Twice-yearly magazine of Literature & the Arts
Issue 22 - December 2012
Welcome to our winter issue! In all its 8 years of publication, Gold Dust magazine had never received a graphic story submission, so we were thrilled to discover the work of Slavko Mali, who has not only produced a short story for this issue, but also our cover illustration and, among others, The fly hospital by Andrew Fletcher (p19). His work is fun, yet challenging and detailed, and we are delighted to have him on board! We are also lucky to have another talented artist join us: Ann Denison, who has contributed a painted poem for this issue (p35). At the time of going to press, we are gathering submissions for our latest anthology, a second collection of poetry, both from the magazine and first time publications. The launch of the book is also keeping us busy! Meanwhile, our 2013 calendar has already been sent to the printers, making an ideal Christmas gift with its 12 carefully selected seasonal photographs and poems. As always, our favourite prose piece and poem each win a ÂŁ20 prize. This issue, Painting London Clay by Matt Plass (p20), was selected for our Best Prose award, while I The Day After Christmas II The Scent Of Father by Michael H Brownstein (p15) was chosen as Best Poem. If you have 5 free minutes, please help us make Gold Dust even better by completing our short survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Y5QR7BG
(GD magazine founder)
Join us Mailing list: www.golddustmagazine.co.uk/MailingList.htm YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/golddustmagazine
Gold Dust team
Prose Editor & Cover Designer David Gardiner
Cover illustrations Slavko Mali
Poetry Editor Dave Turner Photographer Eleanor Leonne Bennett Illustrators Slavko Mali & Ann Denison
Cover design David Gardiner Photographs Eleanor Leonne Bennett (except where indicated) Illustrations Slavko Mali & Ann Denison
Webmaster, DTP & Founder Omma Velada Proofreader Mavis Turner
Circulation Online (www.issuu.com/golddust): ca. 3,000 PDF (www.lulu.com/golddustmagazine): ca. 500
Gold Dust magazine Founded in 2004 Bringing you the best poetry & prose
1 46 48
Editorial by GD founder Omma Velada Contributors Our writers’ bios in all their glory The Back Page Gold Dust news
The Poetry Editor’s Tale Dave Turner Interview: Marie Marshall Interviewed by Omma Velada
Gold Dust playwright competition Winning play Southend by Dave Turner
Source: Eleanor Bennett
Arithmaphobia by Jon Richardson
Don’t Turn Around by Thomas Marlow
Painting London Clay by Matt Plass BEST PROSE
Sacrifice by Jennifer Foster
The Concert Pianist Isn’t Home by Claire Duffy
Worthwhile Considerations by Annette Kupke
The Father by Slavko Mali
BEST PROSE Painting London Clay (p20) by Andrew Fletcher
Source: Eleanor Bennett
BEST POEM I The Day After Christmas II The Scent Of Father (p15) by Michael H Brownstein
Seasons Moya Rooke
I The Day After Christmas II The Scent Of Father [Two linked poems] Michael H Brownstein BEST POEM
The fly hospital Andrew Fletcher
Ground Zero Gray Adele Geraghty
Robert Ann Denison
The Freight Train RC Neighbors
Never Never Never Come Back by Kirsten Irving Reviewed by Dave Turner
The Eternal Return by Douglas Shields Dix Reviewed by Lucien Zell
Just Like Always by Svetlana Kortchick
The King and I by Maureen Bowden
The Poetry Editor’s Tale Our new Poetry Editor explains how he sees the role...
s the new poetry editor of Gold Dust Magazine it seems a good idea for me to let you all know how I would like to approach this role, especially those of you who submit or are thinking of submitting poems to Gold Dust Magazine. First though I thought I would introduce myself. I am something of a Jack Ofalltrades, a consequence of a lifetime of dithering I think. I started off adult life at University as a chemist, having been passionate about chemistry ever since receiving a chemistry set at age 13. However being at University during the late Sixties, rather like Gold Dust's Prose Editor, David Gardiner, I joined the hippy revolution, went to a few demonstrations dressed up in weird clothes and listened to some weird music, such as the Incredible String Band and Roy Harper:
ment to give it its technical term) with the best of them. However one rule I never break, despite repeatedly being told how old-fashioned I am – every line of mine starts with a capital! If it was good enough for Auden, Larkin, and Famous Seamus – then it is good enough for me! All this is not to say that as poetry editor I will be looking for 'classical' pieces in rhyme and meter with conventional punctuation, spelling and sentence construction. If there is something of e. e. cummings in your genes don't hesitate to submit. Generally I prefer to read poetry that is not completely impossible to elucidate, and hope that my own work will be comprehensible to anyone who is reasonably well read. Even
“Bliss was it in that Dawn to to be alive but to be young was very heaven.” Under that heavy influence I disdained to join the capitalist world of pharmacy or oil refining and chose instead to teach in a Primary School and focus on English, Art, the Humanities and Sport as well as Science and Mathematics. Eventually though I got sick of children and retrained as a software engineer. Computers don't argue back or swear at you – just do as they’re told. My interest in literature and poetry started before then however, due, as is common, to a great English Teacher, called Harry Worth, may he rest in peace. I started to write poetry after he taught us the First World War poets, and also to try and impress a friend's beautiful sister. The sister was unmoved but I carried on – unrequited love being a good source of inspiration. Hence I have been writing poetry for nearly 50 years. THE TALE Other poets have commented that my writing tends to be rather traditional, often using meter and rhyme, and traditional formats such as the sonnet or iambic pentameter. However I don't restrict myself to traditional forms and I can write incomprehensible unpunctuated gibberish with random line or stanza breaks (enjamb4
Feature: The Poetry Editor’s Tale so, if you want to write pieces that have a strong atmosphere of mystery and ambiguity don't think that they will be automatically rejected. I think that it is impossible to define poetry. If we could, then anyone would be able to write good poetry, it is knowing when and how to break the rules that gives new work that imaginative edge and is the mark of brilliant poetry and great poets. If I can spot imaginative use of language in your poem or some novel approach to the theme you have chosen then I am sure that Gold Dust Magazine will want to publish it. There must be as many kinds of poetry as there are poets. I have no truck with poets who have told me that "poetry comes from the heart”. That it must be about feeling or emotion and move the reader. David Gardiner, our prose editor, argued something like that about short stories published in Gold Dust Magazine, and I completely agree with him. However short story writing is a different literary form and, as many argue, it is a very difficult form. Though a poem can of course be narrative it can also be philosophical or surreal or just descriptive or anything that the poet wants it to be. Invent a new genre of poetry and Gold Dust will want to promote you as much as possible.
Submit your poetry! Submit your poems to Gold Dust magazine:
www.golddustmagazine/Writers.htm Again, this does not mean that if you have gone through some overpowering life experience and have written an angst-filled piece about it it will not be selected to appear in Gold Dust. However, it will not be the depth of emotion or intensity of pain that will get it published, but the way in which you, as a poet, express that experience in words. I hope that I have encouraged the readers of Gold Dust Magazine to submit their work. I don't pretend to be a super-critic and be able to spot any brilliant new rising star of the poetry world writing in some totally original format. I love classical music as well as poetry, but the music of the late twentieth and twentyfirst centuries generally results in my hands going over my ears or my switching the radio to Classic FM. There must be some brilliant contemporary composers but I don't know who they are, you may indeed be a brilliant contemporary poet so if you get an email from me querying your punctuation or sentence construction don't give up. Have faith in yourself, keep writing and keep submitting to Gold Dust or any of the other magazines who are as enthusiastic about new Issue 22
poetry as Gold Dust is. Now to give all the potential submitters out there a better guide to what I, as the current poetry editor, am looking for, here is the Assessment Criteria I intend to use. It gives me scale from 1 to 10 with 1 as the lowest possible assessment: 1. Has a number of flaws that would require some reworking. 2. Requires a lot of editing 3. Birthday Card Verse quality 4. Interesting with some originality but needs editing. 5. A well crafted original and imaginative piece that I enjoyed reading. 6. Original and imaginative with good use of poetic language and techniques. 7. Original, very imaginative, excellent use of poetic language and techniques, Gold Dust Anthology Standard. 8. As good as pieces by published and critically acclaimed poets. 9. As good as frequently anthologised poems. 10. Good enough to be worth learning by heart for your own personal head anthology. Looking at this scale and being realistic, I would not expect to receive many rated 8, and probably not any submissions that are rated 9 or 10. You would make Gold Dust's future secure if you send us such an 8, 9 or 10 rated piece and in gratitude for being the first magazine to publish you, you let us have the copyright to enough pieces to publish a slim volume of your work. For me though the reward is not financial, I have managed to earn only £200 with my own writing, but the satisfaction of being able to share my own poems with other people who have a real love of poetry. As our greatest poet wrote: “So long as men have eyes and eyes can see So long lives this and this gives life to thee.” All of us at Gold Dust Magazine sincerely hope that we can help to make you immortal.
Gold Dust 5
Marie Marshall, author Interviewed by Omma Velada
The writer of successful poetry blog Kvennarad talks about her new novel... First of all, congratulations on landing a commercial contract with indie publisher P’Kaboo Publishers. I see from that you wished to avoid self-publishing and ‘author-subsidised’ publishing, why was this so important to you? Thank you. It might be a rather old-fashioned idea, but there is a kind of validation when a publisher is willing to back a written work. Of course there are a lot of selfpublished novels 'out there', some of which are brilliant and some of which are successful. I don't want to take away from any other writer first of all the sense of achievement at having written a novel and secondly the success of sales and downloads. I was congratulated recently by an author who has self-published all her works and has sold a lot of them, and yet she admitted, with some embarrassment, that her books were badly edited and full of mistakes. Does that matter? Well, maybe yes, maybe no. Another thing that being published commercially brings is having to deal with changes requested by the publishing house's editor, and one has to learn a certain maturity of attitude to accept them – it was an educative process for me to go through. Can you tell us about your journey to publication? Did you find an agent first, or submit directly to publishers? How did you come into contact with P’Kaboo Publishers? I quickly found that most publishing houses would only deal with literary agents and not directly with authors. The Writer's Handbook, now sadly no longer published, was full of details of publishers, and entry after entry would carry the words "No unsolicited manuscripts" or "Approaches by bona fide agents only". Of course finding an agent isn't easy either! P'kaboo just happened to be a publisher with whom my agent was in touch, and they liked the way I write, and that was that. You are based in the UK and write about Europe, so what led you to a South African-based publisher? I write about wherever my imagination takes me. These days I think that it matters less where a publisher is based. P'kaboo were prepared not only to sell 6
via bookshops in their own country but also to try to arrange printing and delivery here in the UK in the case of Lupa. And, importantly, they were prepared to launch the book on Amazon in print and in Kindle format, and as a pdf download on their own site. This mode of publishing is international, and in particular the e-Book is beginning to make inroads into print as a method of delivery - many people already predict that it won't be long before it is the main method of delivery for books. You know... I can remember when this was the stuff of science fiction, when sci-fi stories had characters 'viewing a book'... Can you tell us about the process of marketing your novel? How useful is your blog and social media? As yet, while printing is still being arranged, there have been no 'bookshop launches' either here or in South Africa. That's to come. But my agent has contacts in a couple of Literary festivals in Scotland, and with the people who run the Book Fringe at Edinburgh, and with a few other useful people here and there, so we'll see what happens eventually. The other thing I have been doing, of course, is contacting every UK magazine that does book reviews. Both my agent and I have been leaving publicity fliers on buses, on trains, in station waiting rooms, in cafes, anywhere where people might find them. As for blogging and social media, well I guess that is where my early sales are coming from at the moment. It's a slow start, but the publisher reminded me that I'm 'on a moving vessel' now, which is a great way to put it. I have details of the novel on my website – I think that's important – and I'll use the site to republish interviews, reviews of the novel, and so on. It has a blog facility, which I use from time to time to give updates on what I've had published. Occasionally I'll put an essay or a short story there - it's important not to let the content of a web site go stale. Apart from that site I have a blog where, for the past eighteen months, I have been posting daily bursts of micro-poetry; I always put a link from there to any news on the web site – it currently has a 'Lupa Button' which will activate a link to the page on my main web site. I've never been a great fan of social networking, but you have to do it.
Interview: Marie Marshall I'm on Facebook, and I publicise all my blog posts and web page updates there. I think the main thing to remember with blogs and social networking is that if you're going to ask for favours - 'sharing' on Facebook, or 'reblogging' on a blog - you have to be prepared to give something in return, to share something your friend or reader wants publicised. There is a knack to knowing how to balance things. One thing I have been discussing, half in jest, is a kind of guerilla tactic. It will only stand a chance of working if you have a book which is commercially available – a bookshop like Waterstone's isn't going to order from Lulu – well presented, and well edited, and if you're prepared to 'waste' some copies. Wander into a book-chain store and leave your book on the shelf. Will it work? Will someone pick it up and take it to the cashier? Will the cashier frown and not recognise the book? Will she notify head office and request that they put in a wholesale order? Who knows?
tion unspecified but it seems to be the Essex suburbs of London, somewhere like that. Into that school I
Your novel, Lupa, has a very sweeping scope, across time and culture. Did this feel ambitious from the outset, or was it something that tumbled out naturally? It tumbled out naturally. I knew the story I wanted to write – two parallel stories actually – and I just sat down and wrote them. I dealt with the scope of time and culture by simply putting myself there. The protagonist of each story is, to an extent, in an alien situation anyway.
thrust a group of teenagers struggling with powers they don't understand, engaged in a struggle they don't understand, with no wise Professors of Potions or whatever to fall back on, and struggling with teenage relationship problems at the same time – bullying, dating, texting LOL, and so on. I took a big risk with it, inasmuch as I essentially tell the same story three times, as it is seen through the eyes of three of the characters – there is Angela the poet; there is Charlie, a kind of boy-who-would-be-king, who tells his story backwards in time during an out-of-body experience; and there is Ashe, the youngest, a boy with borderline Asperger's syndrome, who is probably the key to the whole thing. With each account you learn more of the back-story and a little more about what is going on in the present of the book. It leaves questions unanswered, issues unresolved. There could be a sequel, but... hmm... where to go with it. As it is a response to an author who writes for a comparatively young readership, I pitched it toward the mid-teen market, but ended up with something which could be read by adults too. There are hard philosophical questions in it, but like Alan Garner I don't underestimate the intelligence of younger readers. It's currently with a UK publisher who asked to see it, and P'kaboo are also interested in it. Apart from that I currently have a new collection of poetry which a publisher asked to see, so I'm waiting to see what happens with that. I have a plan for a third novel. Some sections of it are already written and it has a working title. As it is set in the USA, however, I am having to do a certain amount of research - I have a friend who will be my 'American reader' and help me
I see that you are currently seeking a publisher for your second novel, The Everywhen Angels. What is this about, and do you have any other works in the pipeline? How to explain The Everywhen Angels in a nutshell?! I guess you could say first of all that it's an answer to a challenge. I had been arguing with some friends about the talents of... shall we say a certain Scottish author who wrote a series of books about a boy wizard... I was arguing that she wasn't as good as she's cracked up to be. Let me just say – all power to her elbow – that the author in question had easily enough talent to succeed, had the breaks, had some brilliant ideas, has a highly professional team working for her, and probably won't care about my opinion as she looks at her latest bank statement. She's a success, end of. Anyhow, my friends – all fans of hers – said if I was a writer criticising another writer, I should write a fantasy set in a school, and make it different from her stories, and make it good, or I should shut up. So I rose to the challenge. I set the novel in a comprehensive school, locaIssue 22
Interview: Marie Marshall to avoid cultural gaffes. Time is the problem, however. I'm very busy at the moment and am finding less and less time to write. I see you are also a poet, with a collection called Naked in the Sea. What leads you to express yourself through poetry at times and through prose at others? Well actually I'm as well known as a poet – maybe better known – as I am as a fiction writer. I started writing in about 2003, writing short stories – in fact writing erotica, because I felt I could do better than some of the stuff I had stumbled upon on the internet. I started writing stuff where the story was as important as the sex, and soon came to the conclusion that the story was much more important, so I entered mainstream writing. Lupa was my first work of full-length fiction – I completed it in 2004 – and it wasn't until 2005 that I started writing poetry seriously. I think that to an extent there are Chinese walls set up between the various modes of expression-by-words. I want to ignore them. I want to play around with words and see where it gets me. The blog on which I post a daily bite of micro-poetry – I keep that running to 'keep my eye in' as it were, and it has amassed more than four hundred and fifty followers, which isn't bad for a poetry blog. It helps with the social networking publicity you mentioned earlier. Actually I'm also known as a poetry editor. I was Associate Editor for Sonnetto Poesia and Canadian Zen Haiku magazines (Describe Adonis Press, Canada) which ceased publication last year, and am currently on the editorial team for a major anthology of twenty-first century sonnets for the same publisher. In addition I run an on-line e-Showcase for haiku and related writing called the zen space.
Finally, what advice would you offer other novelists and poets aspiring to be published commercially? I think I would say this. If you are a novelist and are really dead set on being accepted by a publishing house, then don't self-publish. If you do, and if you get reasonable sales, a potential publisher may well consider that the book has already reached saturation point or that the sales already made have eaten too far into potential revenue. If you are a poet, then the message I get from poetry presses is build up a constant reputation in the high quality poetry magazines first, before you even consider proposing a collection to a publishing house.
Marie Marshall’s writing blog is at: http://mairibheag.com Marie Marshall’s poetry blog is at: http://kvennarad.wordpress.com Marie Marshall’s work is available at: Lupa is available to buy from P’kaboo Publishers & Amazon Naked in the Sea is available to buy from Amazon UK 8
Just Like Always by Svetlana Kortchik She seemed to withdraw to somewhere far away...
They met in Italy where they marvelled at the sunset and gawked at ancient ruins, their hands glued together in the unrelenting infatuation of their first love. 'Marry me,' she had whispered as her lips consumed his on a deserted Mediterranean beach. 'Please, marry me. I want to be with you always.' It was the first time they had made love. Now, as he leaned on the wall in a shattered, faltering mass, he tried to remember the last. Was it in their bedroom overlooking the harbour? Had she been facing him as she breathed her devotion in his ear? And had she known that it was the end?
She loved him very much but he knew that she wasn't coming back. In her eyes, he had read the irrevocable loss of what they once had. At that moment, although still his and still so close, she seemed to withdraw to somewhere far away where he could no longer reach her. The moment he hit her, he saw their love die, in her every move, in the slump of her shoulders, in her very silence. Everything was just like always, except their marriage was over.
verything was just like always, but the instant he walked through the gate he saw that she was gone. He wasn't sure what gave it away. Was it her red Vespa that was no longer parked next to his motorbike? Or the empty space where her potted plants had once been? He had known it was coming, he had almost expected it as he made his way home that sunlit afternoon. And yet, as he stood frozen in bewilderment on the uneven cobblestones of their courtyard, he felt something deep inside him splinter and break. She had loved him very much.
by Jon Richardson Something was watching him from the wall...
o Wilkie Spender nothing was real and he had no arms or legs anymore. He floated through a land of white, where he could feel the air rake through him as he moved. The sky was crisp and smelt of books, row upon row of dark lines divided it into even strips like the marks left by rending claws. Beneath him was a roiling sea of darkness that held the suggestion of shapes, a conspiracy of forms. Crouching, serpentine shapes – a darkness flickering and whirling with numbers. Ink black, each holding a quavering, quivering strip of rainbow light. They were ink. Suddenly the numbers were on him like imps. A two, its back arched like a cobra, went for his face and the shock of the touch woke him. He still had arms; they were sprawled across a paper-strewn desk. The ghostly world of his dream was just the pages of the account-book in front of him; the horrible shapes that haunted him simply the numbers that filled the paper in regimented columns, leaning together as if hiding something. He saw the leather chairs and the amber paperweight and the brass cherubs and the little bronze plaque that read ‘Mr. Spender Chairman’. He saw the sumptuous desk, the colour of caramel, and the gleaming silver-steel adding machine squatting like a toad on the edge of the desk - its’ numbered keys a greedy grin. It seemed that more and more his world was built on numbers – around them, over them, under them – numbers that spread every10
where and into everything like a rot. There had been a time when he had loved them. They calmed and cradled him and took him to a world where everything had a pattern and fitted together with a clockwork-click. Once he could make them pirouette and perform. But now things had changed – numbers were baffling and brooding and baleful and nothing was right. Something was watching him from the wall. Slowly he turned to face the painting. It showed an elderly woman, stocky, dressed in a waterfall of shimmering silk. Seams and wrinkles covered her face like a leather shield. Silver hair spilled across her shoulders leaving precious little to struggle over her scalp. She wasn’t smiling but she had narrowed her eyes to show she was thinking a smile. Some paintings had eyes that followed you around the room – this one had eyes that boiled you to pulp. “Well Mother,” Wilkie said to the painting. “It’s official. We’re bankrupted. We do not have, as it were, a pot to pee in!” The portrait stared with unrelenting eyes. “I tried Mother, I really tried. But you didn’t leave me a sinking ship – you left me a ship-wreck – barnacled and green with age.” The eyes continued to stare. The artist had managed to capture something in their cryptic coldness – a suggestion that the real world wasn’t on this side of the frame. Spender and Son had never done well – it was a grinding, monolithic heap of fudged accounts and dodgy bookkeeping all tangled and
twisted like wild hair. Every time Wilkie tackled a problem he found three more attached to it. Everything was sad and stupid and pitiful. It was to be his legacy to drown in numbers. Mother had never been stupid or cruel but sometimes forgot that other people had feelings. The world didn’t possess anything that could keep her interest for long. She
had handled the business like she handled everything – with a laughing disregard. She was content as long as there was wine and silk, caviar and rich, expensive chocolate. The only reason everything hadn’t fallen down around her ears was because everyone was afraid
Arithmophobia by Jon Richardson though she had been ninety-five, to think that death had any power to stop her. It had taken a while for the shareholders to claim their money because it took people a while to adjust – as if they half expected her to return from death astride a great black goose. So now Wilkie was the chairman and manager, having inherited a mountain of bad debt, but no enchantment, no terrifying aura to protect him. Wilkie took a deep breath to loosen his dream’s torpid grip; he was sure, however, that it was the numbers he was breathing in. His mind was full of the thought of goblin-numbers tearing the hair from his
the Council of Creditors – serious people with pinched purse-clasp expressions – agree to suspend debts, as if they could be crumbled to dust at her signal. And then she died, in her sleep. Just like that. It had come as a shock, even
head when he became aware of a dull rapping sound. There was somebody at the door. “Come in.” A young woman entered. She was above average height but seemed to take up less space than
of her. It seemed foolish but she had a tongue as sharp as a broadsword and bitter as a broken dream. She slid into everything, and somehow knew everyone’s secrets – the kind of secrets that would shatter stars. If someone crossed her then soon afterwards all the wrong people would receive a small, handwritten message on gold-coloured paper that might as well have been an executioner’s axe. A manager had hanged himself rather than face Mother’s army of secrets. She had loaned unwisely and spent like sin but there were never any repercussions because people had been terrified. Wilkie had seen
she ought for the sake of politeness. She held out a cup as if it were a shield. “It’s me Mr. Spender, Lacey. I’ve brought coffee.” Wilkie took the cup gratefully; the drink choked him and burned him and unglued his tongue. “Are you alright Mr. Spender? The boys say you’ve been working too hard again. I’m worried, Mr. Spender.” Lacey was good at worried, her hazel eyes wide windows into a world of worry. Wilkie often worked all day and night for neither held any meaning for him. The hands of the clock on the mantel were to him an unbroken golden disc; a great nought, another number. He had never known unhappiness like it. “I’ve got this financial songand-dance routine to perform for the shareholders.” “Mr. Spender,” she said, scooping up the coffee cup, “is it true that they’ve contacted...Them?” Ah...Them. The Council of Creditors employed three debt collectors that they called the Butcher, the Baker and the Candlestick Maker. The Butcher and Baker were big men in cheap suits – grim and graceless – like gargoyles carved from meat. The third, the Candlestick Maker was different. He was a tall man, slender and deadly as a garrotte wire, and behind his eyes the blackness of a soulless man. And when you couldn’t pay your debts they came for you. The Baker might gleefully break your fingers and the Butcher might sew you inside a pigcarcass and throw you in the river, but they were nothing compared to the Candlestick Maker. He would destroy you utterly – not just the physical you, but everything that was you: your mind, your thoughts, your hopes. After the Candlestick Maker was finished the debtors weren’t so much people as shapes of people. The creditors only employed
Arithmophobia by Jon Richardson them for the most extreme cases, when the debts went beyond bad. It was hard to look a person in the eye after their debts had been collected by Them – because you were afraid of what you might see. Mother, in her terrifying splendour, had managed to keep Them at bay. After all it took time to hire Them, and in that time a pen could move very quickly indeed. What remained of the workforce was whispering that They had been contacted; they had been seen down by the warehouse, or then again maybe it had been a shadow or a trick of the street-light. Whispers had gotten into everyone’s blood. Everything is fine, Wilkie told himself. Out loud he said: “I’ve only got to finish my proposal. The board meets at ten and once the shareholders see it...then everything will be...less worse. ” He couldn’t bring himself to say better. “Are you okay Lacey?” Lacey was looking at him aghast, the coffee cup tumbled from her hand. “Lacey...” Wilkie began, meeting the secretary’s horrified stare and feeling a terrible dread hit his stomach. “Lacey ... what time is it?” Lacey looked sick. “It’s noon Mr. Spender,” she said, slowly and carefully as if testing the words for sharp edges. “The shareholders have come and gone Mr. Spender. I’m sososososo sorry but you never told me there was a board meeting today or else I’d have tried to do something. You never fill in your appointment book and it’s so hard to talk to you when you’re thinking numbers. I know you’re busy but I’m only trying to help and I’m so sorry... I’m just so sorry.” Wilkie Spender gave a short, mournful breath of a laugh that made Lacey jump. “Verdigris,” he said after what felt like an eternity. “I beg your pardon Mr. Spender,” 12
“Verdigris! I’ve always wondered why pennies don’t get that blue-green rust on them. It’s called verdigris, they’re made of copper after all, so why don’t they tarnish? And it’s because people are always touching them. The verdigris coat gets rubbed off as the pennies change hands. Every day people are holding them, flicking them, rubbing them for luck. Only the forgotten ones go green. “Well that’s people! People that do things, people that run and laugh and love with other people, their verdigris gets rubbed off. But if they are like me, they sit and stagnate and go rusty and worthless. People who live in paper and numbers! People who deal in secrets and rumours and back-stabbing!” “Mr. Spender...” “I’m right Lacey. So that’s why I want you to leave. Don’t argue. They will be here soon. Get your coat and leave the city – go to the coast, to the country, wherever, but go. Go before you tarnish. Go before they get you too.” “You’re not well. You’ve been talking to the painting again, haven’t you?” Wilkie looked at the portrait. “Mother hated her hair” “Sorry?” “It was silver you see. Couldn’t stand anything that wasn’t gold.” “She was certainly a...character.” “She deserved to choke on her Chardonnay. She deserved to strangle in her shawl.” “Mr. Spender!” “It’s true Lacey. She was just like him, the Candlestick Maker. She destroyed people’s lives from the inside out so that she could keep her cushions and her cherubs and her pedigree cats.” There was sound from somewhere, a harmless and innocuous sound, but right there and then it might as well have been the sound of a sword being drawn.
“Go Lacey, get a car, get a train. I’d give you something but I’m afraid I don’t have two pennies to rub together. Forget about me! Forget about money! Forget about numbers! Go and live somewhere and sell coffee!” “Mr. Spender, you’re frightening me.” “Really? Well the Butcher will do a lot worse. Do you fancy being thrown in one of the Baker’s ovens? Or trying to run when your ankles have been broken with rolling pins? You’ll run though, because even the pain won’t be worse than what’s behind you.” There were tears in Lacey’s eyes and Wilkie knew he had gone too far – So what? a vicious part of him thought, if she hates me, at least then she’ll leave. But no, Lacey was crying but these weren’t sniffling tears. These were tears with knives behind them. “I am not leaving here without you Mr. Spender. All day long I come in here and bring you coffee and watch you pin down numbers like butterflies on a board and you stare at me and I know all you see is more numbers. Well, there are different sorts of selfish Mr. Spender, your mother may have hoarded gold and diamonds and thought of nobody but herself but you Mr. Spender don’t think of anybody. You just think of numbers and you’re going to let those numbers kill you and if you ask me that is the worst kind of selfish. Because there are people who care about you...I care about you Mr. Spender.” There was a shocked half-second and the world seemed to turn a somersault. “Lacey...get your coat.” Wilkie said. “And mine.” He breathed in, not numbers, but the smell of Lacey and, in that instant, he gave up the ghost.
The King and I by Maureen Bowden “Eat your chips and forget him”...
ouise sighed as she salted and vinegared her egg and chips in Tesco’s staff canteen. Her thoughts lingered on the swinging hips of Deke Fisher, the Elvis impersonator, who shook her up at the Jive Time Café the previous night. Not a podgy, white flares and sequins Elvis, he was the pre-army model: mean, moody, Tupelo truck-driver Elvis. ‘Eat your chips and forget him’ said Zoë. ‘He probably looks a real dork without the wig, anyway.’ ‘I don’t care about the wig’ said Louise. ‘He was really sweet, and he looked straight at me when he sang, “The things we two could plan would make my dreams come true.” ’ ‘Oh Gawd.’ Zoë raised her eyes heavenwards. ‘You should’ve pounced on him afterwards and said, “Hello baby. I wanna play house with you.” ’ ‘Don’t mock. Anyway, I couldn’t. I was with Cain.’ ‘That loser? About time you dumped him. You’ve been threatening long enough. Don’t be cruel to yourself, girl or you’ll end up in Heartbreak Hotel.’ ‘Hah, bloody hah’ said Louise, stabbing a chip into her egg-yolk.
Tim woke from his Saturday morning lie-in. He yawned,
stretched and closed his eyes, trying to recapture his dream of the pretty girl who’d gazed at him with adoration last night. Deke Fisher could pull. Tim Curry had no such luck. A banging on the door forced him out of bed and into his discarded boxer shorts. ‘Who is it?’ he said, rubbing the sleep from of his eyes. ‘It’s Tony. Don’t worry if you’re not decent, I’m not stopping.’ Tim opened the door to his agent and gestured towards the best armchair while he put the kettle on. ‘Went well last night’ said Tony. We’re holdin’foldin’, man.’ ‘Make sure I get my fair share this time. It’s Deke Fisher they come to see, not Tony O’Connor.’ The milk in the fridge had gone off, so they drank black coffee while Tony did the maths. He handed over the takings, minus, Tim suspected, slightly more than ten percent. He didn’t argue. At least he could buy some food. It was late afternoon before Tim summoned up the enthusiasm to drag himself to Tesco. That pretty girl was still on his mind. He selected a carton of milk, some pre-packed, microwave-friendly artery-cloggers, and a six-pack on special offer. As an afterthought, remembering his mum’s orders to eat healthily, he picked a lettuce, two tomatoes and a cucumber, from the ‘past its sell-by-date’ sinbin. He was manoeuvring his way into the queue when he saw her: blue eyes with a smudge of last night’s mascara clinging to the lower lids, hair tied back in an untidy ponytail, fake tan not quite hid-
ing her freckles. Tim thought, I don’t have a wooden heart. Louise was still reflecting on the manner in which last night’s Elvis had caressed his microphone stand, when a young man pushed his trolley towards her checkout. He was medium build, with medium brown hair, medium everything really. She had no recollection of seeing him before, but there was something familiar about the way he handled his cucumber as he placed it on the conveyor belt. He smiled at her, as she scanned the barcodes and her fingers clicked the keys with the grace of a virtuoso. She smiled back. Nice eyes, she thought. ‘Twenty pounds seventy please.’ He placed his card in the slot. ‘Cash back?’ ‘Not today, thanks.’ Funny, his voice was familiar too. She was attending to her next customer as he walked away. She failed to see the lingering glances he gave her as he headed for the door with his ‘Bag for Life.’ He failed to see the frazzled mother pushing a trolley with a screaming infant perched on the baby-seat, until she ran over his toes. A lifetime’s brain washing kicked in and he yelled, ‘Ah ha, honey, lay off o’ my shoes.’ Eyes wide, Louise swung her head in his direction. ‘Deke?’ ‘He gave her a well-practised lopsided grin. ‘Hello baby.’ She fluttered her eyelashes; the way Carolyn Jones did in ‘King Creole’. ‘I’m off in ten minutes. Don’t leave the building.’
Gold Dust 13
Seasons I remember when I was a child cantering shoeless through fields Enjoying the glistening dew-soaked grass caress my toes Or, playing in the garden, suddenly alighting upon a fragrant rose Oh how I remember the joy of movement in the spring of my life. Then spring passed into summer and at seventeen I married. We were blessed with daughters, proudly watching as they grew And I basked in the sunshine of their fatherâ€™s love, constant and true. Oh, how I was favoured with happiness in the summer of my life.' But now I must learn to live in Shorter days And just like leaves falling from the tr
Each day shedding parts of me slowly by degrees now maybe I cannot
Source: Slavko Mali
But I can walk barefoot just the same And feel the dewy grass between my toes Still smell the fragrance of a rose Oh how I intend to enjoy the autumn of my life But I can see a cold, grey winter is fast approaching And knowing what Iâ€™ve lost can guess where I will be Withered by disease on the boughs of my dead tree. Yet I can be content with what has gone before Providing those that come after refuse to s ha ke like me Oh how I would wish for that to be a lasting legacy. Moya Rooke
through the fields
NOTE The Author would appeal to anyone who was moved by this poem to make a donation to Parkinson's UK: www.parkinsons.org.uk
I The Day After Christmas II The Scent Of Father BEST POEM £20 PRIZE WINNER
These are two linked poems, which together have been selected for our ‘Best Poem’ prize this issue.
THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS
She is a patient cook and her father writes an overcoat, white shirted bleached and stained, blood marked and scarred lines, under armed nests of burnt hair. The small pot of oatmeal sings, a fringe of brown sugar and cinnamon, a curse of raisins and bits of apple pie, a refrain stuck in gear, my brother and I cut from the same yard of grass.
My father a short man, thick with heavy gray weight. context, cocoa and nonconformity, every substance a different thought, every cooked smell her perfume. Michael H Brownstein
Source: Eleanor Bennett
The day after Christmas She let go of every gift heavy within her Like a gasp of air early in the morning. Ten pounds to freedom, she told her friend on a ship in Hawaii, And I feel as if most of my weight has been lifted. She was cooking oatmeal in a great pot And hot chocolate in a smaller one. A holiday card, absent an envelope, lay open on her laptop Like a great tern. Michael H Brownstein
II THE SCENT OF FATHER
Don’t Turn Around
by Thomas Marlow
How could he pronounce those words so effortlessly?...
ddly, she found him in the kitchen; he always stayed well clear. He was washing up with his back to the door, facing the window which looked onto their small plot of weeds. He thought they were beautiful; preferred to call it ‘our meadow’. His neck was kinked and the low sinks must do his back no favours. Was this some kind of gesture? To be fair, she never usually left the washing-up this long. Perhaps he’d passed beyond some kind of line, reached some limit to what he could accept. She could see the wonky edges of his hairline where he had tried to trim his own hair, could see the nodules of his upper vertebrae all moving with an odd side-to-side sway. He must be enjoying himself in concentration. “We’ve got to talk, Nasir,” she said and he stiffened. Paused in his motions. He said nothing but twisted his neck to peer back at her over his shoulder. “Don’t turn around, I’m not sure I can say what I need to say. Don’t make this too difficult, Nas.” One deep breath was all it took, before he started washing up again. All the glasses and mugs had been washed first and stacked neatly in the tidy. Next it would be the plates. He was rinsing each in the right-hand sink before plonking them in the hot suds, ready to be cleaned properly. Always the perfectionist. He replied towards his meadow, “Are you OK?” “No,” was all she said then. And she said it carefully, with as little emotion as possible. She was 16
pretty sure he could see no reflection, the doorway was dark and she was wearing the veil anyway. But, still, she did not want to see his face. Though she imagined it now, with his eyes closed and brow furrowed. The plates were all rinsed and now he was cleaning each one with a washing-up brush, then rinsing each one individually under the tap which he’d left hanging over the right-hand sink. His back was hunched over. She imagined him standing up straight and stretching. She willed him to do it, but he didn’t. “Let’s talk, then.” “I’ve got something to ask you,” she said. “No, in fact I want to tell you something. Something I’ve decided.” “Go on.” She knew once she’d let these next words go that she’d have to complete what she needed to say. “Two years ago, I had an abortion.” She watched and waited. Let it sink in. His head did literally sink, then bobbed in thought. He’d realise what that statement meant very quickly. “And it hurt me, it was painful. But mainly it hurt me emotionally. And I know you will forgive me, but that is not what I’m here to talk about. It’s the consequences that matter.” “Consequences that matter.” He repeated it in a toneless way, stripping away her emotion. It wasn’t a question. Just a phrase repeated. He often did that. As if he were making sense of the words by saying them aloud. Trying them for size. He’d paused briefly, but now continued in his brush, rinse,
position routine. He could sense, it seemed, that she would continue to explain. “You know I’m not religious, so it wasn’t those consequences that worry me. The decision was easy. Rational. But the consequences are hard. And I want you to know that. So I suffered, and still do. I know that was probably my only chance. With your issues. I’ve lived with that. That decision.” A large insect hit the window before him and gave him a start, but he waited still. “Nas, I want a baby. A child of my own. Someone else’s child.” It took a little time – a time filled with small splashes – for the solutions that she had thought through to emerge from his mouth, “Adoption, or direct surrogacy?” How could he pronounce those words so effortlessly? How could he be so calm about the consequences of his own deficiencies? And, she’d admitted to infidelity, and he knew it. Accepted it, like he accepted every bloody thing. Sometimes she dreamed that he shouted and screamed, or hurt her. His hands were not even clenched, they were still as deft as ever. He rinsed the last plate of suds by swilling it under the tap with his left hand, while controlling the tap with his right. There was no place for the plate to go; the sink-tidy was full. So he just held it there, in midair, above the sink. He leaned forward even more and rested his elbows on the sink’s edge. He could be here for a time, is what this gesture said. His whole body was now arched. She thought absurdly, where is the cutlery? Must
Don’t Turn Around by Thomas Marlow be soaking in the suds. “Surrogacy is not an option. Do you never read the news? Now illegal. As is IVF, not that that would….” She left the sentence unfinished. “So you are telling me you are going to adopt?” “Yes.” “But how? I do read the news sometimes. Does anyone really do that anymore? Have babies by accident?” “There are people… Friends of friends could get me one.” “But that is effectively surrogacy right; surrogacy by proxy?” “Perhaps,” was all she would dare admit. “And you want my permission?” “I want to tell you what is going to happen.” “‘I have a wilful wife said he’,” he said, quoting some poem or other. She knew he was smiling, could see his ears move. How can he admire this? How can he admire me? Why is it me that is angry? “I wish… wish that you were not so accepting. I want you to hit me.” “I would if I could.” “But you can’t,” she said accusingly. He came up with a solution then. Still with his right elbow resting on the lip of the sink, he tugged the sink-tidy a little forward with his left hand, and was able to place the plate – taking it with his left hand from his right so that he did not have to change position – leaning between the tidy and the back tiles, with its edge still draining on the draining board. But he did not continue, just rested there, on his elbows still. He had all the pots and pans, and the missing cutlery, yet to do. “May I please be wilful too?”
“I don’t understand.” “You know that I love you, right? That I love that you are able to make such big decisions. That they don’t phase you. I know then – and this makes me happy – that if you truly wanted to leave me, that you would, without hesitation. That makes me happy, that you would, and haven’t. But this time, yes, I’m going to be wilful myself. There will be some conditions.” “Conditions?” “Yes. I will not allow it otherwise.” These were forceful words. Of the kind he had never stated. Not since their first and only argument. “And what leverage do you have? Spell it out.” “I will not leave you, I have no leverage there. You and I both know I cannot and will not. When I say I will not allow it, I mean literally that. I will not e-sign or date anything, contracts, forms, whatamagigs, unless certain conditions are met.”
Source: Slavko Mali
“I could do it without you.” “You could try.” He had her there. It was likely that the adoption process would only work if he was on board. She thought he’d just be his normal accepting self.
This was so unlike him. But she liked it. A challenge, at last. He chose this pivotal moment in the conversation to proceed with his washing up. She took this calmly and waited. He was relaxed. Stood a little taller. The saucepans were to be pre-rinsed, one then the other. And then into the hot suds to soak a little. “State your conditions,” she said with relish. “There are quite a few, and in fact the list will grow over time. I have waited for this day. I’m sorry about that. I’ll print out the preliminary list tomorrow, and you can accept it or not, with the proviso that all the rules of the kitchen are mine, subject to change – and even minute or arbitrary change – and that they can be added to as I see fit. Especially if there is to be a child here in this house. I can accept your methods no longer. I’m sorry.” He chose the saucepan to clean fully first. “Stop saying sorry. If you are going to be wilful then at least do it properly. What exactly are you proposing? What do you mean rules of the kitchen?” “There will also be a driving rule. Sorry. But that one can be fixed right now.” “What do you mean?” “When I drive the car, you must not obtrude on my driving or make suggestions. And you must try to hide your wish or desire to make such comments. Must especially not clench the door handle.” “But in an emergency, I’m going…” “Especially in an emergency… You do not comment on my driving. Period. I do not want your tips, your suggestions, your ‘I’d change lanes now’s… If I ask you a query, I want a response, but not otherwise. Normally I do what you say, because I trust you. But I’d rather just trust myself. Especially if there is to be a child in the car. I may
Don’t Turn Around by Thomas Marlow want your advice often, but on my terms, and I’ll ask for it. If you wish you can sit in the back seat if that helps. This, can you accept?” Calmly, he moved the whole sinktidy carefully to the left – including the extra plate he could not fit in, freeing up the draining board proper. Then she realised. There was something new about the tidy. There was a tray beneath it. Water was draining into the tray not onto the draining board directly, and he was able to move the sink-tidy and tray combo onto the work-surface next to the draining board without any water dripping on the work-surface at all. This really was planned. “Perhaps I will just drive then,” she said angrily. A little spittle spotted the veil. “As you see fit. But if I drive, for whatever reason, the rule stands. You will learn to accept it, perhaps even relax in the trust involved. Deal?” “Deal,” she said. “I need to see your fingers… Can I turn around now?” He teased her by twisting his head to stare to the side, but he did not fully look around. “No,” she said petulantly, but her voice was calmer than she felt. She stepped forward now and bridged the gap between them. She could smell the humidity from the sink – he must have been using close to boiling water. He was wearing the aftershave she gave him. She grabbed his cheeks from behind and turned his head forward. Then resting her wrists on his shoulders, either side of his neck, she showed him the back of her hands, instinctively hiding her scars. “Deal. You’re a monster negotiator,” she said sarcastically, trying to be funny. “Thank you,” he said either missing the sarcasm, ignoring it, or using his own invention: anti-sarcasm. She could not tell which. Never got it. Loved him for it. She 18
leant forward with head kinked left and kissed the back of his neck. Now with her forehead resting where she’d kissed, she felt his movements as cryptic jolts and his voice as half-reverberation as he outlined the kitchen take-over. “I’m not removing you from the kitchen as I know how you enjoy cooking, but there are ways to do things properly. I have tried to be accepting of your methods, but I can never watch you in here. Cannot be in the same room, and that is not good. Cannot bear your ways, even one more day, not now I know it can be changed. You will need to learn a few new ways to do things, that is all. I will not accommodate your bridge method of cutting onions, for example. It is far too dangerous.” And there it was, lurking in the background. The argument from years ago, one that he still wanted to win. “Onions,” she acknowledged. “I will teach you a much safer way, which will also involve ensuring you use the large knife, and ensuring that it is sharp. The most dangerous implement in a kitchen is a blunt knife. I want you to repeat it.” “The most danger, blunt knife,” she summarised. Hoping it was sufficient. She wanted this over. She did not like talking of knives. “You will not peel the onion with the knife in hand, OK?” She pressed her forehead against his neck harder in lieu of a vocal acknowledgement. “You will cut the onion in half, dissecting the rootball in half by doing so. Then you shall, with the half-onions flat on the green chopping board only, slice a half-onion by inserting the sharp knife close to the rootball, but not dissecting it further. This will provide you with a series of slices that are all held together at one end by the root-ball section. Do you understand?”
Head-press. She did not know if he was washing up, or miming the motions required of her. Now her eyes were closed. “If all you desire is slices, then all you need do is turn the halfonion round and chop off the rootball section. If you require the onion diced, then you can start cross-slicing at the end of the halfonion furthest from the root ball very easily, using your fingers as a guide for the cross-slicing. And your knife will always be angled away from your fingers very slightly, guided by the tips of your fingers. I will show you at some point soon. Good knife work is a difficult skill. One that you will learn.” “I understand. I have watched you before. Before the argument. But what if I want rings?” “Simple solution, you never cut rings of onion. Never. It is simply too dangerous. Do you accept that there will be more rules, especially in regards to washing up and the positions in which objects are placed? And that I can introduce them without discussion or argument if required? Although I can promise that there will always be a justification for the rules if you want one. And that you may rationalise further rules with me. I would prefer we discuss such things. Work together.” She could say nothing but “Yes, I understand.” “Then once the rules are in place, we will be able to work together in the kitchen again.” They truly did work well together. Despite everything, he would pull her through this. “Yes, honeymoo [sic].” “That will be all for now. I’m happy, and I want you to know that.” “Happy,” she said. As if trying the word out for size.
The fly hospital I knew a little girl who used to pull the wings off bluebottles in order to have patients for her â€˜fly hospitalâ€™. It was an NHS for flies she said. Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings...
Wing by semi-see-through wing, Leg by twisted leg, Placed ever so gently in the box For use in operations. The spider and the millipede, Awaiting your arrival Their fate is sealed in cotton wool With tweezers and a needle. The woodlouse curled into a ball; The butterfly gave up; A felt-tip cross to mark the box And lend implied compassion. It's quiet on the ward at night, A cockroach gasps in silence. The doctor peers in from above, Continues making patients... Wing by semi-see-through wing, Leg by twisted leg. You give and take away again; Mistreat the insects equally; This pointless cycle you've created To keep things moving on. Wing by semi-see-through wing, Leg by twisted leg.
Source: Slavko Mali
BEST PROSE (£20 PRIZE WINNER)
Painting London Clay
by Matt Plass
There is a new girl on the tills...
oday I paint the dining room in London Clay – that’s a colour not a place – and, before I’m done, this decision will (must) be made. I have the house to myself until six o’clock when the world gets home. The pot is open, an old screwdriver lathered with emulsion. Newspaper covers the floor. The woodwork is masked in Frog Tape at nearly ten quid a roll (but the best, he said, the professional’s choice). The lounge hosts a neat furniture pyramid. I have a pasting table, rollers and trays, a radio. I wanted time, space, a day alone. Now I have it. No excuses. Before you get home, I’ll be ready to tell you everything. Or there’ll be nothing to tell. People wouldn’t believe, perhaps they would believe, the twisted road that led to London Clay. Tester pots, exploratory splodges, each colour a stop on a new and exuberant Underground line toward domestic heaven: Raddichio, Cinder Rose, Elephant‘s Breath, Mouse Back, Theresa’s Green. And finally, this muddy wash that calls itself London Clay and might be my leaving gift to you. Stir again, fill the tray, dip and turn. The first flup, flup, flup of the roller and, look, here’s the first bold stripe bisecting our white wall. Perhaps the colour will grow on me. At my desk I have a decision tree. Not the desk here – upstairs in my home office – but at work where I am not a catalyst for sighs and clicking teeth. The decision tree is a print out, a laminated flow chart, a flash of light from an otherwise monochrome conference in some forgettable hotel. The tree 20
has paths and questions to guide considered choices. And it works. But not here. Business is business. Home is home. Can you direct me to the town centre? Well, Sir. I wouldn’t start from here. October, 1991. I’m terminally self-conscious in my Sainsbury’s tabard. I face up the butters, stack pallets, watch the second hand sweep around the clock. I am chilled produce, and the smell of processed dairy follows me home. There is a new girl on tills; instantly and incontestably filling the position of most attractive girl at Sainsbury’s. The new girl seeks me out in the butter aisle, I show her to the double-cream (‘You’d think it would live down here with milk but actually...’). Fifteen minutes later you and I are in the supervisor’s office. We can chat all we like in our breaks, but not on the floor and not with a customer waiting at the till. I have smeared an S onto the wall in London Clay. For Sainsbury’s I suppose. Or for you, Sara. Or for Supervisor. It looks like the beginnings of a dirty protest. The radio is arguing about a lie a politician told or didn’t tell. It’s eleven in the morning, a clear day, and the windows face south. There’s dust in the sunlight. I wonder if the dust will catch in the fresh paint. Two years after the butter aisle we are a we, and have begun to accumulate. We have a flat, a kitten – Claude – and matching bicycles we never ride. Our social circle has already begun to shrink but can still be seen with the naked eye. One evening we celebrate -
Cava and a take-away – a new job for you and a pay-rise for me. We decide to join a tap dance class and you will definitely paint more. We sit on the floor in the kitchen and tease Claude with leftover noodles. I switch from roller to brush and loop a pair of cat ears onto the wall, Egyptian eyes and a stickman with no arms to make the nose and mouth, three whiskers each side. Then I join the S and the cat with a stripe. The first two stops on our line. Debenhams department store, 1998. A huge row, a monumental game-changing public fight that kicks off in menswear and ends with a scuffle in a revolving door. You, who rarely raise your voice, scream, ‘Well, what do you know?’ and hurl a pair of Levi’s. The girls in Makeup exchange ecstatic smiles. You almost smack the blonde with the roots, remember? Embarrassed, disgusted, I storm into a lingerie cul-de-sac and have to storm back out. We meet accidentally at the exit and you refuse to share a revolving segment with me. We go round and round. A year later, bundled in scarves and gloves, we reminisce with hot chocolate on the bluff at Hastings beach and I laugh, ‘That wasn’t us. I can’t even remember what we were arguing about.’ But you can, can’t you? In 2001, my freshly separated brother comes to stay and within minutes has outstayed his welcome. Our flat feels a little smaller every day. My brother doesn’t hang up towels. Or contribute to the shopping bill. Teabags are left on
Painting London Clay by Matt Plass bit too expensive or a bit too far away, and you have a big work day on Monday. We hesitate. I ask, ‘What do you think?’ when I should be saying to the woman behind the desk, ‘Two, please. Returning Sunday.’ Instead, we drive home in silence. Something that has long been frayed finally, silently snaps. Later that same year I use reason and logic to persuade you not to quit your job before Christmas. It makes perfect sense financially. But, God, you say, It doesn’t make sense because you are so unhappy and why can’t that be the most important thing? The north wall now sports an airplane with no wings and an unhappy woman next to a bank. The bank doesn’t look like a bank. I have to write bank below it. What else? My mother, who you didn’t visit enough when she
had her scare. Neither did I. But neither did you. Only this summer, August, a dinner party at Petra and Joel’s and I pay too much attention (I discover this in the car on the way home) to the young, pretty daughter of a friend. You and I are now in our early forties and it’s just beginning to show. You say, ‘She’s eighteen. You feel okay about that?’ I’ve had two bottles of red so I tell the truth. That it was nice to talk to a woman who still thought the world had something to offer. ‘Men don’t have affairs with younger women because they crave young bodies.’ I say through my red teeth. ‘They have affairs with young women because young women haven’t forgotten how to be happy.’ Silence and, for a moment, I
Source: Eleanor Bennett
the side. You have tight lips for a month but everything is fine. I dip the brush and sketch a pair of jeans in broad, mud-colour strokes. To the right I add a smiling male face with sad eyes and TinTin hair. Now, a single line runs from my first job to my youngest sibling. Four stops on the new Underground line and I’ve run out of west wall. I haven’t eaten and it’s nearly three. 2004, our triumph of failed spontaneity. A Friday evening and I say, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s just go.’ And we rush through the house finding passports and stuffing bags. Then piling into the car, the race to Gatwick. ‘Anywhere,’ you say. ‘I don’t care.’ But by the time we reach the airport, heavy traffic has dulled the buzz and every destination is just a
Painting London Clay by Matt Plass
I have to take a breath. From one side of the bay window, stretching to the other, my underground line has eighteen, no nineteen stations. It begins in an airy, hopeful neighbourhood, but terminates in a darker landscape. People, places, words, connected by a clay-coloured ribbon at waist height. Our worst fights, betrayals, decisions, and those moments when we felt another strand wither, and knew the other felt it too. I’ve run out of wall. Then I hear your key penetrate the lock and time stops. The sounds are inside now, a coat being hung and, in doing so, dislodging other coats. A sigh, a rehanging. Shoes are kicked off, a bag lands on the bottom stair. I’m paralysed. You appear in the dining room doorway. Your eyes take in the room, my work. ‘Creative.’ you say in a flat voice. ‘It won’t dry in time for the weekend if you don’t finish today.’ I stand there, brush in hand, an angry fool. You lean against the jamb and 22
Source: Eleanor Bennett
think I may have said the right thing. Then the headlights of an oncoming car illuminate the thin stream, like a raindrop track, running from your eye to the corner of your mouth, telling me it was the very worst thing I could have said. Increasingly we find ourselves (consciously?) occupied by activities that keep us apart: Your running, my lectures, seeing family separately. Our evening meals have the tone of client meetings. We step carefully around our personal landmines, our unexploded conversations. Like not having children – a joint decision, sensible, what we both want. Like our move abroad that we don’t mention any more. Like wondering, but never quite asking, if this is it. Do we keep laying track just before the train until we run out of track?
carefully follow the line from west to east. You nod twice and say, ‘Our greatest hits.’ ‘I planned to cover it over before you got back.’ ‘I’m glad you didn’t. In fact, thank you for so cruelly and childishly capturing what appear to be the worst aspects of our relationship in cartoons all over the walls of our house.’ ‘Open some wine, I’ll cover it up.’ ‘What’s that bit?’ ‘A cloud.’ ‘Of course. My moods.’ ‘I’ll cover it up.’ ‘It’s instructive. I see now that our life together has really been the sorry tale of you, the martyr, putting up with me, the mental bitch. I take it these are visual aids for a presentation you are giving tonight?’ ‘I don’t understand.’ ‘You plan to tell me you’re leaving.’ I say nothing. You turn and
walk away. I hear a door bang open against the kitchen wall, the dislodging of cans and boxes in the cupboard under the stairs. Once, years ago, in Cornwall, you and I walked home in arctic rain; five laughing, shivering miles of country lane after a shared decision to spend our taxi fare on last orders. I think about how hard it is to become warm once the cold has penetrated your bones. I’m listening for the back door, waiting for the slam of you leaving, wondering if that will feel like a win or a loss. But it won’t be that easy because you are back in the doorway, your eyes clear, jaw tight. You have found another paint brush. You take the centre of the room from me, bend to scoop up London Clay then point the clotted brush at our painted history. ‘You missed a bit,’ you say.
Never Never Never Come Back by Kirsten Irving (Salt Publishing, 2012) Reviewed by Dave Turner £12.99
Our new Poetry Editor, Dave Turner, reviews the new anthology of poetry from our former Poetry Editor, Kirsten Irving
ever Never Never Come Back is a an exciting collection of Post Modernist Poems (ie poems with an uncertain relationship to reality) by a poet with a very sharp eye and an unusual perspective. It did take me a while to get attuned to the very new genre of poetry that she is creating, but once I had read myself in I could see that Kirsten Irving is a young poet with a great talent. Her choice of subjects for her poetry is highly original to say the least: cannibals; Bobbitts; and bed wetting, but whatever the subject or however enigmatic and intriguing the poems are, they are always wrapped in imaginative and highly original poetic language. Sometimes, as with opera, it is best to just lie back and allow the music of her work to roll over you. Among the challenging pieces were some really great reads such as The Computer experts penis, a very enjoyable poem because of its very black, very gory and gut wrenching humour. It is surely a serious warning, just like the title of the collection, to any young man in London to be very careful upon encountering Kirsten whilst out and about around the art galleries and literary events of the capital. 'Recipe for a saint' is almost a pastiche of Mrs Beaton's book of Household management, "First catch your hare" or, in this case, first find a young virgin, about 12 years old is best. Here is the list of ingredients: Conviction like a gun maga-
sad. Another original but strange subject – bed wetting. Is it an allegory for something? Obsessive religious belief perhaps? I don't know what to think – it would be very interesting to receive from any readers their ideas about this and the other poems in this remarkable collection . You may have to work at it a bit as I have had to do but the rewards are definitely there.
Find out more:
zine, youth, laser-beam eyes, elation, a hymen, a white robe and a heart that sears the chest. Around twelve is best, though if the years have screeched past like demons in T-birds, not to fret. Nancy Archer steps out is a powerful and very moving piece if I interpret it correctly. It is, I think about a young woman whose lover has gone off with someone else and sits on top of a tall cooling tower and, as the title suggests, is about to step off it – unusual too to write so explicitly and graphically about jealousy. When my winter coat was given to Peter the Boots was intriguing and both funny and rather
Never Never Never Come Back is available from: Salt Publishing and Amazon UK Kirsten has a blog at: www.kirstenirvingvo.co.uk Kirsten is Submissions Editor at Fuselit magazine: www.fuselit.co.uk/index.php
%XUUVWLVDVLWHIRUVKDULQJSLHFHVRIÂ¿FWLRQÂ±ÂµEXUVWVÂ¶RI ZRUGVRUIHZHUERWKZULWWHQ VSRNHQ
:HÂ¶UHDFRPPXQLW\ of readers, writers and narrators.
%XUUVWLVIUHHÂ±\RX FDQÂ¶WJLYHXVPRQH\ HYHQLI\RXÂ¶GOLNHWR
:HUXQUHJXODUZULWLQJ FRPSHWLWLRQVIRU PHPEHUVDOVRIUHH
%XUUVWLVH[FOXVLYHO\IRUZULWHUVDQGWKRVHZKRORYH UHDGLQJ:ULWHUVPXVWHLWKHUEHLQYLWHGE\DPHPEHU RUVXEPLWDEXUVWZKLOHUHTXHVWLQJWKHLULQYLWDWLRQ
)HHGEDFNLVDOZD\V DYDLODEOHLIZDQWHG \RXMXVWKDYHWRDVN
December 2012 www.golddustmagazine.co.uk
Jennifer Foster The prison people have been very kind...
his is my cold feet day. Tomorrow I shall be calm, and happy. But this morning, I feel very nervous, though I don’t show it. The others are behaving a bit oddly: I can almost taste their concern, but they don’t say anything, so I can’t name it. I hope nothing is going to go wrong. No, how could it? I got a fair trial. My lawyer did all he could, I thought: he was jumping up and down to say things like Sam used to when he was small. The prosecution didn’t say anything untrue, and the judge was more than fair. He pointed out all the things in my favour more than once, and he looked as if he was going to burst into tears when he put on the black cap. He asked me if I had any reason why sentence of death should not be passed upon me, and that threw me a bit. What I wanted to say was: not at all, quite the reverse, it wouldn’t be right if I wasn’t punished. Right in this world, that is. I shall get my reward in the next: I might even be beatified, eventually, when my letters are read and they know why I’ve done what I did. But I was a bit worried that if I did say anything, they might take notice of it, so I said no, nothing to say, in a good clear voice. The prison people have been very kind. They don’t ever leave me alone, and the wardresses are very pleasant, talking to me when I want to chat, and playing cards. The governor himself comes every day to see if I am alright, and I can see the priest as often as I want. I don’t think the governor enjoys his work. He always looks very miserable when he comes to see me, and when he tells me the 26
results of the appeals. You get two appeals, they said. One against the conviction, in case there is something wrong with your trial. I wasn’t worried about that, I knew that would fail. The other appeal is the appeal for mercy to the Crown, only that means the Home Secretary, they say, and I was worried about that. The wardress said that as I was young, and a woman, it might quite likely succeed. I was so relieved when it didn’t. The only bit I didn’t like was when the doctor came to check that I am not expecting a baby. They can’t hang you if you are, and if they don’t hang you after three Sundays, they have to give you a reprieve. I really
felt quite insulted by that: as though I were a street-walker and not a respectable Catholic girl! But they said they had to do it: it would be dreadful if a little innocent baby was executed. I felt that myself, so I forgave them. I shall forgive the executioner too: they ask you to do that, though I’m not sure if they actually kneel down anymore. I even forgive Mrs Stevens, though I never liked her. When Papa started to talk to Mrs Stevens in the intervals at choral society, I didn’t pay much attention. I never thought that Papa would marry again, and certainly not a woman with spots and a voice like a rasp: Mother was so pretty and softly-spo-
Sacrifice by Jennifer Foster ken. I was quite taken aback when he invited her to midday dinner one Sunday. He was fussing and fretting away, fit for a visit by the King. I told him that if my housekeeping wasn’t good enough for the widow of an iron-monger, she could go elsewhere. After all, we had a dish of mutton, with three vegetables, and a tart to follow. When she arrived he was all over her, and she was all over Becky and Sam. She’d brought them a tract each, and a tin of macaroons. Of course I thought Papa would want to throw the tracts away as soon as she had her back turned, but instead he seemed pleased. But even then, I didn’t realise what was happening. She wasn’t a Catholic, so how could he marry her? Then he told me he was going to ask her to marry him. I thought that meant she was going to convert, and I wasn’t sure about that: converts don’t really understand our ways. But when I realised she would still be Chapel, I was horrified. Mixed mar-
riages aren’t allowed. I argued for ages, but he wouldn’t listen. And the very next Sunday he told us that we were going to the Chapel for the evening service, instead of compline at St Thomas the Martyr. I simply didn’t know what to do. That woman was luring him away with her macaroons and tracts, and if you leave the Faith you go to Hell. Mrs Stevens wouldn’t, because she didn’t know any better, but Papa would. I was very angry with Papa, and I told him so, half the night, but it didn’t do any good. He started to talk some rubbish about conversion experiences and seeing the light. So I saw there was no help for him. But what about Becky and Sam? Mother had asked me to look after them when she knew that she was dying. I tried to teach them the True Faith, but the Chapel people are very clever. They tempted them with Sunday school outings, and lemonade and buns, and making a fuss of the dear children who were newly come to the Tabernacle. I refused to go, ever. The day Becky came home and told me that the Holy Father was Anti-Christ was the worst day of my life. I was so frightened for them, and that horrible, evil woman smirked and preened. It took me longer than it should to accept God’s will, but it’s often like that with saints and martyrs: look at St Paul. I tried to find another way, but at last I saw that I had to obey God, and sacrifice myself for Becky and Sam. If I killed Mrs Stephens, then they would be safe: she wouldn’t be there to cast lures for them. And I thought I’d make sure, just in case Papa went on taking them to chapel, so I’ve left them each a letter for when they are older, explaining my sacrifice. That will bring them back to the true Church: it’s the blood of martyrs that makes the church grow. It was quite easy to kill her. I was surprised; I thought it would be hard. I brought some rat poison, but then I saw that that would be cruel. So I
went outside into the yard each day, when Pa was at work and Becky and Sam were at school, and practised swinging the coal hammer, until my arm was strong. Then, when she came to Sunday dinner, I hit her on the back of her head with it. It made a horrid sort of thud, and she went face down into the soup, and bled into it. The wardresses are moving, standing up, like horses that can hear a rat. It’s the Governor: I’d better stand up too. It isn’t right to show disrespect to a person in lawful authority. Goodness me! He’s smiling! I never saw him smile before. He’s got a tooth missing at the front. What’s he saying? Good news? What? No! Reprieved on grounds of insanity? I’m not insane, that isn’t just! It’s not fair to real mad people, to say someone quite logical like me is insane. I’ll say so. They’re shaking their heads. But why do they think I’m not sane? They say the priest wrote to the Home Secretary, saying he’d become convinced that my mind was unbalanced. They’re saying I shall go to a special hospital. I wonder if I could hang myself...but that wouldn’t count. It isn’t martyrdom if you kill yourself. I feel really betrayed by that priest: the man must be an idiot! And I thought he was so learned and kind! How can I save Becky and Sam if they don’t hang me? Ah...I wonder. That hospital isn’t far from our house, so...yes. I can ask the minister from the Chapel to come and see me. And then I shall kill him. I’m sure I can find a way. Meanwhile, I suppose I shall have to eat this luncheon they’ve brought....it really is very aggravating, now I’m not going to be martyred I don’t get nice food, just this awful prison muck. I wouldn’t even feed this to a Quaker! And I do wish everyone would stop smiling!
The Concert Pianist Isn’t Home by Claire Duffy Martin had been planning the garage sale for months...
man in a fawn jacket squatted on his haunches and pawed through a box in Martin’s carport. The box was filled with the kind of, sometimes useless, items found in a third drawer in the kitchen. The man stood up and shifted his attention to a brown, four-tiered bookshelf. The books that Martin had once stored on the bookshelf were now lined up in cardboard boxes on the carport floor. He was selling them for a dollar each. The man in the fawn jacket looked down at a box of books but didn’t bend to pick one up. Martin watched him from behind a folding card table in the corner of the carport and was philosophical; he thought of all this stuff – the tired linen, chipped tools, worn furniture, books full of dated knowledge – as junk and he could understand if no one else wanted it. Martin had been planning the garage sale for months, mentally sorting through his possessions, deciding what he could jettison without causing him anguish. Some things were obvious like the books, and consequently the bookshelf. It was a long time since he had taken a book from the shelf to check a fact. Mostly it had been to assist Helen with her Saturday Age crossword puzzles. But other items, like the Chinese vase, were more difficult. He included it at the last minute. The mute piano definitely had to go, though. He hated its potential, all the potential tunes, crashing sounds, sweet melodies, ker-plunk, ker-plunks that no longer came from it and never would while it remained with him. He had never 28
played a note on it himself and now he couldn’t even bear to look at it. The black and white keys waited patiently under the lid to be played once again but the hands that had once pressed the keys down, drawing out a sound picture that filled the house, were gone. Martin had written on a small piece of white card the night before the sale. PIANO FOR SALE EXCELLENT CONDITION $50 000 He folded the card in half so it would stand at attention. In the morning, before anyone had arrived, he arranged the folded sign on a card table in the corner of the carport and stuck it down with a gob of Bluetack. He made sure the other items on the table – a pair of cufflinks that he had never worn in the shape of a die with different colours for each spot; an unopened deck of cards with the Sydney Opera House on the back; a stack of plastic shot glasses in pink, green, yellow and blue; a silver pie server; and a pair of black sunglasses he had found in a chest of drawers – were well away from the sign. The man in the fawn jacket put his hands deep in his trouser pockets and his feet began inching their way toward the driveway whilst his eyes continued combing the junk for a potential gem. Martin willed him to pick up something, anything, and take it away. The man eyeballed another table, which was covered in kitchenware, on his slow and inexorable journey back to his car. He stopped and lifted a vase from amongst some cake tins,
nested measuring cups and plastic cutlery. The blue hand-painted images on the vase depicted a Chinese village surrounded by fields. In one field a tiny figure and a pair of bullocks ploughed a rice paddy. Helen had used the vase often, most often in the spring when the ranunculuses bloomed. They were her favourite flower, as much for their lustrous petals as for the limited time in which she could relish their bright colours. Much to Martin’s horror, the ranunculuses continued to thrive. There was no one to tend the garden but it continued to maintain itself. It carried on growing and blooming and producing fruit in the same manner it had done when loving hands had pruned and watered and weeded it. He was insulted. Martin felt insulted by the prosperity of the garden. He wanted it to somehow acknowledge the absence at least. Another car pulled up in the street. Martin could see the couple in the front seats. The man sprang from the driver’s side first. He had on a blue and yellow vest made from polar fleece, which flapped open as he moved around to the passenger side, and faded baggy shorts. The woman popped her door open and carefully twisted her torso so that her feet dangled below the car door where Martin could see them. The man stood holding the door open. The woman came to a standing position after several heave-hoes, using the door frame and the inside of the door to lever herself out of the passenger seat. She also had on a polar fleece vest, red and blue this time. Martin looked hopefully to-
The Concert Pianist Isn’t Home by Claire Duffy wards the new customers, and then checked the table in front of him. He slid his middle finger tip along the fold of the piano sign. The man in the fawn jacket was back at the bookshelf and began leaning over it, inspecting it for stability. He had one hand on the top, giving it small pushes to see whether it would wobble or not. The man and woman walked under the carport, he with a bounce, and she with a limp. Martin glanced up briefly and mumbled a greeting. The man and woman began to move through the aisles of furniture and belongings that Martin had created when he placed his unloved belongings out for sale. ‘Ed! There’s a piano,’ the woman said pointing at the sign. Martin’s heart skipped a beat. As much as he hated the piano, or at least its potency, he hadn’t really thought about what it would feel like to be rid of it. ‘It’s a bit steep, isn’t it mate?’ Ed said after walking over to the folding table behind which Martin was standing, and reading the sign. ‘No, not really,’ said Martin, ‘It’s a Steinway’. ‘Oh’. Ed and Marilyn looked at each other. The man in the fawn jacket slid his hand along the top of the bookshelf as his feet pointed toward the driveway. ‘Give you five for the bookshelf,’ he called across the carport. Martin looked around Ed at the man and then at the bookshelf. ‘Take a box of books?’ The man looked down at the books. ‘Ten without the books,’ Martin added, looking up into Ed’s attentive eyes. ‘Righto, I’ll take ‘em’, the man in the fawn jacket said. Martin took his money and continued standing behind the card table while the man made two trips to his car, once with the books and
the second time, balancing the bookshelf against his shoulder. Marilyn picked up the Chinese vase and checked the base for its maker’s mark. Ed had circled the garage in the time it had taken the man to remove his goods. ‘Better have a look at the piano, then,’ said Ed as he arrived back at the card table. Martin looked toward the street. ‘Can you come back later?’ Martin said. Marilyn glanced at Ed and continued to scrounge through the tools. ‘Is it for sale or not?’ Ed pushed. ‘Yeah, but I . . . need to watch this stuff,’ Martin said spreading his hands in front of him.
Source: Slavko Mali
‘Come on, luv, we can come back after lunch,’ suggested Marilyn. ‘Nah, don’t worry. ‘S’probly not that good anyway.’ Ed turned toward the street. ‘Helen’s a concert pianist.’ Martin blurted out. He grabbed the sign and crumpled it in his hand. He picked at the remaining Bluetack and rolled it into a ball, then dropped it onto the cement floor. Ed turned back towards Martin and waggled his fingers in front
of him at waist level, sliding them back and forth. The nails were manicured and painted with clear polish. Martin at once remembered the night before Helen left for her first concert in Berlin. She had been to the manicurist and had her nails painted a deep red. Martin was mesmerised by the blood red fingertips as he stood beside the piano and watched her practice. ‘Bit of a tinkler meself,’ Ed said with a grin, showing a set of perfect white false-teeth. Marilyn held up a drill and asked Martin how much. ‘Sure you won’t be needing it again, luv? A drill can be quite useful round the house,’ she said when he told her the price. ‘What about Marilyn here watches the shop and we slide inside for a tickle on the ol’ ivories?’ Ed waggled his piano-playing fingers across an imaginary keyboard again and flashed a winning grin and an exaggerated wink at Martin. ‘Just give them what they want if anyone asks,’ Martin instructed Marilyn before leading Ed across the front of the house, up the stairs, and into the lounge-room, or at least what the floor-plan stated was the lounge-room. It had never functioned as a lounge-room while Martin and Helen had lived there. It was the only room large enough to accommodate the baby-grand piano, so he and Helen had done without a lounge-room. The only piece of furniture in the room was a large piano-shaped object under a white throw-sheet. The floor length emerald-green drapes were drawn and the only light came from the open front door and a room at the other end of the corridor leading away from the lounge room. Ed’s eyes gleamed and he rubbed his hands together as he stood and waited for Martin to whip the cover off. But Martin closed the door and continued down the corridor and didn’t come back straight away.
The Concert Pianist Isn’t Home by Claire Duffy
dragged the cloth backwards along its length. Martin let the cloth fly away behind him and Ed stood and stared. A gleaming black, model S, baby grand piano mirrored the room around it. Martin took the fur ruff from around his neck and began gliding it gently over the surface. He made sure he kept one gloved hand over a tiny chip on one edge that he hadn’t been able to repair. Ed moved to the piano stool and asked, ‘May I?’ but before Martin could reply he slid into position. When he attempted to lift the lid it wouldn’t open. Martin watched the tips of Ed’s thumbs turn white as he attempted to pull the lid up, and then go back to pink as he let go again. Ed turned and looked up child-eyed at Martin. ‘Helen likes to lock it when she’s not here.’ Martin said. ‘You got a key?’ Ed looked toward Martin’s trouser pockets. ‘When she gets back you’ll be able to ask her where it is.’ Something crashed to the ground outside in the carport and the two men turned to look at the front door. Martin walked to the door and reached to open it and remembered he still had the gloves on. He tugged them off, opened the door, turned to Ed and waited. Ed tried the lid one more time and slumped slightly. He slid across the stool and walked past Martin out the front door. In the carport, a young woman was bent over picking up pieces of the broken Chinese vase. A boy with a tear streaked face was standing next to a pram, which was parked up the driveway near the street. His little hand was gripping one of the metal struts on the pram’s side. The mother was apologising to Marilyn, and offering to pay for the broken vase. Martin walked to the centre of the carport and stood open-mouthed, sur-
rounded by the tables of mostly unloved junk. The two women stood up. The young mother unclipped a small grey coin purse she had pulled from her coat pocket and took out a two dollar coin. ‘Is that OK?’ she said handing the coin to Marilyn who nodded and told her to leave it on the table. The mother left the coin and hurried up the drive to her children, where she released the brake on the pram and pushed it hard through the uneven lawn and down the street. Martin remained silent staring at the broken pieces of crockery in Marilyn’s hands. She offered him the small pile of rubble, which he mutely accepted onto his cupped hands. All he could think was that he would have nothing to put the ranunculuses in now that the vase was broken. Source: Eleanor Bennett
When he did, he wore a pair of white cotton gloves on his hands and a fur ruff around his neck. Ed continued rubbing his hands together and stepped in closer to the piano waiting for the big reveal. Martin noticed, for the first time, that Ed’s slim and shapely legs sported no hair and gleamed like a swimwear model, making the socked and sandaled feet appear like a strange combination of the legs from a lady mannequin and the feet from a man mannequin. Martin looked from Ed’s legs back up to his face in curiosity. ‘Right, then, we going to get this show on the road?’ Ed grinned and then sucked a huge breath in through his nose. He smoothed the front of his shirt, tugged at the hem of his vest, pointed his chin up toward the ceiling, and slowly let the breath out through his mouth. Martin was reminded of the hush in the concert hall as the lights came down whenever he had been to see Helen play. It would bring into contrast the conversations and rustling of programmes that he hadn’t noticed before and which then seemed so loud. He disliked the audience’s lack of attention before a show, how they could sit and talk of everyday happenings as if the grandeur of the concert hall hadn’t cancelled out all that trivia. He, instead, would occupy the time before the beginning of a concert by mutely observing the stage preparations, and the ushers doing their best to seat everyone before the lights dimmed completely, or the flicker of movement behind the curtain indicating last minute preparations on stage, and lastly, the selection of stage lights hanging above him. Martin leant down to lift the hem of the white throw-cloth and Ed joined him at the other side. With great flourish, they lifted the sheet high above the piano and
He stared into his hands and noticed, inside the base of the vase, was the outline of a black crust sharply cut in two from the break. He wondered if Helen knew there was dried scum at the bottom of her favourite vase. Martin continued looking along the edge of one piece of the broken vase and saw that the ploughed section of field remained. And, at the edge of another piece he could see that the bullocks continued ploughing on the other side of a break but the little man had been cracked through and no longer existed.
Ground Zero Gray The gray space between dishes was thick as fog and older than sin. It left us drowsy, sipping steamy tea, musing over faded dance partners and favoured candidates, who'd lost cherished elections. After the crab cakes, we perused her book, autographed with best wishes to an old friend, ink fading to gray before it dried. She laboured for this read, gave birth to it, kicking and squealing; the Ground Zero epic; thick with hard-bound grief, demanding succoured remembrance of lost Americans. I mistakenly recalled that Americans called Hiroshima Ground Zero, before we dropped the bomb. Someone wise once told me that it had to be done. No way to avoid it. Gray planes crossing gray ocean, dropping fat gray bombs on sleeping gray cities. The aftermath; gray ghosts, drifting through smoke, burning strips of skin, melting from gray bones, like liquid ash.
at 38,000 feet in a ball of flame, or quiet as a moth, gray, petal-whispering a final sigh, against the satin pillow of ignorant content. Lunch finished, words spent; Gray closed palms, hands down across the great divide of table between the seas of our silent and diplomatic discourse. Toes touch beneath the tablecloth; sensible shoes of middle age. Mute thoughts converge, as I hold my gaze upon the fall of her gray hair over her opinionated brow, seeing in the unswerving stare of her eyes, the black line of her singular, insulated, polarized, white horizon where, I may never travel in my traitorous, subversive, Hedonist's pursuit of myriad gray.
Source: Slavko Mali
I suppose, in the gray September morning, clouds breaking before the transport missile of shanghaied travellers, targeted toward the promise of a glorious hereafter, by vigilant sons of Mecca, perhaps The Twin Towers were also unavoidable.
Always gray areas for lips to debate, wondering how far we may go, I comment on how many non-Americans died that day; Pondering, the choice of how to die,
Worthwhile Consideration by Annette Kupke Most other things I know, I’ve learned from the telly...
hey don’t know I can understand them. I‘m very careful about that. I blink, but only randomly. They could never tell that I pay any attention to them and to those strange noisy lives they lead. I sit in my chair or lie on my mat, I let them lift me into bed or into the warm water, in and out, without the slightest sign that I care. If I did, they would bother me. I want nothing to do with them. I’m stuck with them of course. There are two places I spend most of my time (and in the taxi between them). One is called school, where they make a lot of fuss with rattles and bells and coloured lights and fluttering strips of shiny fabric. They’re always wanting to get a response, but they’re not getting one from me. I’m careful, even when I blink. The other place is called home, that is where I lie in a bed in the night. Two adults are there. One is there all the time. She has hair as orange as the middle circle on the traffic lights, and she sighs a lot and bustles about. She is the one who calls herself Mum. It’s not really her name, because the other one calls her Julia. She only calls herself Mum when she talks to me, and so do the others. When they bring me back from school, they say, Look, there’s your Mum! Isn’t it lovely to see your Mum? They think I can’t understand them, but they talk to me as if I do. They’re pretty mad. So the other one calls himself Dad, though the one who calls herself Mum calls him Adam. He’s not always there; he comes after I’ve 32
been back from school for a while. He comes when the round thing in the kitchen, the thing that’s called a clock, has one line pointing up and one down. I realise this clock thing is telling when things are happening, and at one point I thought I might try to suss out how it works, but in the end I decided it wasn’t worth my while. When he comes home, they bring my chair up to the table, and then they sit down there, one on one side of me and the other on the other. They do this thing called eating, which is when they stick things into their mouths and then they move their jaws about and the things never come out again, apart from sometimes a little piece they put by the side of their plate. The things have names like pasta or chocolate or yoghurt or sausage. They have no other purpose, as far as I can tell, though some (apples, grapes) also look rather pretty in the bowl on the table. It took me ages to work out what this is all about, but I think I know now. The things go into their tummy. Their tummies must be heavy and cluttered. That must be why their tummies are bulging out. The one who calls herself Mum sometimes says things like, Oh, I really should stop eating chocolate. But she doesn’t. My tummy doesn’t bulge out. I have a button in my tummy with a lid, and they open it up and fill in stuff through a tube. They do this several times a day, I don’t know how often. I don’t bother with numbers. They’re not worth my while. Sometimes they say, That’s your meds, honey, or sometimes, That’s your lunch, darling. That’s how I
worked it out, what the eating is, I mean, because they also call it lunch when they stick these things called bananas or sandwiches into their mouths. Most other things I know, I’ve learned from the telly. Of course I cannot really watch the telly when there’s anyone else in the room, not without giving myself away, and they hardly ever leave me alone, but I can listen without them noticing. So I know a lot about the world. It’s mostly loud and annoying and full of people who talk all the time. Really very much like school or like home. There is a lot about numbers, which I don’t bother with, and every evening there is a programme where they tell you about all the things that have gone wrong. A lot of things go wrong. Aeroplanes drop out of the sky. Buildings fall down from storms or things called earthquakes, but those are always in other countries. There are many different countries. It means where the towns and fields and so on are all together in one chunk and people speak the same language. This country is Scotland, and it’s quite small. It’s famous for its football and its rain. There are big countries, too, like China and America and Russia. Some of them shoot at each other. And they always say they should stop, but they don’t. It’s nothing to do with me. I don’t take part, and nobody expects me to. I make sure of that. I wouldn’t say it’s easy to fool them, but I always manage. The key is total floppiness. I make sure my hand is as flaccid as one of those fabric pieces when any of them
Worthwhile Consideration by Annette Kupke
some time ago, that it would be useful for me if I could at least grasp something. Just in case. So at night, when they’re asleep, I exercise my muscles. I raise my arm to touch the sides of my bed and I wrap my fingers round the bars they put up there so I won’t fall out. I tighten my grip, open, close, open, close. I stretch and flex my fingers. The other night, I managed to lift that silly fluffy cat they insist on putting into bed with me and dropped it over the bars. That was a mistake, though, because in the morning the one who calls herself Mum made a big fuss about how it had got out. It just goes to show: one bit of carelessness and I was almost caught out. So I will have to make doubly sure that I won’t give myself away. Make no noises. Don’t follow a movement with my eyes. Let my mouth fill with saliva and let it run, a warm, tickly touch, down my chin. Never bat an eyelid, whatever might come rushing at my face (this is the hardest bit.) Lie poured into my chair like a piece of fabric. This
takes more effort at school, because they will always bother me at least a little (though not as much as they bother Henry and Cath and that smiling fool Leanne). At home it’s easier, especially at the moment, because the one who calls herself Mum is ill and in bed. For the first few days, the one who calls himself Dad didn’t go away, and he gave me the tube stuff and changed my pad and did the other things that are usually done by the one who calls herself Mum. Then he said, he couldn’t get any more time off and now some woman comes and does it and goes away again. The one who calls herself Mum lies in bed and coughs. She has my chair beside her bed, where the one who calls himself Dad has parked it in the morning, and on her bedside table she has a new thing that looks a bit like the remote control for the telly. It’s called a panic button. The one who calls himself Dad has explained it. In case anything’s the matter with Ellie, if she should take a seizure or anything, the paramedics would Source: stock.xchng
pick it up. And I let my head hang on one side, unless they prop it up with a cushion. Also, I never look them in the eye. If I focus my eyes on something just next to the thing that interests me, they don’t realise I’m watching. The others at school, some of them anyway, I’m not sure if they’re the same as me. If so, they’re doing it wrong. They flinch when they hear a loud noise. Or they reach out with their hands, prompting a chorus of WELL DONE! from the adults. And then they get bothered to do it again. I don’t get bothered so much. I don’t make it worth their while. I think the others probably are the same as me. At least, they have the button in their belly, same as me, and get stuff through the tube. Apart from Harris, who does the eating thing, and he is very round. It’s not just his tummy bulging out, but all his parts. And he always seems keen. He is definitely not like me. But the others, perhaps. Though they’re doing it wrong. Not floppy enough. Leanne, she even smiles. That’s a big mistake. The adults are always trying to make her smile more. She gets bothered the most of the whole group. It takes skill to be so totally floppy. I have to be careful all the time, just so I don’t make a movement that would betray me. The thing is, at first I couldn’t – smile, or reach out, and all that – I just couldn’t, not until that time when the one who calls himself Dad trilled, They’ve changed your meds, darling, you’ll be so much better now. And he was right, because I don’t get the strange flickerings in my head anymore. So now I could, but I’ve decided it’s not worth my while. If I did something, anything at all, they would all bother me to do it again, and then more, and what’s the point of that? It has occurred to me though,
Worthwhile Consideration by Annette Kupke Gone-Wrong programme comes on a lot on the radio, and it said that a truck had crashed into a school playground. It wasn’t my school. Then came some music. Later, she switched it off and picked up her book again. She has been looking at her book for a long while now. I sleep a bit, because I’ve been up most of the night training my muscles. When I wake up again, she still has her book, but then she puts it aside and says, Ellie, your Mum is a little peckish, she’ll have a biscuit. And she takes a biscuit from a packet on her bedside table and sticks it into her mouth and begins to move her jaws. Then she starts to cough again. She coughs and coughs and then tears come out of her eyes, and she gulps and coughs and
then her face changes colour. It is a little grey and a little blue. Her head still jerks, but there is no coughing sound. Her face gets bluer. She is as blue as Cath was that one time at school when they called the ambulance for her. I look at the panic button on her bedside table. My arm is tired after last night, but I could probably reach out and press it. The paramedics would come straight away. They would make a fuss about the one who calls herself Mum, just like they made a fuss about Cath that time at school. It’s a lot of effort, though. I don’t think it’s worth my while. Besides, it would give me away. So I don’t bother. She has stopped moving now. I breathe in. I breathe out. I can do this all day long.
Gold Dust Source: stock.xchng
come straight away. And the one who calls herself Mum said, But I’m not that ill! I could just call the ambulance on my phone, and the one who calls himself Dad replied, Have the panic button, just in case. I’ll feel more at ease if you do. It’s not a school day and I’ve been next to her bed since the last time the woman came and put stuff through my tube. She is sleeping sometimes or awake and looking at her book, and sleeping or waking she coughs a lot. She also talks to me in that silly way, like, Ellie, your poor Mum is really under the weather. As if she expects me to reply. I breathe in. I breathe out. I can do this all day long without paying attention to anything else. Earlier, she had the radio on. I like the radio, because nobody can tell that I’m listening. The What’s-
Robert This is a textual painting, or a painted poem by Gold Dustâ€™s new artist, Ann Denison from Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Ann Denison Issue 22
by Dave Turner Winning play from Gold Dust Speaks
This play won first prize at our recent play competition event, Gold Dust Speaks. The prize was £100 and publication in Gold Dust magazine. Here it is in full... Stage centre are two beach huts on the promenade at Southend. Stage right the entrance to the pier, stage left the entrance to Adventure Island. The backdrop shows a small stony beach behind the beach huts and a large expanse of mud with the sea and the end of the pier in the far distance. Enter Sid and Ada, two old people staggering a bit under their loads. Sid carries a string bag with two bottles of Watney's Brown, two deckchairs and two newspapers (Daily Mirror and The Sun), Ada a large sturdy shopping bag, a picnic basket, a knitting holdall, an umberella and a thick woollen rug. As they come on things drop out of the bags and their hands, lots of muttering and swearing. They both have strong cockney accents. Ada This'll do. Sid Wot 'ere? Na lets go up there – get a better view of the pier. Ada I said this will do! Put them deck chairs up beside that beach 'ut owta' the wind Lots more stage business, muttering and swearing as Sid struggles to put up the deck chairs. They get upside down, fall down flat collapse etc, the newspapers nearly blow away, the bottles fall over and roll off. Sid kneels down in a desperate attempt to save the bottles and untangle the two deck chairs) Bleedin' typical – you couldn't organise a bunk up in a broffel! Sid (getting up from his knees) I could organise a booze up in a brewery though! Ada Yeah, everywhere you go it's a booze up. Come on get them bleedin chairs up! Sid struggles and fails again. Bleedin' 'ell I 'ave to every soddin' fing meself! 36
You're a useless waste of useless space Sid Bone. To fink I could've married that Tommy Hicks. Ada puts down her load and gets the deck chairs up in a few deft movements. Sid Tommy Hicks! 'E was a bleedin waster if ever I saw one all that messin abowt wiv washboards an, wooden boxes wiv one string on t'make an awful noise wiv. An 'e couldn' play that guitar – not prop'ly. Ada A lot bleedin' berra' than you tho'! Come on'en do somefink useful! Get them chairs over there by the beach 'ut. Sid moves the chairs down stage left, partailly collapsing one but quickly putting it right. The chairs face towards the sea and the end of the pier. Not like that you bleedin' idiot. I don' wanna look at the sea or that pissin' pier! Turn 'em roun' to face the sun! Sid Bleedin' 'ell woman make up yer bloody mind. Yer said yer wanted to see the sea, where it 'appened. Ada Shurrup abou'rit. I said! An' I said I didn' wan' to see that soddin' pier, so stick the bleedin' chairs that way roun'! They both settle down in the deckchairs, Ada gets out the rug and puts it over her legs, arranges the picnic things around her, including a flask of tea and takes out her knitting. Sid picks up the Sun and turns straight to page 3. Sid Phowrrr! She's a bit of all right. Ada looks over his shoulder at the picture Ada I don' know why yer buy that disgustin' rubbish, why don' yer buy a decent paper like the Daily Mail.
Southend by Dave Turner
Sid You read my Mirror don' yer Ada Only for the crosswords and the jokes, an' it don' 'ave the disgustin pictures in it Sid What's wrong wiv 'em? It's just the beauty ov the female form innit? You used to look like that once. Didn' mind me lookin' then did yer? Ada That was diffren'. We wos married an' we wos tryin' for 'im. Sid Yeah I noticed you changed yer tune as soon as 'e was on 'is way. Sung the same tune ever since! Sings to the tune of, 'I'm tired and I want to go to Bed' Keep your 'an's right off ov me I'm tired an' I wanna go to bed Oh you've seen everyfing yor ever goin' to see I've got this pain inside me 'ead. Don' fink you'll get a bit Of fanny arse or tit Cos you'll always 'ear me singing this song Keep your 'an's right off ov me Ada You bleedin disgustin' bugger! Sid No chance ov that eiver! Ada What d'yer mean? What d'yer mean?! Sid Nuffin' nuffin, just a stupid joke that's all. You never larf at my jokes any more. Ada Cos they ain't bleedin' funny, thats why, just filf, I should wash yer mouf owt wiv soap and water, only that'd be a waste ov time cos it's so bloody filfy even cabolic would… Pause Sid (picking up a bottle from his bag) 'Ere 'ave yer got that bottle opener there? Ada Yeah but you ain't 'avin any more beer now. You can 'ave a cup tea out ov the flask. Ada pours out two cups of the in plastic mugs and hands one to Sid. Sid Tea! what good's that to a growing man? Issue 22
Ada Growing man? The only way you're growing is outwards! Sid Yeah – that's what I meant, I need more beer to keep me growth up. Ada Tea'll warm you up. It's bleedin' cold fer August. Sid Sun's out Ada Well it's still bleedin' cold. Just because the sun's owt don't make it bloody warm. Sid I fort you said you wanted to get a bit of sunshine. Ada Not cold sunshine I didn't.
Sid stands up ready to move Sid Right then lets go back to the pub. Ada No! Yo've 'ad enuff beer for now. We said we'd come and look at the place again and ger a bit ov fresh air an 'nat's what we're gonna do. Sit down 'ere and look at the sea and breve fresh air. You can sit in the bleedin' legion drinkin' all day back in Dag'nam. We didn't pay out good pension money on train tickets to sit inside the rotten bleedin' pubs they've got 'ere, especially at them prices. Sid (pause) Soufend on Sea – it should be called Soufend on Mud. Look at it! A scrap of stony beach and then nuffin but mud right out to the end
Southend by Dave Turner
of the bloody pier. Yer can't even see the bleedin' sea unless you walk a mile an' a half out to the end of the pier. Ada There used be a train. Sid They're gonna open a new tram on it. I read it in the Evenin' Standard. Princess Margaret's gonna open it. Ada She won't be openin' it on a day like this – too bleedin' cold. The'll make sure she 'as better wever than this, an they'll probably put sand down to cover all the bleedin' mud! Sid I dunno why we come 'ere. Waste of good beer money if you ask me. Ada Don't start that again. Yer bleedin' do know. It's 'is anniversary. (She pauses a little to control the slight tremor in her voice) Forty years – to the day. Sid I fort you ain't supposed to be saying nuffin about that. Ada Well shut up abowt it then. Sid Them was good days. Ada What! 'Ow can you say that? Bleedin' idiot – good days! good days? Sid I mean before it 'appened. Ada You're bloody doin' it again. Talkin' about it. We said! Sid I mean during the war. Ada During the war! Good days my foot! Bleedin' bombs fallin' day and night. You owt playin' toy soldiers wiv dad's army. Sergeant Bloody Bone, marchin' up and down wiv a load of geriatrics holding wooden rifles and firin' wooden bullets at wooden bleedin Germans. Me stuck at 'ome wiv the kid sleeping in that leaky soddin' Anderson Shelter in the garden. Sid There weren't any proper raids in Dag'nam. Nuf38
fin' there worth blowing up. Ada What about the docks and Fords factory? Sid An' the railway to Soufend. Ada Pity the German's didn't blow that up an'all. Sid Now you're talkin' about it Ada Good days? How can you call them good days. What do you bleedin' know? Sid (pompously) Them days were our finest hour. Ada An hour! Finest hour! Huh! A few minutes was all you could ever bloody manage! – I've had forty odd years of it. When it wasn't dad's army it was the British bloody Legion. Poppy Day committee; Christmas party committee; THE COMMITTEE, Secretary, Chairman. Everything except bleedin' 'usband or bleedin' farver. I wish you'd joined the bleedin' Foreign Legion instead. Sid Couldn't could I – can't talk bloody Foreign can I? Ada Yer can bleedin' jabber away nineteen to the dozen in bloody Rubbish alright! That's your native language cos you were born bleedin' Rubbish. A useless waste of space – that what you are! Sid They didn' fink I was a useless waste of space at the Legion, did they? if they voted me to do all them jobs. Anyway I did it for the kids, woman. Ada What? Source: London Theatre production
Southend by Dave Turner
Sid The Christmas parties, the bonfires, the cadets. Ada Uver people's kids! Not OUR kid! Sid Well I couldn't could I? Ada I told you – shut up, shut up! Silence Sid 'Ere Why don't we go and 'ave a quick butchers an see if Princess Margaret's done it yet Ada Done what? Sid Got them new trams going. We could 'ave a ride out to the end of the pier. Ada (vehemently) No! We ain't going back on that bloody pier. I told you – I ain't steppin' on it ever again. I told you when it happened I ain't never going back on that bleedin pier. We agreed we weren't gonna talk about it, just come here and look. Just sit here and look at the sea and breve some fresh air. That's all! Nuffin else. pause Sid It ain't me that's talking about it – it's you. I only said go and have a butchers. Ada Go on then! Go and 'ave a bloody butchers. Only I'm tellin' yer if you go on that bloody pier again that's it – I'm gerrin' a divorce. I should 'ave bloody done it at the time. I could have got someone else instead of livin' with a useless sod all these bloody years. What 'ave I got to show for it. Nuffin'! Forty years of bleedin' nuffin', bloody council 'ouse in Dag'nam, plastic furniture, garden that's all weeds and you! I could 'ave had grandchildren. All I've got is a bleedin' big baby that don't never grow up! Long pause, Ada takes up her knitting again, Sid picks up the paper. Sid Tide's comin' in. Ada No it ain't – all you can see is bloody mud. Sid Look – look at them bait diggers they're packin' up and coming back in. Issue 22
Ada Bloody bait diggers – shouldn't be allowed – making bleedin' holes in the mud big enough for a kid to drown in. Shouldn't be bloody allowed. Sid You 'ave to 'ave a licence to do it. Ada You 'ave to 'ave a licence to watch bleedin' telly. Doesn't mean the bleedin programmes are any good does it? Does it? Sid S'pose not. (pause) See I can see the sea now! Look, them anglers are all getting ready to cast out on the pier. Ada That's it – the bloody tide's comin' in. Come on, shift yer arse. Pack up that picnic stuff. Ada stands and faces the audience. Sid But it's gettin a bit warmer naw, and we can see the sea – we came to see a bit ov sea didn't we. We can watch the kids swimmin' in it. Ada Are you orf your bleedin' 'ead. Why would I want to see bleedin kids swimmin' in the bleedin' sea. I told yer – it's time to go. Gerup orf that bloody bench – you've got all this stuff to carry. Sid Sit down. Gerup, sit down, What do you fink I am, a bleedin' yoyo? Ada No! I fink you're a bleedin' useless turd, a turd on legs – that's what you are! Sid An' you're all bleedin' mouf an' no 'art. Ada What do you expect after forty bleedin' years, a nice bit ov rump steak? Sid gets up picking up the thermos and picnic bag and faces Ada. Long Pause. Sid Ada, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. It was an accident I didn't do it on purpose. I couldn't 'ave. Ada (pause) I know Sid, I know, I'm sorry too. (pause) C'mon luv, let's go 'ome. They embrace and then walk off, stage right, hand in hand.
Gold Dust 39
oming in at nearly 1,100 pages, one would assume nearly every facet of Shelley’s life to be explored in exhaustive detail. But the richness of the subject vaults far beyond the scope of even a tome as hefty as this one. Interwoven with myriad facets from the jewel of Shelley’s life are the lives of many of those his ‘immanence’ (another core topic of the book) touched and illuminated, including, giving it a post-modern flavor, the author of The Eternal Return himself. Following Dix and his lady friend’s treks through Italy to places where Shelley lived and created several of his masterpieces can be as lusciously arousing as overhearing sensuous details of a close friend’s torrid affair, or garnering, in the glossiest magazine, the latest gossip about a reclusive star. There is, however, a difference. Magazines, after all, mine cotton candy. The Eternal Return, though it could be deemed ‘literary gossip’, mines gold. Percy Bysshe Shelley, born in England in 1792, drowned off the coast of Italy only 29 years later. The basic facts of his existence are well known and well researched through biographies like Richard Holmes’s seminal volume The Pursuit. Where Dix delves further is in his own ‘pursuit’ of the truth regarding Shelley’s relationship with his wife Mary and her sister Clare. Where Holmes hints at the possibility that Shelley and Clare may have consummated their relationship, Dix heartily affirms it. Shocking as one would expect to the literary establishment of the time, and I think shocking even yet to the vast majority. Shelley was no stranger to shattering the shackles of convention. Thrown out of Oxford for having published an anonymous pamphlet (traced back to his hand) on atheism, he refused to follow the more obvious path to a literary life that his position offered. Yet, a posterity that has forgotten almost all his established contemporaries still rates Shelley a prince of the Romantic royalty alongside Duke Keats and jester Lord Byron. While Shelley is certainly the heart of the book, there are many other writers and thinkers who fill out its body, and its brain is undoubtedly Friedrich Nietzsche. The title is taken from one of the philosopher’s most audacious assertions: essentially that everything we ever think or do will repeat in eternal cycles in an infinite series of future universes. The positions of the brain and the heart of this book, though ostensibly chosen by Dix, may be more a rediscovery than an invention. He’s not the first to hurl the two great thinkers together. Powys, in an essay on Shelley, wrote: “The immense encouragement given to really drastic, original thought by Nietzsche's writings is an evidence of the im-
The Eternal Return by Douglas Shields Dix (Last Man Editions, 2010) Reviewed by Lucien Zell Alibris ID: 10724671718 £43.13 portance of what might be called cruel positivity in human thinking. Shelley has, however, an advantage over Nietzsche in his recognition of the transformative power of love. In this respect, iconoclast though he is, he is rather with the Buddha and the Christ than with the modern antinomians.” Like Eva Kostova in writing The Historian, Dix spent more than ten years composing The Eternal Return. But unlike the former’s international bestsellerdom (and 2 million dollar publishing deal), Dix’s book has been released by his own small imprint Last Man Editions in a limited print run of 500 copies. Having read both books, I feel that they are both in the Himalayas of contemporary fiction, but where I’d deem Kostova’s book K2, I’d claim that Dix’s book is Everest. One aim of this review is to redress this false evaluation. Rabindrinath Tagore wrote “Blessed is the man whose fame does not outshine his truth.” Here we might ask, how cursed is the man whose truth far outshines his fame? The concept of immanence, of how far-reaching the influence of a given individual can be, is a recurring theme in the book. Dix writes, speaking of Shelley’s immense spiritual propulsion into the future “…I think that when people live with a certain intensity, there’s an overflow – an excess of energy or will. Some people have more life, dead… than many who are living.” (Eternal Return, page 22.) Dix, a professor of European philosophy, film and literature, related in an interview how one of his former students in Seattle had been sent to Africa as a volunteer for the charity Food Aid. Airlifted out of a battle in sub-Saharan Africa to safety in Madagascar, the student fell into discussion with another rescued volunteer, and reached the topic of just what had inspired them to drop out of their relative career paths and saunter off to join a non-profit humanitarian organization. Though one volunteer had studied in Europe and the other in America, they arrived at the startling realization that both had been inspired by a beloved albeit quirky professor who alerted them to the possibility of venturing out on an alternative life-trajectory… both had studied with Dr. Dix! Borges wrote “Literature is not exhaustible, for the sufficient and simple reason that no single book is. A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships.” Perhaps the day will come when two people meet in Africa, or some other far off land, and discover their mutual inspiration to travel there arose from an encounter with the ‘teachings’ (not to mention ‘the immanence’) of Dr. Dix through the medium of The Eternal Return.
The Freight Train "You snore like a freight train," she tells me, her eyes crusted and half-closed. A freight train, I guess, that snores, and sort of lies there, off-track, not really freighting anything, except maybe a tank car of gas yellow placard warns “toxic”that smells vaguely of our evening meal but soured, fetid, under fluffed sheets, or perhaps another filled with flop sweat, ammonia-tinged, from those damn dreams I have recalling when, as a preteen, I walked in on my mother toweling from the shower, pubic curls exposed against pale, shining flesh. But dream-mother only arches an eyebrow and drops her towel, oops, all while singing the theme song from Aladdin. A whole new world, indeed. My train-self thinks of Thomas the Tank Engine, because I have a three-year-old and he has poor taste in television. Blue frame, red trim, leather interior… one assumes the last not a freight train, but close enough. After a long day of dealing with all of those bitchy passengers, their immobile mouths painted on, but still bitching, “You're too fast, Thomas,” or “Speed up, Thomas,” or “Thomas, stop with the jostling,” all narrated by Ringo Starr or Alec Baldwin, an engine wants to relax, recline his six wheels, rest those radio-controlled eyeballs. It's natural for him to squeak to pass steam, or some other vapor, to seep oil from well-worn joints, right?
I consider all of this, sigh, and forget it. And instead make a joke sexual, of course about something else I do like a freight train, a freight train that does that other thing, a freight train of love, but she only tells me to stop snoring, rolls her eyes, and then her body. RC Neighbors
December 2012 www.golddustmagazine.co.uk
GRAPHIC SHORT STORY
by Slavko Mali We’ve never had a graphic short story submission before, but we were thrilled to discover Slavko Mali’s intricate drawings and biting prose...
The Father by Slavko Mali
The Father by Slavko Mali
The Father by Slavko Mali
Contributors This issue, we received more than 200 short story & poetry submissions from all around the world, including Abu Dhabi, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Serbia, South Africa, The Netherlands, and the United States of America.
Short stories Jon Richardson Jon Richardson is 19 and from Nottinghamshire. He is currently a first year Zoology student at The University of Edinburgh. He has written for pleasure for as long as he can remember. He has been previously published once – after he came second in the Franco British Council Short Story Prize in the 16-18 category in June 2010. His piece, The Nose and the Tongue was included in Issue 174 of Prospect Magazine. Thomas Marlow Thomas Marlow works as a science teacher in Abu Dhabi, UAE and is currently writing his first novel. He is a theoretical physicist by training but fell in love with writing during his studies. Svetlana Kortchik Svetlana Kortchik’s short stories have been published in the February 2012 issue of KidsMagination magazine and May 2012 issue of Alt Hist magazine. One of her stories has also been on the Commendations List of Aesthetica Creative Works Competition 2010 and in the finals of Solander Short Story Competition 2012. Matt Plass Matt Plass lives in Sussex, England. He works in online learning, previously edited Tall Tales & Modern Fables magazine and is one half of Four Legs Good. Jennifer Foster Jennifer Foster is a Wiltshire housewife, with a husband, three grownup children, and some stick insects. A keen WI member for many years, she is also a volunteer guide at Salisbury cathedral. She took up writing six years ago, and inflicted some rambling novels and dreadful poetry upon her family. Then, to their eternal gratitude, she discovered the short story. To date over a dozen have been published, including pieces in MsLexia and Scribble. She was joint winner of her class in the 2011 NAWG annual competition and outright winner of a Scribble quarterly competition in 2012. Her longest, most involved work, however, was a 400 page thesis on the anatomy of spider’s legs. When it was awarded a doctorate by the only other person in the country who understood it, Jennifer breathed a sigh of relief and went off to lead a normal life. Claire Duffy Claire Duffy is a PhD candidate at Deakin University, Geelong. She is finding new meanings in literature through the application of feminist humour. She views writing as a powerful tool for voicing that which is not obvious, and that which is not easy – a catalyst for understanding. Windmills,Verandah, AntiTHESIS, and In Stead have published her short stories. Maureen Bowden Maureen Bowden is an expat Liverpudlian living on Anglesey with her husband. She is a retired Inland Revenue Executive and is currently studying for an Open University degree. Her current module is Advanced Creative Writing.
She has had three poems and one short story published. Another story was recently short-listed in a Flash Fiction 500 competition, and another has been accepted for publication in a literary magazine. She also writes songs, mainly political satire, set to traditional tunes, which her husband has performed at folk clubs around the country. Annette Kupke Annette Kupke is a middle-aged special needs teacher, originally from Germany, who has lived in Scotland for thirteen years. Writing has been her hobby on and off since adolescence, and one of her stories was among he twenty selected winners of a national short story competition when she was eighteen. However, for many years she didn't take writing very seriously, until some five years ago when she started to write regularly and engage in online writing communities. She has had poems published in Snakeskin, The Delinquent and Poetry Scotland. Slavko Mali Slavko Mali moved from the life of a physical worker to designer and journalist. He is devoted to drawing and painting, comics, cartoons, graphic design, illustration, mail art, and writing short stories and poems. He lives in Nish (Serbia) as a freelance artist and a tenant. Since a car ran over his dog he began to wander looking for the killer, but he understood that the murderers are all around us. He does not like art, but it's his destiny. He likes to listen to the radio.
Poems Andrew Fletcher Andrew Fletcher is a writer and musician from Gosforth. He has published widely, but this is his first poem. After graduating from Newcastle University, he tried journalism, but that didn’t work out, so he currently makes a living working in the second best Higher Education Institution in Newcastle upon Tyne. Andrew is also in a band, Wildlife Producer, who have been barred from Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Moya Rooke Moya is a retired boarding kennel proprietor and hotelier but has always had an interest in writing. Business interests left little time for writing. In the eighties when she first started writing, all her projects were done on a typewriter so if anything needed changing it meant re-typing the whole lot. Now with the help of a computer course provided by Newlink, and the gift of a computer from her daughter she can edit all those early drafts. Ironically, as she now has Parkinson’s disease, she sleeps very little. Her computer keeps her occupied during the wee small hours and all her first drafts stage are completed. She has also now written a number of plays, short stories and poems as well as a six episode comedy drama. Despite the reality of Parkinson’s disease being more than a bit of a shake she does not let that get her down and sees herself as belonging to an exclusive fun loving group called The Movers and Shak-
Contributors ers Club! She feels that Parkinson’s Disease is the forgotten charity because people just see it as a bit of funny shaking and appeals for Gold Dust readers after seeing her work in the Magazine to contribute to the Parkinson’s Disease charity: www.parkinsons.org.uk Michael H Brownstein Michael H Brownstein has been widely published throughout the small and literary presses. His work has appeared in The Café Review, American Letters and Commentary, Skidrow Penthouse, Xavier Review, Hotel Amerika, Free Lunch, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Pacific Review, Poetrysuperhighway.com and others. In addition, he has nine poetry chapbooks including The Shooting Gallery (Samidat Press, 1987), Poems from the Body Bag (Ommation Press, 1988), A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004), What Stone Is (Fractal Edge Press, 2005), and I Was a Teacher Once (Ten Page Press, 2011). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011). Brownstein taught elementary school in Chicago’s inner city (he is now retired), but he continues to study authentic African instruments, conducts grant-writing workshops for educators, designs websites and records performance and music pieces with grants from the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs, the Oppenheimer Foundation, BP Leadership Grants, and others.
Dave Turner Dave Turner is a lifelong poet and has been writing for over 40 years. In his spare time from writing poetry he was at first a Primary School Teacher and then a Software Engineer and brought up two children with his wife Mavis. Now retired, he is a student of English literature at Sunderland University's Centre for Life Long Learning and interested (unlike Hamlet) in all the uses of this world. His work has been published by UK Authors Press and United Press and he is now a published and performed Playwright, thanks to Gold Dust Magazine. Lucien Zell Hailed by Alan Levy of The Prague Post as a '21st Century Troubadour', Lucien Zell’s writing has appeared in The New Orleans Review, The Liberal, Café Irreal, Frogpond, The Buddhist Review and numerous other literary journals and anthologies. Born in California and raised in Seattle, he’s spent his entire adult life wandering the world. Prague’s Dharmagaia has published four collections of his poetry. He performs regularly with his band, The Wavemen, in concerts throughout Europe. Songs featuring his lyrics have been recorded by European artists and released by Sony and Warner Music.
Adele Geraghty Adele Geraghty is a presentational poet whose career includes journalism, short story writing, illustration and graphic design. Born in Brooklyn , New York, she attended the High School of Art and Design. Adele received the US National Women's History Award for Excellence in Womens related Poetry and Essay. Her work depicts women's diverse roles and interpersonal relationships. Her birthplace, Brooklyn is a recurrent theme, in her work. She now resides in the UK with her husband Phil Sidebottom where they perform poetry based on Phil's archeological interests. RC Neighbors RC Neighbors grew up in a small town in northeastern Oklahoma. Seriously, it’s really small. He escaped as soon as he could and, after a few cities, several years, and a handful of college degrees, landed in College Station, Texas. Which he has discovered is not much better. Seriously, it’s weird here. And hot. Soon, he hopes to gain his PhD and leave to parts unknown. Maybe somewhere with winter.
Reviews & Features Omma Velada Omma Velada read languages at London University, followed by an MA in translation at Westminster University. Her short stories and poems have been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies. In 2004 she founded Gold Dust magazine. Her first novel, The Mackerby Scandal (UKA Press, 2004), received critical acclaim. She has also published a short-story anthology, The Republic of Joy (Lulu Press, 2006).
David Gardiner Ageing hippy, former teacher, later many things, including mental health care worker, living in London with partner Jean, and Charlotte the chameleon. Adopted daughter Cherelle has recently moved to Australia with her boyfriend. Four published works, SIRAT (science fiction novel), The Rainbow Man and Other Stories (short story collection), The Other End of the Rainbow (short story collection) and Engineering Paradise (novel) as well as many anthology entries and competition successes. Interested in science, philosophy, psychology, scuba diving, alternative lifestyles and communal living, travel, wildlife, cooking and IT. Large, rambling home page at www.davidgardiner.net.
The Back Page
Watch this space...
Issue 23 of Gold Dust magazine It may seem like a long way off now, but put a note in your diary that Issue 23 will be out in June, in good time for your summer reading!
2013 Calendar The 2013 Gold Dust calendar is now available to purchase direct from Gold Dust at the lowest price we have ever been able to offer it, which is £5.00 + postage. Please email email@example.com for copies or information.
Anthologies Our 2 anthologies are available for sale from www.lulu.com/golddustmagazine Liquid Gold (Lulu Press, December 2010) Anthology of poems £6.50
Solid Gold (Merilang Press, January 2010) Anthology of short stories £4.50
To submit to Gold Dust magazine Our (short) submission guidelines can be found at: www.golddustmagazine.co.uk/Writers
(Pre-Christmas) Issue 22 of Gold Dust. NOTE: Check the Gold Dust website for a special offer before buying: http://www.golddustmagazine.co....
Published on Nov 4, 2012
(Pre-Christmas) Issue 22 of Gold Dust. NOTE: Check the Gold Dust website for a special offer before buying: http://www.golddustmagazine.co....