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Contents Letter from the editor…………………………Page 5 Part 1: Poetry Anne Higgins………………………………….Page 9 After Laughter…………………………………..Page 9 Incantation………………..................................Page 11 The Legend of Lady Buglose…………………….Page 13 Named After the Saints………………………….Page 16 Aquiero………………………………………….Page

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Ndaba Sibanda………………………………...Page 20 Soulless Souls……………………………………Page 21 Hymn Book……………………………………...Page 23 Retirement of villages……………………………Page 25 The Lighter the better……………………………Page 28 Hisham Nazar…………………………………..Page 30 I, Adam: The Man Who Ate The Fruit……………Page 31 Revelation 22:22…………………………………..Page 34 Towards the words………………………………..Page 36 The Blasphemous Furniture……………………….Page 40 An Echo from Bethlehem…………………………Page 42 Ventris tuae Jesus(Ave Maria)……………………...Page 45 DJ Tyrer…………………………………………..Page 48 The Human Condition …………………………….Page 48 Bad Touch………………………………………….Page 51 2


The Supernatural Space …………………………….Page 53 It is Real…………………………………………….Page 52 Norman Church…………………………………….Page 56 Religion……………………………………………..Page

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Vivid………………………………………………...Page 59 Debbie J. Embrey …………………………………Page 61 The Bible………………………………………….....Page 61 No Tears in Heaven………………………………….Page 63 Without His Love……………………………………Page 64 Eric Mwathi………………………………………...Page 66 Aphorism…………………………………………….Page

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Zeus………………………………………………….Page 69 Black Psalm ………………………………………….Page 71 Before the Fall ……………………………………….Page 73 Petrus………………………………………………...Page

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Jolene Paternoster……………………………….......Page 77 Sunday ………………………………………………..Page 78 ……………….Part II: Prose, Fiction……………….Page 81 DJ Tyrer………………………………………………Page 81 Redemption……………………………………………Page 82 Justine Johnson Hemmestad………………………...Page 83 Beauty……………………………………………….....Page

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Ndabe Sibanda………………………………………..Page 101 Of Tikoloshi and the Translator………………………...Page 102 Eric Mwathi……………………………………………Page 108 3


A Birthday Party ……………………………………….Page 109 The Tram Stop ………………………………………...Page 121 Crash …………………………………………………..Page 124 ………………Part III: Non-fictional Prose ………...Page 127 Roddy Stark …………………………………………..Page 126 Growing up with Alice Munro in your school syllabus ……………………………………………………........Page

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Eric Mwathi…………………………………………...Page 131 Political factors that affected the choice in awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature, before 2013 …………………………….......Page 132 The 14 Most important things to take, with you, to a book sale …………………………………………………………Page 138 Dan Snow ……………………………………….........Page 144 Eric Mwathi’s Interview with Dan Snow …………........Page 157 Jolene Paternoster…………………………………….Page 157 So be it …………………………………………….......Page 158 Contributor’s Profiles…………………………….......Page 164 Next Issue’s Theme Page ……………………….......Page 174

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Editor’s Note Regardless of whether we believe in one or many supernatural deities, worship or condemn them, serve them through an organised belief system or in solitude, or even deny their existence altogether, religion affects us today. Excluding religion from our political landscape, and from our schools, and from our family and even from our everyday life, has certainly not stopped religion from somehow creeping back into our lives. We still find God’s name printed onto the currencies of countries, and see that institutions continue to be funded and influenced by religious groups, serve people of certain religious beliefs, make money out of their followers, as well as encourage strong religiously motivated action, that is often peaceful, though sometimes quite violent. It is also not uncommon that individual family members, friends, or even complete strangers, on the street, might tell us why their religious views are right and why to adopt them. Sometimes even we try to share those views with others, at times. Though considerable literary work in the past has dealt with religion or with the supernatural, in some form or other, it still makes sense, for writers, to do so today, as has been done in this collection of religious prose and poetry. Not all of the prose on religion, here, will be fictitious. In fact not all non-fictional prose here will be about religion on the whole. An article on this year’s Nobel Literature Lauriat, Alice Munro, as well as an article on the political influence on the choices of nominating past Literature Nobel Laureates, has also been in this collection of nonfiction work. Furthermore, the first of five articles on the fourteen most important things to take with to a book sale, shall also be included. Hoping that you will find this issue somehow helpful, please feel free to provide feedback on this issue, through my email via 5


mwathieric@yahoo.com Looking forward to your reply, You’re Editor, Eric Mwathi

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.Part I: .Poetry.

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.Anne Higgins.

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After laughter After Ecclesiastes 8:15 Therefore I commend mirth; so I praise laughter; after all, I turn to grinning. In the end, I prefer to chortle, to chuckle, guffaw, snort, split my sides, tears of mirth, earthy mirth, rips of laughter, tides of noise, human breath gasping. I can't cry, but I can still laugh at slapstick, the foot on the banana, the pie in the face, the butt on the floor, hit, broom! slice, twig! I commend mirth! I award a crown of candy, reward hilarity! Laughing wins, winds, winding around my guts, splashing out my open throat, tasting so much better than bile.

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.Incantation. ric kic kic kic, co ax, co ax... - Aristophanes, The Frogs A la recherche de temps perdu Music that thumps inside my skin How can what's dead return to life? Goldenrod brows outside my door, Trillium fills my garden floor How can what's dead return to life? Music of drum ad thrum of strings Dance to the slice of moon above How can what's dead return to life? Flycatcher tried to fly through glass Holding his body here, I cry How can what's dead return to life? Hurricane levelled ancient oaks Heart turned to granite rough and cold, How can what's dead return to life?

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The Legend of Our Lady of Buglose

In the upper half of the stained glass window, ten farmers, housewives, and a curate, with their 1620 clothes, look at each other and look down into a large hole. One farmer leans on his hoe with his right arm, points with his left hand. He points to the bottom half of the window: golden brown rich earth hovers and falls away from what it has contained: large painted statue of the Mother and Child, crowned and throned, stolid as Chartres. In the lowest left corner of the window, large horned ox, golden brown, crouches in profile. His tongue licks earth from the Mother's arm. The tour guide tells us that 13


a farmer, in 1620, alerted by the strange attitude of his beasts, discovered them digging up the statue. It seems that she'd been buried in 1520, during the Wars of Religion. The villagers didn't want to give her up to destruction. Container within a container within a container, licked clean by cattle. Licked clean by cattle.

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.Named after Saints. Holographic Holistic Hagiography Sounds like Hag Geography The mapping of Hags around the world, Hags I have known Hags I’ve only read about But this is Hagiography the photography that makes you say Gee! Not hags, but saints, and those Named after saints. Monica, model of worrying mother Martin , patron of the torn cloak Rose , rubbing pimento into her perfect skin Anne- in Leonardo’s sketch, huge earth mother with legs like tree trunks, Like the bed made out of the tree, the castle built around the bed in the Odyssey Saint Hopkins, reporting every sunset, Saint Merton, still falling in love Lucy, with her eyes on a platter Lucy with her eyes on the assembly line chocolates John the Baptist and Frank the Methodist And Marlon the Method Who can tell the population of heaven?

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.Aquero. I read the Song of Bernadette when I was ten, read it again and again, the girl so cold in the February grimness, her bare feet on the stone floor of the house Going out to the grim grotto where they dumped all the soiled hospital rags , all the garbage of Lourdes. At the deepest hollow, the other girl appeared, robed in white, just the same age as herself, smiling and beckoning. In the Song of Bernadette, she called the vision The Lady. In the real story, she called the girl Aquero. Much too disturbing a name for general distribution. Aquero haunts me white and flickering in the grotto in my darkness.

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.Ndaba Sibanda.

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Soulless Souls Is this a leaderless society where pariah antics are a specialty? No moral standards to talk about No regard for lives except for the worshipping of money and madness Where hooligans make a mockery of people and peace

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Hymn book Mnmm that opposition man Maybe he is on a pay roll Many people take with a pinch Of salt his politics of patronage He seems to be singing from the Same hymn book with the bullies Could he be supping with the teasers? Criminals` stern warning we view this crime in a serious light we would want to see severe action taken against those involved in petty crimes yes, those who can`t ply our trade in a professional and profitable manner we want to see stern action taken so that it may send a serious message to other criminals that any untoward behavior will not be tolerated Celibates The couple who renewed their wedding vows is parents to son and daughter called celibacy and secrecy respectively

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Retirement Villages Is their absence not somehow loud and ear-deafening? No decent retirement villages in Africa? Who will write some sort of face-saving memoirs when those who should be are busybodies? It is one thing to deal with those who are agile and innovative and have a soul. It is another to have to contend with soulless geriatrics who have run out of ideas. They are not short of a sick proclivity to play dull antics of backwardness and nastiness. Dealing with the nasty mischief of funny faddy daddies is an awkward mission and a half. A lizard`s health hazard for they esteem not the sanctity 25


of life and choice. They sit and talk nothing with nobody like nobody`s business. They fool themselves that they are still in vogue yet they are in denial. They have gone past their sellby date and should just consider a date with retirement. Where are the retirement villages in mother Africa? Where is the fresh air? Where is the vision? Dilapidated faces.

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The lighter the better give me a dose of gags to ripple my ribs with laughter glee can free and be lived too for life needs something lighter.

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.Hisham M. Nazer.

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I, Adam: the Man Who Simply Ate a Fruit Hisham M Nazer (15th June, 2013) I shall fly to the dark Where wolves don't cry And owls don't hunt And the mountains don't scream With their enormous silence. I shall be lost in the labyrinthine woods, In their denser darkness, In the chaos of filth and fair Searching for the forbidden fruitThe true one that will throw me into the place From where I was thrown before By a heavenly prank, irrecoverable. I won’t be tricked this time By the central deception That led to the entire burlesque Of a loosely planned plot; I shall not be tricked this time By the countenance only And won’t leave without this question“If this be the tree of knowledge And if this is the fruit of good and evil, How is it sensible that I should fall For the self-same wisdom essential For the sensibility which, your words promise, Will lead me back to you?” 31


I’m Adam, of twenty first century, And I read in books about how Just you are And then my tragic history, Recalling in mind not a single event! So, show me the fruit, Show me the marks of my teeth, Let me taste it again and see If I fall any farther, or If I fell the tree, That spreads its roots in our mind Deceiving it from an Original Deception! I have seen enough drama, My palms ache applauding, (If that’s all you want!) Now end this and be afraid of your own plan, Be afraid of the end you yourself have designed For when the moment comes, When the drama ends, Remember, before the audience The dramaturgist has to bow, And then, I promise, I shall not rise, Nor shall I applaud. -15th June, 2013

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Revelation 22:22 2nd October, 2013 Is some magical revelation at hand? Perhaps I chanted Blake's 'O for a voice like thunder' Unwittingly too many times, Only to conjure the moment That made me watch a movie I brought months ago The one that mentions some magical order And the four horsemen. The light goes out unusually in this fine weather, The rechargeable light dies too, Revealing a strange face of a familiar room And leaving few frightened fingers hopelessly trying To light a hope and relief. But, only a heavy darkness, with hints of demons in the air Lurks around and licks the room. And even though my heartbeat rises I keep staring at the dark In some enchanted expectations. As if I myself want to see something Shaping out of the shadows. Probably magic is fear, the fear of the unusual. As you start sinking in some chocking dread And as your heartbeat rises more, 34


You finally start seeing things. You, this time though do not enjoy, but suffer magic, And believe what's not there at all, And fear what's thereYour own imagination, A shadow- a ghost of you.

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Towards the Words Hisham M Nazer 29th May, 2013

Google it! ‘Cause it’s a poem about Words Or a Word. Grab a Merriam Grab anything you have! Or you may simple ignore the sources And divine the meaning instead! You will find, what you shall know already! In the music, in the murder In the euphoria, in the eulogy In the grand and in the grain, There are words. Everything is words in disguise. The woman you see in the street, For the mathematical dysfunction of moments, Or for a prophetic pattern in numbers, Is only a beautiful 'word', Or perhaps only a melodious echo and equation in the mind Of the word 'beautiful', That solves all the perplexities of so simple a sensation So simple that it’s almost unexpected. The sudden encounter has no meaning 36


Only the face is meaningful, ‘cause it’s a word And you have just rehearsed your vocabulary And have turned ‘one word wise’. Or the dog you see in the alley And suddenly feel like fleeing away from it, Is a word, or maybe two words (but words!)‘Teeth’ and ‘bark’. You feel like a cat. ‘Fear’- the word, is your puffy tail, And ‘run’ is your action of folly. Whatever, the trees are also full of them, And a tree is one word, a verbose of leafy alphabets. It sheds letters in autumn days, And the poets merely pick them up And press them inside the leaves of books. Also the buildings, we live inside words, And if you climb the storeys quietly you will see The bricks have piled up into a different story From the one you just left, or the one you will leave. It’s up to you whether you like wandering or not, But if you are unwilling to read the bricks The corners, the stairs, the skylights and the shadows, Probably you will have a favourite word, Or only a bunch of them. Probably you will say the same thing in all the seminars! Like this, this world is the draft of an epic written by a fine poet. That's why if you simply rephrase a story Which alone is not that bad, Work on it a bit, galvanize, equate, 37


You may even come up with a conclusive story of your own And call it your own epic! You may even decipher all the encrypted stories Some written in crumbled papers thrown away in the streets Or in the basket- the vestibule for the unwanted. And if you are so good at it, in rephrasing And, well, in masterful plagiarizing, If you have read a lot of these words in disguise With the details- all the alphabets and then the stories, Who knows, you may even find the poet, Who hides behind these words, Who too is a word, Was a word in the beginning And some say- will be just a word in the end!

(Published in Στάχτες - Greek Literary Review)

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The Blasphemous Furniture Hisham M Nazer 7th December, 2012

A room full of furniture No longer existent As time penetrates into the room Making us the fish who Know not where the ocean is And transforms what was Into what it has been, By stirring the images And letting them dissolve into Our gabbing consciousness Until the en-soi and the pour-soi Pour each other completely into each other And into many, indiscriminately, Until all that are distinct turn into A shadow of one single shadow Suspended in the air In the name of ‘perception’— For the sake of saving a day Or not to be called an ‘abnormal’ Perceiving not the abnormalities of this world

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And after gnawing everything Time penetrates into our sinewsSlowly drugging and dragging us To those identical lanes Flooded with the lights of Identical lamps, around similar faces Only different with different names For the sake of a name yet to be made And call it- ‘inheritance’, Making us The furniture of this world So full of furniture New and never new, With them wedded the ‘was’ But as time dies and resurrects No longer existent For the Name that is above all Beyond any perception, Therefore equally nothing Because anything that cannot dissolve, Anything that cannot stir and be free By the presence of its stirring dullness Is just a fiction, a word or at best A meaningful impossibility. (Published in Shwibly: a Magazine of the Arts and Cuib-nest-nido: REVISTĂ INTERNATIONALĂ DE CULTURĂ Şi LITERATURĂ)

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An Echo from Bethlehem Hisham M Nazer 18th November, 2012

The nightingale sang the night And an echo, inside an echo Became more echoes Until they all turned to the sky And turned into the sky stretching Mountains of noise, Bass and treble traveling Beyond the mountains of silence Where no darkness of the beak Can sing and pour out the night Can create again What was created before timeSilence left by the echoes, Deep echoes of pretemporal silence‌ Some other nightingales too Somewhen somewhere else— Perhaps in the coast of Galilee, Started singing And under such a beautiful burden Under the rock of a sky Under the rock of images, Broken memories of broken ages 43


I heard the nightingales singing: Benedicta tu in mulieribus Et benedictus Et benedictus fructus ventris

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Ventris tuae, Jesus. Ave Maria Ave Maria‌ Ave‌ Ave Maria‌ Unheard, tired, echoes turned red, Red in petals Petals of rose, danced and rose Trembling, thousands at a time, Murdering each other inside each other, Murdering and murdered, Kissing my eyes with their edgy petals, Mesmerizing my nerves with their crimson nails Licking my mortal shape raging in rebellion With their thirteen thousand thorns! The entire sky fell upon me To be the diadem of my head And with such a burden I rose Inside the roses. Before I could smell the foggy fragrance, Oh the murdering beauty after murdering beauty Became me, wriggling in frenzied agony, Agonized by the beauty that after turning into what I was, Turned me into itself. Three thousand and thirty three roses Were pinned by their own thorns to my body, 45


And when looking up I cried, The tears fell back upon my ashes, And from my ashes was build a home, Where I do not live anymore‌ Seek me in the petals in stead In future seek me in the rise, in the rose In the fire that burns within you And deludes you into hearing me. Today I am only an echo Born in the beak of a nightingale Still singing and conjuring the nights Of a broken Bethlehem.

(Published in The Art of Being Human: an Anthology of International Poetry)

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.DJ Tyrer.

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The Human Condition

The human condition Is one of self-abuse: We inflict spiritual pain Upon ourselves, then Beg for The Lord’s forgiveness.

(Previously appeared on The Messianic Poetry Corner website in 2000)

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Bad Touch Somehow the faithful Delude themselves, Insert into their eyes, The biggest beams about, Blinding wilfully, Their moral vision. Somehow hierarchs, Delude themselves, Convincing themselves, That revelation, Is bad for their Church, Despite proclaiming confession, To be good for the soul. Somehow priests Delude themselves Allowing lust To overwhelm their faith Alone with children In the sacred dark Of the confessional. Somehow the children Delude themselves Believing they deserve it That God’s punishment 51


For their uncertain sins Was that bad touch From the man they trusted A godless Man of God.

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That Supernatural Space That supernatural space So beloved of believers And sceptics alike Conceals a multitude of lies. For one side The supernatural allows faith Placing claims beyond examination Beyond the need for doubt. For the others The supernatural allows dismissal Placing claims beyond examination Beyond the scientific pale. That supernatural space Does not exist No matter how handy it is To those uninterested in truth. If something exists Even if it is beyond understanding

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It is real It is in the empiric space. To accept or dismiss With a sophistic term Is to abdicate thought Embracing foolishness.

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.Norman Church. By DJ Tyrer Built upon a Saxon foundation To impose power not pious faith This once-impressive medieval creation Stands less stone than wraith A millennium of history Yielding to changing ways That attendance dropped is no mystery No-one seems to come these days Trendy vicars come and go Each more relevant than the last Each more skilled at putting on a show Each lacking the certainty of the past And as the fabric around them crumbles Onward to irrelevance the clergy stumbles

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.Religion.

Lost souls seeking God Preferring comfort to truth Ritual to faith Anything to fill the void Rote acts rather than true faith

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Vivid

Divine encounter Vivid if subjective sight Life-changing event

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.Debbie J. Embrey.

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The Bible When I read the Bible on a daily basis And I didn't fail to miss a single day, I had an inner peace like never before And again, I long to have it that very way. When I read the Bible on a daily basis I kept the truth close next to me ~ever needing, I am just thankful that reopened my eyes And went back to God Instead of lurking in a world of the misleading. When I feel truly at ease and oft I do I can write for Him and express myself that way, He speaks to me, and I just write it all down It's so simple; I wish you knew Him today.

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No Tears in Heaven

Many nights I've laid in bed and cried Sometimes I think of my Lord crucified, Other tears I've held throughout the day Tend to fall due to some failing dismay. I just know that when time comes at last I'll be able to put all my troubles past, I shall stand before my Lord and rejoice As I shout and sing in my loudest voice. Yes, tears have fallen during time on earth Much sadness and pains I've seen since birth, But as I face my Saviour, I can forget fears Cause I know that in Heaven there are no tears.

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Without His Love Once I was without peace or knowledge of the true meaning of the word 'love,' but then He took my hand and led me to the cross that leads to Heaven above. I walked down a strange aisle from No Man and had my heart set just on one thing, and once my head was raised from there I knew at once I was a child of the King. Without His love I was just a wanderer someone traveling in desolate land, belittled and unhappy without hope I felt like no one, yet every single man. But then He came into my life -a stranger an innocent person at the time was I, but it was different from that moment on for without Him I knew I could die. Without His love in my life I was nothing I had no one I could give my heart to, but He made a difference that I'll not forget and forever thankful, Jesus, I'll love you!

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.Eric Mwathi.

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Aphorism Acts that are blasphemous today, Are righteous on another day.

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Zeus (from the Sonnet sequence to the Muses) I.

It can’t be easy being a mom or dad,

Especially, when you’re in charge of nine, With gifts, such as the ones the muses had, Poured in the verse of bards, including mine. The children, guardians find hard to control, Are those quite gifted, in so many ways, Their parents feel too dumb to play the role, Of making them do what their guardian says, But then it also makes them feel great pride, To watch their daughters prompt the smartest men, To use the verse forms in ways that are wide, And charm so many readers, with their pen. I’m sure their golden sorrows might incline, Even the gods, like Zeus, to drop a line.

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Black Psalm I prayed and prayed and still you did not hear, My voice that called to you so loud and clear; I prayed to you, when it was late at night, Into the mornings when the sky turned bright, Then I had long waited for your reply, As my eyes had desperately looked up high, And still you never came as I went through, More suffering; to me such pain was new. I prayed verbally and I prayed in verse, Just like a prophet praying away a curse. I prayed for work and also prayed for fun. I prayed the way mom taught me as a son, And still I long waited for some reply; Waiting in vain, so I’d bitterly sigh. No one, but I, was going to help me through, This suffering that simply had been new.

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Before the Fall Man must have been corrupt before the fall, To make him eat from the forbidden fruit. If Adam wouldn’t have touched that fruit at all, Some criminal would have walked by to loot, Those things that God had said we should not eat, And think the thoughts he said we should not think. If God remade the world we’d still repeat, The sins that made him think that we all stink. If humans whom God made, had been good, We wouldn’t have done bad things in the first place, Some evil must be in a man, who would, Steal from his God, and lie him in the face, All man is evil. He was made that way. No fruit shall be made to carry the blame, For any evil that he did or say, Since he did what his nature made him do. Envoi If man had never disobeyed the Lord, He must have thought of doing it for some time, When being in love, quite anxious or quite bored, For no rational reason, cause or rhyme.

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Πέτρος (Petros) I. They call me Simon, though my name is Peter, And write a lot, but I was not much read, Mark talks of me, in texts, but writes much neater, Such as the Gospels, that were widely spread. Mark likes to quote that time, I walked on water, Because Christ had assured me, that I can, Before it felt like I was getting shorter, Then saw I’m drowning in a short time span, My family is made of special people, Such as my brother, a disciple too, Compared to me, this brother is quite feeble. I’m shocked at how mature my brother grew, Since I denied my saviour in this town, Please crucify me when I’m upside down. -Taken out of the Crown of Sonnets on the Twelve Apostles.

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.Jolene Paternoster.

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Sunday

I walk in late. I sit in the back alone. Without my grandmother. When she begged to die, no one heard her. Now, when I come here, I get mad at God. And I am afraid that she is watching me from heaven and knows that I’m not sure that I believe. Worse, I am afraid that she was wrong about the whole thing. That she is simply gone, like the water left in the baptismal font, the water that evaporates

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because no one uses it to make the sign of the cross. "Reprinted by permission of VerbalEyze Press."

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.Part II: .Prose Fiction.

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.David-John Tyrer.

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Redemption By DJ Tyrer “Open up in the name of the Lord!” There was a vicious hammering at the door as if it would be battered off its hinges. “Coming! Coming!” Aymer knew exactly who it was banging on his door. It was Prior Radbert on the hunt for heretics. The Prior was just one of many servants of the Church roving the Languedoc intent on restoring the true faith to pre-eminence. Upon opening the door, barred against the night, he found the Prior flanked by two of his black-robed monks and followed by a pair of armed and mailed menat-arms. The Prior’s face was twisted in a peculiar expression of zeal and excitement. The two monks’ expressions, insofar as he could see into the shadows beneath their hoods, were deadly serious, those of true believers ready to do God’s work no matter how difficult or unpleasant. The two soldiers, on the other hand, had the blank, unreadable faces of men here to do a job they had done many times before, no more and no less. Probably, they were here solely for the love of money, not the love of Christ and his Saints. “How can I help you?” Aymer asked them, standing squarely in the doorway to block them from just barging in. As an ex-warrior himself, he knew how to keep his own face blank. His expression wouldn’t betray that he knew exactly why they were there. “We are searching for two heretics: an old man with long white hair and a young woman with unusual green eyes. They are Cathars and they are here in this town. It has been said they may have come to your door. If you have seen them, you will recall them. Are they here? Have they been here? Do you know where they are now?” The questions came in a volley like a hail of arrows at the opening of a battle. “Tell us all you know. Conceal them and you shall surely suffer.” The Prior paused and looked eagerly at the veteran. “Well?” he prompted, when Aymer didn’t immediately answer. “No, I haven’t seen these people and there is nobody here, except me.” “Are you sure? I have been told they came here.” “No, they haven’t been here. I am alone here. If you would care to search my home, you will walk away satisfied that I speak the truth.” “That we shall,” Prior Radbert responded, calling his bluff. Aymer stepped aside to allow him and his men inside. Aymer felt quite confident that they would soon leave with no evidence that he’d been untruthful with them. Having sworn no oath as to his veracity, he was happy he’d committed no sin in lying to them. 83


*** Three hours earlier, there had been another knock upon the door of Aymer’s abode. “Please, help us!” exclaimed a young woman with distinctive green eyes, accompanied by an old man with a windblown mane of white hair. “We need shelter – we are hunted!” The moment she added that final word, he was certain that he knew who they were: clearly no brigands, they had to be followers of the odious heretical sect of Cathars or Albigens. What vile twist of fate had brought this strange pair to his door, he had no idea. Aymer’s immediate response was to turn them away: he wanted nothing to do with the Devil’s creatures. Yet, the pleading tone of the woman’s voice stayed his hand from slamming the door shut. Yes, they said the Devil could take the guise of beauty and purity, but could the Evil One really appear so innocent? He really couldn’t believe so. She seemed genuine. He stepped aside and let them in. The young woman smiled and thanked him warmly. The old man’s thanks was terse and his attitude prideful. “Thank you,” she said again as she removed her cloak and crouched beside the fire. “My name is Alis de Bruys and this is my uncle, Hugues Perfectus.” Perfectus: The old man was one of those who had undertaken the ritual of Heretication, or the Consolamentum, as they termed it. Aymer knew only the vaguest of details about the rite; he had heard it was most often performed on those close to death due to the strictures it imposed upon those so perfected. It was said that the Perfecti were required to live lives of celibacy and denial far stricter than required of monks. He thought calling yourself ‘perfect’ required a certain arrogance, which doubtless explained the man’s haughty demeanour. The woman, although clearly of good breeding, was far more the image of humble Christian womanhood. Although the woman seemed perfectly decent and the man was doing nothing other than standing stiffly behind her, Aymer watched them warily. It was impossible to live in the Languedoc and not hear of the saintliness and good deeds attributed to the Cathars, yet it was equally impossible to be unaware of the myriad crimes, evils and deviances laid at their feet, and he couldn’t help but wonder what they might suddenly do. “There is no need to fear us,” Hugues commented, reading his expression. Alis de Bruys laughed at the notion, then added, “It is we who must fear, for you hold our lives in your hands.” “But, why? Why come to my door?” “You are not unknown as a good man,” she replied with a smile. “A fierce Crusader for your faith who has fought the Saracen with vigour and protected pilgrims without thought of reward. You are known for giving alms and for your good deeds. Whilst you might follow the Church of Roma, you have the heart of a follower of the true Church of Amor.” 84


“I do not consider myself a good man,” he told her, “I have many penances to make before my conscience is clean.” “A good man never believes himself so,” Hugues told him, despite the incongruity of calling himself Perfectus. Aymer chose not to question the point. “The tenacious Prior Radbert hunts us for our crime of refusing to recant our faith and bow our knee to the false Bishop in Roma,” Alis told him. “He seeks to save your souls,” Aymer corrected her. “He seeks to destroy us...” *** Her words were uppermost in his mind as Aymer watched the Prior and his men search his home. As much as he wished to believe that the Church had only their salvation in mind, the enthusiasm with which the Prior sought his prey, coupled with the threats he aimed at Aymer for not handing them straight over, made him wonder. “They aren’t here,” one of the soldiers said, bored. He probably would have been happier had they been ordered to ransack the place. But, without firmer evidence, they had to treat the veteran with a modicum of respect. Aymer allowed himself a slight sigh of relief; it looked as if they had got away with it. Unfortunately, it seemed he’d seen success too soon. Suddenly, one of the monks called out that he’d found a trapdoor: Aymer had thought he’d concealed it perfectly beneath a chest, several casks, and rolls of fur. Still, even though they had found the trapdoor, the two Cathars were hidden down below and he remained confident that they wouldn’t be found. Still, he moved closer to where his old battleaxe hung from a peg in the wall, just in case. The Prior shot him a look that told him that his indulgence had worn away. Now, Aymer could only hope that his suspicious grew no stronger. The two monks climbed down into the small cellar and began moving barrels of salt beef about in a futile attempt to locate their quarry. Being above, Aymer couldn’t know what happened next, but something gave the pair away. He’d concealed them behind some loose boards in a small recess where he kept a few valuables brought back from the Holy Land. He had thought it undetectable, but once more had been proven wrong. Alis and Hugues were led up from the cellar. The young woman looked scared and Aymer couldn’t blame her, having heard of the tortures devised for the purification of the heretical soul. The old man maintained his aloof, arrogant attitude as if his seizure by his mortal foes was but a mere inconvenience. Radebert was exultant. “Recant your false beliefs and your suffering shall be brief. Hold fast to them and you shall suffer mightily. And, as for you,” he turned to Aymer and wagged a finger at him, “you shall suffer, too.” 85


“We do not fear,” Hugues told the Prior, even if that was not entirely true for his niece. “Do what you wish to these ephemeral illusions that are our bodies, but we will never betray our God and the true salvation He offers.” “Heresy! Vile heresy!” Radbert spat at him, striking him with his fist. “Take them outside!” Aymer knew he had to act, if only to save himself. Having taken the two of them into his home, no matter how unwillingly, he felt he could not just abandon them to their fates. He seized his axe from the wall. “Kill him!” the Prior ordered, rather limiting his options. The two men-at-arms drew their swords. “I don’t want to kill you,” he told them, hoping he might be able to bluff his way out without more bloodshed on his conscience. But, the Prior was gripped with bloodlust. “Slay him! Slaughter him! Gut him!” He was practically salivating. The two men advanced warily, swords ready. With a sigh, Aymer leapt forward. He’d thought he’d left his life of violence behind beyond the sea; the horrors he’d experienced – had inflicted – in the name of God in that land of unholy hatred haunted his dreams even now, so many years later. But, whilst he’d thought he’d left violence behind, he’d not forgotten his skills nor had he ceased to train with his axe. With practised swings, he cut the two men down with ease. Too easily; he felt disgusted with himself for taking the lives of Christian men as casually as he might have slaughtered a pig. At least with a closer-fought struggle, he wouldn’t have felt like an executioner – a butcher. “Murder!” shrieked the Prior. “Vile murder! Surely you shall perish for this crime – and certainly your soul shall burn in Hell for slaying loyal followers of Christ!” He crossed himself. “The sign of the Cross will not avail you with a tainted soul.” “Silence yourself, Prior, and release them, or there shall be further deaths upon my conscience.” “I will not release these heretics to further allow them to pollute the Body of Christ with their lies and lewdness!” Aymer stepped forward, axe in hand. “You may not pass!” Radbert told him, interposing himself between Aymer and the captives whom the monks continued to hold tight. “Fair enough,” said Aymer with a shrug. “I pray Christ judges you less harshly than I would.” And, he raised his axe and brought it down upon the Prior’s skull, splitting it with ease. “May God forgive me,” he murmured as the Prior tumbled bloodily to the floor. Now, Aymer turned his attention to the monks and Cathars.

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“Let them go, I would rather spill no more blood this day.” The two tonsured men looked at one another nervously. “Are you willing to die for your dead prior’s obsession? I would contend he was no true man of God...” Cautiously, they released their hold on the Cathars and fled into the night. “We’d best go,” Aymer decided, feeling weary: weary from exertion, weary of conflict; weary even of life. “They shall surely fetch others and come for us.” He began to gather what few possessions would be of use to him on the run. He felt a touch on his arm and turned to see Alis smiling at him in gratitude. “You have sacrificed everything to save us,” she told him, needlessly. He grunted in reply. “Thank you.” “Yes, thank you,” her uncle added, stiffly. “It is nothing that Our Lord wouldn’t have done, and I strive to emulate Him in my own imperfect way.” “But, you struck down your co-religionists...” said Alis. He shrugged. “Christ took his whip to the moneylenders,” he reminded them. “I did what I must; and, I gave those soldiers a chance – besides which, it was the risk they were paid to face – and, as for Prior Radbert, he was no man of God in my estimation. Even if he was right to hunt you down, and I am not sure he was, Radbert was a man twisted by hatred. Christ didn’t come to destroy out of hand, but to save. Even if destruction is necessary in the end, it isn’t what he wishes. He died for our sins, seeking to save us; he didn’t demand that we die on account of sin. The Prior had forgotten that...” “Truly, you should be one of us,” Alis murmured. “Or, you should be one of us,” he countered, “and Radbert should be in Hell.” “If only all were as good as you, the world would be a better place.” “I told you, I am not a good man. I am a killer, far from redemption.” “In that case,” she replied with a sad smile as they parted ways at the door to his house, “the world could do with more men seeking redemption than those certain of their saintliness... Goodbye. May God ward you...” “And, He ward you, too. Farewell.” With that, they parted. Ends

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88


.Justine Johnston Hemmestad.

89


Beauty By Justine Johnston Hemmestad

Claudia awoke before the rise of the sun, wringing her hands together in anxiety. Strands of stark black hair clung to the sweat on her face as she opened her eyes. Thoughts of heaven and of love continued to torture her heart, for she knew that she would never see a love as powerful as the love in her dream, such love was not of this place and time. She could never feel strength like his, all-powerful and magnanimous, for as he held his arms out to the crowd he seemed to command his wisdom be granted to the people themselves, from peasants in dirty tunics to the white-robed noblemen.

She shifted her feet out from the blanket and stood upon a Persian rug, her sheer purple nightdress flowing behind her with each step she took toward the open window. Not a single person stirred in the abandoned, stone-laden streets of Jerusalem, no one that she noticed from her tall palace room, and only a few candle lights flickered in the windows sills below. In spite of that, the scent of freshly baking bread lingered in the air, for the townswomen were already hard at work. Odors of the sheep nearby mingled with the warm scent though, turning her stomach and reminding her of the reality in the moment. But here, leaning against the palace stone window, a soft breeze whisking through her hair, and the morning dew abiding on the leaves of a bordering Tamarack tree, she felt strangely comforted by her dream.

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Her vision of the man had been beautiful; for his brown hair flowed to his shoulders and was tied by a thin leather strip in the back of his head as two thin clumps of hair on either side were braided and hung free. A crimson robe draped his tall, lean, strong body, and the breadth of his outstretched hands filled her with peace and contentment. The men and women who listened to him speak fell to their knees in awe, and with widened eyes were to hear his earth-shattering voice again. In each beat of her heart she felt the passion of his memorizing words; his depth of understanding set chills upon her flesh. The clarity that emanated from him in her dream though seemed as distant to her now as the ground was to the heavens. Somehow, she knew it was more that his words that were life-giving, for life was in every breath he took, as love flowed through his veins and dwelt in his body as though he housed a nation. And now, as she blinked her dry eyes and glanced back to a bed draped in purple, her heart ached with the strange thought that nothing she had found in Jerusalem could ever compare.

Another hour passed and Claudia had dressed before the sun slowly rose and a heavy knock on the bedroom door startled her; she took a quick breath and quickly turned to the door. "Mistress," a woman called from the hallway outside. When the door then flung open, Claudia saw the woman shove a key into her apron skirt. "You must come and see!" the maid shouted, her gray hair having become frazzled by the abruptness of her movement. She peered toward the window with narrowed eyes, presumably distracted by the cooing of two milk white doves outside. Then she motioned toward the window and continued, "The crowd seeks the governor put a man to death, the same man who has been preaching in these very streets during Passover."

Claudia’s heart stopped. She knew within the very blood flowing through her body that her 91


maid had spoke of the man in her dream. "No," she softly uttered. "You must return to my husband at once with these words: ‘Have nothing to do with that just man, for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.’"

But she found herself rushing past her maid before an answer could be dealt and left the room, not to speak to her husband the governor, Pilate, but to run to the man for whom judgment was intended. She stumbled down the stairway, dashing past the gold and silver adorned banquet rooms and between the white and gray marble columns of the great entryway, as sunlight overwhelmed her outside. The morning breeze dried her tears, though they continued to stream hot, seeping into the deep purple of her gown. She raised a gold-laced sleeve to wipe her cheeks as she ran past a trickling fountain amid white and pink lilies.

Claudia stepped forth, soft slippers upon hard ground, and saw her husband upon a balcony in the distance, before an angry, wildly shouting crowd. She shook her head and held her hands over her stomach, bolting around a hill past two guards that stood at the door of a chamber. She had not seen the hill that hid the door before, for it was situated at an angle to the gardens. She had not known what in her heart had pulled her toward it.

Once within the strange structure darkness all but drowned her, and she could not help but to be confused by the many hallways and directions she had to choose from. She could never be sure of which way to turn within earthen walls. When her eyes at last grew accustomed to the dimness she could see a glimmer of light at the end of one of the hallways, and she turned into it, taking a few cautious but deliberate steps. Eventually, she came closer to the flickering candle light, her heart rising into her throat.

She curved her fingers over the edge of a wide opening, and stood in silence for a stunned 92


moment. The heavy odor of sweat doused the small room, and was mingled with the underlying scent of blood, both rancid and new. Shaking, her lips trembling, she peeked her head around the corner, and gasped with the sight of him. She struggled to breath, feeling as though she had suddenly forgotten how.

A tall man, smoothly bronzed, stood against the shadowed, earthen wall, his wrists bound together by a leather. One bruised, wide shoulder of his naked body was turned toward her, and in that moment the earth was as cold against her hands as was the chill that crept through her heart. The man's darkness was his beauty. His black hair and eyes were like velvet and jewels among torn silk, and as his gaze met hers, blood rushed to her face with immeasurable heat. His bearded chin had not turned toward her, only his sidelong, shadowed but piercing gaze; she felt so drawn to him that she found herself inching closer.

His eyes watched her with more intentness than she thought possible, for his gaze penetrated deep inside her as though to reveal her true purpose for being. She ceased her step and stood in stillness before him, as he stood, still and resolved, overflowing with confidence and courage in his unshakable stance. His eyes, though exhausted, revealed life in the dimness...she wondered from wince such life came. She had just begun to take a shallow breath when the man said, his voice deep and clear, "Now, you have come."

She drew her hands into fists at her sides, unable to divert her gaze from his, having the will only to behold his beauty. Hot, unsteady breath escaped her as she fought a terrible urge to shift her eyes, though his gaze was too strong. His lips were swollen and bloody; his eyes were allpowerful; and his breath steadily drew in and drew out. Her jaw shifted; slowly she revealed, "I had a dream."

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"I know, I willed you to have that dream," he quickly said, his assuredness stopping her heart. "You must know now."

"Know what?" she asked, her brow tight with confusion.

"What love is," he answered.

She shook her head, for a moment, uncertain. "But I do know," she said, "for I have a husband, and a family."

"You have known the love of your mind, yet not the love of an unadulterated soul."

Claudia’s eyebrows narrowed as she confessed, "I do not understand."

The man, his tired shoulders slightly hunched, gently explained, "An unadulterated soul is a soul that knows only love, a soul that knows no fear. You knew true love in your dream, unhindered by fear. Believe in that love; never allow fear to rob you of it."

"Yes, but..." she began, glancing downward as though into her doubts.

"Questions come only from fear. Love will be smothered by those questions - but only if you allow it to be. Your heart has the power to see clearly and to be delivered by the truth, in love."

Her eyes drifted over his bruised and bleeding body in the hope that beholding him could soothe his sores. Slowly, she raised her hand and ever so lightly touched a deep, bloody gouge in his right shoulder. Her fingertips lingered over his ripped flesh, moist and red, and her heart 94


ached with love for this man, for the soul she saw when she gazed into his eyes was the soul of the man in her dream. She was moved as her duties as governor’s wife had never allowed her to be moved before.

He flinched with her touch, only slightly but in a very human way, and stared into Claudia’s awaiting eyes. "What do you want me to do?" she heard herself asking, as though still in her dream. "I will do anything for you. Ask it of me."

He seemed to search her eyes before answering, "Whatever you do will be as I have asked."

She blinked, her mouth ajar, curious about he meant. She turned, for heavy footsteps came down the hall toward the cold room. She filled with fear, though her fear was tinged with hope. "Please," she quickly told the man, "come with me now, away from this. You do not deserve any of it. I can get you away. I know the way to freedom, where you will not be found."

"No," he said firmly, "I must choose a different freedom than what you offer."

"But they will make you suffer more," she pleaded as she gripped his wrist.

"Did you learn nothing from your dream? To love is to suffer. There can be no other way. How could a person love in truth, without first learning the courage that is found only in suffering? Courage is love, and courage is the truest path to love. If love is with courage it will never be extinguished, for it will always remain powerful. Courage is the secret to conquering fear. Courage is your angel."

She turned toward the hall, squinting to see soldiers among clinking swords and armor as the 95


man beside her gently pulled his wrist out of her grasp. A torch flame grew nearer as the earthen hallway became alive with dancing shadows and stomping sandals. In another moment she was able to see the outlines of three Roman soldiers, their short tunics and overlaying leather armor draped over their chests and thighs. She bit her lip; her loose hair whisked in a gust of wind created by their entrance.

"Mistress," one of the soldiers said to her as the other two approached the captive man and clutched his arms on either side with the threat of harming him further clear in their hardened grimaces, "you must return to your husband."

She peered toward the naked man, who had been shoved against the wall, his back toward her. The soldiers braced the man’s arms against the wall. Claudia shook her head in defiance, for she knew she could never leave the man of her dream alone now; she straightened her back, strengthening her limbs and leavening her gaze. One of the soldiers snapped a leather whip in the air; she saw by the shimmering in the candlelight that there were shards of glass affixed to the whip. The soldier stepped closer to the man of her dream.

But she ran toward him, gripping his back tightly and closing her eyes, wincing as one of the soldiers shoved her out of the way. The soldier who held the whip drew it back again, this time toward the man's back. Claudia winced with agony, for she felt his pain as though her own flesh had been invaded upon so savagely. Blood trickled from the man’s torn wound. He remained still though, even as he was struck again and again. She could not see his face but her heart was wrung so tightly that she could no longer bear it. She screamed and rushed toward the man in her desperation, flinging herself against his back and wrapping her arms around him, her hands pressed against his hot skin. She felt the tired muscles of his body like his weariness was hers.

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The man tried to turn his head and meet her eyes. "Go," he commanded her, "you must go."

"I will not" she asserted and held onto him tighter.

"Mistress, I do not know who you are but you must go," said the soldier with the whip, "or I will be forced to throw this whip whether you try to protect him or not. My orders are clear - let noting get in my way." She did not move. The soldiers huffed and grunted. She closed her eyes tightly and winced with the pain she expected to feel, though she did not leave the man. "Then this was your choice," the soldier growled. In an instant, the air was cut and a sharpness struck her back as she had never felt before, a sharpness that seemed to strike through to her heart; she wondered if she had been cut in half. She heard nothing...and time stood still, then she felt the man shake beneath her body. She opened her eyes and felt the tears streaming down her face, and wondered if she were truly alive. In that moment, she felt weakness overcome her body and she began to slump, though she did not fall.

The man she clung to turned, his face glistening with his own tears, and yelled, "Go away!" His entire body shook against hers. Still, she could not move. Her feet were heavy as though stones were tied to them.

She was abruptly and tightly yanked away by her arm. From the corner of her eye she saw a glimpse of one of the Roman soldiers, his face grim and desolate of emotion, as he steered her out of the room and drug her down the hall and out of the building. She was forced and shoved by the soldier, who had thrown a scarlet cloak over her shoulders. Moments later, still lightheaded and in a daze, unsure how she had arrived, she stood beside her husband upon the judgment balcony.

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She glanced over her shoulder. Pilate stood...a man of minimal, crow-like features, a man without courage. Her stomach turned, for the sight of him now revolted her. His white robes had never appeared so dingy, his face had never seemed so distorted and lifeless, and the hands he held toward the crowd who cheered for him had never looked small and weak. He was without courage, and therefore he was without beauty.

Her heart stopped and blood rushed into her face, for the man who was brought before Pilate, before the judgment stage, was the man whom had been held in the chamber, the man of her dream. He was cloaked in royal purple now, a crown of thorns having been placed upon his bloodied and matted hair. His eyes though, were as clear and as sharp as when she had seen him in her dream, and though she could not bear to listen, Pilate indeed condemned him.

That afternoon Claudia was at last able to leave her husband’s palace and run into the same stone laden street that she had looked down upon from her palace window. The man was forced to walk to his death with a burdensome, wooden cross supported on his back. She stood on the side of the road, cloaked as a commoner, among limestone houses and women clothed in tattered dark blue tunics as he stumbled down the street. She listened to them cry, wailing, as scattered pigs and sheep slipped in between them.

The moment in which she watched him struggle to step forth was long. He stumbled over pebbles in the road, his body worn, dried blood caked upon his skin. He no longer appeared alive, for his dark gaze was distant. His hair clung to his face, his bare chest was torn and bruised and his loincloth barely draped over legs that may break with any force. But he raised his chin and turned his head toward Claudia as he passed by her. His eyes met hers; her lips parted, for his gaze possessed the power to humble her with pure understanding. He stumbled again, this time falling to his knees as the cross he carried slammed to the dirt with a puff of dust. His head was 98


lowered, though his jaw remained strong.

She bolted into the street and crashed down beside him, clinging to his waist and wiping some of the blood and sweat from his brow with the sleeve of her cloak. "Why are you doing this?" she asked him, shivering, chewing on her lower lip.

"For the same reason that you ran to me in the prison... you were more than you are, or will ever be. In that moment," he breathed, "no one compared to you. By your love you have become great, and by your love you will be brought by my side in Heaven." He stood, but she stayed on the dirt, hunched and silent, as he was forced to his feet by a Roman soldier with an imposing sword. His voice filled her heart though, for he said without looking back, as though to her soul, "Love has made your heart strong, so strong that you will always be beautiful to all those who behold you. Your beauty shall never fade."

Claudia knew that his love had given her the power to survive the rest of her life, and her love for him had been enough to make her immortal, as he himself was destined to become.

The End

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100


.Ndaba Sibanda.

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Of Tikoloshi and the Translator Monday It is a dream come true for Sipho Mbongolo. His prayers have been answered. ……………… “Sipho, as a matter of interest with whom are you staying in Old Magwegwe?” Madam Mumba is relaxing on a gold-coated garden chair; her back is fidgeting as if itchy, or as if resting on something pricky. So short are her lacey shorts that Sipho’s eyes are magnetically riveted to where her huge legs are joined together in a union of fat and flesh. The sight simply drives Sipho’s poor heart into a series of emotional jerks. However, playfully, mischievously and slowly, she launches light but lively kicks on the lap of Sipho, whose chest in turn vibrates breathlessly as the hormones run riot. “Ah…ahh…. Madam Mumba, I sit with my small father, my small mother and their children: Makhi, Mzwakhe and Sethekeli.” “Sipho, please call me Mona or Monalisa. Are your cousins friendly to you, do you get along well?” Sipho’s bloodshot eyes roll in their sockets as if at that point in time all they seek in this tempting world is to flee. “They have the stubbornness of a black millipede, largely Sethekeli who has no shame to say she cannot be under a man. She has a mouth and I always protect her when her brothers want to beat her. But she thanks me by counting for me, hey I eat too much, hey I finish everything she gives, hey this, hey that. She has a tongue too, that’s why I don’t tell her my secrets, because her chest was kicked by a zebra. She sees me quiet and thinks I have no liver to tell her not talk bad about me.” Madam Mumba cannot help laughing hysterically. “She has a mouth! A big mouth! A tongue...? Well, she abases or critises you baselessly. But what does a person who has a liver do? We all have a liver, don’t we?” “No, some people don’t have a liver. Those who don’t have the encouragement to tell you you have a mistake. I have a liver even if I see a lion, I don’t urinate with fear. I face it like uShaka!”. “You mean courage! I see, but what do you mean your cousin counts for you? You cannot count money?” “No. I can. She counts for me. Uyangibalela ukudla. She says to people I eat too much of her father’s food. She forgets tomorrow is yesterday.” Madam Mumba’s ribs are itching from a bursting of laughter. She steadies herself, before tapping Sipho in a hooking manner between his legs. The rustically inclined man draws away, batting his eye. He gasps, looks askance – much to the amusement of the teaser. She picks up a glass of wine and ungracefully some wine splashes out, dropping on her fatty neck. “Sipho, you talk of your uncle, aunt and cousins; where is your biological father? Ehmmm. But 102


before you respond to that question please towel the spilt wine on my neck with your tongue”. Sipho’s yellow-tainted teeth are bared. In fact, if he were swimming one would be forgiven for thinking that he is on the verge of drowning. He is practically gasping for breath. “My bio-o-ological father, he died five years old while the maize was kicking and the pumpkins were vomiting in the fields.” His face is a little gloomy. He adds: “It was the disappearance of luck as elders say. He, my father, didn’t like a person who doesn’t hear. His stomach was running him, running him…” “Sipho, my goodness, you’re such a fascinating literal translator. Your parlance is what is sometimes referred to as Ndenglish. I guess that even if you cannot give me a blow-by-blow account of how your father died five years ago, you’re basically saying he died while the maize plants and pumpkins were blooming or tasselling”. “Is that so?” The reply is phrased like a question. “Yes... Madam. No… Mona. Yes is that so, shuwa. Maa... Mona, I mean he was going outside fast-fast. He was carrying heavy.” “Ooh, gosh! My Lord! I think I’m getting more confused now.” Madam Mumba whimpers. “No, Madam… Mona… what confused do you have? It’s simple: Wayesiya ngaphandle. Out into the bush. Ethwele nzima, just carrying heavy.” “Okay, he had a running tummy! My goodness! What do those who don’t hear do, generally?” “General, they do bad. They don’t work what they are told to work. They have hard heads. You don’t need to see a moon or isangoma to tell you that they do bad. Same like Sethekeli; she thinks she has black because no young man will point her. We cry not for the self-doer but for the doneto.” “Oh, I see, Sethekeli must be stubborn and disobedient but whatever your opinion –men are funny creatures .They will make passes at anything, ghosts and corpses included. You’re just being hard on Sethekeli, I think. What does a moon or sangoma do?” “Madam, sorry, Mona, a moon I am referring to is not the banana-shaped light that appears at night, but an inyanga. I mean a herbal man – one who cures. A sangoma can foresee, can tell you your tomorrow.” Time tears on. Wednesday Night The urinary bladder threatens to open apart with sudden violence if he does not respond to the call of nature right away. Sipho slips out of the bed, rushes towards the door, hits against the door frame and curses, “Demedi!” Common sense orders him to put on the lights.The lights uncover one thing: he is wearing a tattered undergarment. He does not care a dot because he is alone. He slips into a pair of purple trousers – and races into the toilet. Inside the beautifully painted small room, he feels for the zip. “Demedi! Where is the damn zip!” The zip-it is the other way round, at the back! He struggles with the waistline, hitches the trousers down but, no, the urine is irrepressible. Tremulously, he navigates his human hosepipe to face the toilet pan – but it is already too little too fast… There is a desperate whirlwind inside him. It is spurting out, making the floor messy and cloudy. The short bursts of the coloured watery waste have made an emergency landing on an exclusive imported tapestry of the quilting products. Like an efficient scrub-man, he fetches the scrubbing cloth, sorts out his mess, sighs a sigh of a fireman who has stumbled and fumbled before putting out a raging fire. He walks along the passage. 103


At Madam Mumba’s door, he hears some noise. Mumba dreaming aloud! Dreaming? Soliquising? He places an ear on the lockset. “I care for you.” (An inaudible sound). “Yes, I confess I was going out with that Minister but… (An inaudible sound). “Please… Let’s not dwell on that issue. You killed him out of jealousy, now you suspect I am going out with that …” (An inaudible sound) “I won’t shut up! I don’t have a crush on him. He is just my… eh…” (An inaudible sound). Sipho says to himself: I am convinced that Madam Mumba is arguing with a boyfriend. Hmmn… so she has a boyfriend after all. Anyway, she is only human. Once on his bed, he recalls everything. How last Saturday he met Madam Mumba in a salt queue, his speechless admiration for her high-class car. How a naked man burst into the queue and started fondling the backside of a plump woman who, on discovering the presence of the mentally challenged man, took to her heels like her body was a mere feather. How they talked about the incident and the endless queues, ending up discussing the sad state of the economy, and how Madam Mumba was prepared to dig him out of his financial mess by offering him a job as her bodyguard. How they later weaved their way through the bustling crowd into her gleaming car. Then on Monday, at what appeared like a billionaire’s evening party – at the Mumba residence, men and women who drove the latest and most expensive cars, spoke on the trendiest of cell phones and wore immaculate designer suits converged, wined and dined. They spoke English, danced in an English way and even sneezed in English – or so it seems to Sipho. He remembers one silly man with an elephantine neck who gave him a glass of wine, and when he told him that he was a teetotaler and a member of the Zionist Bakhonzi Beqiniso Church, he called him a stupid, rustic pumpkin who did not know that Heaven is on earth. He also has a vivid picture of a lady who told him squarely: “I love you boy. I’ve gold and silver. Gold is my first name. Fun my second. Bodyilicious my surname. What more can a soul want? Those who have had the privilege and pleasure of rubbing shoulders with me have confessed that I uniquely nurture a soul’s heart and body like the earth’s axis is on my palm. Run away from this portly pig, Mumba. I would pay you more; give you my everything, boy. My body oozes love and more love for you. Your body, oh boy, I feel like licking you up like a chocolate bar.” He remembers his response: “I appeared for my wife sometimes ago. The go-between asked for a fire. I paid the open-themouth money. I will pay the suitor be-known money. Sorry, besides in my culture, a woman does not smoke or point a man.” The smoking, swaying and over-embellished woman unleashed f-prefixed obscenities at him. She called him the most unintelligent, rural, backward cat she had ever seen before reeling away and kissing a man who could easily be her oldest grandson. He is now half-asleep. He hears some patting sounds from a distance, but finally he drifts into sleep. He has a grandparent of a nightmare.

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Thursday morning “Madam, me thinks there is a witch here?” “What?” “Me thinks there’s a witch who’s doing rounds and sounds here.” “Sipho, get this clear, I hired a bodyguard, not a witch-hunter, okay?” “Sorry, madam, but I’m made to see in my dreams as a Zionist…” “Antiquated nonsense! Whether you’re a Zionist or Satanist I don’t bloody care a whit. Stick to your job description or else…” That is it. Madam Mumba is bad-tempered today. She is a flooded river. Maybe her boyfriend rubbed her the wrong way. He too probably drives a stunning car. He must be one of the billionaires who were at the party. Madam Mumba is now dazzling in her dress. She drives away. Thursday afternoon Sipho is trimming the hedge. He wonders: when will I start body-guarding her? He tries to hack off a green leaf but the floppy folio dodges the cutter! He is shell-shocked. A shrieking laugh is heard. The source cannot be seen! Then he is pelted with small stones! He runs for cover in his room. Shiver holds his legs captive. He puts on the lights. His heart is full of pounding boulders now. A sub-human creature enters… ”Nkosi! My God!” He is screaming with a fear without ignominy and confines. “Mfowethu, don’t panic. I won’t hurt you. I’m Mkhulumanothisa. I live here.” The child-like voice is peppered with a swishing streak. Mumba’s bladder betrays and belittles him. He wets his tattered pant. The hobgoblin sneezes, sending out a yellowish, smallish and circular fluid across the room. It patters on the ceiling. Sipho’s world is now a tremulous den of the unknown. Small wonder he releases some squishing sound that gets the back of his trousers vibrating. “Don’t worry. I won’t harm you. In fact, I’m disappointed with lady Mumba. She won’t get away with it. I brought her all the fortune she flaunts. Now she wants to get rid of me. Shat day she served me with salty relish, yet she knows in our clan, salt is an allergy. I read the mind. She forgets shat. Now she has left for Chiredzi, to seek a muthi man who will wipe me off the face of the earth. Yeppee! No! Nowayzshee. How narrow-minded!! Kill me? Never! I killed her meddling minister boyfriend. I will kill her too if she continues running madly like a nervous fool trying to castrate a burly bull with their bare teeth!” Sipho almost melts into fear itself. Finally he summons enough courage to ask: “So you has a wife like us people?” The awe-inspiring 40 cm-long creature with a lengthy beard, rolling eyes and a hairy, whitish rugged skin replies in a low but child-like voice: “I had a girlfriend who also worked for Mumba. Coz I’m a blast furnace in bed, the maid left in a huff. But me thinks she was already pregnant! Coz I`m a sharp-shooter! Shen…hhh…How can I put it? Shen, Mumba had no choice but to hook up with me. Needless to say Mumba and I are an item. And I’m a jealous man. So velly jealous shat you don’t mess with our relationship by hook or crook, day or night and live to see another day. Forget.” Sipho finds himself posing another question. “How did you make Mumba reach?” “Rich, you mean? I loot. Yes banks, factories, stores, mining concerns, you name shehem – I raid. 105


I can sheeleep with a man’s wife in his presence, on the shame bed. Shat me.” Though a watery coldness slithers down his legs he manages to ask another question. “So Madam Mumba will point the house where there is beer?” “Yes, shat woman will taste my wrath. They don’t call me Ntokoloshi for noncing. Now take shis and disappear. You did not talk with me. You did not see me, is shat right? You disclose, you’re dead. Shat me!” Sipho cannot believe it. A suitcase filled to the brim with crisp notes! He walks past the computerised colourful gate. With a trembling joy, he hurries on, his horizon characterised by the diminishing grandeur of the house and the snowballing mysteries therein. ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. If this is not a dream… if these are real notes… If… he wanders. ———————————————————– Glossary Small father: uncle Small mother: aunt To have a mouth: to provoke people to fight you To have a liver: to be courageous To count for: to accuse one of eating too much (especially of the given food) To have a tongue: to talk about someone else (usually) in a damaging way in that person’s absence A chest kicked by a zebra: this refers to a person who cannot keep secrets or whose chest `leaks` confidential information easily To point: a direct literal translation which refers to propose love Tomorrow is yesterday: Bear in mind that whatever bad thing you do or say today will haunt you in the future (e.g You can laugh at someone else’s abject poverty today but when you are in need in future you may turn to the same person for help). The maize is kicking and the pumpkins vomiting: this a literal translation used to refer to the stage at which the maize plant is tasselling and the pumpkins are blooming Shuwa:sure Carrying heavy: Toiling or suffering Inyanga: (In SiNdebele, this term refers to a moon or a herbalist/traditional healer Has a black: a literal translation for bad luck Ask for fire: When a suitor’s delegation goes to the girl’s parents/relatives in order to tell them that a man is interested in marrying their daughter (It used to be a fiery affair, with the mediators being sometimes (initially) beaten/tossed about or chased away Open the mouth money: the money that kick-starts the above negotiations Point the house where there is beer: to be in hot soup

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.Eric Mwathi.

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A Birthday Party Chapter One “Religions should be entirely devoted to taking drink and drugs, dear Chris” said Duke, and had added, “Don’t get me wrong. Talking, from the evening we celebrated Tina’s Birthday party, in our dorm, way into the early hours of the day, about your Christian faith, has been ever so wonderful. To know your praying for my father’s weak heart and for my studies has been such a relief. It’s just that even prayer, is not quite as relieving as a good drink.” To that Chris’s eyes had moved from the flashing, and humming television screen, and had said, “I do not want to sound like I am being pedantic, but I think you have had a little more than just a drink.” Without moving his eyes from the latest episode of the miniseries based on the bestseller on the 1001 Films you should watch before you die, Duke had said, “I do not deny it. I’m totally hammered” To that Chris had tapped Duke onto the shoulder and had said, “Perhaps, I should leave you to rest in your dorm room, then. You must be dying for a nap.” To that Duke had shook his head and had said, “By all means, stay. I mean, you don’t have to stay, if you don’t want to. I’m just not tired. I should be tired, but I’m not.” To that Chris had said, “Even I should be tired, as well, having studied and gone to lectures, a Christian Union Meeting, to tea with some Christian friends, before nibbling some of the leftover knickknacks from Tina’s birthday party, I’m not tired.” After that Duke had let out a deep sigh, slouched onto the bed that both of them had been sitting on and had said, “Oh, I’m bored.” To that Chris had shrugged his shoulders, nodded to Duke and had said, “Perhaps a walk along the beach would be in order, now that the sun has finally come up. It’s too late for quarrelling families, from elsewhere, to crowd it, and the police should have chased off all the bums by now. So, it should be quite peaceful.” Then Duke had nudged Chris and had said, “Great idea. Let’s do that.” Then Chris, having not heard Duke, had thoughtfully continued,

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“To watch the Irish mist slightly cloud the wild, black, waters that come crashing down the rocks, is quite therapeutic.” Whilst slipping his feet into his tattered, and faded, white Nikes, Duke had shouted, “Hallo, Chris, I already said it’s quite a great idea. I’m a bit hungry, though. Now that the nearby Co-op should be open by now, perhaps we should go over there to grab a bight.” Whilst they both had stood up, Chris had said, “Well, I’m broke.” Slightly giggling Duke had said, “I know. I would be surprised if you were not. Of course I will treat you, though.” After happily striding towards the door, in order to open the door for Duke, he had said, “Well, thank you.” To that Duke had said, “That’s not a problem. Let’s go.” And off the two had gone outside, as Duke had breathed in the fresh air, and had happily shouted at the top of his lungs, “Hallo World!!!” before Chris had grabbed him by the arm and had shouted, “Not so loud. Other students are trying to get some sleep.” To that Duke had laughed to the point of being almost out of breath. It did not seem as though he had been laughing at anything Chris had said. It had sonly seemed like breathing in the fresh air, at the beginning of a new day, when completely drunk, had made him feel an incredible amount of joy. “I just cannot contain my joy” He had said, as he had been leaving the gates of the Cwrt Mawr dormitory, in order to approach, the Co-op, whilst stepping aside a black and rained on slip that a female, and most probably drunk student had dropped onto the pavement, for the amusement and the excitement of others, before heading to that supermarket chain.

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Chapter Two At the Co-op’s empty parking lot Chris and Duke had sat onto one of those Baton cylinders, which show motorists how far apart they are supposed to park their automobiles, sitting, devouring the bacon sandwiches they had bought from the Co-op Duke had said, “Oh, this is great.” To that Chris had replied, “Indeed, this is just what I needed, after a diet of pot noodles and 8p jars of Morrison’s curry, every single day”. Then Duke had said, “Actually, I forgot to take something for us to have at the beach.” Then Chris had said, “Yeah, I guess.” Then, after studying Chris’ solemn expression, for a while he had said, “Now, I take it you do want to go to the beach, now. You see, I do not want to go there if you don’t want to do there.” Then Chris had said, “I do want to go there.” Then, after a while of looking towards the ground, thoughtfully, Chris had added, “I just think the beach might be a little far, in your kind of state. We would have to walk all the way past Cwrt Mwr, cross the road, stride past the National Library, down Penglais Hill, past North Parade, maybe even past Baker Street, and what not, until we reach the Pear, and walk the long, rocky path, which leads to the quiet spot of the bridge. It might take forever. However if we just have a quick stroll past the homes and the fields of Penpacau, in the other direction, and maybe even head as far as Plas LLuest by the nearby horse stables, if we are feeling really ambitious, then the walk will be less tiring. We will not have to run all the way down Penglais Hill only to have to hike back up there again, afterword’s.” After finishing his last bite Duke had said, “Great thinking. I really doubt I would have been able to walk that far. Plus, I would not want to embarrass you by shouting out drinking songs past the homes of your Christian friends, who might end up sticking their heads out of the window, and see that the noise is coming from the drunken friend of their fellow Christian, hanging out with the wrong type of people.” Guiltily Chris had said, 111


“I do not know that many people in North Parade.” To that Duke had said, “Don’t lie, Chris. It’s unchristian to do so. On the way to the pub and back I always see you stepping in and out of North Parade’s houses, belonging to those super-hot students with crosses and fishes all over their t-shirts.” After Chris had finished his last bight of sandwich he had replied, “Sorry for hiding the fact, I also care about my reputation. I’ll beg God’s forgiveness for that, later on. For now, let’s go for our walk”

Chapter Three “Slow down, Chris. I’m almost losing you in these wheat fields!” Shouted Duke, when the hysterical Chris had turned around shouting, “No Duke, you speed up. The sirens are coming closer.” Then Duke had grabbed Chris’ arm until he had stayed still, almost killing himself with laughter, and saying “They’re not coming for us.” Dramatically Chris had shouted, “By steeling that football from that porch you actually committed a felony, which some fuddy-duddy wife in that house would have loved to have called the police for, in order to bring some excitement into her boring life.” To that Duke was laughing even more, before replying, “Penpacau is a working class area. Not many fuddy-duddy’s live here.” Thoughtfully Chris had replied, “That’s true. I should have gotten the hint that this was no wealthy area, as two lads, who saw me walk by here, returning from my shift at Plas Luest’s home for the mentally disabled, with those long dreads, saying, hi, babe, in a mock homosexual voice.” To that Duke had laughed even more and had said, “Homophobic humour does not automatically make them working class. However now that we have finally reached the road, let us hitch a ride from here, so the police do not pick us up” Said Duke, humorously stretching his thumbs towards a driving-by Jeep Cherokee, which Chris had tried to pull back, saying, “Stop that, Duke” Then Duke had burst out laughing again, saying, 112


“Now that the cops are after us, maybe we can hold the man hostage, and make him drive us across the Welsh border, down to England where we can assume fake identities.” To that Duke had started laughing even more, as Chris had said, “I suggest, now that the sirens are growing quieter, it will be safe to just walk back to our dorm, and hope no one will give us trouble on the way.” To that Duke had said, “I know a short cut. Follow me.” “Fine” , said Chris, and had decided to follow him, through the long and deserted path of Penparcau.

Chapter Four “Now, I could do with a pack of cigarettes from that nearby shop, we are approaching” said Duke, and had added, “I could get you something, too, if you like.” To that Chris had replied, “That sounds nice, but it depends how much you have. I would not like to bum money off of you, when you are completely broke.” Then Duke had nodded, buried into his pockets and said, “Good point. I would need to sit down somewhere and check how much money, I have.” To that Chris had said, “I do not see a bench in sight, in order to sit down on.” Then Duke had said, “I’ll just sit on this rock here. Come and join me.” After standing beside Duke, Chris had said, “No, thanks, I’m fine.” Persuasively Duke had said, “I could stand and you can sit, if you like.” Then Chris had shook his head and had said, “No, thanks. Really, I’m fine. Just sit down.” After shrugging his shoulders, Duke had said, “Suit yourself”

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and had sat down onto the rock, emptied his pockets, and dropped mountains of coins and notes, that he had squeezed into those large pockets, of his faded Denims, onto the hard pavement, as Chris had stared at the money, in amazement, when an elderly man, with slick, silver hair, a hat, a three piece suite, and round glasses had come slowly walking past the two students, as they had stared down to the ground with embarrassment, and he had said, “Good Morning” As though there was absolutely nothing unusual about their pitiful sight. “Morning” The two students had both murmured back to him, with their eyes still facing the ground, before Chris had said, “Now that was embarrassing. Here we are watching over loose change, which has been emptied out on the streets, like it was garbage, smelling booze, when a man, who would have easily passed for a butler, at the Buckingham Palace, walks by and respectfully greets us, without so much as a frown.” After Duke had begun to chuckle, he had said, “I know, even I was a bit ashamed, me. It’s quite a while since I ever felt ashamed when under the influence of drink and drugs.” After shaking his head, Chris had said, “Not many old people in Vienna, where I live, would be this tolerant.” Then Duke had replied, “Well, though I’m not much of a mathematician, given my severe dyslexia, I can only guess that there is more than enough money here for a packet of cigarettes and whatever you would like.” After shaking his head, Duke had said, “I’m fine, thanks. By the way, I thought the Marlboro you bought last time would be your final pack of cigarettes.” To that Duke had said, “When I said it was my last pack of cigarettes, yesterday, I did not mean it was my last pack ever, but just the last one on that day. Now let’s go.” Then Chris had said, “Fine, let’s go. There is nothing holding me back, by this ugly rock” as Duke had scraped all of his money off of the floor and back into his pocket, with Chris’ kind help.

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Chapter Five Whilst stepping out of the shop, mentioned, Chris had jokingly said, “You do not happen to have found a lip print on those cigarettes the shop keeper sold to you.” To that Duke had said, “No, I don’t. Let’s go.” Tightly Chris had grabbed Dukes hand, before he had said, “Surely that cashier must remind you of somebody.” Duke had shrugged at him and said, “Err-no, she does not.” With huge eyes Chris had said, “She’s just like Tina, Duke. I cannot believe that you did not notice that.” To that Duke had shrugged and had said, “Rubbish. Just because she’s a half caste too, that does not make her Tina. Besides she’s not as fat as their cashier. In fact Tina is stick thin.” Then Chris had persistently said, “That’s what’s good about the cashier. She’s not so skinny. I like them voluptuous. In fact, I’ll have her if you won’t.” Then Duke had shrugged at Chris and had said, “You never struck me as the type to chat up random women.” Then Chris had shrugged his shoulders and had said, “If I make a fool of myself, by asking her out, then that will just make the two of us” Then Duke had rolled his eyes and had said, “Fine, go in there, and ask for her number, but do it quickly. I’m waiting for you.” Chris had nudged Duke and said, 115


“I’m not sure how to tell the cashier, I’m into her.” After placing his skinny hand onto Chris’ large shoulder, he had said, “Fine, I’ll show you how to chat her up, if you repeat these words after me. First you must tell her, hi.” In a deep and unnaturally manly voice, Chris had said, “Hi.” Then Duke had said, “No don’t say it like that. It sounds creepy. Say, hi.” In a very high voice Chris had said, “Hi.” Then Duke had shrugged his head and said, “Now, don’t say it like that. You sound all fruity. Just say hi, in your normal voice.” Then Chris had said, “Hi.” Then Duke had said, “What are you doing today?” Then Chris repeated, “What are you doing today?” Then Duke had said, “Do you want to go out?” Then Chris had said, “Do you want to go out?” Then Duke had said, “So, you tell her that right now and see how she responds.” Then Chris had said, “Do you really think she’ll agree to go out with me?” Then Duke had replied, “You’ll never know that, for sure, unless you ask her, and speaking of which, here is some loose change, with which you should buy something. That way it looks like you have a reason for actually re-entering the shop, aside from your dying to get into her pants.” After letting out a sigh, Chris had said, 116


“I cannot believe that someone half a decade younger than me, like you, is teaching me how to chat up girls, but anyway, I’ll be right back.” Then Duke had said, “Good luck, mate”

Chapter Six When pointing at the Co-op, the two had been approaching, Duke had said, “Perhaps another bacon sandwich, from that Co-Op, might help you get over the rejection from that cashier.” To that Chris had stamped his foot and said, “I cannot believe that a cashier this fat, could afford to be that picky with men.” Then Duke had burst out laughing and said, “Like you said, as she will be celebrating her eighteenth birthday, today, perhaps she would feel a bit uneasy if you, a complete stranger, would turn up to it.” Then Chris’ eyes became completely huge, as he had said, “Now that you mentioned it, I forgot to ask her if she had time to go out on another day. The fact that her birthday is just one day after Tina’s, the former object of my attraction, might be some sort of sign that we are both meant to be together.” After grabbing Chris’ arm, Duke had moaned, “Don’t go back to her. That’s just being desperate.” So after staring at each other for a while, Chris had replied, “Good point. Let’s go” Both lads had then continued to walk towards the dorms, when Duke began to shout, “Daylight Coming’ me want to go home!” Then Chris had grabbed Duke’s arm and had shouted, “What is it about the sight of those dorms that makes you want to sing at the top of your voice, all the time. Can’t you see that there are other students that are still trying to sleep?” After Chris had opened the front door of Cwrt Mawr, with his house key, let Duke in, before following him up the stairs, to where they both lived, Chis had stopped Duke and had said, “Hang on, Duke, I have an idea. When we enter the dorm, why don’t you run up and down the corridors, shouting like mad, so all other flatmates wake up? That should teach them to blame it all on me, whenever food keeps missing, and shrugging their noses with disgust at 117


everything I cook. Plus you will surely get a laugh out of the whole thing, being in such an intoxicated state of mind.” After Duke’s eye brows darted up with surprise, he had placed his hand onto Chris’ shoulder and had said, “I never knew a good Christian like you could be so vengeful.” With a broad grin on his face, Chris had said, “What shall I say, in the Bible it says, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” After both had smiled, Chris opened the door with his house keys, let Duke in, entered his own room, stripped to his boxer shorts, and entered his warm bed with a broad smile, as he had listened to Duke running up and down the corridor shouting at the top of his lungs, as irritated flatmates would run out in order to tell the raving drunk Duke to shut up. By that time Chris, in his warm bed, had silently muttered to himself, “Revenge is mine.” After that Chris had slowly drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Seven “Come in!” Duke had shouted, in response to the knocks on his door, on the following evening, before Chris had entered his room and sat beside him, on the bed, and faced the TV screen, that Chris had used to play FIFA 97 on his second-hand Play Station. “Hey, Chris” Said Duke, and then added “Tell me what you have been up to.” To that Chris had said, “Well, today, I went to lectures, made feeble attempts to study, and bought some pot noodles with the change you gave me to buy something, as I chat up that cashier. When buying the noodles at the Co-op, I saw that middle aged brunette, with the white bowler hat and apron, from whom you bought those delicious bacon sandwiches from, laughing as I went by, since she remembered when you staggered inside of that supermarket, roaring drunk, with me, yesterday. Anyway, now you tell me what you have been up to.” Then Duke had said, “Well, I just woke up. Anyway, tell me what cashier you are talking about that I gave you change to chat up, and which girl it is, from whom we apparently bought bacon sandwiches from?” Then Chris had shrugged at Duke and had said, 118


“Don’t tell me, you do not remember the walk we had taken last night, and all the embarrassing things you did on the way.” After pressing pause on the video game, Duke had shrugged thoughtfully and had replied, “I just remember attending Tina’s birthday party, drinking not more than the large amounts of alcohol I usually drink, before you had perhaps turned up at the end, when my memory began to get all fuzzy. From that point, I do not think I remembered anything. I hope I did not do anything outrageously terrible under the influence of the booze and what not.” To that Chris had shrugged his shoulders and said, I do not think so. You were no more drunk than usual, when I found you, at, what was left of Tina’s birthday party. When everyone went to bed, we got into a religious debate, which had lasted into the early hours of the morning. Then you converted to Christianity, told me of some concerns in your life you wish I could pray for, and then we went for a walk and back, in which you kept doing embarrassing things on the way. Surely you must remember some of what had happened that I just talked about.” To that Duke had shaken his head and had said, “I do not remember a thing of what you say I did. Right now I am just wondering if I really will go to heaven, now that I have given my life to the Lord at a time that I was too drunk to remember doing it.” Jokingly, Chris had tilted his head to the side and had said, “I do not see why not. Even though you might have not remembered giving your life to the Lord, I take it that God would still recall the account, if he was sober at the time. In the worst case scenario, you can call me to witness your conversion, if God tries to wiggle his way out of letting you into heaven, by denying you ever converted.” After thumping Chris onto the shoulder he had said, “God forbid I should be damned to spending all eternity with that guy.” To that Chris had laughed and said, “You never know, Duke. The booze might be free of charge, in heaven. Anyway, enjoy the game. I’ll fix myself some pot noodles, and when I come back maybe we two could play a game together, or something.” To that Duke had said, “Sure, anytime, is fine with me.” Then Chris had exited the dorm room, as Duke had continued playing his video game on the Play Station.

The End 119


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The Tram Stop “Excuse me, sir, perhaps a copy of these, might make your wait, a little more bearable” said an old man, who had sat between an old and new passenger, pointing at the old one with a huge stack of Watchtowers his hand, before the old passenger had smiled and looked away from those magazines and had said, “Oh, I know those. My niece reads them.” After returning the smile, the man with the magazine, replied, “Yes, but perhaps, you will find this copy especially interesting, sir. Surely even at your age, you must be asking why the world is the way it is.” After laughing again, the old passenger had replied, “ “It’s those darn politicians, my friend. That’s why the world is the way it is.” After returning the smile again, the old man, with the stack of Watchtowers, had turned to the younger passenger, and had said to him, “What about you, Sir, you look like quite a clever chap. Surely especially people as young as you must want to know why the world is the way it is.” To the young passenger had returned the old man’s smile and had said, “I’m not sure what it is, about the world, that you do not like, sir.” After the old man’s previously friendly face had begun to turn into a furious one, the old man had grunted, “Oh, don’t give me that, young man. I can tell a man who is no stranger to suffering when I see one. Surely you know all about what I am talking about when I speak about the troubles of this world.” After shrugging his shoulders, the young passenger had replied, “Suppose a copy of those magazine could tell me of the reasons for all of the world’s problems, I would want to know what you lot are going to do about it, now that you know why life stinks.” After rolling his eyes, the old man had said, “You should be the one to be thinking about solutions to the problem. After all, you are young. You have strength. An old man like me cannot do too much. Hell, it’s a miracle I even got out of bed this morning.” After shaking his head the young passenger had said, “That’s not what I meant, mate. I wanted to know what your Church or you’re Kingdom Hall or whatever it is you call it, is going to do about what’s messing the world up, now that you know what it is. Surely you must have some sort of plan on what you want to do about it.” After a sigh and a short silence the old man had said, 121


“I am not sure what you mean, by a plan.” Then the young passenger had replied, “Well let me give you an example of that. First of all, you are right about the fact that I have stared despair in the face, if you know what I mean. Even a psychiatrist is helping me deal with it. However every time I go to the shrinks, there is this transgendered person, a transsexual, who keeps handing around, outside of that doctor’s practice. Actually there are two of them, who hang around there, but there is always this one, who is always there.” After lifting his finger, the old passenger had said, “Oh, I’ve met her. She’s all glamorous and stuff.” Then the young passenger had shook his head and had said, “Well, I would not say that she’s glamorous. Yes she has long, blond hair, a pink blouse, a mini skirt, and these little, pink, shoes, and with a ribbon attached to them. However, I would not call her appearance or even lifestyle glamorous, at all. In fact she seems to be kind of hard up, if you know what I mean. A bad limp always makes it hard for her to walk, that never seems to go away. Whenever she opens her mouth to talk, she can never even manage to string a sentence together, and always rummages inside of the frigging dustbins outside of the doctor’s practice.” After shaking his head, the old passenger had said, “It’s bad enough to be some sexual minority, without being this dirt poor.” Then the old man, with the Watchtowers had said, “Be that is it may, I take it that this odd story of yours has nothing to do with the literature that I have to offer.” After shaking his head, the young passenger had said, “Here is where you are wrong, since if you imagine that this tranny would one day turn up at your house of worship, having heard from someone that you are kind and all that, and care about the world, and that you like to attend to those in desperate need of help, I am curious to know about what you would do about this man, this woman, this she-male’s condition.” After looking utterly flabbergasted the old man had replied, “We’re not a frigging charity, for crying out loud!” After rolling his eyes the young passenger had said, “You see, this is what I do not like about people like you. You meet every couple of times a week, discuss what is wrong with the world, but don’t do anything about it. One of the few religious people I ever respected was a Major, from the Salvation Army, who helped the needy as well as preach. A woman with a child and a black eye had walked into our Bible study, saying she needed a place to stay and a train ticket for her son, to go to his grandparents. The Major allocated her a place to stay, for the night, until a flat was allocated to her, and a ride home to the son. At another point I had let it slip, that I had only lived on 8p curry, from Morrison’s, and cheap basmati rice. The Major immediately fetched me some of the stash, from the groceries he would normally gave to the homeless, and did not accept any payment. He did not want to hear 122


of it. He had actually acted upon his faith. He did not just talk about it, and I wish more of those so called godly people would be like that.” After rolling his eyes again, the old man had said, “Whatever the point of this story of yours is, I take it has nothing to do with whether you want those Magazines or not.” As the tram had arrived and both laughing passengers had stood up, to enter it, the young passenger had muttered, “For goodness sakes, that’s all you people ever think about, namely the stack of magazines you keep trying to dump onto people’s laps, so you can brag about it before your god.” On the passengers went, entering the tram, number 5, leaving the old man, still sitting in the tram stop, gaping at them with his Watchtowers, with his mouth wide open.

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Crash “Oh, I see, the child of darkness is watching TV, in the dark, again” said the mom, to her son Tracy, as she had switched on the living room lights, sat onto the antique chair, that had been moved besides the couch, on which Tracy lay, as Tracy’s eyes had moved from the Television towards the mother, in a slow and irritable manner, and had said, “Repeat what you just said, if you do not mind.” The mother had fetched out a tin of beer, from out of her Gucci handbag, balanced the tin between her knees, as she had opened it, and it had made a loud chuck, sound, before she had just shrugged her shoulders and, taken a deep gulp of the beer and had said, “The lights were off. That is all I said.” Then Tracy had shook his head and had said, “ No, I want you to repeat everything that you had said, just now, when you had walked into this room.” Then the mother had carefully placed the beer down to her feet, taking care that she does not spill it, before she had shrugged her shoulders again and had said, “I don’t know what your problem is. Perhaps you should not watch so much TV, seeing that it has clearly fried your brain and made you so argumentative.” To those words, Tracy’s brows had darted up with surprise, before he had said, “So, you don’t know what my problem is.” Then she had shook her head and had said, “I don’t know what your problem is, Tracy. If I could lie on the couch all day, I would not know of a thing in the world to complain about, but you, strangely, seem to be all pissed off, most of the time.” Then Tracy had replied, “If your own, highly religious mother had called you, her own flesh and blood, the child of darkness, for watching the news, in the evening, like everybody else in the world, you would be completely fine with that.” After taking another deep gulp of beer, she had replied, “She’d whip me senseless if she saw me lazing around like you are doing right now.” After a sigh, Tracy had replied, “Well as my laziness gets me the scholarship that is paying your rent, to which you have not contributed to, I do not take it that this would be something your mother would be so highly proud about, when lined up in heaven, with our dead relatives watching you, not paying for the flat your only son is paying for.” After banging her fist on the armrest of her antique chair, the mother had shouted, “Don’t you talk about my mammy like you knew her, because you don’t” 124


To that Tracy had shook his head and had replied, “All I know is that no one in their good senses must be watching you with pride, as you go through my things, when I’m not around, stealing my official documents, my digital camera, and my films as you call me, of all people, the child of darkness. If I’m the child of darkness, then I just wonder what that makes you, having bummed off my earnings and stolen my personal belongings. Does that make you the child of light?” “Oh, you, shut up!” The mother had shouted. “Oh” said Tracy, “I take it that this is some sort of righteous anger, your demonstrating, which comes from the child of light, during her night of beer and insults.” With huge eyes, the mother had replied, “So, maybe I am drunk. So would you be, if you would be in my place, with three fatherless, bastard, children, like you lot are, with the eldest of all of them being a social derelict, the middle child being a pagan, and the youngest one well on the way to being a pagan too. Merciful Jesus surely would understand if I have a drink now and then, when I cannot stand the sight of you.” To that Tracy had said, “Exactly, and by having a drink, I guess you mean getting hammered every day, insulting and even cursing your own flesh and blood, before you go to Sunday service, telling the pastor how much his sermon touched you. If a sermon cannot move you to see a doctor in order to help you sort yourself out, so you do not have to come here insulting me for watching a freaking television program in the evening, I do not see why.” To that the mother had grabbed her beer and jumped up, when saying, “You can move out of here if you do not like it, or at least go to church now and then, for me.” “Oh, I’ll go to church alright” Tracie had snapped, and then added, “Since it has made such a difference in your life, after seeing you have been a drunken sap, when we had been wee little children, I can see that you are still a drunken sap, right now. I dare say, change like that cannot be natural. It must have occurred through divine intervention.” “Stuff, you!” Shouted the mother, stamping one of her feet, in a drunken slur, but then had added, “And God bless you. I’m going to bed.” “Good night, Ma” Grunted Tracie, before the mother had waved goodbye, exited the living room to stagger into her bedroom, where she could crash. 125


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.Part III: .Non-Fiction Prose.

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.Roddy Stark.

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Growing up with Alice Munro in my School Syllabus Written by Roddy stark and titled and edited by Eric Mwathi As this year’s Literature Nobel Prize has gone to the Canadian author of more than 150 collections of short stories, our resident Canadian, Roddy Stark, will tell us about growing up with Alice Munro in the school syllabus.

I once had a very insistent professor, who had made us study her line by line. Her and Nabakov. The choice of words in her stories are the finest pieces of meat cut with her scalpel-sharp mind, from the wild, rough beast of language. Short stories are a great lens to peer at the microscopic aspects of our behaviour and Alice Munroe is a peerless scientist, revealing conscious and unconscious motivations of the hum drum day today. She reveals that what we find cliché and banal is really sacred to the participant in that day. Laundry, shopping, gossip and small town life is in actuality the steps in the dance of daily life in the protagonist. The yearning to fill empty spaces in the heart. The iron in the irony of the hum drum day (pun intended). A reader may snoop with impunity on the divine light that pools in and out of our eyes, then overflows with beauty as tears. She knits with pens, threads of ink to form a warm blanket of matronly wisdom. Snug we can peek out into the world and say “Hey, I know those people! They live next to me. They struggle, fail and succeed like me. Compromise their dreams like me.” 129


In essence, Alice Munros lets us read about ourselves without shame. Each page, a mirror to gaze into.

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.Eric Mwathi.

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Political factors that affected the choice in awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature, before 2013 By Eric Mwathi

Picture of Alice Munro

After retiring in June, 2013, the Canadian writer, Alice Munro, received 1, 3 million dollars, from being at last awarded with the Nobel Prize for Literature. Surely many of us would not be appalled by a golden handshake of that size, once we retire. Whilst fans, of hers, might find her retirement too soon, considering the fact that the she is 82 years of age, others, however, might consider it high time.

Picture of Peter Englund answering questions posed by the press

As the trained journalist, and former wife of a geographer, had long hidden her literary talents, like spies hide their true profession, the world wide popularity of her short stories, had finally made her literary gift acceptable to her fellow Canadians. Especially now that she had just managed to be favoured by this year’s Nobel Committee, over literary giants, like Philip Roth, some had even shown that they were impressed by her literary achievements. As a sign of this 132


appreciation from her countrymen, fellow Canadian writers, like Margaret Atwood and Jonathan Franzen, had even congratulated her on her victory in Stockholm.

Picture fellow Canadian writer Margaret Atwood

It is unavoidable, however, to notice that this year’s nomination, for the Literature Nobel Prize, seems to have occurred without any hidden political agendas being evident, as is usually the case. Even though the leader of the committee, Peter Englund, often denies that such decisions mentioned, are ever politically motivated, but are strictly awarded on their literary merits, I strongly disagree with his claim. It cannot be avoided that China’s delaying the transport of Nordic fish into its borders, until it has rotten, as well as denying visas to important Nordic citizens, out of anger over a Chinese dissident winning the Nobel Peace Prize, two years ago, was the reason for awarding last year’s Literature Nobel Prize, to the hardly known Chinese author, Mo Yan. A lot of Chinese intellectuals seem to be getting into trouble for criticising their government. Mo Yan, however, has never been very outspoken about his government’s controversial style of politics. Partly as a result of this fact, Beijing had been pleased at Mo Yan, for getting the Nobel Prize for Literature and announced a restoration of diplomatic relations with Scandinavian countries.

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Picture of Mo Yan

The year before that, while so many fantastic authors could have gotten this prize concerned, the one who had ended up getting it was an unknown poet, whose only advantage over writers like Cormac McCarthy or Philip Roth might have been the fact that the comparably inferior poet, Tomas Transtrรถmer, came from Sweden, where the Nobel Prize for Literature is awarded.

Picture of Tomas Transtrรถmer

Before that, literary giants like Thomas Pynchon and Ngugi Wathiongo, had the chance of winning this prize, denied, by a comparably unknown Peruvian writer, named Mario Vargas Llosa, who took out his political frustration, of not being elected president over his country, by turning from writing books filled with love and romance to books filled with political criticism of his country, similar to the politically controversial, Nobel Laureates, Orhan Pamuk and Harold Pinter.

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Picture of Mario Vargas LLosa

Those who might deny that Vargas LLosa actually had the kind of blatancy to do something like that, would surely be proven wrong when told of the anecdote, in which he had pretended to greet his literary rival, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, only to publically punch him in the face, thirty seven years ago.

Picture of Gabriel Garcia Marguez with a black eye inflicted by Mario Vargas LLosaMario Vargas LLosa

A year before, that the award had been handed over to the German-Romanian daughter of a former SS officer and Nazi sympathiser, who reacted to all the hostility towards her friends and family, in Communist Romania, which, caused her work to be praised by a lot of German citizens, long before her being awarded the prize concerned, in Stockholm.

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Picture of Herta MĂźller

It is because of the political favouritism, which often seems to influence the decisions to award those, who get this prize mentioned, which makes this year’s nomination of Munro rather special, since she had actually managed to get the Nobel Prize in Literature, despite not being very politically active. Further areas of study with regard to the Nobel Prize of Literature could include the Euro-centrism affecting the choice of who gets such prizes or not, as well as ethno-criticism and even sexism affecting such choices. In other words the Nobel Prize is rarely awarded to writers from the global south, to sexual and ethnic minorities.

A Partial Map of Europe

Further criticism, which no one seems to have brought up, is the fact that this literary prize mostly goes to writers of fiction, though more forms of expression can be seen as literature than only fiction, such as articles, speeches and philosophy, to name a few.

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After this award went to the philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre or Bertrand Russell, philosop hers do not seem to get such prizes as often.

A Portrait photo of the Philosopher and mathematician and Political activist Bertrand Russell

Furthermore After the Literature Nobel Prize going to the famous politician and orator Winston Churchill, the number of such awards going to excellent orators today is also almost non-existent, though speeches are a highly important and beautiful form expression that have not only a historical, but literary importance.

A picture of the former Prime Minister, Orator, and Nobel Laureate Winston Churchill.

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14

The most important things to take, with you, to a book sale (1/5) By Eric Mwathi

1.Fluids, Clothes, and the right Shoes At a four story, modern, library there had been a line, of literally hundreds of people, waiting to enter the area, in which an annual book sale was taking place. In this place, there had been innumerable books, films and audio CDs, on all subjects, sold for literally peanuts. This event was quite memorable. Already about 45 minutes before it had started, I had turned up, in order to wait in line, before the red ribbon, where it was to start. Five minutes before the event had started you could not even see the end of the line, with the naked eye, because the people, who had cued for that book sale had been so many. Impatiently we had all waited for the red ribbon mentioned, to be taken down, so that we could storm up the stairs to get our sweaty hands onto those items on sale. When waiting ahead of that line, with my sore feet, that had hurt from being in the line for almost an hour, my school books had been crammed into my bag pack, as my heavy groceries were in my left hand, and only left me with two Euros change, in my wallet, to be spent on books. When I glanced at other people, in line, I was surprised at how much better prepared so many people were, for this book sale, than I was. 138


While I had been dying of thirst, other people had brought bottles of water with them. While I hardly had space to place more than a handful of CDs, books, or DVDs into my bag pack, old grandpas had turned up wheeling entire empty trollies along with them! While I did not even know where to start to look for anything, that I was willing to buy, a lady in front of me, had even brought a wish list along with her, to give her an idea of what she might want to buy. This was a moment, in which I had realised the great importance, for my series of articles on the forty most important things to take with you to a book sale, of which this shall be the first one of that series.

2. The importance of fluids, when going to a book sale

In order to avoid interrupting a lovely moment of browsing for books, to find somewhere, in which you can get something to drink, it is important to take a bottle of water, or a bottle of some other drinking fluid, with you. It saves the time you might spend on trying to find somewhere to drink something, and also saves money that getting something to drink might cost you. Being too stingy with the size of the water bottle that, you take with you, can be as harmful as being too generous with the size of the bottle that you take with you. Too little fluids might leave your thirst unquenched. Too much of it, however, might be too much to carry. A litre or half a litre of water should be enough to sustain you during a book sale. It is advisable, however, that you either take more or less of it, depending on how big you think your water consumption is.

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During the night before the book sale, it might be advisable to put your water into the fridge, in order to avoid having to drink it lukewarm, on the following day. The only thing that it is worse than to have to be dying of thirst is to have to drink your water lukewarm.

3. Appropriate clothing to take to the book sale

Whilst ill-fitting clothes that are either too big or too small, might create a poor impression in a job interview, the most appropriate clothing, for a book sale, is the kind that is most comfortable, though not necessarily visually appealing. Of course dress codes vary depending where that kind of book sale is, and if it is only books you are shopping for and not a spouse, for example. In most book sales, however, your clothing can be a few sizes too large, in order to give you enough space to move, when either bending down to browse through the lower shelves of books, without risking your tearing your clothes, or when trying to stretch and reach the shelves of books that are above your head. However appropriate your clothes are, also depends on the temperature of the room in which the book sale is taking place. Thick layers of clothing are obviously appropriate for book sales in the cold weather, whilst thinly laired clothes are appropriate for hot weather.

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You might, however, dress warmly for the cold weather, in the winter, and find the book sale is well heated, which a lot are. In such cases, you must bear in mind that most of the locations, of such sales, have a place where bags and unneeded clothing can be deposited, at little or no cost, before you browse for books. This should avoid your becoming overdressed in a heated room, when trying to browse for books, and therefore feeling uncomfortably hot, in the process. Having to carry your coat with you all over the book sale, with you, or make other poor people do it for you, is not a good option either. Two hands are necessary to browse for books. Try getting past three pages of a book, with one hand, whilst clutching to a very thick coat, hat, pair of gloves and a scarf in the other, and not lose any of those things mentioned, and you will most probably find it is not so easy. When browsing for books you need both hands. A cheaper alternative to depositing your clothes somewhere, might be to just bring one big bag or trolley, for what you bought, and for the extra layers of clothing you might not need, once you are indoors, or to tie sweaters around your waste or around your chest, if you do not mind looking like an old fuddy-duddy, even when you might not be one to start with.

4. Comfortable Shoes to be warn at a book sale

The chances are great that you will spend most of your time, at a book sale, on your feet. You will either be on your feet trying to reach the area where the book sale will take place, waiting in line in order to enter one, or when browsing through books in one, and when trying to carry what you have bought all the way back to your home, in order to enjoy reading them. Some of your feet might be more used to a lot of movement than others. To not make those feet suffer more than they have to, it is important to turn up at a book sale in the right shoes. Though shoes are technically clothes, they deserve special attention in this article, because a lot can go wrong in your choice of wearing the right pair, for a book sale. Flip flops, light sneakers and even house slippers are not a bad choice for wearing at a book sale, which takes place, when the weather is hot. Even bare feet are not such a bad choice for wearing at a book sale, if you are quite bold. Bear in mind, however, that anyone wearing 141


something that exposes large portions of their feet, must watch for their toes. Having them stepped on, particularly by a tactless lady in high heels or by a stout businessman in thick Italian, leather, moccasins, is not a particularly pleasant feeling at all. Personally I think sneakers are one of the safest and most comfortable choices of shoes, I can think of, to wear at a book sale, in the summer. Though they are not the most comfortable choice of shoes to wear, at a book sale, they should be fine, if you have warn them for at least a day or more, in total, before the book sale, without those shoes either bailing on you or inflict your feet with corns and blisters. During the cold weather, shoes with a thicker layer of textiles, such as moon boots or thick sneakers, might be the more appropriate kind of footwear to have at a book sale, though it is important to bear in mind that the room in which books are sold are usually heated. Any shoe that is too hot might cause sweaty, itchy, boiling, and in general uncomfortable feet, which can spoil your trip to the book sale. As socks technically are a form of footwear too, those socks, with a thin layer, are appropriate for the summer and thick ones for the winter. Hoping to have provided some helpful advice on the drinking fluids, the clothing and also footwear to take to a book sale, I hope that you look forward to reading the next article on the subject, which will be covering the appropriate snacks, lists, and friends to take with you to a book sale.

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.Dan Snow.

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. Eric Mwathi’s Interview, with Dan Snow.

General Information What is your age, and Dan: 24. Occupation? I work as a watch seller’s assistant and English home tutor. Passions? My passions include the English language, poetry writing and reading, cycling on a weekend out with a bunch of good friends, meeting up interesting people and having long conversations with them about life and the universe, philosophy, just to name a few. I’m guilty of not knowing some of my other passions – they just erupted into my life like volcanic fire, left their imprints there and then vanished as quickly as they came. Collecting RC cars (toy ones) was one such hobby. Now I have a collection of toy cars at home with my table as a garage, cluttered with different models of cars. What country town or area are you from?

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Dan: I hail from the tiny island-republic of Singapore, essentially a second, modern Venice of the world. It’s so tiny that you might have difficulty locating its red dot on the map without a magnifying glass. I live in Pasir Ris, a tiny town off the Eastern side of Singapore.

What languages do you speak? Dan: English and Mandarin. What language was spoken at home? Dan: I was born speaking Mandarin, totally Mandarin. However, school exposed me to rather bad English, and later on society, where I strove to improve my English to communicate with as many different people as possible. What were your past publications? Dan: Oh, I was published in the Singapore American Association’s magazine first of all. They were two poems, In An Empty Seaside Café and Latte Art. Later, the same magazine published an article I wrote about the “demise” of an arts building in Singapore (frankly, such art spaces are getting rarer now than apartment blocks!). Then Stone Highway Review, a US-based magazine, published Modern Alms from me. Later, Prosaic Magazine accepted my Tiong Bahru Poems, Fragrance Magazine did “After the Haze” from me. And yours truly’s online journal, Poetry Anthology 29, which published ten love poems of mine straight. What clothing do you like to wear and are there any specific labels you favour over others? Oh… this is a question I’d rather not answer, if you don’t mind. But suffice to say I dress casually in T-shirts and jeans for normal outings, and formal long sleeves for work. As for brands… that’s a topic for the wardrobe.

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Do you keep pets and have favourite animals? Dan: I never had pets. But my granddad had a rabbit with a snuffly nose. It was cute, he kept it in a cage in the kitchen. Sadly, it disappeared one day. My relatives bluffed that they’d cooked it for dinner. I was so stupid to believe them for many many years, till I matured. Then I realized a simple truth: they could only have given it away. Or it’d died. I never asked.

Would you see yourself as introverted extroverted, melancholy cheerful or otherwise? Dan: Oh, introverted actually. I like to keep to myself doing my own stuff and shit. The world can be overbearing at times, especially the society I live in. Mood-wise, I’d say I’m deathly serious, enough to gather enough “storm” to churn up another poem from the depths of me, melancholy enough to witness leaves dropping over and over again in the months of Spring, but cheerful enough to hold conversation with anyone over a cup of tea. In fact, I make it a point to meet someone for dinner at least once or twice every week. Even amid a busy, hectic work schedule.

What food do you like to eat? Dan: I’m all for French Fries, hamburgers, green beans, Soy products, beancurd inclusive, a wellmade bowl of noodles, spaghetti, baked pasta, and many others. I’m a vegetarian, which makes my food selection rather limited. However, I’ve been a “herbivore” since I was a baby, old habits die hard, so keeping this diet is never a problem even in the scarcity of vegetarian food. 146


Family What profession are your parents? Dan: My dad owns a self-employed business as House Re-furnisher. He does his own design, is his own architect and everything. Quite an independent, and respectable man. Mom works as a homemaker, keeping a beautiful four-room apartment which she’s run for twenty years since my birth. Do you have any siblings? Dan: A younger sister, and brother in that order. Were there writers or avid readers in your family? Dan: My dad loves Buddhist, Confucian and spiritual philosophy. I grew up on these, scriptures he read to me when I was young. As a result I have a deeper philosophical view of the world, often about the transience of materialism, and life and death. Because of his teachings, I grew to see the world not in terms of dollars and cents, as per my highly economic country, but rather, artistic pursuits and more intrinsically driven items. And yes, his teachings have been the source of my poetry for many months at a past stretch of time.

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Specific Information I know I have asked you this before, but why do you write poetry? Dan: To express love. To access the deeply-hidden cache of personal feelings and spill it out in ink (hopefully not blood) for all to see. I’m an introvert, right? But DISC personality test states me as a Dominant and Influential person, most surprisingly. I was shocked at this myself. I suspect this explains why I like writing – despite the solitary act of it, I love sharing (personal) stuff with the world. Of course not everything I write is about myself. I write about the world from observation, too. And to answer your question, I started writing poetry to express my infatuation for a girl back then in Secondary One. Now I’m graduated from Secondary School, am a working adult. Because of her, I tried rhyming words, and poetry has stuck with me these many years.

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Do you write other things apart from poetry? Dan: Yes. The occasional reflection essay, blog entry about a thought toward something, the even rare prose piece from me (my prose pieces sound like diary entries of everyday events). And even rare still, a Chinese poem apart from my English ones. Are there local or international writers or poets who have influenced you? Dan: My first influence will always be Robert Frost, the man who taught me to write beautiful Sonnets, rhyme poetry, and perspectives of Nature. Later on John Keats, whose over rich imagery was overkill, and whom I lingered on for a while, then moved on. Then Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare who influenced me just a tiny bit. Joel M. Toledo, a Filipino poet who’s also my personal mentor for quite a while. He taught me the technique of line-breaking, called enjambment. And how poetry should have affect over effect. The feeling. Not so much the meaning. Because of him, I was able to put many deep, inexplicable thoughts into writing without caring so much for meaning. You know how we humans are usually logical creatures. This logic inhibits us from writing freely. Well, Mr. Toledo overcame that for me.

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In Singapore’s context, Alfian Sa’at, Alvin Pang, more recently Cyril Wong (whose book strangely still attracts me despite his more personal, mature content). Are there any writers or poets whose work you do not like? Dan: I do not like poetry over-laden with sex. Being Chinese-oriented, or Oriental-oriented in my thinking, I do favour closure over disclosure. In other words, hiding yet hinting, rather than showing outright the intended act. This is an act of maturity, I perceive, and does not corrupt the young mind as much as open revelations on something that should be kept strictly to the bedrooms. Sylvia Plath would be someone I highly guard against reading. Oh many Plath fans might disagree, and bias themselves, against me. But it’s for the sake of not corrupting yourself that I do not seek to write such abusive and wrathful content. Her poem “Daddy, daddy you bastard”, stayed with me for a long while. Oh one might argue that the negative has staying power in you, but it’s something like the F word that you need to know for general knowledge, and world-wisdom’s sake, then bury it away like a deeply-corrupted secret in you, never to show. What did you read as a child? Dan: Enid Blyton. Her fairy tales and pixies and gnomes, wizards and green-eyed cats infatuated my imagination. I wrote tales based on that, was quite the avid young writer in my time, writing 8 pages for an essay when my teacher asked for two. Ha. The Secret Seven and Famous Five were my favourite of Blyton’s. Then later on, Harry Potter, Eragon, and other novels.

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Information about your Creativity In what kind of environment do you work best, with regard to

a) The time of the days? No particular time, I’d say. More of a quiet hour where I can work unguarded and soulfully with myself. b) Whether you prefer to work indoors or outdoors? I have no specifics. Am able to work outdoors riding the bus or train or sitting on a garden bench, or indoors at my table whenever the inspiration strikes. c) Specific rooms? Pascal’s long-mentioned quiet room. d) Are there specific stationary that you prefer over others (with regard to the kind of paper, notebooks, pens of pencils you like)? It’s strange, but even with computers, I prefer writing in the old way: pen and good ole paper. I keep several notebooks just for this purpose. It helps me to feel my words better. What inspires your creativity? An event, a sudden occurrence, something I saw out in the streets or a tiny detail in something. I speak generally, as I usually do. And of course, not forgetting the more intimate chemical reactions of my heart reacting against my brain. What language do you write best in? English, English, and English. It’s the only language I know sufficiently to write in without using a dictionary for words. What poetic forms did you experiment in? Abab rhymes, 4-lined stanzas. That led to the Sonnet, the additional closing couplet. Then I tried Villanelles, couple of Rondeaus, Pantoums, and Haikus. Nowadays I don’t write in form, partly due to laziness, and partly because free verse allows me the greater span of working out my true poetic voice without being hemmed in by form. Of course, it’s an age-old argument, form or versus free verse (or non-form). But even free-verse has form, if you analyze it close enough. What is the source of your poem’s plot? None. I go along with nature, nurture a “Muse”, or just write from thin air. When do you know that a poem is finished? When I feel it’s so, days or weeks later.

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Religion

What religious views do you have? A general view that all religions are equal, and that they talk about the one God despite different ways of saying so. That all religions serve to humble man, and make him compassionate. Other than that, apart from wording differences (much like using different languages), God conveys to us the same ideals in different languages. Think about this, and you may get what I mean. How do those religious views differ from your parents and grandparents? Not much difference. My gramps were never much into religion, but praying to the Goddess of Mercy for protection and spiritualism. They aren’t devout Buddhists, so I can’t say for sure. How do they differ from your siblings? 152


Oh, vastly different. Generation pre-X is different from Generation Y. Like how the different poetic traditions differ, right? But inwardly they’re the same compassionate human beings. I’d say that largely, my siblings are more internet oriented, more self-opinionated, whereas my gramps were very traditional. How do they differ from your childhood? They lived in kampongs, had close-knit communities and marriages ordained and matchmaker by parents. Before marriage, my grandparents had never seen each other. My childhood, otherwise, is free of parental dictates and constraints. Clearly, times have changed.

If we die, is there an afterlife? Yes, there is. Buddha spoke of the Six Realms of Reincarnation, and karma. The different prophets talk of karma. Jesus Christ’s An Eye For An Eye is the return of karma, more instantaneous than some. Other karma that does not happen to you in this life, will take place the following lives. Otherwise, where is there an equal return of debt? How does someone atone for murder? He who sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed! Do you think angels, demons and ghosts exist? They all do. More intimately within our heart than the physical non-form. You’d be scared out of your wits if a ghost suddenly appeared in front of you, even in broad daylight. And yet we apprehend thieves and murderers, and sentence them no more than what they deserve. Oh yes, heaven and earth exist within our hearts, all right.

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What was the experience with the supernatural you most remember? None. I don’t need to see wind to believe in wind, right?

Questions about literature

What are the top five books you would most recommend? Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Charlotte’s Web, DH Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, Robert Green’s The Art of Seduction, and Mitch Albom’s Have a Little Faith. Name three or more books that disappointed you and tell me why they disappointed you. Oh I cannot remember any at the moment. So sorry. What writers do you personally know, what do they write and how do they affect you? Joel M. Toledo. He was a down-to-earth poet, interacting freely with everyone with no cares of his “status” as a published poet. He writes heartfelt and conversationally, in a language he created for his purpose (English of course, but his customized use of it). He also taught me affect over effect, and that poetry should be heartfelt, but not necessary meaning. This freed me up to write a lot more, as I mentioned in a previous question. The Form shouldn’t inhibit the poem. 154


How is your upcoming book coming along? It’s coming along nicely. I’m done with selecting the poems largely, just awaiting the arrangement into sub-themes.

Who will publish it? Books Actually, a local Singaporean bookstore cum publishing press. But I have no agreement with them, only a verbal exchange on this. So, I might send my manuscript out to other publishers to stand a better chance. As you know the old saying of eggs in one basket. That concept counts here, too. What are some of the names you are thinking of calling it? Singapore Dreaming, Dreaming, Reflections. I have no other titles as yet. Suggest some if you do! What is your view of contemporary poetry and poets? They lack form and structure. However, they’re a lot freer than the past poets. Name an example of good contemporary poets worth reading as well as ones you recommend us not to read? Stephen Dunn and Billy Collins for conversational poetry, the easy-to-understand ones but not necessarily so. Mark Doty for a more elevated, and often transcendental tone; Philip Larkin. Joel M. Toledo (I love his poem Brooks from an earlier collection). And definitely Alice Walker. Her easy conversational style is both affectionate and easy to understand. You’ll love her, even the nonpoets.

Philosophical Questions Are there any Western, Far Eastern or other Philosophers you read? Bit of Christ, Buddha, Confucian, Ghandi’s non-violence. I can’t think of anymore. Do you have any personal philosophies or mottos? 1) You lead the kind of life you desire. Be happy as a result of the choices you make. 155


2) Live not at the expense of another’s happiness. 3) No one owes you a living. Similarly, you owe no one a living but yourself. 4) No others shall impose upon you their thinking, or force you to lead a life you do not wish. In the same way your own ideologies are yours, and not others. 5) You have a right to defend your own way of living. However, if it is ridiculous in some sense, then you are the only person who can change yourself. What kind of work do you plan to release in the future? I do not know. This is my current collection of all the works I’ve written up to date. My better and my best works. Having exhausted my archives of good writing, I don’t know where or when I’ll compile another collection of poems. Thank you so much for your time and your inspirational comme

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.Jolene Paternoster.

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.So Be It.

"Good Morning." "Good Morning, Father." “The Lord be with you.” “And also with you.” He stands at the podium. The polished cherry wood is highlighted under the yellow hanging lamps on the left side of the church. On the podium is a Bible, hardcover and sheathed in a maroon fabric. A thin golden bookmark keeps it open to the correct page. Purses rustle, mothers take out toys; there are still people removing their coats and adjusting their sweaters, so he waits a moment before he begins. He greets us with the opening prayer and when he finishes he looks up at us, waiting for us to affirm the word of the Lord. Amen, we say. 158


When he motions for us to sit down, we sit and take out the maroon Bibles from the small bookshelves and follow along as he read to us. He reads us stories of floods and sacrifices and how exactly Eve fell from grace (she succumbed to the temptation of the forbidden fruit and convinced Adam to do the same; we know this, we all know this). He pauses and looks down at us before he continues and we look up at him. He pauses to let his words sink in and he says Amen. Amen, we say. So be it, we say. And he starts reading a new passage, and with each word we are more and more convinced. Everyone is looking at him, this portly, clean-shaven man whose age does not show on his face. There is a quiet power to his words and he is so sure of what he says and anyone that sure is worth listening to; yes, Jesus could turn water into wine and when He died He was resurrected and we promise in unison that we believe. With a motion of his hand we are standing while the curly haired soprano is singing again, and we are lines and lines of heads reaching up to hit the notes that only she can. She sings with a conviction that shows in her smile, and her eyes move back and forth over us, encouraging us to try—just try— to sing the notes. The music stops suddenly so we can listen to the Gospel, the Good News is given to us as we stand and it will save if us if we remember the words, the word of God, praise be to God. We sit again for the sermon he gives, each “t” and “d” and “p” pushed out of his lips for clarity’s sake as he moves around the aisles with a microphone, his words projected through the speakers positioned in between the stained glass stations of the cross that are labeled in Latin, a language which is no longer spoken, except for a few words that we know—we all know. He helps us muddle through the temptations of life and tells us to confess our sins when we cannot avoid them; he tells us that we can always turn to God because God will always listen to one of his children, always, even when she only weighs eighty pounds and is on a constant, flooding morphine drip. 159


Finally we stand and it is our turn to prove it, to prove that we believe. And the Holy Cross hangs above the aisle, Jesus is sculpted in bronze, the blood and body of Christ are waiting for us but we are not ready for them yet. We believe in one God, the father Almighty, maker of heaven and Earth, of all that is seen and unseen and there are always a few of us lagging behind, struggling to remember the words we should have memorized. We can always find each other because we are the ones who steal a glance upward as though we are trying to find God in the arches or stained glass windows to promise Him that we will memorize the prayer for the next week. But we turn our thoughts outward, then, and pray in unison for the sick and the recently departed, for those who once believed but no longer do, for us sinners. Over and over again, Lord hear our prayer. And it is our prayer that He hears, then, written by some volunteer or the Priest, or maybe a group of them sitting around a table and deciding what our diocese should want in the year of Our Lord—and they are all “the Year of Our Lord.” Then all is quiet as we bow our heads, all theoretically filled with the same lofty thoughts, and take a moment of silent prayer that ends with the invitation to offer peace to each other, and we do, we reach and turn to shake hands with nearby members of the congregation, peace be with you, and also with you. We shake hands with strangers and they smile because they believe too, in all of it, we smile and shake on it and promise each other that we do; we wish them peace because we know they will need it, and we will too, and some of us, maybe, remember that requiem aeternam means eternal rest which is a kind of peace, too. It is the peace that all the other prayers work towards, that eternal rest, and all the believers will find it eventually because God loves us but works in mysterious ways so we must not question our suffering when we are in the hospice begging again and again for death, and especially not when there are tubes down our throats and no one is familiar and the only prayer is a silent one. It was our moment to actively participate and each peace offering was a little bit different. But she always held me tight and I could smell her perfume on her neck as I stood next to her in 160


the pew, holding her arm for balance even before she needed me to. I don’t remember how her voice sounded as she made the offering to me, but when she offered me peace I should have told her not to, I should have realized that her cheeks were just a little bit more sunken than they should have been, when I hugged her I should have felt how narrow her shoulders had become. I should have looked into her eyes that had been bluer than that once—hadn’t they?—and I should have told her not to offer me any peace at all, to save it and start praying right then for herself and for no one else, because maybe then God would hear her in time.

*** I sit in the first row on the right, closest to the split of the aisle so that I can rise easily when they tell me to. In my purse is the eulogy, typed out in straight, simple lines that are terrifyingly different from the day itself. I do not need the script but I clutch it nonetheless, crinkling the folded paper until the words bend into each other in an almost unrecognizable way. And if I don’t recognize it, if the paper doesn’t look like the one I had taken from my printer just hours before, then maybe it isn’t mine, and maybe I just found it on the pew and picked it up. Maybe the man who always wore the plaid suit to mass had left it behind, or maybe it belonged to the man with the eight- or nine-year-old daughter who sang so beautifully, so beautifully that once my Grandmother stopped her father after mass to praise her rounded soprano voice and her devotion. But it does not belong to them because I know the words on the page. I have been writing them in pieces for six months: a phrase when my father burst out crying in the hallway of the hospital, a sentence when he told me she hallucinated two little girls hiding under her bed and fell out of it trying to help them, more still when they told me it was time, come home, but they would not let me see her and she died during the night and the next morning my mother told me that Nanny was in heaven, and all I could think was that she had said the same thing of my dog when she died. Nanny is in heaven. Petey is in heaven. Petey and Nanny are in heaven. Heaven is far away. 161


We all sit together and I think I held my Grandfather's hand. But so much of that day is inaccessible to me, and more than any other detail I remember the rain, and it's as if the rain has flooded my recollection of the day and all my other memories are floating in it, surfacing only rarely, clinging to each other and trying to wait out the flood, trying to outlive the memory of the rain. Yet the rain is the most clear, the cold, the wind, I wait for the dove that means it will end and it does not come. What I do remember I cannot see, like I am only remembering a secondhand story that someone told me once in passing, and in the following years I know I will not let myself think about today. Today everyone in the Church—everyone—is crying, some sobbing, some silently gasping for air, my mother brought tissues in her purse and my great aunt gave my Grandfather a handkerchief, my brother who had not cried in years joined them, the boss she had not seen since the ’90s, my old next door neighbor, my parents’ friends, the Priest who visited her in the hospital, the women she volunteered with, my former piano teacher who played the cello in church and used to watch us as we passed the choir on the way back from communion, when I walked beside her and held her arm so she would not fall in her Sunday heels. They were all crying; if I start crying before the eulogy I won’t be able to do it. I do not cry yet. When Father Tom calls my name, I step out from the aisle and ascend the podium on the right side of the Church by the choir loft. I am lit from above by the hanging lamps that are parallel to the ones that light the podium on the left side of the Church where the Priest stands during Sunday mass, but I am far away from it. I can see clearly the words that I have written and a few faces in the front rows, but I cannot see beyond that and the congregation blurs until it is like a large black cloth has descended upon the pews and a steady wind pushes it to rise and fall, dripping wet. I start to speak, looking out beyond the black fabric to the three doors of the Church, large cherry wood double-panel doors that lead out into the foyer, which leads out into the street, into the rain, “I’m Jolene, Marie’s granddaughter, and I’ll be saying a few words about 162


her…” And I become the Priest as I give my homily but I do not move up and down the aisles, I stay under the brass hanging lamp and hope they are listening more than I ever did, because I never told anyone, but above the front pews of this Church there are two giant arches that meet over the center aisle, the one that we carried her casket down. The wood looks sturdy and each arch has a circle cutout on the end, as though someone decided that they needed two large coasters. But yet, maybe they were the ones my brother and I used to slide across her floor, seeing who could make them move the farthest, or who could knock the other’s coaster out of the room. Either way, there are two large circle cutouts, one at the end of each arch stemming from the wooden supports that line the sides of the Church. And when they meet in the middle of the church, those two circles and the half circles below each of them form a shape that I always thought looked like Mickey Mouse. And I hope they are looking at me and not at him, that they are listening to my eulogy that has become my Profession of Faith, because I never did learn the Nicene Creed and this is all I know, and I believe it; yes, I tell them what she said to me in the hospice that day, “you and me will be fine, kid,” and I know it is true because she said it. She is fine now, she is more than fine, but it took so long. She suffered, died, and soon she will be buried and I will throw a rose onto the casket and they will cover it with earth. She has ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the father, and I never want to come back through the doors of the Church. I finish speaking and I take my place in the first pew. The soprano sings “Ave Maria” because it was her favorite and now I am crying, too, and I can mourn her like everyone else because my role is done, and whoever is at the podium now probably can’t see me. I can look up, now, and try to find God in the cherry wood arches of the Church, and I look at Mickey Mouse and try to remember the smell of her perfume.

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.Contributor’s Profiles.

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Jolene Paternoster Jolene Paternoster is a writer, editor, and publishing assistant who lives in West Virginia. Her work has been featured in Vox Poetica, and VerbalEyze Press's Young Writers Anthology. In March, two of her poems, one of which was recently awarded second place in the Morgantown Poets' 2013 Poetry Contest, will appear in the Backbone Mountain Review.

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David-John Tyrer DJ Tyrer is the founder and driving force behind Atlantean Publishing and has also contributed to many of its magazines, and of magazines and anthologies started by many other editors.

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.J.J. Hemmestad. JJ Hemmestad is currently enrolled at the BLS program at The University of Iowa, where she has taken several Iowa Writers' Workshop courses, including poetry and novel writing. She has been writing for over 20 years. One of her novels is entered currently in The Dundee Book Prize, and her poems have been published for Dead Silence, a compilation of entries into the 2010 Y-City Writers Conference Contest, Poetica Victorian Magazine (2012); The Classical Poets Society (2012); Muse, a Journal of Poetry; as well as a forthcoming Empty Sink magazine (2013). Her essays are included in The Whirlwind Review (2013), and Draft, a blog of process (2013), as well as Black Heart Magazine (2013).

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.Ndaba Sibanda. Ndaba Sibanda grew up in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. He has contributed to poetry anthologies such as It`s Time, Poems For Haiti, and Snippets and Voices For Peace. In 2013, his hard-hitting poetry collection, The Dead Must Be Sobbing was published. His debut novel, Timebomb is set to be published in the UK in November 2013.

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.Hisham M Nazer. Hisham M Nazer was born 1987 and grew up in the capital city of Bangladesh, called Dhaka, where he went to school and to university. Though most of his work is in English, he also speaks Bangla and Hindi. He is currently working on an M.A. on T. S. Eliot and Dante, which is supervised by the department of English, at the University of Rajshahi. His work has also been published in several national magazines and in international anthologies. He himself has also been a sub-editor for two literary magazines called Shasshwatiki (Bengali) and The Browsing Corner (Multi-lingual e-zine). Apart from writing fiction and poetry, he is an essayist, a spiritual speaker, a teacher of philosophy, an occasional painter and likes to sketch, due to his love for fine arts. For years now Hisham M. Nazar has been studying and teaching Western and Eastern philosophies and in his essays has tried to come up with something new, and beneficial that proves that philosophy is not dead yet.

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Debbie J. Embrey Debbie J. Embrey is a mother of three children, a stepdaughter and several grandchildren. She has been writing poetry, since age 19, which had been the very day that her youngest child was born. Like so many others she has overcome a lot of problems, which was partly thanks to her writing poetry. Especially, during those times, her motto has been that “If we stand strong, against the salvaging winds and waves, we can overcome.� Debbie J. Embrey has published poetry widely which has each left her with an 'Editor's Choice Award' certificates and finds it an honour to have published more than one poem, for the first time in her life, in this poetry anthology, for which she gives God the glory, for making her a gifted poet.

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Dan Snow Dan Snow comes Singapore and had discovered his love for poetry, when writing them to his crush, who has never seen them to this day. To perfect his writing style he had joined many writer’s workshops, before, during and after his years, of his studies at the Tamasek Polytechnic, in Singapore. Dan Snow had later become a member of the Zeitgeist Movement, and has published his individual poems twice and has even published an article. In order to see more of his work, you can visit his website, which is

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Roddy Dougal Stark Roddy Dougal Stark is from cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in Canada, which he describes as a rock, in the Atlantic, with trees on it. The people live near these trees. He had then moved to St-hyacinth Quebec in 1990 without knowing one word of French. Now he has lived in Montreal for 22 years. He says that he works children who like to throw chairs at people and tries to get them to put the chair down. He has loved doing that a lot and claims to have left a lot of people confused and let down. Though he often contributes his poetry to facebook, it has also been published on Everyman’s Poetry Journal.

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Anne Higgins Anne Higgins is a member of the Daughters of Charity. She teaches at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg Maryland. She has had about a hundred poems published, in Commonweal, Spirituality and Health, Review for Religious, and a variety of small magazines. She has given poetry readings at local bookstores and colleges, and was invited to give a reading at the Art and Soul Conference at Baylor University in February of 2001, and at the Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing in 2002. Garrison Keillor has read two of her poems on “The Writers Almanac” – on 10/8/01 and 8/8/10. She has published six books of poetry: At the Year’s Elbow, Mellen Poetry Press 2000; Scattered Showers in a Clear Sky, Plain View Press 2007, a chapbook ,Pick It Up and Read, Finishing Line Press 2008,another chapbook, How the Hand Behaves, Finishing Line Press, 2009, Digging for God, Wipf and Stock Publishers 2010, and Vexed Questions, Aldrich Press, 2013.

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The Theme of the next issue of Anthology29, shall be on Desire.

.The End.

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Secondissue  

This is the second issue of anthology29

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