Twice-yearly magazine of literature & the arts golddustmagazine.co.uk
Issue 29 summer 2016
Welcome to our summer 2016 issue. Due to getting a new, high-powered and demanding job (for which we congratulate her) Omma is likely to be taking a less prominent part in the production of the magazine from now on. Adele and I will try to fill some of her roles operating jointly, and if you are interested in helping with the task of getting each new edition ready for the printer we would be delighted to hear from you. The kind of skills that would be immensely valuable to us would be: originating and writing feature articles, interviewing writers and literary figures, illustrating stories, poems and features (either with drawings, photographs or graphic art of any kind), marketing and promotional skills to help us increase our readership, or editorial / production skills such as helping in the creation of a short list of submissions, undertaking DTP and layout tasks or proof-reading drafts of the magazine prior to publication. If you have an interest or skill that you think we could use, even if it isn’t on that list, please email me, David, on email@example.com or Adele on firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy reading!
A Message From Omma After looking after the layout of Gold Dust since it’s inauguration, I can’t help but be a bit misty-eyed to be giving up my role. When I started Gold Dust as a one-woman show back in 2004 it was my own little hobby and I had no idea it would end up with a (to date) 12-year uninterrupted publication, growing to include a loyal team of Editors to take care of the prose and poetry, receiving submissions from all over the world and, perhaps best of all, getting to meet so many of our writers and readers at our numerous and varied live events. So while I know I am leaving the magazine in very capable hands, I will still hope to keep my hand in and to support the team as far as possible, and, of course, to remain a fixture at all future Gold Dust events! Hoping to meet more of you there. Gold Dust Magazine founder
Gold Dust team Founder: Omma Velada Prose Editor & Cover Designer: David Gardiner
Mailing list: golddustmagazine.co.uk/MailingList.htm YouTube: youtube.com/user/golddustmagazine Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/golddust
Poetry Editor: Adele C Geraghty Photographer: Eleanor L Bennett
(all photographs unless otherwise stated)
Illustrations: Slavko Mali Layout:
David Gardiner & Adele Geraghty
Approximate Circulation Online: (issuu.com/golddust): 3,000 PDF: (lulu.com): 500 Founded 2004 We select solely on merit, regardless of the age, gender, reputation or prior publication history of the writer
Issue 29 summer 2016 1
Editorial messages Contributors
Features & Reviews
The Hidden Buffalo (interview by I.W. Smythe)
Arrival of Missives 20 The (review by David Gardiner)
30 Inevitable (review by David Gardiner) News and Events 31 Poetry by Adele Geraghty
Solace: A Memoir in Verse (review by Adele Geraghty)
Sun on the Hill (review by David Gardiner)
12 20 25 26 27 28 29 34 35 36 41
Jasmine on Motherâ€™s Day by Bob Toynton
Uncharted by David Olsen Green Grass by David Lewis
Open Your Eyes by Maxine Rose Munro
Soldiers in the Dunes by Kristy Kerruish
To All You Other People by John Grey
Negative Capability by Steve Carr Open Your Eyes by Maxine Rose Munro Ebb Tide by Ed Ahern Showers by Sammi Curran Chameleon by Kathleen M. Quinlan
BEST Mia by Rachel Jones PROSE
The Concise Life of Henry Stallworthy by Stephen McQuiggan Lucky by Jean Duggleby
Baby Simon by Joyce Walker
Retreat by Jane Frank
Less is More: Short Poems April and my Plastic Sunflowers by Sonnet Mondial
White Chrysanthemums by James Bell
Turbulence by Freya Pickard
Monster by Alison Frank
The Still Water by Jason Vandaele
Wit and Whimsy: Short Poems
Groby by Geoffrey Heptonstall
Issue 29 summer 2016 3
The Hidden Buffalo by Steve Jones
Steve Jones speaks to I.W. Smythe of Gold Dust about his forthcoming book My family lived in Woodside, Queens, in a housing project complex (In the UK, these are known as Council Houses). My parents separated then and my mother raised six of us. In the book, Brandon’s relationship with his grandfather is one that I developed with my own father, later on when I became a man. Although life was rough, my mother did an amazing job making sure we had a home, food and clothes. Everyone graduated from high school. We were prepared to be productive and well- mannered.”
artwork and expertise. My cartooning teacher, Mr. Thomas F. (GD) From the moment he (GD) 'The Hidden Buffalo' is a Naegele, was a Master Artist and could pick up a pencil, Steve new children's book from BTS Jones has been committed to made a great impression on me. Books by author-illustrator Steve illustrative art. This second-na- His work was awesome. He Jones. Geared for children in ture commitment followed this spoke very eloquently and he grades kindergarten through liked my work. He helped to imnative New Yorker through third grade, Jones' book touches every walk of life and all his prove my approach by teaching upon children's emotional and me how to build drawings and roles, as art student, Magna social milestones and provides Cum Laude graduate, airman in create dynamic compositions. I parents with a wonderful way to the United States Air Force, am so fortunate to have studied breech the divide between imagi- teacher in the New York City under the leadership and profesnation and reality. In a recent School System and Technical sionalism of Mr. Naegele and interview with Gold Dust, Steve other teachers like him. As a digLiaison/Special Education Jones has shed some light on Teacher. Steve's art has been ital art teacher today, I reflect on his lifetime of illustration and the a major part of all his choices my relationships with my high beginnings of his authorship of school art teachers and take the and vocations. He began his 'The Hidden Buffalo'. A man of art education at the legendary same careful and patient apvalues as well as talent, Steve High School of Art & Design in proach with my own students. It decided to use familiar neighNew York City and was taught isn’t easy but, it is very rewardbourhoods of his childhood, per- by the best commercial artists ing.” sonal experience and of the twentieth century. (GD) Steve enjoyed the gift of relationships, as a basis for his freedom and expression art gave story. (SJ) “When I was enrolled in the High School of Art & Design him and he loved the reaction which his work elicited from oth(SJ) "In ‘The Hidden Buffalo’, the in New York City, all of my character Brandon lives in Forest teachers were established art- ers. The smiles, the laughs, the Hills, Queens, in New York City. ists. I was impressed with their awe and enjoyment when people
saw his work is what made it all worthwhile.
(SJ) "It is very important that every cartoonist has a child inside. I will always have a child (SJ) "I have always loved the inside of me. It helps me to keep visual arts. Like many of my col- my perspective and drives my leagues, I watched cartoons, creativity. When I create carwhere I drew my greatest inspi- toons, it is best for me to apration. Using old composition proach it from a child’s notebooks, I would make comic perspective. Age and experience books for my classmates in ele- will then kick in to develop my mentary school. I sold them for most dazzling creations. Keep fifty cents. This was when I the child. It rocks! ‘The Hidden knew I wanted to make a living Buffalo’ grew out of a desire to as an artist. As a creative child, create a picture book story that drawing enabled me to express children can learn from and enmyself through art. I would cre- joy at the same time. I wanted ate pencil drawings of people, the story to reflect how children animals and places outside our feel at night when it's bedtime. I apartment windows, like other thought about using a gorilla or a buildings or a park with trees. lion but they do not represent Some of my classmates paid me America like the buffalo does. to draw super heroes, like SuThe buffalo is just as big and perman and Batman. Drawing dangerous.” was the only way I knew that allowed me to express myself. (GD) 'The Hidden Buffalo' faces For me, it was easier than any the age-old problem of childhood other way.” fears and shows, with gentle hu(GD) It wasn't until Steve agreed to illustrate the children's book 'Mud, The Eloquent Elephant' by Alec Nightingale (2014), that he realised how much more he could say. He began to consider how many more children he could reach by pairing his own words with his illustrations, which were already loved by so many. This was something Steve had thought of in the past but, for some reason, he kept pushing it to the background. Perhaps, having said so much for so long through his graphic art, it may simply have not occurred to him until now, just how much more he could say with a story of his own. Ultimately, that was the birth of 'The Hidden Buffalo'. Besides drawing upon the familiars of his childhood, Steve also chose the buffalo, an iconic American creature, as the book’s main character.
mour and sensitivity, the steps taken to help a child to overcome them. Through depicting two young characters and using the genre of both prose and po-
etry, we are offered two complete stories in one. We see Brandon (whose fear is night monsters) being read the poetic story of Nicholas, who fears (you've guessed it) 'The Hidden Buffalo'. And though not all fears are so easily dealt with, the positive summation of Jones' book shows that most fears have no basis and can be banished with knowledge and even a small amount of courage, on a regular basis. (SJ) "I remember as a child, I would imagine the ‘bogeyman’ in my bedroom closet. I didn’t want to turn off the light at bedtime. Many children entertain similar fears of monsters in the closet or under the bed. These are dark places that become one with the darkness of the bedroom when the lights are turned out. It is then that they imagine these monsters will appear. I wanted children to understand that any monsters, or ‘hidden buffalo’ are unreal and is only fear inside of them."
Steve Jones teaching his students
Issue 29 summer 2016 5
Steve Jones teaching
(GD) As a teacher, Steve Jones knows only too well what appeals to children and how important it is to instil in young students an appreciation of reading. Combining both prose and poetry, Steve has created an inviting scenario; two stories in one with captivating illustrations and characters with which they can identify on several levels. (SJ) “I believe children appreciate poetry because of the rhyme and rhythm. Poetry is the basis of today’s Rap music. In ‘The Hidden Buffalo’, by using a story within a story, children may gain an appreciation of the combination of prose and poetry, as a result of the poetic rhythm and the wisdom of the written prose. Children may also increase their level of reading, through reading more. This is something I always
encourage my students to do. The more they read, the better they will appreciate both literary forms.” (GD) One of 'The Hidden Buffalo's' most welcome features is Steve Jones' use of diverse modern families, depicting a young, two parent family and a child living with an older grandparent. This allows children to identify, personally, with these diverse character roles, from their various perspectives. Jones has plans to expand upon this diversity in future publications. He hopes that even his youngest readers will take something away with them and, in this way, he may pass the torch to illustrators and authors of the future. His hope is that, just as he was inspired by
his teacher Thomas F. Naegele, his readers may also glean inspiration.
Brandon and the night monsters
(SJ) “My future works will, of course, include diversity. My background is diverse, living in New York City where there are a multitude of ethnicities and varying family structures. I want children to identify personally with the characters in my future works, so they can feel a sense of inclusion. My future works will reflect the diversity of my own great city in such a way that children everywhere will be able to recognize it and identify. 'The Hidden Buffalo' may benefit young readers when they understand the message that fear is a false sense of reality. They will appreciate the illustrations and, hopefully, some of them may be inspired to create picture storybooks of their own, just as I was able to benefit as a child from inspirational illustrations in earlier books. I remember the old “Dick and Jane” books we had to read in elementary school. I was inspired even then to create books with similar illustrations.” (GD) Jones' was very pleased with the preliminary private launch of 'The Hidden Buffalo', where fifty special, limited edition copies were sold during October of 2015. Steve has made clear his appreciation to his publisher, BTS Books and is both grateful and secure in the support which he has received from his notable endorsers; Dan Haskett (Designer for ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Scooby-Doo’), Laura Loumeau-May (Credentialed Art Therapist), Gail Allouf (Founder of Creative Station Studio) and Jana M. King (Art Teacher and Designer). He is now waiting for the first publication of the standard edition of 'The Hidden Buffalo' to reach the market by late June, 2016, and he is al-
Master Artist Thomas F. Naegele receives 'The Hidden Buffalo' from Steve Jones, his former student.
ready making plans for his next publication. (SJ) “My immediate plans for future work will include a book about my own childhood, facing the challenges of growing up in a housing project. I’ve researched Woodside, Queens and drew from my own past and previous acquaintances. Other books will be about life in other neighbourhoods in New York City and in California, Canada, Puerto Rico and Okinawa, all places where I have lived and gained a lot of experience. I
hope to share my experiences and portray the issues which people in these areas live with, every day.”
(GD) 'The Hidden Buffalo' (BTS Books) will be available in June 2016 and may be purchased internationally through Amazon, major UK book stores and directly from BTS Books (Btsbooks2007@aol.com).
Gold Dust Issue 29 summer 2016 7
by Geoffrey Heptonstall Scene: Scene: A dingy house. There’s a knock on the door. LIL opens the door to let GROBY in. LIL
And who might you be, then?
That sort of thing. Not that I’m prejudiced. Each to his own, I say. Don’t think it’s right, though, somehow. Not had one of those in here before. You wait till I tell Albert. GROBY
I didn’t realize you were married.
I might be a number of people. Who might you be?
I asked first. It’s only polite to answer a question when it’s put to you in a civil manner.
Widowed. He was pushed out of a window on a foggy night, leaving me a widow.
Who pushed him?
I did of course. It was an accident. I blame him. He drank. He drank far too much of my cordial for his own good.
Accidents will occur, as I know only too well.
He’s still my husband. That’s him in the photograph. Such a lovely funeral. I like flowers. And the music was just right for the occasion. More than he deserved, really.
Shame I didn’t know you then. I could have given moral support.
We’d only been married six weeks. Family said it was a mistake. Best to listen to your family.
I seem to remember there was an inquest.
A formal introduction is required at this juncture, I believe. The name’s Groby.
Well, then, you’d best come in, Mr Groby.
Groby. Just Groby.
Well, whatever you think is best. You’re very welcome all the same, I’m sure.
That’s what I like to hear. I like to feel welcome. It’s not everywhere that I can say that I feel welcome.
That’s because there’s so many heathens in this world. I’d make them pay for their devilry, so I would.
A woman after my own heart.
Here, you’re a saucy one. You’ll be pulling down my drawers next. Won’t you?
They had to establish the cause of death. It was misadventure. Like his whole bloody life.
Not necessarily. It depends on the level of intimacy we acquire. I have certain standards.
It’s funny. I mean, we’ve only just met and yet I feel I know you.
I thought you might have. Here, you’re not one of those funny types, are you? Dressing up?
I felt like that about my late husband, the one who got pushed out of the window after six weeks of married life.
Many marriages do not survive so long. The strain can prove too much. I can see I’m going to have to watch you.
I have. I can say I have lived.
Experience makes you wise, they say.
And they are right. I can judge a man the moment I see him. The moment I saw you I thought, I know his sort.
Undress you mean? Watch me undress?
I come with very respectable credentials.
There aren’t too many like me, Mrs Norton.
They’re always the worst. As soon as I saw you I said to myself, Lil, he’ll be a saucy one. And was I right?
How come you’re just called Groby? What happened to your other name, if you don’t mind my asking?
I lost it fighting for my country.
Which country might that be, then?
I don’t remember. It went with my name.
Which war was it?
The war my country lost along with my name.
A terrible thing to lose a war. It can never be found again.
You understand, Mrs Norton. You have depth.
When you’ve had as many men lodging as I’ve had you learn a thing or two. I’ve had all sorts as lodgers. Clergy are the worst. You can’t trust them.
May I make so bold as to call you Lil?
You may not. It’s Mrs Norton to you.
But when we get better acquaint ed, perhaps?
It will always be Mrs Norton. I, too, have certain standards. There are certain standards in any establishment I have a say over. Those are my terms. And if you don’t like them there’s plenty who will. There are some very artistic gentlemen of my acquaintance in whose company I have found myself in youth. You’ve led an interesting life, Mrs Norton?
Issue 29 summer 2016 9
But you can trust me, Mrs Nor ton.
As long as the rent’s paid on time. That’s a month’s deposit against breakages et cetera, and a week in advance. I expect payment every Friday. Cash.
Some landladies prefer payment in kind in my considerable experience.
Only the special ones.
It’s getting a little hot in here, don’t you think? I need to remove some items of clothing.
Might I be of assistance?
Be my guest.
I already am, Mrs Norton.
You are of a certain special kind of man. Artistic, I’d say.
I cannot deny – and why should I want to? – I cannot deny that you are correct on this matter, Mrs Norton. That’s what my instinct tells me.
That’s as may be, but it depends.
My pleasure, Mrs Norton.
Don’t mention it.
Not if you don’t want me to. It will be our little secret. LIL
There are rules, though. To be strictly enforced. Be careful of them stairs for a start.
The late Mr Norton was given to instincts. I miss his little instincts.
Perhaps they were peculiar unto himself, you might say.
I thought you were one for disci ipline, Mrs Norton.
Nothing peculiar about my late husband. A pity you never got a chance to meet my Albert.
You can rest assured, Mrs Norton, it most certainly was not my intention to make remarks such as to cause offence to your good person.
Well, we’ll hear no more about it. Least said soonest mended, I always say.
You are wise as well as kind, Mrs Norton.
You needn’t think I’m a soft touch, Groby.
Touch you, Mrs Norton? The impertinence of such a thought, taking advantage of a lonely widow, eager for the companionship of a strong, virile and compassionate man.
I don’t like noise. Rooms to be kept clean and tidy. No visitors of the opposite sex. Doors locked at eleven sharp.
Very wise, if I may say so, Mrs Norton.
Experience has taught me to lock the door.
Experience has taught me to open doors. Take the key, put it in the lock, twist a bit and open up. Simple as that. Do it every day. Because I never know what I’m going to find.
Yes, well, where was I?
You were here, standing where you are now, talking to me. In fact, you’ve not moved an inch, if I’m not mistaken.
I was saying only I have the key to the door. And I don’t open it until morning. I’ll not let you in. I’ll not let you. I can be very persuasive, Mrs Norton.
With a touch of class, though.
Class? I have got class all right and no mistake. I have served real quality such as wear silk top hats in gilded carriages.
Bet you say that to all the girls.
I like a bit of class, myself. I had a lodger like yourself. He was
incidents to which, I may say, necessity was paramount in my thinking.
once. He isn’t now. Ernest was his name. GROBY
But I have far to go, Mrs Norton. And who knows what person I might take with me?
I don’t know what you mean by that, I’m sure. I have Ernest’s memory to honour. Ernest by name and earnest by nature. As godly a man as ever you could find. He didn’t drink, nor smoke nor swear. He was laid to rest in the garden.
I didn’t realize there was a garden.
It’s been gone a long time.
And all that’s left is the memory.
Poor Ernest. I miss his tender touch. They should never have arrested him. Prison did for him as it does for us all in the end.
Incarceration is something I have avoided so far in my life, I am pleased to say. But I do admit it is something I have always feared. I have lived a blameless life, not counting two or three unfortunate and entirely regrettable
You do a lot of thinking, I can tell. What do you think about mainly, then?
This and that, Mrs Norton.
Plenty of this and a little bit of that? Oh, you are a saucy one.
I trust that my conversation is a source of diversion to you.
It’s a positive tonic, Groby. Why, there I was bemoaning my lot. And now you have entered my world and changed it for ever.
You flatter me, Mrs Norton. I am, I assure you, no more than a humble lodger. If, however, the arrangements turn out to be unsatisfactory I shall of course seek alternative accommodation at my earliest convenience.
Don’t you be so hasty.
In life, Mrs Norton, I find time is of the essence. In the insurance profession we are accustomed to judgements of a person’s character, I hope you will not mind me saying. That is why an insurance policy is advisable in all circumstances. If one was to die in a war, for example, one would need an insurance policy to cover all eventualities arising from that circumstance.
A man after my own heart. Subject, of course, to satisfactory references. On approval, as you might say.
I might indeed, Mrs Norton. I be lieve, in fact, I shall say that.
My pleasure, Groby, my pleasure. But you be careful of them stairs. They can be a bit tricky when you’ve had a few. That was how poor Hugo met his premature end. I keep meaning to have the stairs repaired in his memory.
Gold Dust Issue 29 summer 2016 11
Jasmine on Motherâ€™s Day Bob Toynton
Photo by A. C. Geraghty Sculpture: Mother and Child by George Fullard, 1923-1973
I. I wanted to bring you a delicate wisp of the outside world; Sounds like liquid trickling metal beads; half mercury, half amber, Shaped from the air of my garden by the goldfinches You could never see. I wanted to bring you the light that had passed unaltered Through the perfect crystal on my hallway shelf Only to be startled into colour by a bubble of water Trapped in its heart. I wanted to bring you air; A parcel of air Scented with air Diluted with air And full of the beautiful impurities of the world. Your vision had become heavy with the shadow of stones. Shingle crunched in your ears; and I brought you jasmine With its scent: soapy, dense, polished and round Like pebbles for your nose.
II. Inadvertently, I brought you a measure of your life. The scented pebbles, scarcely noticed out of doors Scattered around your living room Recording by their depth and distribution the opening of windows And then only of doors. You moved it after a week to the hallway Where pebbles were trampled out as helpers came and went. Others tumbled carelessly. The stairs became even more Perilous and heady. When I returned to your house that day, Before I found the unmade bed, The sheets clumsily folded back in your own darkness, The washing-up you could never leave, And the half-drunk nocturnal mug of tea Abandoned I opened the door to a creeping, shifting bank of scree, And sank until it held my legs And pressed my lungs And groping there for air, for light, for company Were the jasmine's tendrils, pale, almost broken, And me.
III. We planted it in my garden, All of your children. It has been given the chance of a different life And reaches now in all directions Exploring for the perfect crystals Far beneath our keenest sight While tangling with the moving air And the goldfinches in swooping flight. I know that even this in time Will falter and cease its climbing, But I'll seek the flowers, white and waxen, Self-effacing, by the wall, And the landslide of fragrance the small flower imparts Precariously hung in its fragile frame Of leaves like a ladder of long stretching hearts.
Issue 29 summer 2016 13
by Rachel Jones
I breathe in the sweet smell of my baby as I hold her close. She wraps a podgy hand around my finger and coo' s softly. I place her in her cot. "Shh, shh, Shh," I hush as her little face begins to wrinkle up. I don't want to leave her but she's so tired. I hate it when she cries herself to sleep. I feel I am failing her in some way. I just want to give my little one everything I never had. I want to give her the best start in life. I lift her back into my arms and rock her gently, humming a little made-up lullaby. Her head droops sleepily and her mouth makes a small sucking noise. I guess tonight I will rock her to sleep. Some time later, when Mia is finally asleep, I tiptoe downstairs. The kitchen is brightly lit, the smell of dinner wafting towards me. I see Damien standing by the stove negotiating multiple dishes of steaming food. "Wow," I say, going up behind him and wrapping my arms
Photograph – open source
around his waist, "this looks great honey! Thank you!" He turns and I notice he's wearing the floral pinny my mum gave me. "It's nothing special," he moves away from my embrace and begins to griddle the steak, "sit down, it'll be ready soon." A little while later we are seated with our food. I eat hungrily whilst Damien picks at his. "Did Mia go down okay?" He moves the food around on his plate. "Yes love," I say, prodding a green bean, "I think she was over-tired though. What did you two get up to today?" I laugh. Damien doesn’t answer. He’s in one of his moods. We eat silently for a while. I chew on a piece of meat and then wash it down with some wine. "Aren't you going to ask me about my day?” He doesn’t reply. "Look, honey. I know you didn't want to give up your job. I know it isn't cool to be a house-husband. But
it was common sense. My earnings were twice yours. We talked it over. You know we did. It was what you wanted too. I never insisted. On anything. We could have done it some other way. I could have job-shared. You could have gone part time..." "Please don't patronise me. You're a child psychologist, I was a god-damned cook in a restaurant. What do you think that would pay part-time? Fulltime, come to that. Of course I had to give up my job. Let's not talk bullshit." He must see my expression change because his demeanour changes. "Oh sorry love, don’t listen to me. I get a bit down when I’m here on my own all day. Let’s start again. How was work?" He begins to stack up the plates and dishes. I haven't even finished eating but I ignore it. "I have a new child, a five year old boy called Ben." "Oh really?"
"It's a tricky case," I explain. "He's completely mute and there's no obvious reason why. Mum says he developed normally, his grasp on language was good and then one day he stopped talking. Hasn't said a word since." I pause. "There're no signs of abuse or trauma, although she does seem a bit edgy when I mention dad." I am thinking aloud. I look to Damien for a response. He has a far away look in his eyes. I leave it. "Anyway love," I change the subject, "that was delicious. You make the best steak!" Damien is back with me again. He grins with that rugged charm he has, the smile that makes me melt. That night I lie close to Damien taking in his smell and feeling his soft skin against mine. I feel so fortunate to have my family. I see so many broken homes in my job, so many damaged children. I remind myself to be thankful for what I have. The next morning I wake rested to a quiet house. I slide out of bed, discard my night dress and get ready for work. I pin my long hair up into a bun and put some blush on my cheeks. Damien is sleeping like a baby. I kiss him softly and then I check on Mia. She is also in a deep sleep. She looks angelic, lying there, my beautiful girl. Ben is first on my list today. He shuffles in clasping his mother's hand. She looks so small and fragile. Her hair is unkempt and her clothes hang loose, clearly too big for her frame. I smile warmly at them both. "Ben," I say, "say goodbye to mum and then come and sit with me. I have some cool stuff to play with today." Ben looks up at his mother and then walks tentatively towards me. He turns to look
at mum one last time before she disappears out the door. Ben slides onto the chair opposite me as I get out some paper, pens, crayons and paints. "We can do whatever you like today Ben," I say. "I have some stickers and stamps too if you'd like to make a drawing or collage. It's up to you." Ben glares at me. "Would you like to do a drawing?" He nods slowly. He picks up a black pen and begins to scribble on the paper. "What are you drawing there Ben?" Silence. "It looks like you're feeling quite angry. Are you feeling angry?" Ben screws the paper into a ball and throws it across the room. Then he crosses his arms and glares at me again. This is the first time he's shown such resistance. I try a different tack. I take out my 'special' box and upturn it onto the table. Dozens of toy animals, people and cars cascade out. I think I see a faint smile on Ben's lips. He looks at me as if asking for permission and then takes a car. It's a red, shiny sports car. The kind you pull back to activate the wheels. He makes it drive across the table and then topple off the edge. "That's fun isn't it," I grin. "Do you like cars, Ben?" He nods and picks up another car, a blue one this time. When it comes to the end of the day I’m feeling mentally exhausted. Everything has gone as well as I'd hoped and I think I'm making some headway with Ben, but I’m looking forward to going home to my family where I can put my work to one side and enjoy being a mum. That night I let myself into the house. It’s silent and all the lights are off. "Damien?" I say, flicking the switch in the lounge.
Damien is crumpled on the sofa, he is sobbing. "What's happened?" I ask going over to him and embracing him. He is shaking. I’ve never seen him like this before. “Im okay, love." He forces a smile. “You don't look it,” I say, concerned. “No I am fine, really. Just feeling a bit tired that’s all. You know how it is.” He takes my hand, “Oh, I feel stupid now!” He wipes away a stray tear. “There’s nothing wrong with crying,” I say, switching into psychologist mode. “You can talk to me if there’s something wrong, you know that, don't you? Please be honest with me, no secrets, okay? I love you so much and I love the way you are with Mia.” “I’m fine!” He grins. “You know me, I’m a sensitive soul.” The next morning I’m meeting with Ben’s mum. I always feel more nervous when I talk to the parents of a child. I don't want them to feel that I’m judging them. However, at the same time, there are things I need to ask them, as they may hold the key to their child’s problems. His Mum walks in, her face grey and distant. I stand to greet her but she doesn't meet my eye. “Hi Susan," I say. "Thanks for meeting with me today." She nods and sits down. "So how's Ben?" "He's okay I suppose." She is silent for a moment and then she looks up at me, "Do you have children?" I refrain from answering the question. "We're not here to talk about me." She ignores me. "I bet you have the perfect family. You
Issue 29 summer 2016 15
wouldn't understand what it's like for people like me." "Why don't you tell me?" "No job, no money, a husband who doesn't give a damn about me or the kids. I'm not surprised Ben won't talk." "Do you know why he won't talk?" She thinks for a moment, "Mike, well Mike has manic depression. He has these highs and then these terrible lows...and sometimes…" She stops mid sentence. "Does he hurt Ben?" "Look I've got to go. I've said too much already." She stands. "I'll bring Ben in tomorrow." When I arrive home that night the house is in darkness again. I have a feeling in my stomach that something's not right. When I get to the door I hear Mia crying but it's not a normal cry, it's too high pitched, like a scream, desperate. It isn't until I open the door that I hear Damien's voice. He is shouting. I take the stairs two at a time and run to Mia's room. I switch on the light. What I see is so shocking I can barely breathe. I have to put a hand out
Photograph – open source
to steady myself. Damien is standing by the cot holding Mia but he's shaking her and shouting. As soon as he sees me he stops and tries to speak but no words come out. Mia's face is blotchy and she is screaming, a face full of snot and tears. I grab her from Damien and hold her close to my chest. I am in shock. I begin to scream. My words are not intelligible. I feel that I’m floating above, looking down on this horrific scene. I place Mia in her cot so she can come to no further harm. Then I fall silent, glaring at the man I called my husband, the man I loved and trusted, the man who now looks like a monster. Tears run down my face and in a fit of rage I begin to hit out at Damien, again and again with all the force I can muster. He is crying too, shielding his face with his hands, pleading with me to stop. When I have no energy left I collapse on the bed and cry into my pillow unable to believe that this is really happening. “I’m sorry.” Damien’s voice sounds pathetic. “You’ve got to
understand, please! I didn't mean to hurt her. She wouldn't stop crying and I couldn't take it anymore.” “Get out,” I say quietly and clearly. “Please love,” he cries. “Yes okay, I need help, I know that now, I admit that. I should have told you that I was struggling, that I was depressed…I tried to…staying in the house, day in day out with her. No social life. It’s like I could hear my dad’s voice all the time in my head: ‘You’ll never amount to anything.’” I lift myself from the bed, his words mean nothing to me, “Get the fuck out of my house,” I hiss. “I’m calling the police.” He knows its over now. And without another word he walks out, leaving behind him the destruction he has brought to my perfect little family. We walk into the room hand in hand. Mia looks up at me with her big blue eyes, her soft blonde hair falling in ringlets about her shoulders. She looks so small and vulnerable, my little girl. “Mummy? Will you stay with me?” She whispers squeezing my hand tightly. “No darling, you must talk to this nice lady alone. I’ll be right outside waiting for you when you’re done. Don't worry my love, she just wants to chat. And you’ll have a lovely time.” “Mia,” the woman greets us with a warm smile, “say goodbye to Mum and then come and sit with me.” Mia looks up at me one last time, releases my hand and then walks towards her. "Dear little Mia. We're going to have a lovely time today. We're going to get the toys out of my special box..."
The Concise Life of Henry Stallworthy by Stephen McQuiggan Five minutes after vomiting Henry was back at the bar with a pint in front of him. This was how life slipped you by, but he was so bored he hardly noticed anymore. He was on auto pilot, asleep at the wheel, and heading for a crash that he welcomed in his heart. His death had become a fetish to him. Anything was better than merging with the faceless masses. Only the constant drill of pain enriched his life and made him real. Sorrow and misery were the only highlights of his monochrome existence, the only bits worth taping. If life were a movie, he thought, you would watch it on fast forward yawning between the action scenes. Death was preferable. But the bored lived a long time, each minute stretched to breaking point. The bored might well be immortal if they didn’t kill themselves to liven things up. He was so weary of struggling through the clotted passage of his being. There had to be something more and he planned to drink until he found it. He sipped his pint, feeling his stomach lurch as a vanguard of bile charged up his throat. ’I wish you could just live the good bits,’ he said to the pale reflection in the mirror behind the optics. ‘The meaningful bits.’ Then he hurried to the toilets once more. But when he opened the door, instead of urinals and an overpowering stench of bleach,
he found himself in a small cramped office. The contents of his stomach retreated in surprise. A clerk, skinny as a bar of cheap rock, was scribbling away behind a desk; Henry could hear the tut of his pen over the clone and drone of the photocopier. By the clerk’s elbow, acting as a paperweight, was a picture of a woman without a face. Henry was instantly wary of him, for he appeared more insect than human. He was afraid the clerk might touch him and that his touch would be the cold one he feared in the dead of night; the reason he couldn’t sleep if all his limbs weren’t covered. The clerk looked up as if he sensed he was being stared at. He looked tiny behind the black carapace of his desk. ‘Mr Stallworthy?’ Henry started. ‘How do you-’ ‘I won’t be a moment. I just need your signature for our records.’ ‘Signature? I don’t understand.’ ‘Don’t worry, it’s really just a formality. Your wish has already been authorised by the Board.’ ‘My wish? Am I dead?’ The clerk laughed. ‘No sir, you are very much alive. How does it feel to be alive?’ Henry merely gawped in reply. ‘If you would just sign here,’ the clerk tapped a piece of paper with his pen. ‘And here.’ Henry scrawled his name feeling the clerk frown behind
him at every incompetent stroke. He noticed that the little man reeked of Brylcreem even though he was completely bald. ‘So what have I signed up for?’ ‘Why, the best bits Mr Stallworthy. All the meaningful moments of your life with no filler in between. The meat without the bread.’ ‘You’re kidding me, right?’ The clerk gestured toward the door. ‘If you wouldn’t mind sir, there are others waiting.’ Henry left mumbling an apology. He found himself in a dark, narrow corridor whose far end was dimly lit by a tiny red door that was barely more than a slit. The shadows clung to it like matted hair. He walked slowly toward it, feeling his fear shiver around him. It looked like a cave where childhood monsters might lurk. It was a squeeze to get through the tiny opening even though the sides were lubricated with some form of mucus. It hurt as he pushed, and he cried as he slipped through to the other side and found himself in a hospital room. He had no idea what was going on. He felt like a fly on a TV screen, surrounded by sights and sounds that made no sense. A woman was writhing on the bed, screaming obscenities, grasping onto a man’s hand so tightly she had drawn blood. The man looked trapped between illness and embarrassment. Un-
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derneath his pallid mask Henry recognised him; it was his father. And the swearing, sweating mess that clung to him was his mother. ‘None too clever this birthing process,’ said the clerk from behind him. ‘Throws everything out of whack.’ ‘What is this?’ ‘It’s your birthday.’ ‘My-’ But the clerk was gone. A baby yelled. He saw the child emerge, surfing on the tidal wave that gushed from his mother, a six pound pot roast erupting through the open window his mother spread from one world to the next. The doctor opened a window too; the noxious fumes accompanying its arrival were overwhelming. They make you pay for such indiscretions. He remembered vividly the birth canal, as fetid and clotted as the one by Romannon Street; the terror as he hit vegetation. His first birthday, no cake, no candles, just blood and guts and tears; a prototype of all that would follow. He looked at his small crying self. Such an ugly baby. He was just a short slap away from being thrown to an indifferent world, full of little miracles, bored to death of them. Why had they bothered? He had been an Elastoplast baby, used to cover the festering wound of his parent’s marriage. He had failed miserably, something his mother pointed out to him on a daily basis. The doctor held the dripping child aloft, a sacrificial lamb offered to a hungry God. The sight of blood on his mother’s thighs, on his tiny arms and protruding belly made him cry. He had been sensitive from a tender age. ‘It’s a ..’ The doctor paused for the longest time and Henry felt the shame of the changing room return, ‘…a boy!’
The baby reached for the umbilical, tried to crawl back, intuitively aware he did not belong here, but the lifeline was cut and he was left stranded. They swaddled him in a blanket and presented him, a bouquet of pink steaming meat, to his mother. She clucked, turned her eyes in, mouthed nonsense words. It was then that Henry had had his first coherent thought: My mother is an idiot. Enough. He squeezed back out the door, into the dim corridor, and found Sheba waiting for him. He had forgotten all about her and her gentle brown eyes. She’d been the only one who had ever been pleased to see him; how could he have forgotten her? She barked a greeting and Henry felt something inside him slip. His dad had always told him not to stick his toe into the bath plughole, told him it would suck him down with the water. Now here he was, on the other side, for Sheba had been dead for twenty years. He had buried her at the bottom of the garden and he had talked to her every day. Of course, he had pretended to be weeding just in case his mother was watching him. You come for me when it’s my time Sheba, he always told the little mound of earth before he left, and we’ll be together forever. ‘Are you my guide girl?’ Wagging her stumpy tail she bounded into a pillar of bright light barking for him to follow. He ran after her, crying ‘Stop!’ for the last time she had bounded into the light it had been the headlamps of a Vauxhall Viva and her little body had crunched beneath the wheels. He closed his eyes as he raced into the heart of the pillar. He felt a shower of insects crawl over his face, their hard pellet bodies scraping his skin. Their
countless legs, barbed with coarse hair and dipped in dung, tickled his lips, made him gag. He felt the jackboots of a superior race march over his flesh and he leapt from the light rubbing frantically at his skin in disgust. He landed in a church filled with a few mumbling mourners. ‘Bad turn out,’ said the clerk behind him. ‘I asked around but no one had anything really good to say about you, although the Reverend said you were held in high esteem and praised your whistling ability.’ ‘Where am I?’ The clerk pointed to a coffin underneath the pulpit. ‘Why, it’s your going away party Mr Stallworthy.’ No one was crying; that was disappointing. The small band of the mercy circus that had huddled under the Lord’s cold roof were dry eyed and catatonically bored. In place of sobbing there was only a slight rustling and the occasional clink of a boiled sweet against false teeth. Where are all my friends? He didn’t recognize half the people here; they were far too old to be acquaintances. Who will lift my coffin then? No one here seemed fit enough. They seemed to be frozen in the act of queuing, not mourning. They were using his funeral as a dress rehearsal for their own. He turned to ask the clerk but he was nowhere to be seen. In a small room to one side he saw a table filled with ham sandwiches and the realisation that he was overseeing his own death suddenly hit home. Ham sandwiches were the broken mirror, the number thirteen, the grim reaper of the food world; there could be no send off without them. The lettuce and tomato were all show and the egg and onion would just repeat on you all day;
Photograph – open source
you certainly didn’t want to be trumping in a small room like that. No, the ham sandwich was the morbid snack of choice; crusts cut off, shaved like a marine, ready to kick the filling out of the nancy-boy cucumbers. Henry watched as an old woman helped herself, the ham protruding from the bread like a tongue between dead lips, and washed it down with the obligatory strong tea. How can anyone eat when the air is filled with the nauseating stench of roses? And why in the hour of my own funeral can I only think of food; was there nothing more profound than Spam? He watched his mother talking to the Reverend Campbell, laughing at some weak joke he’d made. She’d always referred to him as a sanctimonious old hypocrite, yet here she was flirting with him over her son’s body. She was wearing an awful green dress; in the midst of death we are in embarrassment. Henry walked up the aisle and looked at himself in the coffin. He looked young, he thought, too young. With his mouth glued shut, pursed like a pencil sharp-
ener, and his suit and tie on he looked like a prefect. He looked like the kind of boy he would’ve picked on at school. In death all things looked artificial, man made, but Henry looked more real than he had ever felt. As a final insult they’d combed his hair wrongly too. He could not bear to look at the dummy in the casket any longer; leave it to God, he thought, striding back down the aisle, leave it to the great ventriloquist in the sky. He was sweating now, despite the chill air, and his sweat reeked of attar. He stopped a moment by the small garden of wreaths sprouting by the door. One spelt out SON in shiny plastic flowers; then, at last, someone cried. Wiping the tears from his eyes Henry pushed through the heavy church door and found himself back in the clerk’s cramped office. Stepping over the box-files that lay on the floor like homogenous headstones, he approached the odd little man who was still scribbling away. ‘What am I doing back here?’ Looking up, the clerk spread his bony hands in sympathy.
’You’ve had your quota Mr Stallworthy.’ ‘Two days? That’s it?’ ‘I think you’ll find it’s three.’ ‘I’ve had birth and death. I think you’ll find that’s only two.’ ‘And you have today Sir. Making three. The magic number.’ ‘What’s today?’ ‘Today’s the day you made your wish.’ As Henry stared at him he could feel his sickness return; a tendril of bile snaked up his throat. ‘Who are you?’ The clerk smiled. ’Just someone who made a wish. Someone like you.’ He gestured toward the door. ‘If you don’t mind Sir, there are others waiting.’ Henry left, barely making it out before emptying the contents of his stomach over his shoes. Five minutes after vomiting Henry was back at the bar with a pint in front of him. This was how life slipped you by, but he was so bored he hardly noticed anymore.
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The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley Unsung Stories May 2016 £9.99 reviewed by David Gardiner Aliya’s first novella, Mean Mode Median came out at the beginning of 2004, just before the first edition of Gold Dust in the summer of the same year, and we have followed her career with admiration and fascination ever since. Admiration because she is incapable of writing a dull sentence or paragraph, fascination because her novels are invariably unpredictable, thought-provoking, hard to categorise and completely different to one another. This one is no exception. It begins in rural Somerset in the early 1920s, where Shirley, a 16-year-old schoolgirl, has a crush on her teacher Mr Tiller, and a determination, in the wake of the horrors of the trenches, to play her part in the creation of a brave new British society founded on peace, prosperity and social
justice, and brought about by the power of education, the field to which she plans to dedicate her life. Mr Tiller will of course become her partner in life as well as in the achievement of this Utopian vision. And so, with the supreme self-assurance of youth, she sets about the task of informing him of her feelings and her plans. But Mr Tiller is not quite what he seems. Her first shock comes on seeing the nature of the injuries people speak of when they say that he is not a whole man. He writes her a most curious letter of explanation. With this our journey into the twilight world begins. If I continue my plot summary beyond this point I will be in danger of spoiling a few beautifully orchestrated surprises. So I will rest content with saying that all lovers of science fiction, or of comingof-age novels, or simply of good novels, have a great treat in store with this one.
Uncharted David Olsen after a line by Michael Swan
No North Star. No satnav or maps. No charts of perilous shoals or submerged reefs or rocks aspiring to atolls or isles. No foghorns or lighthouses pierce the dark to warn of the wreckage of indifferent drift. While mooring lines slip from cleats of memory, a forgettable wake is swamped by the groundswell’s enduring pulse of a heart beyond reach. What remains of us is a logbook of delusions and self-serving lies with a truthful final page left blank.
Lucky by Jean Duggleby Me and my brother like the war cos when the doodlebugs come we all have to hide under the table from the germans. They make a funny noise and my brother says, “More doodloobugs, more doodloobugs.” When the airayde, airaid syren goes off we have to go in the airaid shelter which is over the road in the school playground. It’s good in the airraid shelter because people play games with me like Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Dominoes and cards. We play for buttons and I nearly always win and if you get 10 buttons you get a penny. My brother doesn’t play cos he’s too little cos he’s 2 and I’m 8. If I get a penny I spend it in the Tuck Shop on sweets if mum lets me have the rashun book. My mum is very clever and makes teddy bears from old blankets and gives them to all the kids round here. The eyes are buttons and she emboyders the nose and mouth. She makes clothes out of bits of matearityall, meteeryal. She gave one each to the boys of the rag and bone man who also cleans peoples windows but they just throw it to the dog who choos it up and rips it to peeces. Patch is another dog and he belongs to my friend and we love him. Sometimes we dress him up in baby clothes and sit him in the push chair and take him abowt and he likes it. My teddys name is Lucky and I always take him to the air-
raid sheleter. He sits on the shelf near the entrense and everybody touches him for luck. Sometimes we sleep in the airraid shelter but it’s a bit sqoshd and crowded. My dads a soljer, soldjer and hes in the catering cor. Hes somewhere in England and hasn’t gone to germany or France. He’s cumin, coming on leave soon and sometimes brings us food. Last time he bort donuts. That’s good cos foods on rashuns and we wood like more but mum says we musnt complane cos it’s the War Effort. The other day those boys tied a dustbin lid to a dogs tail and it was fritend, frightened, scared but it wasn’t Patch so we
didn’t mind so much. We don’t like those boys but mum says that shes just herd bad news and that there dad fell of a ladder when he was cleaning the window and is very badly hert and he wasn’t even hert in the war. Dads here now on holiday from bein a soldjer and mum says she has big news for everyone and that shes pregnant. Dad lifts her up and swings her round and puts her down gently and say we must look after you now and everybody is happy and larfs. She says thers one problem and that her mum thinks it rong to have a baby when theres a war on and dad says. “We’ll cross that brige, bridge when we come to it. “ but thers no bridge
Photograph – Adele C. Geraghty
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on the way to my nans so I don’t know wot what he means. When dad puts mum down she said I must cook dinner now cos you have to leave this afternoon and go back to the army. It was a special dinner cos dad bought some beef and other things from the army. Mum cooked it all and made a yooksher, yorkshire pudding in a tin tray and we all sat down to eat our dinner. Sudenly, suddenly there was a bomb and the house shook and guess what. All bits of the seeling sieling ceeling came down but my mum had the Yorkshire pudding in her hands and quick as a flash she just turned it up-side- down and it didn’t get stuff in it. Dad was quick too cos he quickly put a cloth over the rest of the dinner so it was all clean. We picked bits of plaster off our chairs and had a lovely dinner with cake from the army for afters. Mum says “Its lucky the bom didn’t hit us” so its good that my teddy savd us. Dad sais “This is a terable, terrible mess and I ort to stay and help you clean up.” But mum says “Don’t worry, Peggy will help.” So dad went off to be a soldjer again. Peggy is my mum’s best friend and she’s really nice and she has blonde rinklets, ringlets and they bob up and down and she laughs a lot. She came round and helped my mum to clean up and me and my brother helped too. Peggy whispered sumthing to my mum and they both giggled and mum said to me, “Can you keep a secret.” And I said “Yes,” and mum said Peggy’s pregant too and that speshally good cos she’s been trying a long time.” And I said “But, Nana won’t like it cos of the war.” And they both said “You’re rite.” And giggled a bit more.
Then my mum told Peggy that she was more frytend, fihgtend of her mum than the boms so she was going to get evacuated so she could get away from her mum so she went to the evakyouashun, evakuation, evacuation office and they said you can go to devon witch is a beautiful place in the cuntry. Then we went to nans to tell her that we were going to devon and my nan said to my mum “Have you gone wrong again.” And my mum said “Dont put it like that. We’re really pleased.” I think my Nan gessed that mums pregnant. And I want a baby sister. My nans always fed up and maons a lot but my mum says she’s had a hard life so we have to be sorry for her. first she was an orfan in an orfanidge, orphaidge then when she was 14 she worked in a big house as a skulry, skullry, scullery made. Then she met a man who was the plummer and he would give her bunches of vilets which he carrid under his bowler hat and they got marrid. I’ve seen photos of my nan then and she was really pretty. Then it was World War 1 and my granddad went off to be a soldjer. The germans were the enemy but they wanted to play football and sings songs to eachother but when they did it it wasnt allowd any more. In that war they lived in ditches and it was dirty and cold with rats and my granddad cort newmonia. After the war he came home and lived a few years and died cos he still had newmonia and that ment it was too late for my nan to get a war widows penshun so she was poor with 2 children and had to get up early and clean and that’s why her knees hurt these days. She worked as a cleaner for a lady. Once she
took my mum to werk to show the lady and the lady said, “Shes lovely, just like a Jewish girl.” And my nan was afended and the lady new she was afended so she lost her job. My mum says at least in world war 1 they fort a long way from London but these days we get killed in our own countree. Nan lives with Auntie and there both old. I think she’s some relation or sumthing like that. Auntie’s husband is ded too so she’s a widow but shes jolly and hasn’t got any children. She skips with my skipping rope and at Christmas time we play Bingo and she gives us pryziz, prizes wrapt up in pretty paper. Now we’re living on a farm in devon and all around is grass and trees and hills and we can’t see any other houses. Theres animals like cows and do you know what? Beef comes from cows. I’m never going to eat beef again. I have lots of jobs like digging up potatoes and carrots cos they grow under the ground. I have to collect the eggs, but my favourite job is feeding a baby lam, lamb with a bottle cos its mother has died. My teddy helped the lamb grow big and strong. My brother has jobs too like feeding the chickens and picking the strawberries thow I see him eat most of them. The farmer said do you want to see me milk the cows and I did but you know what? Milk comes from under the cow and I’m never going to drink milk again. Ugh!! And butter and cheese and cream comes from milk and I’m never going to eat them again. Yuk!! The farmer is called farmer John and he and his wife are
Photograph – Life Magazine Online
very nice and say they never had children and it’s nice we’re there and so well behaved. We eat lots of food and my mum says it’s fresh and helfy and the air is fresh and helfy too.
The beach was rocky so we didn’t take our bukis, bukits and spades cos we couldn’t make sandcastkles, sandcastles but we did take fishin nets from the shop. We paddled in rock pools and guess what? My brother fownd something long and farmFarmer John had a day off so er John caort it and we put it in he took us to the seaside and his bucket from the truck and he me and my brother and Lucky and farmer Johns wife sat in the said it was an eel and we can have it for dinner and my brothback of the truck on blocks of hay and my mum sat in the front er is very clever spotting it. We took it home and farmer cos shes pregnant. John’s wife cut it into peeces We had ice-cream and my and guess what. All the bits brother didn’t now, no, know, jumped about the kitchen and know what to do and I showd me and my mum screamed and him how to lick quickly before it my brother cried and I’m never melts cos I remember from going to eat eel. Disgustin!! when I was little before the war. When we’d finished eating my We’d been here for a few weeks mum said “Ice-creams made and me and my mum were walkfrom milk,” and I said “I don’t ing along the lane and my brothcare. I’m still going to eat it if I er was in the pram and guess get the chance.” And everybody what. A little pig jumped into the pram on top of my brother. My larfed.
mum screamed and my brother cried and I showed the pig Lucky and it squealed and ran away and I larfed. Mum said she had enuff of the countryside and she missed London even if there was boms. At least pigs didn’t jump up on top of her children. She missed her frends and family and wanted to have her baby with them so we went back to London. Even more houses had been bommed but the one with our flat was alrite and the school was alrite. Mum was very fat now and tired all the time so she told me to take my brother and play out. It was good on the bom sites and we had luvly times with all the other kids. We bilt houses with the bricks and made a roof with the doors. There was even fernicher, furnichure, furniture we culd have. Mum told us not to touch boms and we looked for them but didn’t now what they
Issue 29 summer 2016 23
looked like. My nan had some shiny bullets by her fire so maybe that’s what boms look like. Anyway we didn’t find any. Peggy came round and she was nearly as fat as mum. They tuched each others bumps and giggled. Then the airayd siren went and we all rushed to the shelter but I forgot to take Lucky, my teddy. We played games and sang songs and it was good. It was getting to be nite time and everyone was making themselves cumfortible but Peggy said “Blow this for a lark. I can’t get to sleep with my bump. I’m going home.” Everyone said,”Don’t. It’s dangerus.” But Peggy said. “I’ll take the risk.” So she went home to her bungalow. My Auntie says the same thing and stays in the house even thow the airade shelter is in there garden. She says, “I’m not letting Hitler tell me what to do.” But she’s never been hit even tho she dusnt have a lucky teddy. One day we herd on the wireless that the war was over and there was lots of dancing and kissing people you didn’t even now and flags waving. The soldjers started coming home and some of them only had one leg or no legs and bandages and the hospitals were full up. We all staid with nan just in case and mum had her baby in Nans bed and I was there and it’s a girl. Then we went home and I was playing and I saw my dad and I ran to him and said “I’ve got a baby sister. Just wot I wanted.” And he said .”Now, I’ve got two girls. Just wot I wanted.” Every bodies happy. Peggys had her baby too and they take there babys out in the prams. Everybody looks at my sister and says, “What a lovely baby, she’s bonny. Is she good?
Does she sleep at night.” Then they look at Peggy’s baby and go quiet and walk away and say sorry. I don’t know why they say sorry. Its not there falt. Our baby kicks her legs and waves her arms about and smiles. Peggy’s baby doesn’t move much and is blind and has a funny twisted body and its face looks squashed. I asked my mum why and she said, “Remember that time she left the airayd shelter. Well her bungalow was bomd and she was stuck under the rubble until they dug her out and resqued her and her baby was damidged. Peggy never smiles or larfs these day and even her ringlets don’t bob about like they yewsd to. One day she came into our flat crying and said “Linda’s dead.” Linda was her baby and and mum cuddled her. Im holdin on to Lucky all the time even tho the wars over. One day I coudnt find him and I lookd everywere and still coudnt find him then my mum sed he was getting dirty so she woshed him and now hes on the mantalpeece drying over the fiyre. He wos hi and I coudnt see him or reech him so I stamped and shouted “You musnt take him away” and my Mum sed “Keep your hare on” and wen he was dry I got him back and wodnt let go. Then Mum sed “Peggys cumin round for a cup of tea and we must cheer her up and you can help and I sed alrite but reelly I’m going to hide. When Peggy came I hid under my bed with Lucky but they fownd me and made me tork to Peggy but I didn’t no what to say. Peggy sed “Shes very quite” and Mum sed “shes bin very quite lately.” So I had an ider and I gave Lucky to Peggy and I sed “Thats so when you get a new baby it will be helfy
helthy.” And Peggy larfed and said I was sweet but it was my teddy and she was shore that if she got a new baby my mum wood make a teddy for that one. But I sed she must take Lucky cos she needed luck and I had a nice baby sister and she didn’t have nobody. So she took Lucky. When Peggy went I cried and Mum said that’s its sad that the baby died but it mite have been just as well cos it would have had a hard life and Peggy will probably have another baby which will be alright. Its very kind of you to give Lucky to her and I sed that I had to cos it was its my fort, folt, foolt. “What do you mean?” Well, I didn’t take Lucky that night when she got bomd so she wasn’t lucky. Mum cuddled me and said that I was a silly billy and that thing about touchin Lucky was just sooperstishun, superstishon, supstishun and when people are afraid they will believe in anything. I’m still sad about Peggy’s baby even thow its wasn’t my foolt. Anyway, world war two is finished and theres no more boms or doodlebugs or hiding under the table or going to the arirade shelter and playing games there or going to Devon or feeding lams. The good thing is that that there arnt so many things on rashens, rashions, rations and we can go to the Tuck shop and by ice-creem and my dads home though mum and dad do argue a bit cos he hasn’t got a job. World war 1 is over too and that was a long time ago. I wunder what world war 3 will be like.
Green Grass David Lewis One fine summer on the youthful grass in between the century-wise stately patriarch and the covert monument to war dead there resided the greatest ice-cream clad philosophers that ever lived. And even when a fine lush meadow filled with hoof prints and cornflowers grew in between those hopes and dreams I still cannot quite extinguish that fire, that overwhelming certainty of achievement, of love, of bright futures, a perfect love sweet as vanilla love. But finally, after thirty years of rapid eye movement I limp past the same place where I appear to be invisible and see fresh faces, novel excitement, new-fangled invincibility, and it scares me. Shivering in the heat, sweating with knowledge reflected in the eyes of my wise old dog whose dreams only extend to me.
Issue 29 summer 2016 25
Negative Capability Steve Carter leaving empty beach waves whitecapped moonlight darkness bordering the sea's whisper listening for echoes depths left long ago for dry land knowing salt sand finding shells dark crevices lighted white beached waves sighing from the far side
Open your eyes Maxine Rose Munro A perfect mirror of a lake - birds and boaters set off ripples of mercury which in turn wash the edges of the path and paint stones silver. Yellow flowers dot about the emerald grass, a trove of precious colour for the eyes. Skin revels in the rascally play of a wind thatâ€™s laden with exotic scents. Dozens of sounds clamour to be heard. Above in the air are geese, tiny birds and mice scruffle in the undergrowth. Every nook and cranny is filled to bursting. Move on, look again, look just a little bit farther, listen just a little bit more For along this path every tree is tied to a name, for every name a story ends. An empty hole impossible to fill with heart-shaped stones left by a left-behind, trying to carry on. Does a tree need a Pink teddy? On the lake a surfer slips and crashes down. The perfect mirror smashes. The cracks gather momentum as they progress, sending shrapnel flying, which in turn pierce the skin like leaden bullets and burn their way into the heartsick interior. Counterfeit colours slip away leaving only dull grey broken by a jagged pink crack in the sky.
Photograph â€“ Lorraine C. Brooks
Issue 29 summer 2016 27
Ebb Tide Ed Ahern In the low tides of my life The receding water drops me Onto rocks and sharp edges. I smell the seaweed rot Of decomposing failures And see the broken shells Of promises unkept. And must tread on disappointments Until the tide life floats me away. Flying Once, Seeming not long ago My dreams flew. Racing without resisting wind Along shore cliffs and over chasms. Brushed by tree-top branches and skyscraper flags. Gently indifferent to the surface crawl. But with hair and deeper voice Came weight and fear of falling. And timid man-high risings That let others pull me down. Until I could not soar at all. My dreams for decades Have not let me fly, And I am not unhappy, roped to earth. But only hope That my decline will free me With an infant's first steps To play again in the sky.
Showers Sammi Curran Sitting inside, chest tingling Head singing, smile curling, Heavy rain pelts the roof Sounds like a machine gun, Feels like a cleansing massage A visit to the spa, Skin tickling, goose bumps rising Look to the sky, close the eyes, I laugh, Rain never stop. A whitish shroud hugs my body Blinds me to the world, to anywhere but here So my eyes stay shut, but still I visualize, Skies so gray, but a collage of gray, Degrees of gray, Depths of gray, And that rain Little spider web streams shooting down Away from that gray to hit the ground. Puddles at my feet, cools my toes, cradles my heels Iâ€™m barefoot, my tank top and shorts so drenched they feel like part of The rain river on my skin, Rain never stop.
Issue 29 summer 2016 29
Inevitable by Lindsay Boyd reviewed by David Gardiner
The book is due to be published by Black Rose Writing on June 23rd 2016. Most of the novel takes place on the fictional Caribbean island of New Mendoza. There are two parallel stories: in the first one a local man is looking back on his unhappy childhood at the mercy of his mother’s bullying second husband, and at the same time wondering about the reality behind the pure and saintly portrait of a missing girl that is being painted by the local media. In the second thread, written in ‘omniscient author’ mode, we are shown how the two teachers sharing the responsibility for supervising a hedonistic High School group
from Mississippi pay more attention to each other than to their charges, and when one girl fails to show up for the flight home are shocked to be told that she was last seen getting into a car with three local boys in the small hours and disappearing into the night. The stage is set for likely tragedy. As the two simultaneous stories continue we think we see what the link between them is likely to be. The first narrator recounts how as a teenager he developed an unhealthy addiction to violent Internet pornography that led to a powerful desire to act out in his own life some of the scenes he had dredged up from the deepest sewers of the digital world. “My outlook on women and girls changed. I lacked the maturity to be able to classify what I watched on the assortment of sites as nothing but the most obscene and degrading rendering of male hatred and fantasy. Seen in that light, every woman was a grungy harlot…” True to this build-up and to the novel’s title, there follows a stomach-churning description of the murder by the narrator of an eight-year-old girl when he was himself fourteen, although it occurred to me that there wasn’t very much obvious connection between this crime and his addiction to pornography, The
act seems to be motivated more by blind panic and fear of retribution for having disobeyed his bullying stepfather. The account is very detailed, so that we are propelled into a role similar to that of the voyeur drivers who slow to a crawl as they pass the mangled wreckage and splashes of human blood on the other side of the highway. Now we begin to follow in one thread the prison career of the young offender, and in the other the police investigations regarding the more recent case of the missing girl, the responses of her family and the massive media coverage her disappearance and presumed murder receives. The narration in both parallel stories is fairly detailed and the pace leisurely at times, but Boyd is a skilled teller of tales and knows how to hold his audience. His characters are well rounded and totally believable, and all the settings are vividly described, and, we feel rooted in the author’s personal experience. There is of course a point at which the two stories come together, but the connections between them I will not give away here. Suffice it to say that Boyd gently nudges his story forward to a satisfying conclusion that avoids the obvious. An entertaining and thoughtful mystery story.
Poetry News and Events by Adele C. Geraghty From time to time, I like to bring the world as Maine's internationour readers and writers up to al poetry journal, a publication speed on literary news and that prizes quality, diversity and events so firstly, I'm very happy honesty in its publications and in to say that Issue 29 is the largest its dealings with poets.” Treat ever produced by Gold Dust! yourself to a fabulous read and This is definitely something we definitely submit! would like to see happen more off-the-coast.com/ often, because it's a testimony to ‘Prosopisia’ is definitely worth our readers' enjoyment. During exploring. It’s a bit difficult to lothe past year, GD has introduced cate their web site but the email two new pages, which have proved to be quite popular. 'Less is More' and 'Wit & Whimsy' (no explanation necessary, I'm sure) are filled to overflowing with each successive issue. There is definitely a place for the less lengthy poem and there's always room for a good laugh so, I hope our submitters will keep us well vineleavesliteraryjournal.com stocked with both. It's been fantastic to see such a wide variety of work, from such a diverse group of poets. We receive international submissions from all ages, backgrounds and levels of writing, depicting every imaginable concept. From High School students in Upstate, New York, to Doctors of Literature in India, we’re charmed with amazing new poetry throughout the year. So, for your further interest, addresses here are all you Gold Dust would like to mention need. This is a world class Literseveral forthcoming and ongoing ary Journal out of India, acceptpublications and literary events, ing outstanding poetry of any globally. style and any theme, internationally. The general rule of thumb is Firstly and top of my list is a pubto send beautiful, well written, lication for anyone who loves the outstanding poetry. That’s all art of writing vignettes; ‘Vine you need to know! You can’t do Leaves Literary Journal’ stands One of my all time favourite pub- better than to submit to this alone in the genre. Have a look great publication. “Submission at the superb writing coming from lications is ‘Off the Coast’, a Guidelines: ‘Prosopisia’ will pubthis world class publication and quarterly out of Maine, USA. lish only original and unpub“’The Mission of ‘Off the Coast’ is lished texts. All contributors check out their call for submissions. to become recognized around must be submitted to the Edi-
Issue 29 summer 2016 31
tors. Contributors: A poem / short-story / one act play / essay must be typed double spaced. A hard copy and a CD (or e-mail attachment) in the MS Word must be sent to the editors.” Email:
sharma email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
anne Laux) and Ordinary Genius. Her poetry Heading north to Canada, let’s collection Tell Me was a finalist not forget ‘The Poetry London for the National Book Award. She also has two word/music CDs: Swearing, Smoking, Drinking, & Kissing (with Susan Browne) and My Black Angel. Addonizio's awards include two fellowships
Globe-trotting poets or local familiars may enjoy a good slam at Reading Series’ in London, Ontario: “The Poetry London Reading Series hosts monthly readings and poetry workshops in London, Ontario. We bring Canada's best national poets into London for readings, as well as providing a wide range of poetryrelated opportunities for local writers and poetry aficionados. New York City’s ‘Nuyorican Po- Our home is the Landon Branch ets Café’ nuyorican.org, or a Library, 167 Wortley Rd., in Longood read and more at two of the don's beautiful Wortley Village.” from the NEA, a Guggenheim, best known book stores in Brookpoetrylondon.ca two Pushcart Prizes, and more. Her new books are a poetry Travelling west to Santa Monica, collection, Mortal Trash (W.W. Norton), and a California, we find a free permemoir, Bukowski in a Sunformance by three powerful dress: Confessions from a Writwomen poets; legendary Kim Addonizio, accompanied by Jac- ing Life (Penguin). queline Derner Tchakalian and Jacqueline Derner Tchakalian, Amy Uyematsu a poet and visual artist, has lived Tuesday, Jul 26, 6:30pm in five states and seven cities in Annenberg Community Beach California. Trained as a visual House artist, she discovered writing polyn, New York; ‘Berl’s Brooklyn etry later in life, at which time Poetry Shop’ , specialising in she quit painting for ten years. A indie press chapbooks and books, as well as live events berlspoetry.com, and ‘Community Bookstore, Park Slope’, established in 1971 and
415 Pacific Coast Hwy Santa Monica, CA 90402
still going strong.
Kim Addonizio is the author of seven poetry collections, two novels, two story collections, and two books on writing poetry: The Poet's Companion (with Dori-
past co-director of the Valley Contemporary Poets Series and the Los Angeles Poetry Festival, her poems have appeared in Eclipse, So to Speak, California Quarterly, Westward 4, and elsewhere. She was a finalist in the 2010 Tennessee Williams Literary Festival Poetry Contest and the 2007 Conflux Press Artists Books Contest. Her latest book is The Size of Our Bed (Red Hen, 2015). Amy Uyematsu is a third-generation Japanese-American poet
seeks poetry and short stories of all types including horror and supernatural, non-fiction, reviews, graphics and photography. 'Between These Shores Literary & Arts Annual' is created in the tradition of Charles Dickens' legendary annual 'All The Year Long', offering an assortment of don, WC2H 9BX. poetrysociety.org.uk/poetry-cafe literary and graphic creations for Sign up between 2.30 and 3 to our readers’ winter and holiday read for Free during Poetry @ 3, entertainment. Please read the which is 3pm, and “USUALLY on guidelines carefully before subthe first Thursday of every month. This one has been moved back a week due to the host having a lovely holiday. Check the Facebook page for the latest news.”
facebook.com/poetryat3 Finally, heading north to a place of which I am very familiar, we
and teacher from Los Angeles. She has published four previous poetry collections: 30 Miles from J-Town (Story Line Press, 1992), Nights of Fire, Nights of Rain (Story Line Press, 1997), Stone Bow Prayer (Copper Canyon Press, 2005), and The Yellow Door (Red Hen Press, 2015). Her first book was awarded the 1992 Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize. Amy was a co-editor of the widely-used UCLA Asian American Studies anthology Roots: An Asian American Reader. Her new book, Basic Vocabulary, is forthcoming with Red Hen Press this fall.
find an open mic gem in ‘Gorilla Poetry’ of Sheffield, South Yorkshire; “Come along and be entertained by Yorkshires and Derbyshire’s finest writing talent. Be part of the open mic by chucking your name into the hat. It’s guaranteed to be a top night, showcasing our wordy beauty.” 7:00 in ‘The Bell Jar’, 75 London Road, Sheffield, S2 4LE http://www.writeoutloud.net/publi c/eventview.php?day=25&month =07&year=2016&eventID=11382
mitting. We are a new publication and cannot afford to give free volumes to our published authors but we can offer you: 1) a free add for your book or publication of choice, or 2) a discount in the cost of the annual itself, up to two copies. ***NOTE: Appropriate advertisements are welcome, and to advertise your book, publication or event, please contact: email@example.com and include ‘ADEVERTISING’ in the subject line.
Submission Guidelines: Original work only. All styles of work considered but we do not accept blatant erotic or pornographic content. Unpublished work preferred but will accept previously I can't end without sharing a published work with proof of forthcoming publication from my copyright/ownership by the auFlying across the pond, in own BTS Books: thor. All submissions in English. London’s Covent Gardens, we Launch of new literary maga- If translated, credit must be givfind: “Poetry open mic for poets zine and Call For Submissions en to the translator. All written who like to come out and play 'Between These Shores Literary submissions in 12. pt. Tahoma during the day”. The Poetry and Arts Annual'. New publica- text, single line spacing. Single Café, 22 Betterton Street, Lonspacing between sentences. tion coming out autumn 2017,
Issue 29 summer 2016 33
POETRY: All styles and themes of poetry accepted, including ghost, horror and supernatural. No more than 3 poems per submission, individual poems not to exceed 25 lines. Ghost, Horror or Supernatural poetry may contain up to 30 lines.
ries which stretch reality to its limits. PLEASE NOTE: We will only accept flash fiction if it is sharp, punchy, thoroughly outstanding and can meet our criteria for content. We believe it takes more than flash to tell the stories we're looking for, but if you think you STORIES: All styles of story accan produce a flash story that cepted but, we prefer stories with meets our criteria please have a genuine substance. We don't try. want subtlety so thin that we're One story per submission, left guessing what we've read at length not to exceed 5000 words. the end. We want our readers to feel they are a part of what they CREATIVE MEMOIR: Any topic, are reading, especially if they're between 2500 and 3000 words. reading a ghost or horror story. REVIEWS: Please contact us Give us atmosphere, believable first with the title of the book you but not always likeable charac- would like to review, or if you ters, time period detail and above have a book you would like us to review, DO NOT send it straight all, we always expect cutting edge plots and love a twist in the away but contact us first to distail ending. Tell us something we cuss its inclusion. haven't heard before and please GRAPHIC ART & PHOGRAbend the rules. Let your imagina- PHY: Any style, the more diverse tion go wild. We want either the better. We are also happy to beautifully written stories ground- accept submissions which may ed in reality or nerve-twisting sto- illustrate our ghostly stories and
Chameleon Kathleen M. Quinlan You sunbathe atop a fan of palm frond, rearrange pigments under your lizard skin to a matching green, safe from birds whose talons would seize you as easily as you snatch insects with the flick of your tongue. You think you’re hidden. But from the shaded trail below, sun shining through translucent frond, you stand out from the leaf litter. Your silhouette sprawls in plain view, languid tail curled on itself, five-toed feet splayed from heedless body: weakness in stark relief.
poetry, as well as our general works. All submissions must be original works of the submitter, in high resolution jpeg. (300 dpi minimum). Cover art welcome. PLEASE SEND ALL SUBMISSIONS TO: firstname.lastname@example.org between July 1 2016 and June 30th, 2017. You will be notified no later than August, 2017 if your work has been accepted. LET US KNOW ABOUT YOUR PUBLICATION OR EVENT Lastly, if you have a new publication or forthcoming literary event which you would like to make public news, you are always welcome to post your information on BTS Books facebook page: facebook.com/BTSBooks. From time to time, some of these posts will be chosen to appear in Gold Dust’s ‘Poetry News and Events’, as well. Wishing all of you a summer of Poetic delights!
Retreat Jane Frank Above the curved estuary mirror folded at the edges into small coves like wimples, the nuns are still here in their holiday retreat an old wooden house high on a ridge of rock. I'm not sure why I was afraid of these lined faces in pastel blue holiday habits, wispy like the clouds written backhand across the bay. Past the open beach dots move in flocks on ocean breakers, rise and fall like a requiem.
Walking back, on the path down to the shore a nun is talking to a board rider and it seems strange to see these two so close. He's telling her the wind will drop so he'd better get back out there. She says she'll pray for good waves.
False Relation Steve Carter From where I sit I cannot see the sky. Yet I feel its greyness pressing in at the windows, dimming the light. Nearly March. Between the winter snows that never came, and the damp gusts of spring, cold rain falls. Soon the sky will modulate to black
Issue 29 summer 2016 35
Less is More Wrath of Gods
When whole mountains begin to chase running climbers, that was the first sign. A Richter scale heave of soil and Tartarus is opened, laughing at hotheads who thought they could conquer ordeals of snow and ice like houses falling on tents and Sherpas. Generations have lived on those terraces, offered rice and flowers as prayers, small demands on an angry untamed earth, sacrificing itself.
I wonder when it was That we quit killing animals And when they opted to come back. My neighborhood is densely packed with humans Yet somehow settled by Squirrels and possums and skunks Song birds and crows and ducks Raccoons and chipmunks and mice Blue jays and woodpeckers and grackles Deer and rats and feral cats All visited by coyotes. I wonder who has the better suburban life.
To the North of Sunday With You
Mud stone tracks, a lamb rots with bones scattered, crows squat on lichen stained trees, heel skin shrivels, with blood oozy itch, from wool steel stabs and scrapes, as squelchy leather boots pull Earth along. And the rain, grey. And the rain, wet. And the rain, rain.
Riddled Jess Mookherjee She finds the mice have been inside her clothes. Inside her chest are silks eaten by the larvae of tiny moths. She has no answers as to why she keeps these things, nothing keeps.
a pollen-covered honey bee wandered into spider's web; grappled, wrestled until they both were covered within fine yellow dust and the web was tattered; spider wrapped the honey bee in silken thread (bright gold!) sucking out her life, one bee leg feebly kicking until stillness descended at harsh noon.
Morning James Osborne It was morning. In the sky, the Sun shone. Its friend, the Moon, was gone. It was mourning.
Gaining an Education Dirty Linen Frank C. Praeger Old skin, drooping in folds. Comfort in buttercups and olive oil; unsteadily declined; whimsy, also, as to what went and what didn't. The oldest cajoled and the rest burnt wood and what had not been was sent, the next was jinxed. Dental floss, tin cups morphed into the hereafter; day lilies, the irrefutable, taken in with dirty linen.
Pamela Scott I learned to heal the hard way and cauterised my own wounds. I picked out the sharpest fragments with tweezers. I knotted both sides of the wound together. I closed the hole. I wasn’t used to the procedure and my stitches were clumsy thick, black and coarse. I changed the dressing every day and rubbed salt in the wounds. I learned how to sew my heart back together.
Henri remembers the sea Laura McKee it started when he wanted to hide a stain on his wall he held up coloured paper and showed her where to cut the shape of a memory there were more and more and he liked to move them around the lives that swam there
Spring Kristy Kerruish Damp earth, the progeny Unwraps the leaf Uncurls the frond Calls to nest the blackbird from the tree Bower and bindweed seal the sanctuary Green season laid Winter frost defiled Leaf upon leaf a thousand seasons spun And each and every one Like this begun
Conquer Catie Claire Smith It’s the smell when the black winter melts into the flowering cream of spring, It’s the way that one’s skin feels against yours at the beginning and end of the drought, It’s when your heart feels physically warm, like it was thawed in honey and sent by a guardian angel, It happens when your feet no longer ache, even after climbing every mountain, It happens when you love.
Issue 29 summer 2016 37
Monster by Alison Frank Emily’s feet hit the pavement in double time with her hammering heart. She dropped everything that could hinder her as she ran, each item falling to the ground with a dull thud. Her lungs, unused to such exercise, were constricting, and the stench of gunpowder, panic and blood in the air didn’t help. Now she was a safe distance away, she slowed to a brisk walk. Of course she couldn’t seek refuge with her parents after such an event; they thought she was at school. Her friend Samira, who was in the year above her, had the morning off to revise for exams: she’d surely be at home with a steaming cup of tea alongside her books. The spring sun streamed through the kitchen window onto Samira’s chemistry textbook. She tried to focus on the words, but her gaze was drawn outside and she wished she could enjoy the warm spring breeze on her skin. She was looking forward to the summer, after exams, when she’d be free. Free to read the latest Hunger Games book instead of Anna Karenina. Free to go over to Emily’s house after school, where they’d lie on her bed painting their nails, leafing through Cosmo for summer accessory ideas and doing some quiz to find out whether Daniel Radcliffe, Robert Pattinson or Harry Styles would be their perfect guy. Then they’d go to the cinema, grab an Orangina and a pic-a-mix and settle down in the back row where they could whisper jokes about the stupid plotlines and bad acting.
‘Don’t say that. I’m part of a When Samira opened the door, she was greeted by Emily’s revolutionary group. We wanted to remake the world. I just . . . familiar freckled face and wild lost my nerve. I didn’t know what tangle of curly hair. But her it would be like in real life. I still cheeks were red as summer think things need to change.’ strawberries, and there was a ‘I don’t care what you think. new crimson spatter across the I’m not having this discussion freckles. with you. I said you need to get ‘Em! Come in, come in! out.’ What the hell’s happened to ‘You’re a horrible friend, you?’ Samira. You know, emergencies Emily’s heart, which had calmed as she reached Samira’s like this are a way of testing building, began to race again as friendships, and you’re failing that she relived her terrifying morning test.’ ‘I don’t CARE! How don’t you and studied Samira’s face for a reaction. They had been friends understand that? You’re just so since their first day at secondary self-centred, with your own personal “emergency”. You created school, nearly five years ago. But she’d never had to test her this emergency: you killed peofriend in an emergency. Scraped ple!’ ‘I did not kill people. Weren’t knees, failed tests, and detentions for rudeness had been the you listening at all? I told you, I couldn’t do it and I ran away.’ biggest disasters of their lives. ‘But you knew about their The expression on Samira’s plan and you went along with it. If face wasn’t fear, horror or disyou’d gone to the police like a gust, but a devastated look of pity, like you might give your cat normal human being, you would after it had been flattened by a have stopped those people being murdered.’ car. Samira started to cry. Emily ‘Don’t you have anything to tried to put her arms around her. say, Sam?’ ‘Get away from me. You’re a ‘Get out.’ monster.’ ‘What?’ ‘A monster? Thanks a lot. ‘Get out of here. Get out of What a way to treat a friend.’ my flat.’ ‘I didn’t know I was friends ‘I can’t believe this. I really with a monster. This friendship’s thought you’d understand. I over.’ guess I was wrong.’ Emily started to sob. ‘You know what? When you first started getting interested in Samira’s voice softened slightly. ‘Em, I know you. I hope the my religion, I thought, “wow, this is so nice. She’s seen how I live old Emily is still somewhere in there, behind this new revolutionmy life and she’s inspired to ary maniac. Everyone makes know more. She’s really open minded, she really gets it.” But mistakes, but this is one hell of a mistake, Emily. One hell of a misyou didn’t get shit.’
take. I’m not saying we can’t ever be friends again, but I don’t think you get it. You can’t stay here.’ Emily blew her nose noisily, and Samira continued. ‘Put yourself in my place, just for one second. Imagine the police are following you here. They’re probably outside right now—they’re not stupid. People will have seen you running away. A terrorist kind of stands out in a crowd. They’re going to find you, and when they do, I’d prefer if it wasn’t at my place. Even if you didn’t come here, they’re going to assume that it was me, your only Muslim friend, who lured you into that psycho world. And then you come running to me after the attack, and of course, because I’m sympathetic to your sick cause, I let you hide out here. Only I’m not letting you hide out. You have to go, Emily. Maybe we’ll talk again some day. It’s not like they’re going to throw you in prison for the rest of your life. Not someone like you.’ Emily stood up and headed for the door. Samira followed with a heavy head. ‘See you later,’ Samira whispered as Emily opened the door a crack and slipped through. Samira slid to the floor. What was she supposed to do now? Call the police on her friend that she’d already crushed with re-
jection? Did she really have to do it? Wouldn’t they find her themselves? It’s not like she’d try anything again—Em didn’t have it in her. But until today Samira didn’t know Emily had it in her to go along with murder. Samira looked towards the kitchen where the beige telephone sat on its base. She’d
went. Although she had only been small at the time, Samira remembered the year that her mother had stopped wearing her headscarf, afraid of the way that people, just a few people, looked at her in the street. Her religion had no rule that she had to wear a head scarf, so she was free to leave it off, even if it felt as odd as going out without makeup. Samira decided to call her mum for advice. But what if someone was listening in? She’d seen a documentary on TV last week that said that GCHQ could get access to anyone’s calls, texts or e-mails at any time. What if her mother said not to get involved? But of course she wouldn’t say that. She would want her to do the right thing. Maybe Mum could call the police for her, explain everything in that reasonable manner of hers. Make it seem like she wasn’t betraying Emily, but was just worried about her. Nobody could suspect Mum, with her chunky cardigans and friendly laughter, of being a terrorist. never called the police in her life. As Samira stood up to go to What would they say? Would the kitchen, there was a brisk they want to know all about her? knock at the door. The police? Would they start investigating Samira cautiously undid the her whole family to see if they lock. An older man in a salwar were terrorists too? She began kameez, his beard orange with to feel nauseous. She wanted to henna, shouldered his way in. believe that the world was or‘Peace be upon you,’ he dered and fair, and that she muttered. could be a good citizen and call ‘And upon you,’ Samira anthe police without pulling an inswered automatically, even as vestigation down on her own her chest constricted with mistrust. She had never seen this head, but she knew how things
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squeak in the elevator shaft and rumble of a distant boiler room. She needed to decide what to do next, but her mind kept returning to Mo. When she thought about the fact that he no longer existed, his body blown to bits, there was a small lurch in her stomach. She hadn’t seen him trigger the explosives strapped around his chest, but she had seen him mowing down people at a bus stop with a machine gun. She had imagined that he would look powerful and sexy, like the hero of an action movie, but instead he looked like a monster, pitiful and pitiless. She felt resigned to his death: it was his destiny, just as her destiny was to escape. Her memories of him, now, were a closed chapter of her life: a polished stone that she could tuck away in a pocket of her mind. He had been seven years older than her. A man, not like the boys she knew at school. His eyes were melted chocolate, and there was a serious set to his lips, which transformed, incrementally as the sunset, to a smile when he saw her. He worked at her local Tesco, and just to hear his voice she would find things to ask about. ‘Is this baking powder gluten-free?’ ‘Can these items be combined in the 3 for 2 deal?’ She remembered his voice, storing it away so that later, alone, she could imagine him confiding his love to her in deep, reverential tones that hummed through her. On an ordinary day before school, she When Emily left Samira’s flat, texted him an invitation to meet she headed for the stairwell. her in the back row of the Odeth Samira lived on the 15 floor so on. She had sat in the dark shivering for the first half hour of the it gave Emily a lot of time to film, certain that he wouldn’t think as she went down a floor, come. Every time someone ensat on a step, went down a few more floors, and sat down again. tered the screening room, her For the moment, the stairwell felt heart tightened and beat furiouslike the perfect hiding place: qui- ly in her ears. The moment she let up her guard, he appeared et, apart from the occasional
man in her life. He certainly didn’t go to her mosque. ‘Where is the girl?’ ‘The girl?’ Samira’s palms moistened. ‘The girl, the girl—spotted face, big hair—where is she?’ ‘She left.’ ‘You’re sure she left? Can I trust you, daughter?’ ‘Yes. She’s gone.’ ‘Fine.’ He grabbed her wrist tightly, and brought his face close enough for her to smell his sour breath. ‘You don’t call the police. You keep quiet.’ Still holding her wrist firmly he pulled out a mobile and dialled with one hand. Samira twisted her arm in a useless attempt to escape his grip. He spoke quickly in Urdu to the person on the other end. ‘Gone. You guys work outwards in circles around the building. I’ve already sent Ahmed and Amal to her parents’ house.’ There was a pause. ‘It’s her friend. She’ll keep quiet. I’ll stay here with her.’ Having succeeded in getting behind the man without escaping his grasp, Samira deployed, for the first time in real life, one of the moves she’d learned in her self defence course: the lighting fist to the sacrum. Instantly the man fell to the floor, gasping in agony. Samira raced for the phone and called 999.
beside her like a spirit, sliding his arm around her shoulders and pressing his firm lips and warm mouth against hers. She felt all the blood in her body rush from her head to her feet, and she let go of everything, not caring if anyone else in the room could see his hand sliding under her clothes. From that day, she desired everything that would draw her closer to him, religion included. She liked the certainty of his beliefs and rituals, never having had any herself, apart from fish and chips on Friday nights. She liked the feeling of being right while others were wrong, a comforting impression as her grades had started going down earlier that year, just when she needed to keep them up. As her dreams of going away to university faltered, the life she dreamed about with Mo provided purpose. It would be different from her parents’ humdrum, jokey marriage: something more sacred and mysterious. And if he wanted to die for a cause, she thought, she would die with him. It would be a romantic way to go, voluntarily annihilating themselves in their prime, avoiding the old age of the over-twenty-fives: their sordid compromises and narrow lives. Stretching out across the steps between the 12th and 13th floors, Emily thought that it might be easiest, after all, to wait for the police to find her here. She would explain that Samira had nothing to do with it, and that would be that. They might still poke around the family’s flat, ask their friends and relations a few questions, but of course, Emily thought, the innocent have nothing to fear.
April and my Plastic Sunflowers Sonnet Mondal The four plastic sunflowers in my bedroomThe way they swayed in the ceiling fanâ€™s air Were the functional-year-long-April for me. Fallen twigs of meditating winter And the deadwood sanity of their roughness; The begging deserts of the patient summer And the coarseness of their ravaged mirages; The thin tune of the nostalgic autumn And the restlessness of their alcoholic breezesWere never like fresh seasonal fruits to me For I had the functional-year-long-April in my bedroom: Those four plastic sunflowers. Not long, my wedding and divorceBoth in their infancy Ended the perpetual April in my room By demanding those yellow sunflowers In the package of reparation. It was four seasons ago and the spring of April Now seems to be a creepy plastic serpent Irresistibly insidious in its illusory cruelty as my new girl friend from the same city Talked of bringing new plastic flowers in my room.
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Solace: A Memoir In Verse by Colleen Mills reviewed by Adele C. Geraghty When it comes to exquisite writing, with a bite, Vine Leaves Press always delivers. Vine Leaves, which specialises in the art of the vignette, is producing some of the best literature available today, and they haven’t skipped a beat with Colleen Mill’s ‘Solace: A Memoir in Verse’. Mills has created the most agonisingly refreshing work I’ve read in ages. Her use of tactile metaphor clings to the senses, first protectively wrapping as thick velvet then, cutting as a well-honed scalpel. We enter a story with no beginning or end, simply the revelation of the teller’s secret pain and determined strength, through a collage of sensory images and wounding experience. The cruelty of paternal abuse, as well as the deprivation of maternal caring are laid bare, with breath-taking detail. “The shadow of my sister’s pupil looking at mine. The way her back slightly arches away as she stands by my father’s chair. The yellow brown tint of lamplight across the room. Her pants around her ankles. A worn belt, held buckle out, in my father’s hand. I began this broken story then in a broken-lock diary. Even now I am telling a story without telling the story….” Mills’ definitive talent to create a spectrum of images through blending colours and sensations successfully fills the void created by the absence
of parental trust and safety. Her correlation of landscape and livestock, with the iciness of maternal ambivalence, evokes a brutal beauty. “One late evening, still in late autumn, my mother is raking leaves. We cannot hear her sound. I am hiding with my sister in a large pile to her left. Next to the big oak tree the stake of the tire swing creaks and sways the slow and mottled moaning of the cows calling out for grain in the distance. We lay very still in a warm huddle of coat and mittens. It is dark inside. Damp, pungent like the slippery birth sac of the farmer’s calf, fallen to the ground, in a thick mucus bubble unbroken, hidden beneath a pile of leaves where we found it ripping its way out, It’s mother off somewhere grazing hay in the field below. Colleen Mills has created a masterpiece of stabbing pain, of futile hope and hard won survival; the looping terror of walking through the perpetual mundane occurrences of life, ever knowing that no matter how much one may try, the galling entrapment of familial dysfunction and wounding abuse waits just beyond the next breath. “It always starts as morning with the forgiveness of a new day, the possibility of doing everything in just the right way at just the right time. Turn the page. Put your two feet on the floor You’ve planned this all night in your dreams Today you will make no mistakes. You will glide through the day so silently no one will notice you were there, no one will notice you have ever been.
Turn the page. It will be a life of your own making. You will wake up and everything will be different. It will be the beginning of the life you were meant to live because things just can’t keep going as they’ve been. It always starts as morning and always ends just the same.” Freedom is clearly shown as a physical state, not an emotional or mental one, as ‘Solace’ plays out in scraps and pieces, jumping from time to time, back and forth, perfectly presenting a mind which is never free from the past; and the past is a shadow which walks beside the survivor daily, and forever, no matter how much strength is gained from freedom.
the five senses. There is no way to read this except from start to finish, wanting more with every word and fearful of what each word will produce. Dare I say that I wept at its conclusion (beginning)? It isn’t easy to read but it is impossible not to. Once begun, it can’t be ignored or forgotten. Mills’ imagery is breath-taking and suffocating, unforgettably lovely and nightmarishly terrifying. In a word, it is real. There is no coming away from this without caring and wishing there were more. And that, is the true worth and pleasure of the vignette. I strongly recommend Colleen Mills ‘Solace: A Memoir in Verse’ as a ‘must read’ and I look forward to reading more of her work. Many thanks to Vine Leaves Press for bringing us yet another literary gem.
(Vine Leaves Press - 2015 ) Available through Amazon and vineleavespress.com
Mills’ has a profound ability to draw the reader into childhood memory through a superb use of
White Chrysanthemum James Bell Each time that came before had its own notion of significance only to become humbled by transience. You try to ground this in the moment for either side of the present is a danger no thicker than paper through which sounds can be heard and ceremonies are still held that have never varied. To ask if anybody is there is obvious depending on your tone of voice the paper door will open or stay closed. Origami can be like that today we made a white chrysanthemum colour and flower both symbolic. Photograph – Lorraine C. Brooks
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A Lesson in Wise Loving Craig Kurtz The first time that you love, you will do it foolishly; best then you should choose a fool testing out fresh coquetry. No one starts experienced — choose for lust, and good looks; understand that Cupid’s nuts and disrespects pedantic books. The first time’s colored by mistakes which all first times must be, per se; there is no sense choosing ‘the one’ ’cause blunders end the first foray. The next time that you love, you should do so prudently; middle years bring forth children and other cares pecuniary. Choose a mate as a partner for a business that’s long term; passion here’s a deficit investing in a sober firm. I will concede these years pulse slow and Cupid’s wiles lose their event; yet please don’t over-compensate ’cause follies made love too piquant. The last time that you love, do it with dexterity; choose someone who knows, like you, now’s the bid for history. The transports of yon feckless youth wish a reprise, but with purpose; the bromides of yon middle years demand ado, howe’er cautious. But, most of all, be confident (when you through love’s seasons have tripp’d) Cupid, who’s a rank truant, should work for you, or get pink-slipped.
Wit and Whimsy
Night out Katie Lewington Can’t see my feet Just the lamp lit street Washing my hair in the wind Music playing through my headphones At a perfect volume Shadows of autumn leaves Skip alongside me There’s an open door somewhere for me And I cannot get there quick enough.
Perfectly Drunk Heath Brougher I am perfectly sober enough to know that I am perfectly drunk on reality, on Truth— my brain too wracked by wicked winds of realism. Life in all its realities is too brutal and harsh once everything is peeled back and one looks at what is really under there, what truly lies at the core, one then realizes that life is much overrated.
Your Painting James Osborne need you there. I can't paint without you around. Besides, it's a nice day. You love the sunshine. It's true, I do. It should have been just an hour or so. But I had nothing better to do all day. That's it! you cried at noon. I'll paint the two of us sitting here on the river bank! I knew I needed you with me. I thought you were joking. I was sitting behind you that day, and you never looked back. But I've just seen your painting of you painting the painting. Might I say You've captured the texture of my empty basket And caught my likeness very well. But you shouldn't have brought me along at all If you knew I'd be as bored as hell.
Holiday Katie Lewington For a moments peace I stand Sand at my feet The horizon is fed Breeze braids my hair And for a moments peace There is no resentment Nor me I stand And still is the world I inhabit Containing beasts, Romeoâ€™s and small children.
Below Lee Todd Lacks Hector the Collector, ghost bandit, train spots beneath the streets of Detroit. Subterranean zero, he holds shiftless souls for ransom. Omega Joe knows the bandit's damning tricks, shooting stars in his satchel ensure The Bag remains empty. Atop lurid subway cars, they reel, like wheels against rails, wailing, and throwing shocks in the tunnel. Nitrocellulose foes play out the scene in faded black-and-white, superimposing, till the reel comes back around, exploding from one end of time to the next.
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Poems for People Who Don’t Like Poetry a review by David Gardiner A personal prejudice I have always acknowledged is that I don’t like poetry. Normally I would be about as likely to review a book of poetry as a textbook devoted to hand embroidery. Where does this prejudice come from? Two places, I think. Firstly from growing up in rural Ireland, where lines of ‘great poetry’ were literally beaten into me by Irish Catholic nuns and priests. This was followed in later life by a lot of casual exposure to ‘modern poetry’, the stuff Paul Eccentric (the self-declared ‘Antipoet’) defined as ‘random words in a random order’. Words that doubtless meant something to whoever wrote them, but nothing whatever to me – and there seemed to be a lot of it about. I became involved technically in the creation of the Sun on the Hill book because Daffni Percival of Merilang Press, who has published my own writings in the past, was ill and needed someone to turn the Word file into a PDF file with a Table of Contents and an index, ready for uploading to the printer. This process holds few mysteries for me so I agreed to do it, and in the process found myself reading, and more to the point enjoying, many of Daffni’s poems. Her style of writing brought me back to a part of my childhood that I had largely forgotten, the discovery – by myself, independently of my teachers – of a small band of poets who really did have things to say that resonated in my own life. William Blake was one of the first, with his pro-life, pro-fun, pro-love completely celebratory Tales of Innocence. He opened my eyes to the idea that there were more important and more wonderful things in the world than Northern Ireland politics and the
Roman Catholic culture of guilt and repression. At school, unless poetry was properly obscure and scattered with enough references and allusions to make a literal-minded boy like myself feel thoroughly stupid, it wasn’t really poetry at all. Daffni, like Blake, avoids this aspect of the tradition. Utterly devoid of pretension, her words make sense. Her poems may utilise a heightened form of language but it’s one that accomplishes what language evolved to do, that is, communicate. They not only mean something, most of them even rhyme! These are not the angry and shrill protests of youth, they are the considered thoughts of someone who has lived a long time and reflected upon her life and the world in which it has been lived. Their form is conventional, not novel or innovative. I can imagine them being dismissed as too ‘comfortable’. I find them stimulating, not in terms of their form but in terms of what they reveal of the world, both internal and external. They lead me to think about things that I have never thought about before and offer novel and often poignant insights. Short stories and novels can do this also of course, but here I think we find it in a more concentrated form. “I’m sober,” he said, “and I love you. Come home.” ... as I sped to my home, just a house in a terrace but now promised land; the doors opened wide and there he stood waiting – bottle in hand.
Among the topics Daffni takes up are love (at last a poet has tackled that one!), growing old, atheism, music and the visual arts, loneliness, memories, sadness, nature and its cycles, mortality and eternity. Centuries of art with torture at its centre, commissioned by pontiffs in whose gift it was and painted in the way required to hang on holy walls and be admired. You asked me, “What am I to you?” I did not answer though I knew. To me you were a bird with bright and broken wings, such as the careless ocean flings on the cold sea-shore. Obstinate, inexpedient spirit, holding fast against the claims of reason, landlocked in my mortality by unbelief,
hoarding my fears and love against my will. Oh Spirit, this is treason! I must be careful though not to give the impression that her work is unrelentingly solemn. Daffni is blessed also with a mischievous sense of humour: Some wild things live in Wales, wandering the mountain trails. Then, during the showers they sit for hours comparing the length of their tails. And you will also find in this volume one of the funniest versions of the Frog Prince story that you are ever likely to read.
Due for publication by Merilang Press in June 2016 at which time it will be available from Amazon and all online book stores.
Turbulence Freya Pickard In her own words, the author describes her poem: “Freyan Verse” is a poetical form I have invented myself. The poem can be read both vertically as well as horizontally. The last line of the first verse overlaps with the first line of the second verse (as do verses four and five) which is why those lines are highlighted in bold text. The effect I wished to achieve was that of dragonscales overlapping. zephyr leached of power, energy drawn to burn our electricity needs en masse; progress makes fascist policies fearful of the natural world, unspoilt by parties conquered
blazing white, upright, so tall, metal poles gleaming in sunlight threaten, dominate the landscape
drifting along power lines, lurking unexpectedly, green countryside stalked by pale propellers; turbines smile triumphantly, British soil conquered, contaminated, leaching money into foreign coffers
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Open your eyes Maxine Rose Munro A perfect mirror of a lake - birds and boaters set off ripples of mercury which in turn wash the edges of the path and paint stones silver. Yellow flowers dot about the emerald grass, a trove of precious colour for the eyes. Skin revels in the rascally play of a wind thatâ€™s laden with exotic scents. Dozens of sounds clamour to be heard. Above in the air are geese, tiny birds and mice scruffle in the undergrowth. Every nook and cranny is filled to bursting. Move on, look again, look just a little bit farther, listen just a little bit more For along this path every tree is tied to a name, for every name a story ends. An empty hole impossible to fill with heart-shaped stones left by a left-behind, trying to carry on. Does a tree need a Pink teddy? On the lake a surfer slips and crashes down. The perfect mirror smashes. The cracks gather momentum as they progress, sending shrapnel flying, which in turn pierce the skin like leaden bullets and burn their way into the heartsick interior. Counterfeit colours slip away leaving only dull grey broken by a jagged pink crack in the sky.
Baby Simon by Joyce Walker I looked about me, feeling strangely out of place in the crowded bar, perhaps, if I was lucky no-one would recognise me and I could escape after one drink without being spoken to. Reluctantly I ordered a glass of wine and sat down in the only vacant seat, a stool at the bar. Why, I wondered, wasn’t there a quiet corner? I was far too conspicuous here, where almost everyone who entered could see me and it was only a matter of time before someone remembered who I was and would start whispering to their companions about me. I have nothing to feel guilty about, I thought, as I sipped at my drink. It was Erin who suggested I come here, it was time, she said to erase the past from my mind and start living again, and what better place to come, than here, where it all began seven years ago and it was Erin who’d promised to meet me and stave off any taunts that might come my way. But where was Erin? Was she late, or had she deceived me into coming, a cruel joke on her part, for she knew this was the last place I wanted to be even after all this time. Surely she knew I’d remember everything about that night, the night that changed
my life. The night my baby died. The day they’d given me the job had been the happiest of my life, for not only had I secured work, but I’d also been given rooms above the pub and occupying the whole of the top floor meant there was plenty of room. There was also the bonus of a small private garden, ideal for when my little boy got older. The baby, they said was no problem, I could check on him as often as I wanted to during my shift, as long as it was between customers, or Erin, or one of the other girls could cover for me and Erin was more than willing, she even took it in turns with me to run upstairs and make sure baby Simon was all right. Erin, my friend, the only person who’d remained in contact with me, sending letter after letter, the last one arriving a week ago, in which she arranged to meet me. I half expected to see her smiling face behind the bar, though she’d told me she’d left a few months after I did. “It’s not the same without you,” she said. “It’s not the same at all,” I muttered, hoping that if anyone heard me they’d think I was on a mobile and not just talking to myself.
I took another sip of my drink and fished the letter out of my bag. I needed to confirm I’d got the right day. It wasn’t like Erin to be late. I was about to drain my glass and leave when I heard her voice, behind me. “You’ve changed,” she said. “You’re thinner and you’ve aged since I last saw you.” “Prison can do that to you,” I replied, “and seven years is a long time, especially when you’re convicted of a crime you didn’t commit.” “Then why confess?” she asked. “You know why,” I said. “I couldn’t stay here, not after what happened and without Simon. life on the outside wasn’t worth living, anymore. Life anywhere wasn’t worth living.” “And now?” she asked. “Now I’ve got my head together and I’m thinking more clearly than I have in years; so clearly that I almost didn’t come here tonight.” “Then why did you?” I tried to make my smile as enigmatic as possible. “Curiosity and an overwhelming need to see you again. You were, after all, the last person to see my baby alive. When he wouldn’t stop crying for more than a few minutes at a time, it was you who volunteered to go and see if you
Issue 29 summer 2016 49
could settle him and it was you who came down and said he was sleeping and shouldn’t wake up again. Well, you were right about that, weren’t you? By the time I went upstairs at the end of my shift, his skin was blue. There was nothing anyone could do for him.” “It was also me who sent for the ambulance,” she replied. “You were so distraught I had to do something.” “Something to cover your tracks, you mean. Is that why you told the police you’d sneaked up the stairs and seen me smother him? You told them I hadn’t slept in days and was at the end of my tether. Why?”
“Because I loved you, and Simon was always there between us. I thought they’d diagnose you with depression and I could nurse you back to health, that you would eventually love me back. I even believed that you might be so upset you’d think you had smothered him.” “Oh, Erin, you poor misguided girl, I did love you in my own way, more than I ever loved Simon’s father, but never in the way you wanted me to love you. Now there’s only one more thing I need to do before I leave. Come close, my dear.” Prison, you see, will not only make you thinner and age you prematurely, it will also introduce you to some
Soldier in the Dunes Kristy Kerruish Soldier in the dunes Crouching by the fox path Snared by thistle-spokes and bramble weed Young as the spring-fresh weeds that trap him Windblown sand-flowing water The pounding waves stole the song of the dunes away The numb forgetfulness, the moan Of moving sand and shifting time Soldier, fearful-eyed, did not see me Who paused to watch him where he crouched Wild like the fury of the sea His eyes half shut to keep the sand grains out Never grew old, never grew wearied and briny eyed Never trod the sand pools by the rising tide Never knew victory, never knew pride - Soldier
very unsavoury characters, and if you’re prepared to supply them with the right things, they’ll show you how to kill someone with the smallest of puncture wounds, provided you use the right poison, and prisoners can provide you with the right contacts to obtain that too. As Erin slumped over the bar in front of me, I shrugged my shoulders and muttered something about her being drunk. “I’ve called a cab for her, and she’ll be fine once she’s slept it off.” As I got up to leave, I smiled another Mona Lisa Smile, and muttered, “Just like my baby, Simon.”
The Still Water by Jason Vandaele He told me he wheeled the oxygen tank around because he had health issues, and with that he shook my hand, "Have a nice day, kidda", and bid me farewell. My mind replaced his departing image with an earlier one of a girl kicking her head back in laughter as her legs dangled just shy of the canal water, revealing another pair of bare legs belonging to my younger look-a-like. He nodded knowingly as I cycled past, sending me into a brief detour of confusion through nettles. Though they stung it was the young boy's skinny arm edging over the girl's shoulder that hurt most. I didn't know what that felt like. And sitting, staring at the still water the man said he'd swum in fifty years ago, I remembered something from my own childhood, a young boy drowning in the canal after a daredevil trick went wrong. The girl looked like she was flinging her head back in hysterics but when a fly I see turns out to be a bobbing fishing line, I realise it could have been in fatigue, a tired response to the boy's incessant attempts to put his arm around her. She was probably attracting my attention to help her, save her from his daredevil clutches. I quickly cock my leg over the saddle and peddle back the way I came, passed new fishing lines being cast into the still water. The black oxygen tank is nestled uncomfortably in nettles on the bank but the old man is no longer holding onto it. I see the grass flattened in young bum shapes but no boy and girl in the scene. I peddle closer to the edge. A fishing line bobs up and
down sending ripples crashing into the canal sides, and through a swarm of flies I see the oxygen tank on the bank twitch just as a giant perch leaps out of the water, kicking its head back in a desperate attempt for fresh air. I fall on the slippery green strands, my skin being violently pricked as I watch my brother's bike roll forward towards the water. A few bubbles and it downs. From behind me dĂŠjĂ vu, a girl laughs, her legs dangling as she walks. The hand she holds belongs to the look-a-like me now stripped to the waist and hurdling over me. It's when he dives in I see the old man bobbing up and down, the connecting tubes strapped around his nose and mouth. Next to me the tank moves with every lifesaving stroke. As he tells the boy to leave him be, the girl re-applies her bum to the flattened grass next to mine and we both watch the old man kick his head back and "Yippee" as he backstrokes down the canal before returning the other way. Out the corner of my eye the girl dangles a leg at the water and tells the boy that while he's already wet he should try and save my bicycle. I cross my fingers. Each time he inflates his lungs and plunges to the bottom something different happens. The first time he appears to look at me knowingly, again. Then the old man yells out, "I feel like a little kid again, you know what I mean, kidda?!" as he completes another breaststroke width. And during the third canal dive to retrieve my bike wreckage, the girl's arm suddenly falls over my shoulder. Before the boy returns
FLASH FICTION to the surface, I say to the man, "Yeah I know what you mean", and then kick my head back in faux giddiness as I search for a passing cyclist to save me. And though two of us feel like we're children all over again, this is not an altogether happy experience for me as the lack of air bubbles rising to the canal's surface reminds me of my younger brother Allie. The girl's soft rubber lips put an end to that thought and after a long moment my mind goes blank. When I open my eyes I taste the soft rubber of the oxygen mask. The arm I feel cradling me is that of the old man. We're drying off in a warm sun spot. The girl's bum shape is disappearing as the grass slowly rises again, and when I remove the mask and offer it to him, the old man declines and tells me he has no use for oxygen underwater, "See you later, kidda". I call after him, "Wait, Sir, would you do me a favour....", but with the timing of his dive I'm not sure he hears the end of my sentence. Everyday for three months I return to the same spot. The place where I sit, the grass has gone yellow, lifeless and flat compared to the thick and tall rising green grass strands next to me. There I sit and stare in hope. Hope that she'll come sit next to me again and hope for the safe return of my brother's bicycle. Sometimes I see something but then it flies away and I'm left waiting, staring at the still water with finger's crossed.
Gold Dust Issue 29 summer 2016 51
To All You Other People John Grey Yes, you're on my side but only if aliens invade or the sun implodes or the earth stops turning. Otherwise your identity
You could be enemy in which case you celebrate the differences. Or such a lover that they frustrate you no end.
is completely unknown to me. In fact, I take my refuge in your being a total stranger.
It would take disaster on a massive scale for me to surrender my identity to anyone but me.
Or you're an acquaintance, as random as snowflakes. Maybe I work beside you. Maybe you serve me soup in diners. Or you're family, that more exclusive randomness, same name, same features, but as separate as pines in a forest.
I await the moment, believe me, when I can give myself to you. But so far, dire circumstances have been kind.
Contributors Every issue we receive around 200 prose and poetry submissions from all over the world
Prose Geoffrey Heptonstall is a Contributing Writer at Contemporary Review and poetry reviewer with The London Magazine. He has published stories in Cerise Press, Litro and Sunk Island Review, as well as poetry in Adirondack Review, The Bow Wow Shop, The Tablet and the TLS. Recent creative work includes poetry for a film, The Physical Book. His theatre writing includes a play, Providence, and contributions to a masque and a monologue, all performed at London fringe venues. He has also had work performed at festivals in Bolton, Canterbury and Dunbar. Rachel Jones was born in Cardiff and moved to West Sussex when a baby. She grew up with her parents and three sisters. She has always enjoyed writing, and studied English Literature with Creative writing at UEA. She spent her gap year working as a volunteer in France, and continues to study the language. She writes short stories and occasional poems.
vals including Reykjavik, Warsaw and Locarno. Her interviews with directors, actors and critics are available as podcasts on The Moving Arts Film Journal website. In 2014 she published her first book, Reframing Reality: The Aesthetics of the Surrealist Object in French and Czech Cinema. Her short story, ‘The Wall’ will be published in Matrix Magazine this summer. She lives in London and works for BBC Radio 4 Extra. You can follow her on Twitter @alisonfrank Joyce Walker was born in June 1947, has a husband, 2 sons, 7 grandchildren and a great grandchild. A retired administrator who has had poetry and short stories published in several magazines and some success in competitions, including runners up prizes in Writers’ Forum for poetry. Her greatest success to date was taking 1st prize in the Writers Brew Short Story Competition in 2002 and the most recent being runner up in the Erewash Writers Burst flash fiction competition in 2013. She loves the World War I poets, her favourite being Rupert Brooke.
Stephen McQuiggan Stephen McQuiggan liked nothing more than walking under ladders, breaking mirrors, and taunting magpies until he fell into a sudden and inexplicable coma. His first novel, A Jason Vandaele was born in Belgium, in the Pig’s View Of Heaven, is available now from Grin- years since he has studied, worked and played in Europe, Japan and America, penning short stoning Skull Press. ries along the way. Jean Duggleby has lived in Walthamstow since 1989 and always lived in East/North London except for 3 years in Hong Kong as a young woman. She has retired from primary school teaching, a field in which she eventually specialised in teaching deaf Bob Toynton has been fascinated since child children. Her interest in writing short stories began by the structures and nature of landscape. After very recently as a result of going along to a Creative an academic career he has recently retired with Writing class, initially to make the tea at break time his partner to Scotland’s west coast. Though (!) where she discovered a passion for writing and spending his working life in England, Bob was became instantly prolific. Jean 'mines' her own life born in east Fife and grew up by the River Tay in experiences for ideas, as do we all, but would like Perthshire. Having lived in three Scottish and six to point out that that her actual plots are highly English counties Bob has been the perpetual fictionalised. She likes walking, gardening, travel, incomer. Growing up gay encouraged an internalised life and feelings of otherness. Although a cinema and is a teacher of circle dancing. teacher and researcher in science, his communiAlison Frank completed her undergraduate degree cation of the personal and emotional has always at the University of Toronto, where she participated been helped through reading and writing poetry. in George Elliott Clarke's creative writing course. She went on to complete a doctorate the University David Olsen is a playwright and poet with a BA of Oxford. She has freelanced as a film critic since in chemistry from University of California-Berke2010, serving on critics’ juries at several film festi- ley and an MA in creative writing from San Fran-
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cisco State University. He was formerly an energy economist, management consultant, and performing arts critic. David is the author of ‘Unfolding Origami ‘(80pp, 2015) which won the Cinnamon Press Poetry Collection Award. His poetry chapbooks from US publishers include Sailing to Atlantis (2013), New World Elegies (2011), and Greatest Hits (2001). His work has appeared in many publications including Acumen, Envoi, Poetry News, The Journal, The Interpreter’s House, Orbis, Prole, SAW Poetry, The Stare’s Nest, Lunar Poetry, Morphrog, and Sentinel Literary Quarterly. He has lived in Oxford since 2002. Dave Lewis is from Pontypridd, south Wales. He has always lived in Wales except for a year in Kenya. He has been a newspaper columnist, written sports stories for the BBC, runs several websites, including Publish & Print and has been published in numerous magazines all over the world. In 2007 he set up and launched the Welsh Poetry Competition, aimed at discovering new writing talent in Wales the contest is now in it’s 10th year. He published his first poetry collection Layer Cake in March 2009. He has published eleven books to date, including three successful crime thrillers. Website: david-lewis.co.uk Steve Carter is a writer and jazz guitarist. He taught music and English at Berklee College of Music. His first book of poems, Intermodulations, was recently published by Maat Publishing (www.maatpublishing.net). His poetry has appeared in many magazines, including Hanging Loose, Carolina Review, Stand, and Clackamas Literary Review. Freya Pickard is a cancer survivor, trying to rediscover her creativity after bowel cancer, surgery and chemotherapy. She is the author of Dragonscale Leggings and is currently writing poetry in order to try and get her creative flow to return. Freya blogs at ether purehaiku.wordpress.com or dragonscaleclippings.wordpress.com depending on how she is feeling. Kathleen M. Quinlan’s full-length collection, Moorings (forthcoming 2016), and pamphlet, From We to I (2015), are published by Cinnamon Press. Her poetry has appeared on both sides of the Atlantic, including Acumen, Envoi, Gargoyle, Orbis, Poetry Salzburg Review and Prole. She is currently editing a book, How Higher Education Feels: Commentaries on Poems that Illuminate the Experiences of Teaching and Learning, forthcoming from Sense Publishers in 2016. An American, she teaches at the University of Oxford and is a member of Back Room Poets.
Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He's had ninety poems and stories published thus far, and two books. Sammi Curran is a freshman at Emerson College in Boston, currently studying Writing, Literature and Publishing. One of Sammi's short stories was recently read on an episode of the 'Unusual Mortality Event' podcast and one of her poems has appeared in Emerson’s Summer Program e-zine, The Elm. Sammi originally began her love for the written word through her high school literary magazine. Her plan now is to get her writing 'out there'! Kristy Kerruish was born in Edinburgh and lives in Europe, currently in The Netherlands. Among her published credits, both past and forthcoming are; Bunbury, Octavius, Spelk Fiction and Dream Catcher, to which she is delighted to now add Gold Dust. Sonnet Mondal is founder of The Enchanting Verses Literary Review. He has authored eight books of poetry and represented India at Struga Poetry Evenings, Macedonia in 2014 & Uskudar International Poetry Festival, Istanbul in 2015. Recently he has been invited to read at The International Poetry Festival of Granada in 2016. He is one of the featured writers at International Writing Program at The University of IOWA Silk Routes Project. He was featured as one of the Famous Five of Bengali Youths in India Today magazine in 2010 and long listed in The Forbes magazine’s top 100 Celebrities 2014 & 2015 edition among India’s most celebrated authors. In March 2015 The CultureTrip website, London listed him among the Top Five Literary Entrepreneurs of Indian English Poetry. His works have appeared in the Sheepshead Review, Penguin Review, Mcneese Review, Common Ground Review, Two Thirds North, Connotation Press and Nth Position etc. www.sonnetmondal.com Maxine Rose Munro grew up in the Shetland Islands. She now lives just outside Glasgow and sees herself as an islander adrift. When she writes she tries always to tell the stories created by the edges of life. Her work has appeared in Freefall-fiction, Northwords Now, The New Shetlander and Obsessed With Pipework. Jane Frank’s poems have appeared in Australian Poetry Journal, Westerly, Writ, Uneven Floor, Yellow Chair Review, Antiphon, The Lake, Snakeskin, Streetcake, Eunoia Review and elsewhere. Jane teaches in the School of Humanities
at Griffith University in south east Queensland, Catie Claire Smith is a sophomore at CharlottesAustralia. She has just completed a PhD examin- ville High School. She loves to write and play ing the rise of the global Book Town Movement. sports. Her favourite form of writing is poetry, and Jess Mookherjee is a poet based in Kent. She she likes to include small details to make everyone has a background in biological anthropology and relate to her work. She hopes to be a journalist or has been recently published in Agenda, The writer. Interpreterâ€™s House, Prole, The Journal and Anti- Craig Kurtz has vexed aesthetic circles since the 1981 release of The Philosophic Collage. Recent phon. work appears in Aerie Literary Journal, The John Alwyine-Mosley is a poet from Bristol, Criterion: An International Journal in English, who writes on an eclectic range of Danse Macabre, Penumbra, Poetry Quarterly, Red themes. Recent work has also appeared in Fez, The Road Not Taken: A Journal of Formal Stare's Nest, York Mix, Clear Poetry, Nutshells Poetry, TMJ Magazine and Xanadu. and Nuggets, three drops from a cauldron, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Street Cake, Screech Owl, Ab- Katie Lewington lives in Hertfordshire and is curbreviate Journal, The Ground, Aphelion, Uneven rently studying Maths and English at college. She Floor, The Lake, Morphrog, Yellow Chair Review, has previously been published in online Your One Phone Call, Eunoia Review and Mes- magazine/journal After the pause and will be published in a forthcoming edition of Message in a sage in a Bottle. Bottle poetry magazine. Her work will also be seen Website: publishedpoems.wordpress.com on The Casket of Fictional Delights Website. James Osborne has written six short stories and a few small poems. One of his stories was pub- Heath Brougher attended Temple University. lished in 2015 as part of the anthology Buzzwords Having finished his first chapbook, he is putting with other members of the Harrow Green Commu- finishing touches to two other chapbooks, as well nity Library Creative Writing Group (available on as a full-length book of poetry. His prior published Lulu.com). He also wrote for the student newspa- works and forthcoming publications may be read in per while at University. He writes mainly in the Diverse Voices Quarterly, BlazeVOX , Otoliths, Mobius, *Star 82 Review, Van Gogh's Ear, MiPOefantasy genre and lives in East London. sias, Indigo Rising, Inscape Literary Journal Frank C. Praeger is a retired research biologist (Washburn University) and elsewhere. who has had poetry published in the UK, USA, Canada, and Ireland. He lives in the Keewenaw, James Bell has published two poetry collections a peninsula jutting out of the Northwest corner of the just vanished place (2008) and fishing for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan into Lake Supe- beginners (2010), both from tall-lighthouse. He lives in Brittany where he contributes articles and rior. Pamela Scott is thirty four years old and lives in photography to an English language journal and Glasgow, UK with her partner. Her poems and continues to publish poems nationally and internastories have been published in various magazines tionally, with recent print appearances in Tears In including The New Writer, Carillon and Words with The Fence, Elbow Room, The Journal, ShearsJam. Her poems have been published in antholo- man, The Stony Thursday Book, Under the Radar gies by Indigo Dreams Press including Crab Lines and Upstairs at Du Roc. off the Pier. Her poems and stories have won 2nd Lee Todd Lacks is a mixed-media artist, music and 3rd place in various competitions including the therapist, and clinical counsellor. Newark Poetry Society Competition and the Global Short Story Competition. She is editing her John Grey is an Australian poet & US resident, second novel and working on a range of other most recently published in New Plains Review. projects including compiling a poetry collection. Laura McKee began writing poetry a few years ago, by mistake. Her poems have appeared in various journals and zines, including: Other Poetry, Aireings, Obsessed with Pipework, Nutshells and Nuggets, Snakeskin, Mouse Tales Press, Teesside Artists Journal, Gloom Cupboard, Peeking Cat, Fake Poems andYork Mix.
Features & Reviews Poetry Editor: Adele C Geraghty Adele claims dual citizenship, in the US and UK. She is the recipient of the US National Women's History Award for Poetry and Essay and author of 'Skywriting in the Minor Key: Women, Words,
Issue 29 summer 2016 55
Stories and The Other End of the Rainbow (short story collections), Sirat and Engineering Paradise (novels) available from Amazon. Competition wins + stories in anthologies, magazines & newspapers. Presently turning part of Engineering Paradise into a stage musical as an ‘Open Source Project’: davidgardiner.net/EPOpen.html. Interests include Founder: Omma Velada science, ecology, travel, philosophy, folk music, Omma Velada lives in London with her two chil- scuba, cooking, communes & alternative lifestyles. dren. Her short stories and poems have been Website: davidgardiner.net published in numerous literary journals and an- Email: email@example.com thologies. She came second in the UK Authors 2004 short-story competition and was elected Lorraine C. Brooks resides in Maryland, US. Writer of the Month at EditRed. She has three She is a founding member of ‘Red Round Group’, published novels, The Mackerby Scandal (UKA which produces documentary, art films and videPress, 2004), Sun, Sea & Pilots (Lulu, 2014) and os. She is resident poet of the radio show How to Steal A Goat (From A Witch) (Lulu, 2014), ‘Diabetes Latenight’, producing and performing all available from Amazon poetry of interest to diabetics. Lorraine is the author of Riding the Wave, a poetry collection (BTS Prose Editor: David Gardiner Books, 2010). Child of the 1960s, retired electronic engineer, teacher and other things living in east London with I. W. Smythe (a pseudonym) has had internationpartner Jean. Has been Gold Dust’s prose editor al reviews and interviews in Be About It, published since its inception. The Rainbow Man and Other by Alexandra Naughton and elsewhere. Wings', a poetry collection. She is Co-Founder, Editor and Publisher of BTS Books (Between These Shores). Her work has been published in numerous anthologies, magazines and literary journals, and performed on radio in both her countries. https://www.facebook.com/BTSBOOKS
GOLD DUST SPECIAL PUBLICATIONS
As well as the magazine itself publishes occasional ‘best of’ anthologies in which we reprint the finest stories or poems submitted over a period of (typically) four years. Not only great collections by any standard but if you would like to submit to the magazine these provide an insight into the kind of thing we’re looking for. All our publications can be purchased from: lulu.com/spotlight/golddustmagazine