades ‘Ya’ll never guess who got the shift!’
Villanelle Graham Jong-Il Love proves itself by permeating desire. — Alain Badiou It’s disturbing, when the sight of one person strikes you so sharply that every moment you’ve spent thus far – inhaling and exhaling and longing and trying and failing and failing and carrying on with all your frantic desperations seem to have all led to this one vision. All your other pursuits and desires lose their worth and pour their meaning into this single godly unity. So enrapturing is all the awe and the dread that your gut twists and your head floods with homilies in all the otherworldly tongues of a prophetic ecstasy. Just glimpsing such wholeness is enough to make you realise the extent of your own incompletion. That wayward lock of hair. All the things you don’t know. All the things you’ll never do and all the people you’ll never be. The corners of your mind you’re either too much of a coward to explore or too inept to even comprehend in the first place. You’re knocked off-centre, and all the layers of language and symbols that you’ve spent packing one on top of another are torn apart, fibre from fibre, as you try to scramble back. He leaned forward in his seat, and in the bleak mid-winter sun, he was illuminated. The near-black browns of his eyes were set alight, and now refracted a shimmering amber. The bone-white of his skin framed clearly every minute intricacy of his body, as if instructing me to commit them to memory: the thin rounded edges of his shoulders; the calluses on his palms where they met his fingers; his lips that scream “adore me”. Desire can suffocate itself, when there is no longer any question of wanting or needing, but simply being. Desire gives way to the sensations it instils, and they burrow under your skin, weave themselves into your very nature, tint your sight with sickly, alien hues. Things just look differently now. Yesterday I threw out the newspaper I kept from the day three years 17
ago when he looked me in the eyes and stretched his arms out in an act so uncharacteristic of his usual careful distance that I was rendered incapable of any other response but to receive the embrace silently and complicitly. It was a New York Times. It was the International Edition they sell in airports, so it was sloppily bound and printed in blotchy grey ink. It told me that violence had just broken out in Libya, a marriage rights referendum was underway in a mid-size state in the south-west, and a famous person whose name I didn’t recognise was pregnant. The pages had degraded to such an extent that it gave off that rich, musty odour of aged wisdom. Even as I was laying it at the bottom of the wire mesh waste paper basket, I was compelled to handle it with the sort of reverence you usually afford to some old leather-bound tome that your parents found clearing out the attic of the house of a deceased relative. I’d never even gotten a chance to read most of it. Still, the trauma of all my misguided attachments transfigured this residual waste product into a holy relic. I still can’t believe he did that. For all the ranting and raving I do about objectification in an abstract sense, I was still irked when my own object of desire ripped off the veil of reverence and showed me the person it obscured. Even later on, when lust had long given way to fear, and in his company, my hysterical dread would be visible and audible in the quiver of my leg and the falter in my voice, I was still astonished by the tiny little flashes that gave away his humanity: the cautious avoidance of my line of sight; the apologetic tone he took when he was forced to acknowledge me. At that stage, I had ended up so bad that most of the time my chest felt twisted up into a horrifying, suffocating array of knots. My breath was so short that I had to breathe in and out consciously, for fear of my body remembering to do it for me one second too late and letting me slip away. And that was just when I wasn’t even thinking about him. All it took was the most minute trigger – some piece of paraphernalia from one of 18
the sports that he played, or a peculiar turn of phrase which I’d once heard him use – and every terrible sensation and image flooded back. The giddy, infantile excitation that came over me the first time I spoke to him. The guilty aversion of my gaze when he stretched upwards and yawned, exposing the smooth, pale flesh of his stomach. The sight of him pinning a girl up against the wall as he brushed the flowing chestnut shroud of hair from her face, the light catching the wet of his tongue as their mouths convulsed. This sudden inundation of half-repressed memories would only further constrict my chest, making my breath grow more frantic, my heartbeat more arrhythmic. The panic wasn’t the worst of it, though. At least when you’re in pain you know that you’re alive. You can hope for relief. The lowest points were the phases in between the ones of fear and restlessness, when sensations grew duller and duller, and every moment felt fruitless and stagnant. Everything was just still. Dragging myself and all this dead weight through incessant days of stillness became impossible. I constantly craved sleep, yet I would lie awake watching the sun come up, dreading the mundane agonies of day. My bed, while I wouldn’t call it comforting as such, at least afforded me some degree of silence, after a day spent sat before endless white pages full of thorny letters and numbers, the mere sight of which made my head noisy and clouded and heavy. When this cycle had been more or less broken, as it was bound to have been eventually, the half-rational part of me wanted some sort of resolution. If somehow the topic of this whole messy series of non-events were to come up, and things were talked out and clarified, I thought then maybe I could achieve – not closure, but maybe, I don’t know, catharsis. Bloodletting. Whatever you want to call it. It would be cringey and excruciating, but still, it would be something. The last time I saw him was a few months ago. I’m not sure how many. I had spent much of the night mixing things that should never really 19
be mixed, and as a result, my shirt and most of the air around me was permeated by the sharp acidic stench of vomit, tempered by the similarly harsh odour of bad perfume which my friend had leant me. Her maternal instinct must have kicked in as she did her best to hold together what was left of me. By the end of it, when most of the haze had worn off, I was stood leaning with my back up against a roughly textured concrete wall which stuck painfully into my back, though I let it do so nonetheless, as I need a prop. I stood silently, watching groups of friends hug one another before splitting off and being driven away under that orange halogen glow certain street lamps give off. He came around the corner. My gaze shot to the ground, though as my eyes glided up the length of him, he was still directing his line of sight towards mine. Eye contact. Deliberate. He opened his mouth to speak. I half-paused wondering whether I would let the usual choking fear set in, but decided I wasn’t yet in a state to care. Nothing of particular note was said. It was a few minutes of mundane small talk, really. Hardly bloodletting. Still. It was something. Even so, I was still left, I don’t know, wanting. I wanted to stop hearing that name which whispered itself into existence, whose vowels resonated with all others, whose tones turned the gut. I wanted to read books about economics or Freud or Jesus without desperately searching for something within those texts that would provide me with some dizzying new clarity. I wanted to weigh the value of things with some other touchstone than the possible judgements of some uncaring figure in the distance. I wanted to pretend that I was born into a world of objectivity and rationality, and that I could return. I wanted to be reassured that I had learned something; that my experiences would form into some morsel of transcendental knowledge with which I could do something meaningful. I wanted to purge myself of all the selfishness and cruelty and self-indulgence and never let this happen ever again. Or, I guess you could argue that all I really wanted was him, but – I suppose it wasn’t that unrealistic, was it? I mean, like it could have 20
come to something – it might still by some sort of divine intervention? I don’t even know what he’s doing now, maybe I’ll end up crossing paths with him or something. But no, he’ll probably be off doing something intelligent and ‘practical’ and will probably get a good well-paid job from it and will have an attractive wife who picks out really nice curtains and understands how basically good he is and will love him meaningfully until they’re in a nursing home together and people will come visit them, because they’ve made real connections to people and they don’t need people to ‘understand’ them because they don’t pretend to be complicated, and these people bring them things like nice towels and those really soft sugar-coated jellies that melt in your mouth when you bite them that people give old people and then one of them will die, probably not him because he doesn’t eat too much and he exercises and doesn’t smoke which is why he has such a beautiful body now but I don’t really care that he does I’m not sure I ever did but anyway he’ll probably live longer than her and then he’ll die a few days later and everyone will say how much they loved each other and I won’t be around to cry about it because I eat and smoke and think too much.
Azure Niamh Hammel Kirsten didn’t understand what the hell was happening. Where was Samantha? Why wouldn’t Matt just tell her where she was? Why was he asking all these questions and making out that she didn’t know the real reason why she was there. Of course she knew why - to get Samantha! Kirsten couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something bigger going on here though. And that something, was to do with her. Kirsten was sick of waiting, sick of sitting there and doing nothing, and sick of Matt looking at her like all was lost, like it was the end of the world or something. She made up her mind; she was going to put her previous plan into action; she was going to get to Samantha herself. All she had to do was run past Matt and up those stairs. She looked at Matt again; and wasn’t so sure now that he was the kidnapper after all. He said he wasn’t going to hurt her, but he could still stop Kirsten from making it to those stairs and Kirsten knew that wouldn’t be a very hard thing to do. Waiting until Matt had put his head in his hands again, Kirsten took a steadying, deep breath, leaped from her chair and dashed towards the winding staircase, and summoning up as much strength, energy and determination she could muster. Thankfully she made it past Matt with little trouble as his head remained in his hands. His head snapped up however when he heard Kirsten whip past him. He made a move to stop her, “Kirsten wait! You don’t understand…” Kirsten, arriving at the foot of the staircase started to bound up the steps, hoping that they led to Samantha. They didn’t. Kirsten stopped dead in her tracks, only to move back down the stairs as the big man in front of her did the same. He had a very strange look in his 22
eyes; they were wide and were looking at Kirsten with awe and wonder, as if he couldn’t believe that she was standing right there in front of him. Kirsten, on the other hand wanted to flee, her way was blocked by this man and as she reached the foot of the stairs she heard Matt behind her. I’m trapped. There’s nowhere to go…nowhere to turn. That’s when everything became too much. The walls around her were spinning, her sight laced with an increasing and deepening darkness. She wasn’t going to get to Samantha, that she knew. She couldn’t bear it anymore, she had failed her best friend and now anything could happen to them. She allowed the darkness to swallow her.
Tiger Snores Laura Mulqueen 1. Sneaking glances from beneath my lashes at your still blank face. Breathing in, breathing out. I smile with lids closed before chancing another peek. You grunt slightly and shift your hard shoulders. Nestled into your stomach I stiffen, realize how unnatural this is and begin to breathe measuredly. Sneaking glances from beneath my lashes at your beautiful sleeping features. 2. She snores like a tiger cub, trying to be fierce and menacing, but a kitten in my arms. I smile at how delicately her top lip sits softly over her bottom lip. Her usual pout is gone now, baby is calm and happy curled up into my side. She murmurs something in her slumber, move over, stop noising so much, Iâ€™m cold. I cuddle her closer and rest my jaw in the disarray that is her hair. Smelling apricot skin and coconut curls. And stealing fleeting looks from beneath my lashes at your calm sleeping features. Tomorrow morning she must go home to the husband picked out for her. Steel counter tops and salmon tiled floors. The down feathered duvet and millions of pillows. Forgetting the broken settee and coffee stained Ikea table. I wander around the worn carpeted floors barefoot immune to the 24
flickering images on the fuzzy television. Which restaurant will it be tonight? What distraction tonight? I will not smile with lids closed chancing another look with sleep deprived eyes but rather will turn on my side, sigh and try to keep warm in the absence of her tiger growls at night.
Flotsam Paul Alexander The boats do, they sink eagerly yet rest ashored some remnants float shimmering in the beaming light One, two, four, eight in dazzling formation or in waves of conquest though the suds remain stagnant for now
Untitled Jennifer Oâ€™Leary I have played it out many times The conversation we never had. Whatâ€™s the point, there is nothing you can say. No gesture you can make to repair the pieces back and return to where we both would lay. Resting by your side nape my head on your shoulder the most peaceful sleep I have ever made. The dwell over the facts and fictions would stir the emulsion. Never to settle. Let it lay. --------Would you believe me if I told you the truth? That I had decided to lie to you even though my actions would ignite a catalyse; destined to demise. The guilt inside that I could never hide. Haunted at night by the fabric I wove, decaying to the touch unable to hold, the insurmountable strain that I had put upon Our beautiful love. The guilt. The lies. I died inside. Fell into a hollow. Today I do cry and realise that I was destined to live my life with you loving me. I was cheap. 27
I tore the fabric and set you free. -------------That time you grabbed my wrist in jest. And shook it. That turned out to be a euphemism of what you felt and what was to come. You grabbed with intent and noticed my unease but insisted to prove the point that you believed. As meaningless as it was, you were intent. Foreshadowing and raptly aware I foolishly ignored the message that you were passing unto me. A universe around you. Absolute.
Call Me Al Ciaran Shanley The water hit his brow and beaded, rolling down along the rough contours of his face and through his stubble. He wiped the remaining water from his chin and looked up at the mirror. Stark grey eyes returned his gaze. He glanced up at the reflection of the words floating above his head. They had changed, as always, when he awoke. He sighed in relief. The words had changed, but nothing incriminating. The most common of words, his name and birthday, hung above his head. Perfect. They could have been anything about him; a fact, a quote, even evidence of criminal activity. He pushed back from the sink he had been leaning on and went to dress himself. He put his coat on and checked his phone, bringing up the last message. Citizen George P. Mitchell, your presence is requested at Precinct 12 on June 7 at 08:00. I you do not arrive at the Precinct at the appointed time, then an escort will be promptly provided to escort you. Walking and public transportation routes from your residence to the Precinct are provided here. Good day. He chose one of the walking routes, pocketed the phone and made for the door. George huddled in his coat against the rain and swiped his ID against the scanner outside the precinct. The opaque glass doors slid open and he hurried inside. He trailed water across the foyer, much to the annoyance of the receptionist, whose expression was one of a smug disdain that only clerical staff could wear. He glanced at the woman’s words: “Age: 36.” He almost rolled his eyes. 29
Typical. They only hire those whose words have no meaning. He reached the reception desk and the woman soundlessly ushered him passed the double doors and into an interview room. “The detective will be with you shortly”, she said, shutting the door behind her and leaving George with nothing but a glass of water for company. He sat down on one of the collapsible aluminium chairs and waited. Moments later, the detective arrived. A familiar face and word, each plain. “George”, said the detective, taking the seat opposite George and dropping a brown folder on the desk between them. “Detective”, replied George. “Call me Al.” George gestured above the detective’s head. “That’s not what your word says, detective.” “This is not a good start to this week’s parole review, George. Twelve weeks in and you’d think we’d be familiar enough for you to use my name.” “Twelve weeks in and you’d think you’d have had a different word by now. My words change every day.” The detective blinked. “Yes, that is often the case with former prisoners, especially those charged with sedition.” George folded his arms. “I wrote an article.” “You libeled the council”, retorted the detective. “Fu-” The detective started. “Don’t finish that sentence or we will be forced to hold you overnight and one of your subscription privileges will be revoked.” George sunk into his chair.
The detective paused, then glanced above George’s head. “Your words seem stable today.” “Very stable”, mumbled George. The detective picked up the folder and began leafing through its contents. After a minute or two, he placed the folder back on the table. “I suppose there’s little point going of your reports this week. Thankfully, there’s nothing of interest.” “I can go?” The detective extended his hand across the table. “Yes, George, but I’ll see you next week.” George shook the detective’s hand. “Thanks, Al.” Al smiled. “You’re very welcome, George.”
The Turquoise Night Paedar O’Dea Sometimes I become possessed And travel to the land where the dead don’t rest. In this said land among a pile of dead night trees I walk awhile, But then it comes, that feeling of calm, no not calm! Dread....For I am walking, walking with the dead, I am in the threes I know and up above a turquoise glow, seems to fascine me to the ground below, No further this night shall this feeling go, I see it on the walls, I see it in this land’s sky, I see it in my mind, I see it in the dead man’s eye, That colour, at once both soothing and yet shrill, A single look and you will find that, that single look can kill, When all goes wrong, the world amiss I travel to my turquoise realm in search of night’s sweet kiss, There among the ghosts, and the goblins, witches, kings I am still alone looking at the Turquoise sky as it sings, A song of silence, no mortal heard before, And if you looked beyond the three’s you would just see me, Me, my loneliness and the turquoise night Alone in harmony
My Blue Babies Darragh Taheny The baby came out soaked in a thick fluid streaked with bright red swirls of blood. It arrived quiet with its eyes bolted closed in fresh new born wrinkles. The baby’s mother dropped her head back into the thick pillow with a pained sigh of relief as the squirming shaking weight left her body. Her face was freckled with burst capillaries densely packed high on her cheeks. Nurse Melanie removed the baby from between the woman’s legs in smooth supported movement after cutting the umbilical. She scanned the silent baby’s face and body. The doctor, Eichmann, stood by the nurse with a warm damp towel. Melanie took the white towel and carefully wiped the baby’s limbs. While the nurse moved to the mother’s side the new-born opened its eyes and peered up into the nurse’s face. Melanie sees the wide oval eyes and stops before the heavily breathing woman. “Doctor.” Melanie utters slowly. The mother’s glazed and tired eyes look up to the figures above her. She brings her hands down beside her hips and pushes herself higher onto the thick pillow, “My baby? Is it okay?” The doctor gazes down into the baby’s vacant scrunched face and removes it from Melanie’s grip. “My baby?” The mother asks in fright, “Let me see it. Is it ok?” The doctor scrutinises its body under the harsh UV light, and absently answers, “It is a girl, Annette.” “Let me see my baby girl.” The doctor strides over while wrapping the baby in a white towel and places it gently into the arms of its mother. She drops her head over its face allowing her damp hair to fall beside it. Eichmann grasps Melanie’s elbow and whispers, “It’s unfit. You’ll have to take her.” Melanie whispers from the side of her mouth without taking her eyes off the mother and child, “Yes doctor.” The nurse clears her throat with her hands clasped behind her back, and says in an authoritative voice, “Annette, I’m afraid I must take your child 33
to the infirmary. Doctor Eichmann and I believe your baby may need urgent medical care.” Tears spring to Annette’s bewildered eyes. Melanie bends down to take the baby. The mother’s veiny hands clasp the new born before whispering in a gasp, “No. Please, make sure she is okay. My baby, keep her safe.” Melanie’s hands circle the baby and before removing her she turns to Annette, “Please, don’t worry Mrs. This is not uncommon. We’ll take care of her.” “Bring her back when you can.” With the back of the baby’s head nestled in the crook of the nurse’s arm she twists quickly and leaves the small room with Eichmann holding the swinging door open. The heels of Melanie’s shoes scrape and clip the corridor floors as she hurries through the quiet building. There is a low vibration in the air as Melanie paces through the deserted hallways to the clunky elevator. The new-born makes its first vocal stirrings. Little strained garbles come from its mouth as its oval eyes begin to shut in blotchy wrinkled skin. It had only been a month since Doctor Eichmann had shuffled into the ward in which Melanie was routinely administering sedatives and painkillers to the injured. Eichmann cleared his throat loudly and sharply immediately gaining Melanie’s attention. No words were exchanged. An intense urgent look from Eichmann was enough to warn Melanie to stand upright with heels together. She could hear the additional steps behind the man. A doctor Steinert emerged from the door with pearl white hair combed delicately to the side. Doctor Eichmann motioned towards the nurse and made the introduction, “Nurse Melanie Schmitt, Herr Doctor Steinert.” Doctor Steinert had walked purposefully over to Melanie and said with deliberation, “As you know Miss Schmitt the unexpected retirement of Mrs Lambert has left us without proper management on level 6 Room F. It is in our interests to find a suitable person with previous experience to take Mrs Lambert’s now vacant position. Doctor Eichmann tells me you have on occasion helped Mrs Lambert with her duties, is this correct?” 34
“Yes, Herr Doctor Steinert. I have assisted Mrs Lambert’s duties on more than a few occasions. All her duties are well known and understood by me.” “Then Miss Schmitt you believe yourself to be an appropriate person to take over Mrs Lambert’s previous proceedings?” “I do, Herr Doctor Steinert. You need not look to anyone else.” Doctor Steinert puts his hands to his hips before answering with his head turned in Eichmann’s direction, “Doctor Eichmann considers you to be the best candidate for this position, as do I. Level 6 Room F is to be your domain from today. If you have any concerns or queries you may come to me for counsel.” Doctor Steinert tilts his head and looks Melanie directly in the eye, “The accompanying pay rise with this position will be reflected in your next pay check.” With the elevator doors screeching open on the sixth floor the baby begins to cry in earnest. Gnarled squeals belt out from between its lips, and its rounded bulbous head turns dark red in effort. The baby’s piercing cries give way to pressured puffs of distress as the nurse makes her way to Room F at the end of the corridor. Melanie removes her left hand from under the baby and flicks the light switch. With the harsh luminescent bulbs flicking to life the two rows of three cots flash into view. Following this are low whines and moans emitting from six stained cots. The new-born begins to screech as she is brought swiftly over to a metal table to the side. The nurse plucks the baby naked from the cotton towel and wraps a yellow nappy loosely around her waist. Melanie lays the baby down and watches as she wails with a purpled puffy face. “Hey little one, you have to be strong. Crying will only hurt your throat.” She pauses, gazing into the oval eyes, and continues, “You’re a pretty little girl aren’t you? You’ve got big pretty blue eyes.” There is a sickening wail from one of the cots behind the nurse. She quickly pulls the new-born from the table and turns to the rows of cots before lowering to her motherly voice, “All your little friends are here. Do 35
you want to meet them, little one? They’d be so happy to meet a pretty blue-eyed girl like you.” Melanie comes before the uppermost row of cots in the room and peers over into the first cot. The baby in the nurse’s arms goes silent for a moment as she puts her hand into the cot and pinches a dirty brown sheet between her thumb and index finger pulling it slowly to reveal a white and bluish baby with swollen lips and eyes, “Poor little Ernst, he is a good boy. He doesn’t make as much noise as you.” In the cot the baby moves its arms in front of its face slowly with its tiny fingers curling. Melanie smiles while touching the little boy’s hands and watches as they clutch feebly at her infinitely larger hands. The nurse places the sheet back under the baby’s chin and walks along the row. She pauses over the last cot and drops to her hunkers pulling the new born in her arms closer. A baby with wispy blonde hair and a severe cleft lip lies in among the sparse muddled sheets. A black discolouring surrounds his mouth and nose. A sharp noxious odour rises from within the cot as Melanie leans forward over its edge. Again a wail is released from a cot of the lower row. The nurse raises quickly and storms over to the lower cot containing the shrieking child. “Friedrich!” The nurse barks, “Why are you being so noisy!” Melanie turns to the new-born in her arms and apologises, “I’m sorry little one, our Friedrich hasn’t learned the manners your other friends have.” She pulls the sheet off the screeching baby revealing its blackened toes and striking blue veins beneath a sagged pale skin. The baby wails with its puffy face, and in unison the new-born too begins to screech. The nurse abruptly transports the new-born back to the metal table and returns to the cot. She grips the sides and looks down on the wailing and wriggling baby before gripping the handle of a set of drawers a few paces to the right. Melanie sharply opens the grating drawer and removes a pin with a small purple sphere grip. The nurse returns to the wailing baby with the pin poised between her thumb and index. She lowers her face to the baby, and says solemnly, 36
“Shush, Friedrich. Be quiet now.” The child continues screaming with its mouth wide open allowing Melanie to see the wrinkled redness of its gums and upper mouth. She grips the baby’s discoloured foot and dabs the pin into a black toe. The baby squeals and shrieks in pain. The nurse pricks the toe a second and third time drawing bright red bubbles of blood. Melanie recoils as the squeals intensify. She throws the little pin into its drawer before slamming it shut and returning to the crying new-born sitting upon the cold metallic table. “Don’t worry about that one. That was one of Mrs Lambert’s. The wretched little boy can’t grasp anything.” Melanie takes the new-born in her arms and once again shows her to Friedrich’s cot. The nurse thrusts a hand into the cot and forces the wailing baby’s eye open. “You see little one, the dirty green eyes are the problem. Green-eyed babies cause all of the problems- especially Mrs Lambert’s old ones. But you’re not as unlucky as them, are you? You’ve got very pretty blue eyes.” Melanie smiles to the little baby in her arms whose face is streaked by tears running down a red agitated face. The new-born is placed with care into the vacant middle cot of the upper row. “This is your new home now.” Melanie whispers. The nurse tickles the baby’s stomach and suddenly the new-born’s miniscule hand shoots over and grasps Melanie’s solitary finger. The nurse pauses and allows the child to squeeze tightly on her digit. A small vacant smile creeps across the nurse’s lips before she lowers herself to the bothered baby’s face and says, “You’re a strong one, aren’t you? I wonder how long you’ll last.”
An Animalistic Union Magdalena Fraczek As a matter of fact at three post meridiem I had not any desire to leave my house. When I awoke in the rather late morning, I knew it was raining as the need for my alarm clock was redundant. The titanic rain drops already splashed and bounced off my bedroom window. Honestly, I pitied anyone who had to leave the warmth and seclusion of their own home to satisfy the needs of society, knowing that I could remain at home and be idle for the day. However, my sisterâ€™s Yorkshire terrier has his own biological needs, and those needs cannot be taken care of while home. I am sure they could but that would be a vivid exposition of ill mannerism. And ill mannerism is a massive no-no at my household. Therefore, I summoned the adequate attire and entered the moistened and dampened world. Once outside, I actually looked like this bulky LEGO person clothed in this heavy, royal blue duffel jacket. It gently rained, drizzled onto the trees and grass and all the other living organisms. The trees looked so pretty, they were still bare, the spring was not upon us yet, the trees are perhaps barren but today, due to the rain they were adorned with diminutive droplets of water. The droplets itself reminded me of crystal bubbles that one adorns a Christmas tree with, so clearly transparent and round. I could hear the twitter of the birds, not that artificial Twitter app but that bona fide sound of birds. There were cars on the road, and as they drove, they splashed massive poodles of water against the grey pavements and various paths that were already muddy... During this walk of mine, the dog kept pulling me along, I finally understood Darwin, and how he thought of the theory of evolution. The complexity of life was finally visualized. All the living organisms are linked, dependent on each other. I know this is a common knowledge now but I managed to see that in such clarity today, on this wet, January afternoon. The birds were flying, swishing their wings in their search of seclusion and peace. There were svelte swans luxuriating themselves beside a lake, as the droplets of water pushed through the surface of 38
the lake as if metal screws. Ah swans are such beautiful creatures yet so terribly petrifying, one of them emanated this hissing sound as she flapped her flawless wings, as if a snake. I must not forget about the impatient, domestic dogs, with their fur and hair getting wetter pulling their owners in the direction of home...pulling the owners in the light and warmth of the home, while the sky itself was growing to be this mellow, marshmallow-y pink. Not many people like rain, people do not enjoy getting wet, especially women. I for one, have always liked the rain, there is something very clean about it, rejuvenating and fresh, even though that today I was not fond of leaving my home. I am glad I had. The rain turns everything quite beautiful, everything is liquefied and lubricated. Once I returned home though, I felt spiritually cleansed and encountered myself to be abnormally wet. Nevertheless in the midst of that walk I felt in unison with the world.
Remembrance Aisling Shalvey You will ruin me. In a wave of contagion and self-absorption Assimilating on my skin, demanding to be felt. These plasters aren’t working. Retreat some years, revert to humors and bleed me out. Tedious scratches Might reach black bile – suppurating and seeping From a futile wound. Draining the failure, The pounds upon stone - the measure of my existence. Blistered, leeched and marked Beyond repair, And soon I shall shatter. Dusty glass vial stores my essence, That undecipherable mess of who I am. Unlabelled. If someone comes searching That test tube will remain with no marking of me Except Durer’s dead eyes - dead witnesses. Startling the soft continuum . The jagged edged silk. The glass, smashed.
Frogs’ Legs and Overt Displays of Affection Angie Mullins (This was written last summer during my experience as an au-pair in France) Packed into my heaviest clothes and with supplies for the next six years- er ...weeks crammed into my two bags, I lumbered onto the plane after a lengthy trek around the airport and an even lengthier goodbye to my parents who watched me leave with the pathos of lost puppies gleaming in their eyes. I found my seat and cursed my ill luck at the lack of a window. Then I was off across the sky wearing an expression of boundless curiosity and joy which elicited tired glances from the other world-weary passengers. Fuck ye, I thought. This is my adventure. However, my opinion and facial expression took a drastic change after I was shaken down for three euros for a bottle of water. Ryanair, you robbing bastards. After a two and a bit hour skelp we landed and I took my first mouthful of muggy French air. It tasted like rubber and I made my way pretty sharpish through passport control and baggage claim. In arrivals, I suffered a brief panic when I couldn’t find my host but then I spotted my name in neon highlighter on a sheet of paper. Huzzah! I was on my way. After an introduction to Philippe, my employer for the next six weeks, we trundled out to the car park to his brand new Merc and I knew I’d hit the jackpot. The drive home through Marseille was all kinds of exciting for me. I leant with my head practically out the window and took tenuous sips from my three quid bottle of water, enjoying the mountains and the ocean and the sheer beauty of it all. After about forty-ish minutes we arrived at the house which, complete with pool, ginormous garden and mountain views could only be described as ‘the nicest fucking house in the world ever’.
I only had ten minutes in which to settle myself, for we were off to collect one of my charges, Agathe, from school. After a pleasant walk through town we had reached the schoolyard where the impeccably dressed parents were assembled to pick up their impeccably dressed kids. And there I encountered the most bizarre means of a greeting I have ever witnessed: the double cheek kiss. It happened all around me- men kissing women, women kissing women, men kissing men, kids kissing kids- it was a kissing free for all; a veritable orgy of affection. And then it was time for my initiation. Philippe was chatting to a friend of his and introduced me and before I could stick out my hand for a staunch Irish handshake, my cheeks were assailed by moustachioed lips. I recoiled in horror but maintained a look of polite indignance on my face, barely resisting the urge to wipe away the saliva which clung to my cheeks. Then the bell rand and out skipped Agathe, who insisted on kissing me. My smile was faltering at this stage but being the trooper that I am, I kept going. The three of us walked home in a resounding silence, only punctuated by the sporadic whisperings of Agathe to her father and the (probably) audible bellowing of my consciousness doing its best Gob “I’ve made a huge mistake” Bluth impression. But then we reached home and had food and my faith in my decision was restored. Spaghetti with sauce, bread, three kinds of cheese and copious amounts of wine were devoured and I was happy as a clam on steroids. Peggy and charge number two, Arthur arrived at the house soon afterwards and my cheeks were yet again attacked. After some pleasant if stilted chat, I retired to my room where after about an hour’s reprieve a knock on my door announced that it was dinner time. My heart leapt with happy confusion. ‘They have two dinners in this country? Fuck yeah!’ So I dined once more, this time upon vegetables, bread and anchovy paste called ‘anchoïde’ which tastes like delicious tears of happiness. My delight at food was soon replaced by trepidation as it was announced that neighbours were coming over for a barbecue (seriously, more food). 42
I downed some more wine for courage and braved the kissing, confusion and chagrin at being the centre of attention. At my earliest opportunity I bid everybody adieu and had to kiss them all goodnight *shudder*. Back in the safe confines of my room I Skyped my anxious parents and told them of the day’s exploits. Then when the coast was clear I sneaked out of my room and, sitting on the swing just outside my window, I had a much-needed smoke and looked at the night sky. I gave silent thanks to the universe for the opportunity and ruminated thoughtfully on what the coming weeks might bring. I returned inside and after my ablutions, collapsed onto my bed enthusiastically, breaking one of the wooden panels under the mattress in the process (something that the family don’t know, or ever will know about). I fell into a deep exhausted sleep, only slightly disturbed by the hordes of bullfrogs outside the window. Ah well, you’ve gotta dig this crazy country.
Lost Hope Shauna Colgan “The future is bright,” you said as we lay together in the hay. We could hear the troops marching by as we made love that night, neither of us meant to be here in this place. You’d deserted, and I’d run away to find you. And this is what it had come to. The two of us lying in the hay of an abandoned horse barn, curious, lonely equines below us watching the proceedings, bombs dropping in the distance. I shivered, half in exhilaration, half in terror. Nowhere was safe, yet we had these moments of feeling safe. “After the war we’ll be free,” you said, two nights later as we hid in the cave, our fire giving your face a soft glow. We talked because it was nice to hear a human voice, talked about dreams so vast and grand that I wondered how they could ever come true. But you had hope so did I. That hope was enough for us to both fight to survive. “It’ll all work out. I promise you.” Your voice was hushed as we hid together, keeping low to the ground so that we wouldn’t be seen by the trucks, their lights as bright as day, but the men inside blind to what they were looking for. They almost caught us that time, but still we never gave up. We carried on because we had to. The fire of hope and faith in ourselves burning bright as the world around us went up in flames. “I don’t want anything grand or fancy, you understand. I don’t understand people who do want that sort of thing. Being known by all doesn’t make you a better person, and neither does being rich. All I want is some land and cattle, a few horses. Peace and quiet with you by my side. That’s more than enough for me.” And you smiled so gently as you said it. I knew even then how much I loved you, that April night as we walked through the fields after hiding all day. I’d never seen you so peaceful before as when you had the soil beneath your feet and crops all around. I’d never seen anyone so peaceful before. It was beautiful. “After the war, we’ll marry proper,” you murmured softly, as we kissed in behind the waterfall, the water up to my knees. We’d come here to hide on the spy planes overhead. My only fear was that the water would rise too fast and we’d drown. But if I drowned in your arms, both of our 44
bodies locked together in death, then it would be alright. There would be far worse ways to leave this life for both of us. “I do.” Your voice was serious as we stood before the preacher that we’d rousted from bed to marry us. It wasn’t a legal wedding and we weren’t even dressed for the occasion, but in our eyes and the eyes of God it was all that mattered. It would be enough to keep us going, so that our child would be born into a family. I could feel him growing inside of me every day. I only feared that we’d lose him. “Just one more push, darling,” you said gently, calling me back from where my mind was drifting with pain. I gathered my wits and pushed and felt a sort of relief. My body was so weak that I slumped back against the pillows in the bed of the abandoned house. You’d carried me here when the pain got too bad for me to walk. And I could see it now in your face as you cradled the limp little body to your chest, both of you bloody and your face streaked with tears. I knew then that our baby was dead. “We’ll try again after the war,” you promised as you held me close a few weeks later, both of us ravaged by grief. But I felt so hollow inside that it all seemed like the great lie that it was. My hope died the day that our child did. Our after the war never came. I knew as much in those last few months. There could never be a time of peace for us who had fought so hard and lost so much. We didn’t deserve it. Your voice was raw that last day as you screamed at me to run. I’ve never been able to forget it. I ran blindly with tears streaming down my face, like a coward. You couldn’t have outrun the bullets, not when you wanted me to get away. With a lurch I hit the ground, pain shooting through my arm and shoulder. Maybe if I played dead I’d be alright. I didn’t want to be alright. I wanted to be with you, lying back there on the ground. But you’d told me before, on almost every night, that if something happened to you then you wanted me to live. One of us had to live, you’d said. The gunshots stopped and the air was still. Quiet settled all over the land. I waited, curled in a ball, until I was sure that they were well away. 45
Then I stumbled back to you. That image I’ll always remember. You lying there broken on the ground, your clothes soaked in your crimson blood. Those strong hands that had held me night after night lay limply on the ground. So strong before, but powerless now in death. I held your head to my chest all night, numb to the cries of the world just like I’d once been numb to the death of our baby. I heard the sirens. They meant nothing. The bombs in the distance. The overhead drone of an airplane’s engine. It was all a vast, empty loneliness without you. Forever. I buried you there when morning came. Pulled earth and stones over your body. I found some timbers a little bit away and made a rough cross. Then I carved your name into it with your penknife. I didn’t want you to be nameless in the afterlife. I brought your jacket away with me. The blood – your blood – was dry now. It didn’t matter. And your pocket watch. It had been your grandfather’s, all you’d had left of the past. You’d wound it so regularly, every morning and night. It was wound down, but when the Resistance found me – and saved my arm – I reset it at last. My son has it now. He turned sixteen last spring. Twenty years after you died. I named him for our son, and for you. His father ran out on us when he was a baby. I know you wouldn’t have done that. You’d been so excited for your little boy. I remember it still. I always will. My heart aches for you, in this after the war time. That never grows old. I did all of the things we swore that we would, for us both. And I came back to see everywhere once more. To feel close to you again. All of it is haunted by your ghost. That barn where we made love is gone. The cave is the same as it always was. The ruin of our fire is still there, joined by so many others. That road that we hid beside is as big as a highway now. And the field that we walked through is built over. You’d see it as such a tragedy. The waterfall is unchanged. Those things never do change. And the preacher when I finally found him remembered us, like all of the other wartime couples. The house where you delivered our baby has a 46
new family living there, a whole family. It breaks my heart to think that they found happiness there when we couldn’t. That forest where you held me has been cut down to make room for a housing estate. And the field where you died is under corn. I know you’d like that, your blood helping something else to grow. They moved your grave. I found it in the graveyard in the town nearby. No dates, just your name inscribed on a stone. I broke right down to see it, and left it just as it is. You’d love the simplicity of it. I like to think that you found redemption, and the peace that we searched for for so long. It helps to keep the nightmares at bay. But mostly I think of the promises that we made and broke, the life that we could have had. I promise I’ll find you again when it’s my time to go. It’s my only hope. After the war.
Strimming Darren Ryding There’s something about the scent of cut grass. Fermenting in the sun as I strim. No blades, just a luminous string, Green string, that whips and slices. Slices through so many Erect blades of grass. But honestly I didn’t Mean to. It Could not Understand That there is no Impenetrable Haven, safe from careless Human threat. Now I wipe guts Off the clogged machine guiltily. Not because it’s dead. But because I Feel nothing. Rabbits have a lot of fun.
Devil Children John Geoghegan There are devil children in this shop pulling down the advertising hoarding I truly never used to believe in the merits of waterboarding Every day at my workplace I find devil children wiping their feet inside my mind There are devil children picking up packs of chewing gum then putting them back the wrong way Parents watch smilingly do nothing as they fuck with my display These miscreants are killing me increments Devil children are flourishing causing everyone some harm Devil children are proliferating like nuclear arms Devil children become a pandemic if they’re allowed to run the show They never hear admonishment or the word “No” You used to be allowed to hit your children and still be thought a good dad You used to be allowed to beat them to a pulp, its political correctness gone mad Dear Ma’am or Sir, I want to raise your children.
Closing Time Aoife Kelly Forced out or fleeing, we don’t live here anymore. Saw Jack’s sister at Christmas, now your mind is on the door. Home is where the hearth is, And your heart isn’t in it, With four euro in your pocket, empty suitcase on the floor. She calls ya from Australia, sounding sunny on the phone, Says they’re nicer than the Irish, all we seem to do is moan. The ticking clock only gets louder, Shouting ‘who are you without her?’ And you could have a job there, earn a few pence of your own. Cos you’ve been sitting here for hours, staring at the wall, The fear of falling keeps you paralysed, waiting for her call What have you got left to lose here? And the ties only get looser, She’s a thousand miles out further, every second that you stall. The rain’ll keep you inside, the rent will keep you poor Decide now, d’ya wanna die here? Do you want something more? You’re caught between her Facebook, And a budget flight to chase her, With four euro in your pocket, and your suitcase by the door.