by Sarah Coates 1
Editorial who reads into distances reads beyond us, our sleeping children and the dust settling in scorched grass. – Seamus Heaney, “Travel”
hrough its sixty-four years as both forge and forum, Icarus has continued as it began: as a student publication. Authors who found voice here as young unknowns have risen to national and international fame; others, already established and celebrated, discover in these pages the space to showcase new writing. That Icarus is Ireland’s longest-running arts publication has been overstated. It might be easy, in fact, to forget that we as editors take it as our prime duty to discern the best of what Trinity’s writers can create, and promote it accordingly. It is a feature of Icarus, as part of the creative writing scene, to publish new authors alongside better-known literary figures. As such, we’re proud to present some pieces by Ciaran Carson taken from his new project. This year we’ve included more photography than previously, and limited illustrations to a featured artist, whose works are presented in the inside front and back overs and act as bookends to the overall conceptual theme. We’d like to thank Sarah Coates for providing her talent. This issue is dedicated to the memory of Seamus Heaney. The Icarus staff acknowledges Trinity Publication and the School of English, as well as Brunswick Press, for making this issue possible. Icarus is a fully participating member of the Press Council of Ireland. Serious complaints should be made to: The Editors, Icarus, Trinity Publications, House 6, Trinity College, Dublin 2. Appeals may be directed to the Press Council of Ireland. Chief Editors: David Lynch & Claudio Sansone Deputy Editor: Niall McCabe Layout Editor: Thady Senior
Contents Featured Illustration 1 1 by Sarah Coates Editorial 2 Featured Author: Ciaran Carson Le Chasseur: The Hunter | Wake 4 by Ciaran Carson Travaux: Works | Night Shifts 6 by Ciaran Carson Bird 8 by Susanna Galbraith Candleflame 10 by James Bennett Photograph: Captain’s House 11 by Thady Senior Watching a Whale Launch Over a Boat 12 by Sophie Cairns Island Fever 14 by Kerstina Mortensen Morality with T 16 by Lisa Gannon Photograph: Antibes 17 by Maria Sukhamikova Memory of a Crane Barge Wrecked Off Rams Head, Co. Waterford 18 by Conor Linnie Zege Coffee 19 by Jim Clarke Berbere 20 by Jim Clarke Online | Wordy’s Worth 21 by Katie Black Online | By The Water II: Blue 22 by Susanna Galbraith
Photograph: Bruges 23 by Maria Sukhamikova The Myth of Abnegation 24 by Belliup Brunswick, Soren Ticklesmacker & Flem Reggledydeggledy Poonce My Summer Holiday 32 by Niall Brehon The Countryman 36 by Thomas McNally K 42 by Elaine Cosgrove Piotr, Impressions 46 by Amadeusz Kępiński Photograph: [Untitled] 51 by Cee Hazzard Online | RnaJ 52 by David Burns Online | Photograph: The Round Tower55 by Maria Sukhamikova Online | Brace Yourself 56 by Kendall Madden Online | Photograph: [Untitled] 63 by Cee Hazzard Online | In That Order 64 by James Hussey Online | Photograph: [Untitled] 69 by Susanna Gailbraith Online | The Glump. 70 by AlisonVanderkruyk Contributors 74 Featured Illustration 2 76 by Sarah Coates
Featured Author: Ciaran Carson These poems are part of a projected book, working title From Elsewhere. Those with French/English titles are my translations of poems by Jean Follain (1903-1971); those with English titles are my response to the translations, whether spins on them, or takes on them. In other words, they form a dialogue of sorts.
Le Chasseur: The Hunter Someone day after day dreams of hunting in a world without end the game that haunts land and water as far as utter darkness and that all doors remain open. Off goes this man to hunch under cover before crossroad after crossroad. Moribund one, his wife says to him think no more on these violent deaths in the depths of the woods.
Wake Night after night the couple turn in their bed talking or turning towards and then away from the murmur of a far-off helicopter over trouble somewhere, speak of whose turn might be next and whether they who speak will be upon this earth to look on yet another face shimmering in the candlelight of the afterlife blank.
Travaux: Works Working through the fog the weaver of tapestries embroiders on and on. A brown bowl rests on the long outline of a table a red insect is about to board. Beauty sculpted slowly composes herself brought to life by the cold in a giant studio looming over the precipice where grow immortal plants.
Night Shifts The watchmaker magnified in eye scrutinizes the shimmering hairspring held in his pinion beyond the rooftops lie the high dark woods under a face of porcelain the colour of clouds in the downstairs room the seamstress is washing her hair before a mirror in a tin basin dented like the moon.
by Susanna Galbraith
Begin with something dead and go from there. An animal - meaning that it isn’t human. A complicated distinction if a distinction at all but choose not to digress - the direction has been made and the image is clear. An animal dead. Recall that once a writer took a page and a half or thereabouts to consider a dead bird. (Not quite the case - for the first page the bird was dying not dead. Another distinction – more clear in some ways - less in others. ) Recall also a photograph. The image hangs near the front of the mind – this photograph - recent. A bird - feathers clogged and wings outstretched but sucked heavily to the ground by the force of rain on granulated earth. Its head reclines unnaturally. The face is not visible from the angle of the photograph – a violent diagonal - a leering view - hovering. A small deflated roundness - the bird’s torso is central stark startling. (Recall a hand and how its size could crush or smother it with ease.) The face is not there in the photograph. The bird is dead - suppose. Face and life – absent. The bird is dead.
This animal could be a bird. Establish the sight of a dead bird. (These words.) A dead bird because it is supposed dead. Dead because it is breathless – crooked – greyed – folding to the elements – still but for the breeze undoing the smoothness of its breast plumage. (Dead is not a bird’s word.) For us the bird is dead. This image is new Different from the angle of the photograph – not shifting and fading like the writer’s dying bird. (Question – what is this?) Not close. It is distant and off-centre. A dark ink smudge on a pale landscape – (print-residue marks the periphery) But clear because of the cleansed air. The sky has rained and cleared since the bird has lain there - all before the bird is seen. Walk forward. Feel the weather chilling as the bird is near. (Small things.) The weather gnaws on its spine and others’. Riddled with wet earth and salt See the body - flesh and feather - and recall the fragility of bird bones.
by James Bennett
a slit-thin window on eternity eternally hatching egg an instant of blast
Photograph: Captainâ€™s House
by Thady Senior
Watching a Whale Launch Over a Boat Watching a whale launch over a boat Is like Watching a clock melt Like watching time Ooze into sad cheese. You wouldnâ€™t know unless youâ€™d seen it. I once watched a whale launch over a boat And it was like being in a film And (As in films) The whole thing happened in SLOW MOTION The whale Paused above the boat. Bizarre and frantic And then came down Down on the boat With a crash. And then The boat, Swung by this colossal mammal, Rocked horribly from side to side From side to side. From Side to side. There was simply nothing to do. The whale Being, as all mothers, a mother, Had seen a gross and hideous thing 12
by Sophie Cairns
Between she and her child And had no choice. Her lorry-sized heart Left her no choice. It would have dissolved Dissolved along with the rest of her big whale body Including her teeth which are like the teeth of a comb Or like hair. It would dissolve quickly I think Quickly because there would be nothing to keep it together If that little whale body behind the boat Had beenShe had no choice, So launched. The unfortunate thing was That there were mammals, Not colossal ones like the whale, But smaller ones, Ones with smaller hearts And teeth made from enamel, Teeth that are like bones and not hair. The unfortunate thing was That these smaller mammals, With their teeth like bones, Were thrown off By the horrible rocking Into the coldest and blackest of water. I had no choice, So I watched. I watched as time oozed into sad cheese. I am only glad my heart is not Lorry-sized. 13
by Kerstina Mortensen You sleep, but outside, love colours are painted in the sky, massacred crustaceans bleeding pinks and coral ink into the clouds. In Kasperâ€™s quayside cabin I watch dusk deepen to night, darken to black until all disappears but the lamplight from his trawler shining back on the sea like blinking eyes or white noise on screen. Yesterdayâ€™s dawn washed up a body on seaweed sheets, a fisherman rolled tight in saltblankets, and I think
sometime it will be you they carry from shore, leaden, swollen, an exhibition on your heaving mother’s dining table. Kasper’s trawler comes in to dock and I will wander the wind of the path to your window but you, still locked in sleep, won’t know I’m leaving with him, sailing to the mainland, before all colour drains from this pale, fracturing island.
Morality with T High tea was served At the ranch. Delph rattled, doilies decorated And aprons flapped. The dress code was unspecified, Everyone assumed casual. Everyone has jeansDonâ€™t they? The room was well furnishedHer Russian dolls watched from their place. Eggs were customary; a hen hosted. There are so many things one can do with an eggIt has such potential. The hen hunched around the kitchen. Our rumbling outdid her incessant bacocking. The meal was expensive. She made an omelette of her nest-egg, The salad eggs were a par boiled minute She was no longer pregnant of her cause. Tea was served with moralityThe chick served with mortality. Apron strings will not be pulled. This set up was Abortive. 16
by Lisa Gannon
by Maria Sukhamikova
Memory of a Crane Barge Wrecked Off Rams Head, Co.Waterford by Conor Linnie
Maybe it is because I have just left Sorrentinoâ€™s The Great Beauty and feel bloated with images Of perfection, slouched over the bar Of a Mexican restaurant and surrounded By immaculate humans swilling Laughter and drinks, that I think of you. The brilliant incongruity of you. Resplendent In your ugliness. Emaciated iron finger Thrust skyward from a clenched fist Of sea lashed rock, aimed Obstinately at the postcard picture Of lush fields undulating before you. Barred from the idyll by cliffs That stand immovable as bouncers, You have learned to revel in your exclusion; Coarsened by barnacles and sea wrack, Blotched white by the retinue of gulls Who have made a throne of your malignance. You are an ulcer festering On the swollen lip of shoreline to all But me. Tonight your image Comes as a balm amidst the glitter Of glass stems that line the bar And fillet my reflection.
by Jim Clarke
You must do it all yourself. The trip across Lake Tana, fighting down vomit, praying it’s last night’s dinner and not bilharzia. Then the slow pilgrimage around the monasteries, coloured like comic books, day-glo saints everywhere, haloed, glaring down on the lazing monks. You must climb the peninsula, bared and flaming, your throat seized up with dust, meet the men in grubby gabis by the path who hold up beansacks like a benediction, virgin-white. Back home, you will have them roasted perfectly brown. You will grind them with your own grinder, boil spring water, infuse and sip from your best tasse, and still it won’t taste like it did on Zege. The dirt-haired girl poured her murk from a round-bottomed pot.You must drink it and bless Betre Maryam, and then feel well.
by Jim Clarke
The Italians streamlined through here once, left espresso and art deco in their wake from Tunis to Mogadishu. The future looked like this then, all primary colours and sleek lines. Kids splashing the peace corps workers in the pool, laughing in liquid Amharic. Blondes complaining about the spicy food. We went out to the rickety market against best advice, dipped fingers into mounds of rusty berbere, dodged hawkers and chickens, sucked and winced, inhaling the ochre burn. It tasted earthy and hot, the colour and the scent of dusty roads. An ageless woman sold us a kilo under an iron shack, fanning herself all the while in rippling air. Blondes were singing classic rock as we returned. Drunk on leave, they spoke of home and leaving, missing snow, to an emigrĂŠe visiting family. Men in dark suits were eyeing their sunburnt bikini bodies coolly, cold beers in hand, sipping slowly, the only way to kill the heat, to kill the endless blazing present.
Online | Wordyâ€™s Worth
by Katie Black
I commuted lonely as a cloud Silver luas, worm-like winding At the hospital a woman sat sucking marshmallows Rain blurring her face, watercolours running Abandoned umbrellas scattered round her likeLike cut daffodil heads
Online | By The Water II: Blue
by Susanna Galbraith
The dress was blue that she had clinging to her in the manner of vines or a falling storm.The dress was blue. Blue to fit the space she moved in. A blue sung by the colour of her eyes and pulled by the slipping cirrus that scored texture on the blue above. She stepped toe-first into the water. The water and the dress were carved of the same marble and possessed her body in the blue, wet silk whispering around her ankle and the water flicking light back at her eyes, a screen between elements. She let this happen and trailed it through her mind, fingers through hair. Blue. She echoed in one way or another. She looked at her foot in the water. Blue, she dissolved the word. Blue was now an inconclusive series of sounds that sank through the atmosphere, expanding, dispersing, disappearing. Blue, she uttered to the air and the sounds glistened fantastically on the water surface. She heard blue, saw it and felt it on her skin and in the rolls of her breath. All the connotations of blue, all the connotations of nothing, for she wandered at the blueness of blueâ€Ś
by Maria Sukhamikova
The Myth of Abnegation
by Belliup Brunswick, Soren Ticklesmacker & Flem Reggledydeggledy Poonce
he original manuscript, predating all proposed alternative sources by the widest cleft side of a century (unplumbed for precision), of the two earliest episodes of Genesis; whittled into the cured and enjoined hides of an ass herd, rediscovered in a mysterious bulge of flotsam off Catanzaro on the Ionian Sea, tenaciously translated from a remarkably detailed pictographic sequence (with pockets of a recently deciphered script) to a diversified spray of Modern English (the vernacular of mankind) and dutifully compiled by a triumvirate of impassioned and diligent biblical scholars, namely: Belliup Brunswick (Ba., Sch., Du. Pes.), Soren Ticklesmacker (M. Phil, Len.Til.) and Flem Reggledydeggledy Poonce (Md., Ma.). One song-spangled afternoon spent gathering sheep’s dung for my master, following the stampede of the sky’s unhindered tears, I, Grimsayin Floundersburrge, cared nothing for the coursing cotton of my dependents, the sheep, as they stumbled into torrential sluice and were pulled away, bleating. Instead I sought respite on a damp bed of bluing rye, held within a makeshift stronghold of hoisted femurs and untreated calfskin, and awoke three farts later in the throes of majestic divination.Tripping along the beams of the holy sun came a voice never blustered before through any mortal mouth. God, our newest and most incontrovertible yet, spoke to me and, with his frenzied words, I was canoodled. Balancing the dung collectively upon my paunch, I hastily fled to my master’s beloved sage and scribe, Bollyollocksy Pomposilick, and crafted this prelude, along with the startling history of our kind. (B: At last, perhaps the greatest mystery solved. A disaffected, dung gathering shepherd first heard the holy words.) On the first day God created the dark and the light. God marvelled at the dark and the light, thrilled that it differed from the light because the light would be too bright for some, and God himself had hypersensitive retinal cells. On the second day God created the water but had nowhere to pour it, having neglected the first stage of his plan. He hadn’t displaced enough time for repeats, so the water dangled briefly between the light and the dark before dissipating away. God saw this and, with time enough, accepted his loss. Then on the third day God hastily began to craft the mountains and chattel making disordered attempts at both duties in order to balance the workload and terrace the necessities for the remaining days. Unfortunately this resulted in a monstrous hybrid of mountain and chattel which left large, sweltering pats of blotchy faeces between the light and the dark.
With godly initiative, He built a spacious rood gravitating between the light and the dark for the mountainous chattel to loll about and defecate. God saw this and felt improved. On the fourth day God tinkered with an idea in progress, his most intricate, the human being. While his first attempts were perfectly proportioned, the Lord God had derived a fallacious methodology for the wiring of survival instincts and primary impulses and so the First Man ran directly into a hanging ridge of colossal cow pat, mistaking it for a paramour, and was instantly consumed with pestilence and irradiating rot. God would have given him a scrubbing to remove the sepsis and stinking matter but the giant cowntain, (P: As hereafter referred. Portmanteaus are words in glorious cruciform; Glory be.) stricken with hunger pangs, famished as it was by a deprivation of foison and hay, began to hungrily tuck into his own continent of waste and the lank jellied limbs of the First Man. The beast was reprimanded. God looked on his work and brazenly anticipated amelioration. On the fifth day the cowntain, on pain of gutting and hints of leather headrests, was commanded to step back from Godâ€™s plans over the coming day, with which ill-chosen words the cowntain backed slowly off his drifting edifice and tumbled far down into the nondescript depths of eternity, dislocating the veil of darkness lifted on the first day and spinning the contrapuntal veil of light into a jittery orbit, which scourged the eyes of God himself, whose tender retinal cells absorbed too many of the rays. God decided on taking the rest of the day off for his pains and cauterised, with some pre-lingual mystic hokum, the nicks he had received on his hands while wastefully grasping at the plummeting monstrosity. Then came the sixth day and God created the heavens, the earth, the firmament, the waters, the waters splitting from the waters, the drifting continents, the fish, the horses, the donkeys, the mules, the scum, the sloth, the urban skylines, the fowls, man, woman, child, rain, snow, wicker baskets, prolapsed rectums, numberless religions, numberless religious figures (P: The pictography encapsulating this section is an indisputable miracle. Glory be.), bipolar disorder, thalidomide (B: See Appendix IX for this particular image: Capless prescription bottles and stumpy children. Magnificent foresight), inferior minds, superior bastards, lasciviousness, the penis, mythologies, aardvarks, misogyny, misandry, masonry, pirates, Manifest Destiny, The Trail of Tears, William Blakeâ€™s face (T: Uncannily), assault rifles, assault rifles fetishists, beasts, language, farts, enemas; the superfluous bounty of all existence, all in such a compacted bracket of time and with such hectic, slipshod vigour that existence bound translucently together, appearing like a pristine marble-top counter coated in slippery gristle. All of these irrational concurrences slowly splayed and differentiated until every confusion was heightened to fury. Innocence and naivety were cracked in the grinder of 25
human cruelty. God, though mighty, refused to despair; his pardoning was infrangibly stipulated in the stars. Any awe or elation would be attributed to the conscientious whim of an eye in the sky. Misery had its own release. Its various manifestations would be allocated to a fictive nemesis, Lucifer, the antediluvian punk. God couldn’t believe of his cavernous ears the lucky news they were gathering; the most superlatively imposing icon in his mythos, this twin-horned slick menace, and the little pricks had crafted it themselves! Humanity had made peace with the dangers in their world. Unity and truth, scribbled in dull scrolls would, objectively, appear more like afflictions than achievements. God shed one proud, gargantuan tear before deciding to rest on the seventh day, expecting no better result from further interference; furtively discomposed by the potential for worse. (P: Though we have divided our duties, I have my complaints about aspects of the translation. Glory be.) So on the seventh God slept, and waking up on the eighth absolutely forgot about being the progenitor of everything living. * Affected by virulent mood-swings and tender, puffy nipples, God searched into himself and found an inconsolable failure. Like a child with a house of lego, he pettishly began to reduce creation to rubble. He brought disharmony with an obtuse, remorseless efficiency, wanting to take some time for himself, maybe do up the garden, plant a gorgeous tree in the centre and have all kinds of pear and apple trees and just the cutest animals you’ve ever seen (P: Glory be). Wiggling his fingers to waltz-time, God conducted a cosmic highway of stardust from under the black shag carpet of the universe. At the end of a gruelling afternoon had calcified his vision; endless tracts of valleys and mountains for his own cathartic peregrinations; somewhere for intransigent winds to toss, softly, his hair. Four rivers, trenched as swaying curves, met at a communal source, a gargling wellspring, cerulean and infinitely pellucid to the troughs of its countless waves. This fidgety flute contained all material states of water; on occasion, a pulsing globule of water-plasma (P: Doesn’t this lame you, contrarians, by underpinning some miscible scientific truth? Glory be!) would burst free from the pool and stretch its tendrils along the surface of a stream, causing panicked gesticulation among the farrows and chattel. God became lonely, sour, and began to take even the slightest of his frustrations out on the glens of paradise itself, rending its plains with a lash of his silver-flecked beard and sticking sharp, diverging branches into the jowls of the pigs to make them squeal in that silly piggish way. “Uuurrrreeeeeaaah”(T: Presumably), they would wheeze, and God’s melancholia would rotate into a rictus. God wanted a friend, a sapient bauble, and he spend a moment worrying about the proto-humours, their finicky alignments and effects on the human mind. Expanding on the original concept, God created Man again with a finger callus full of clay, varnishing the exposed purple giblets with a spruce incarnadine finish. 26
God flattened out the curve of his spine and the dip in his knees and vertically moulded him. Man was a glorified oyster thigh on legs, but endearing to God nonetheless. Looking directly into his adumbrated, million-mile gaze, he was compelled to dry away the pools of moronic drool without umbrage. He felt paternal; a twang of care, greater than any such begotten in the antecedent absurdities, twisted though his heart. God named him “Adam” after the noise the humble creature crooned when, delicately, he would use his fingernails to scratch the chiaroscuro stubble on Adam’s face. Generously supposing that responsibility would imprint a sense of authority, obedience and understanding on little Adam’s brain, God allowed him to name all of the plants and the animals in the garden. From that day forth the pigs were known as the “UUH-DUMS”, the horses, likewise, the “UUH-DUMS”, the purpling sky interspersing night and day was said to be “UUH-DUMS”, the expulsion of fetid smells from the rear was the process of making “UUH-DUMS”. Thus everything waned to a cloying, homogeneous frequency. Weeks or months may have passed; units of time welded indivisibly together in the close stupor-heat of the gardens. God scudded aimlessly in a self-realised incarceration. Every dreary half-conversation with Adam illuminated his own position; isolated, vastly superior, trapped in his own imagination. Even the mirth of clutching and volleying an unsuspecting pig into the highest vales of the sky and listening as it squealed itself hoarse had mouldered. Nothing was fun, nor challenging; excitation was a limp, floating carcass. God, growing paranoid, remembered what had excited him during his previous providential experiment. The little things. The tip and tumble of an upset funeral bier and the hilarity of the disrupted procession. The mangled, the mutilated and the chortling of maniac aggressors swam in the lake of his imagination and aroused some writhing, varicose malice. (P: Truly God, like our greatest poets, finds merit in the tragicomic. Glory be.) Something festered within him. Petulant caprice turned to outright disdain. Like cannonball of mercury it curdled wispily in his depths, and soon he began to dwell in insurrection and crave betrayal. How lax had he been before; how sloppily had his actions vacillated. Delusion began to encounter delusion until the pebbles of his thoughts fused. Reaching far into the annals of his posterior nebulous, God fished out a bistre catarrh of the most viscous codswallop (P: We begin, as we presume you too must, to abominate the tone. We stress the bond invoked by the goddess Accuracy. Nevertheless, Glory be.) he had been able to muster so far, his Will. Now anything could justifiably happen. Dosing Adam with some next-to-hand soporific, God wrenched out one of his flimsier ribs and sautéed the osseous crook with sugars and spices. From the gilt-stone pan, another creature of flesh bubbled into human shape, equally as stupid as the first but inexplicably more agitating to God (P: We, the unassuming harbingers of the 27
New Christian Age, comprehend this reaction in light of His incalculably diminished empathy; Glory be). Laying her down in the cloudless meadow beside Adam, God prodded her impatiently until her dull wails pierced the breastplate of his dreams and brought him, perspiring and nervy, back to wakefulness. Adam and this new creature exchanged not-quite-anywhere stares together for the space of an hour, until an inflected perfunctory “UUH-DUM” was followed by (B: as we may best transcribe) an “UUHB”, and formalities were approximately exchanged. God, bringing their heads together with the tips of his two massive fingers (Here Brunswick would have it that God is immaterial, and resizes like the lungs of an accordion, Poonce that any postulation is an egregious heresy.) attempted to further ingratiate the two, but they were imbeciles. Every scintillation had stagnated in the torpid lifecycle of Eden. God needed an escape plan and, with the blithe guile of almost every historical mountebank, God decided to initiate his specious plan. Tossing Adam into a nearby ravine, he placed Uuhb beside the centrepiece of Eden, a dynamic cultivar. He hadn’t felt the need - given the near total absence of receptivity in these docile homunculi - to go as far as to forbid them from approaching it, but there was certainly an unspoken rule in place. A moment for this tree: it was powerful; it was a ripple of forever. It plucked hordes of dripping stars from the sky and froze them around its frame. They would flitter noisily, like liquid enamel, guided by the chines of its trunk and would zip like uncharted vectors through its middling, complacent leaves. (B: We have no idea how he managed to so aptly convey this. Truly we but varnish the toenails of a visionary.) Some tense, excited string within the tree was consonant with Uuhb’s approach. (Here, we must confess, the pictographs become too frayed for satisfactory exegesis. Poonce has, with a prerogative of spiritual consistency, surmised the elision as unimaginatively as possible.) God, waiting for something uncoordinated to take place, turned livid and calmly sat and smiled benevolently amidst a rangale of grazing deer and unthreaded the entrails of their burdens with the intention of slicing up their anxieties. He grasped and strangled a myriad of philosophical qualms proposed by the elder deer and eviscerated the children in a game of red rover. Weeping mothers wept graciously, and praised the massacre enacted by God upon their day-to-day struggles. Then He ruthlessly pulverised his own achievements with profound but modest oratory and satiated his bloodlust on the thrombi of a ripe, red tomato, the bloodiest of all fruit, to satisfy the demands of his antioxidant-rich diet. Glory be. God’s frustrations slinked away. A drunk thunder encircled his mind. Returning, he was surprised to find that his ragdolls had disappeared. Uuhb was no longer resting 28
lankly by the tree. Hovering a lunar eye above the ravine, he could no longer see Adam at its nadir. Doubting himself, he wondered if psychosis was an ailment of the immortals. He was convinced of this a moment later, when music started to buzz in his ears. Distant, organic music. Music with a spontaneous pitch; enjoying itself, melodious for that reason alone; there were no phrases or themes. Two voices now. He searched the ground at his feet, noticing that small, green plants had sprung up like caterpillar heads among the roots. He craned in, believing that he could hear the same tones coming from the vinous, handlike leaves. They were bristling, shaking with some inner song. A cluttered symphony. Harmonies were everywhere in the garden now.They were aggravating.Would this singing continue? Bemusedly imagining an intruder, God sought the source of it all. He traced the dominant sounds, the roots, and was there in an instant; an expanse, ranged with balding elms and wilting fern-tufts. In the old spokes of the largest, God spotted the problem; Uuhb and Adam. They were perched on the loftier branches, clutching for balance with their thighs while they explored the surfaces of the tree. Uuhb, using her nails as thongs, was carefully exploring the red-black cambers of a ladybird. She was noting and detailing a sketch on a flat stone with a skewered piece of dry mud. “See, Adam, they open up their shells at eighths of total angles, and protract black transparent wings. The raised shells look almost like pauldrons; they may be defensive!” “Wonderful. I’m glad they have some way to defend themselves. I just found this thing; looks vicious.” Adam held up a cupped leaf, carrying in the centre a shaken mantis. He was `scrambling and slipping down the side. Adam had moistened the waxy cuticle. “Cute that you’d think that. It is frightening, but we haven’t observed its diet. We don’t really know what it eats just yet.” What kind of life had his experiments liberated? There they perched, curious and searching, scrawling the bark their nails and guiding their eyes among bending branches. They shimmied carefully down, cheerful and satisfied with their work among the surfacecrawlers of the elm. God hovered with trepidation, enshrouded invisibly above their heads, deigning to humour their expedition. First, they trawled their fingers through the ponds and rivers of Eden, learning the rudiments of water, its endless malleability and its cooling flow. Then they approached caverns and the cascading sheets of cliffs, measuring primitively the arches, the declines and the slips before being satisfied. Adam, as Uuhb was focused on the migration of a gulp of swallows, skittered to the lowest point of a cliff and hacked his and her name into a diagonal slope, so the sun wouldn’t illuminate his shy affection. (T: I, if I may take upon myself a liberty which self-denial and diffidence have long inculcated a disdain of within the cavities of my weatherworn soul, must decry and excuse myself from further engaging 29
with our collective discourse. I feel we may be on a winding errand of the mad, [indeed, that I may even have facilitated the bifurcated madness of my colleagues] and am bilious with doubts as to whether or not our objective, from the outset, had been an impossibility; the result an absurdity.) They licked and coughed up sand, flattened berries into juice between their fingers, tasted a variety of drooping fruits and danced, clumsily, beneath the bright and cloudless sky. Eventually they encountered a broad, quivering portal, tinted dark amethyst. Piercing the whirligig with her head, Eve returned with descriptions of the past. She found a world, separate and individual, spread with mysteries and differences. Adam was invigorated. Both wanted more, more of everything, and everything different. God took this opportunity to enlarge and frighten the meagre little explorers. “Bored? Bored of this bounty thine and all meet glories?”, he called into the shattering air. “Who’s this giant?”, mumbled Adam. “Needlessly is your voice dimmed to a whisper, father of man; even the scurrying beetle I hear”. “Presumably then, you’ve had a hand this?”, Uuhb inquired, decisive and firm. “A hand in this? A hand in all. The greenery, the unfolding landscapes, the untellable beauties of plant and animals. All have been conjugated through my mind alone; what you see and feel are the dense angulations of an impossible geometry, an endless equation brilliantly mapped, ever and eternally expanding; attempting to explicate impossibility. (B: Our reading of this section as an impossibility equation may just be the whim of an overreaching translator.) “When I looked through that portal”, Uuhb managed after a pause, “I saw time flow `and end. People, like us, were starving; mountains eroded into the winds and the seas.” God paused. “Watch, with utmost care, the movements of your tongue, mother of man”, he deliberated, “Something has changed here. You walk, move and seem to understand what you see. I feel there is no place for you here anymore”. Without allowing time for a rebuttal, God blew Adam and Uuhb through the portal, and sentenced them to begin the world unintelligibly anew. Uuhb died very soon after, leaving nothing but a sequence of sickly and perpetually frightened children. Adam lived slightly longer, growing to forget most of his time in the garden, but affixing upon it an association of indiscernible warmth. Conflating his memories, his ambition became to please God, and a belief was inherited by his children of God’s presence in the mind, in the body, in the soul. Over many years, this conception weathered and diverged. Eventually everybody believed something quite ridiculous. (B: I’m alone now. Ticklersmacker 30
has returned to the academy with reams of criticism, promising to prevent our work from being published. Poonce is dead. He couldnâ€™t handle being part of a species so abhorrent to his God. I myself am wearying into silence.) God occasionally catapulted a boulder into the growing throng of human life, crippling, maiming or killing when the mood was felt. Ultimately his intervention became less apparent. If we could walk by the fence of paradise now, we might see his luminary eye obsessively peeping out, or hear his fusty muttering.
My Summer Holiday
by Niall Brehon
e lost his left leg first or was it his right, either way he lost his legs which were the first body parts he lost that summer, the summer he fell in love with Lyla, who was the prettiest girl on the street and would be the prettiest girl on your street if she lived on your street, there, when he saw her for the first time in ten years out in the sun walking along like a spider, cherry, eating an ice lolly which bounced the sun in his eyes, coming towards him, cherry red, and he hardly recognised her from shadowy afternoons in the woods building forts, playing cops and robbers, and she held up a tan forearm to shield eyes cocooned in black eyeliner, sea blue, white striations in raggy waves, to see who or what was approaching, lips cherry red, he raised an arm as if to say hello and she raised her ice lolly as if to say hello back to the boy from her youth, and they both slowed down and came to a halt. Red lipstick and a cherry ice lolly. Red lipstick and a cherry ice lolly. Ten years were bridged in an afternoon. Later that evening as he remembered what she said and how she said it, he fell in love with her, and when he woke up in the morning both of his legs had fallen off and were gone. Which came first doesn’t matter. He was a quick learner with his prosthetic legs, and the cost was not prohibitive as they had been cheaply sourced from the body of a man called David who had hung himself when he found out his wife cheated on him. As David’s will left everything to her she was only too happy to give away her deceased husband’s legs in the hope that something good would come from the whole affair. After ten hours of surgery the new legs were successfully attached and within a week he was back walking. He felt Lyla’s breath on his neck. Her perfume was thick and piercing. As she released him I saw something in his eyes. His crutches clacked back to the hospital floor. He didn’t need them much but sometimes something in his legs crossed wires and gave out from under him. The doctors said this was temporary. The next day, back home, he told her he was glad he ran into her at the start of summer. That night, his left arm disappeared up to the shoulder, and his right arm disappeared up to the elbow. The doctors decided to give him two plastic arms, until a donor came along. A camera was placed in his bedroom to see exactly how and why his limbs kept disappearing. He sat outside with Lyla eating cherry ice lollies. They came in a multi-pack like his 32
prosthetic limbs which arrived with various implements that could be screwed on or off. The tendons high in his right shoulder were surgically attached to a plastic port which could manipulate the claw device at the end of his right prosthetic. The colour was chosen based on a sheet the doctors held up to his skin, foreheads knitting, like young couples trying to decide which colour paint would brighten up their kitchen. Eventually a donor was found. Two donors actually – twin brothers with debilitating brain diseases who required life support machines until one day their mother, Phyllis, decided they had suffered enough and briefly turned them off, first one, and two days later the other. Racked with guilt but full of hope for the future, Phyllis saw his story in the paper and before long he was walking around on his new legs while picking things up with his new arms. Occasionally his grip slipped but the doctors assured him that this too was temporary. He had yet to regain any feeling in either his arms or legs. The doctors warned him that it was possible no feeling would ever return. Lyla’s dog sniffed his new leg and ran away. His new cane slipped in his new hand and he struggled to keep a hold on everything. The only good thing about the summer when he lost his arms and legs was that he now had Lyla. Brown coffee beans roasted and stirred gently in boiling water. A splash of milk. No sugar. Physical intimacy with Lyla was difficult as he got used to his new limbs. He stayed over at her house exactly one month after they had first met that summer and when he woke up in the morning he was two inches shorter and was missing five teeth and his genitals. Unfortunately the camera intended to capture the dissolution process was in his bedroom, not Lyla’s. The smell of coffee stirred in his nose and as he woke his tongue wrapped through the gaps where his teeth had been. His new dentist commented that the scar left from the removal of his tonsils was unnoticeable and that his surgeon was very skilled. He never had his tonsils removed. Luckily they quickly found a penis donor. A black man was stabbed in the throat and chest by his wife following a domestic dispute. He was fifty and his name was Merv. Merv’s wife is still in jail, studying hard to gain a degree and creditable employment following her release. An x-ray showed that two vertebrae had disappeared overnight. They were not the important vertebrae however. There was no feeling in his new penis, though Lyla was happy with the result. He sat up in bed as she played with him under the covers. Every now and then a nurse walked past. He almost told her he loved her. The next day, after undergoing a full body scan the doctors found that he was missing three quarters of his liver, a lung, both kidneys, his gall bladder, six feet of intestine (small and large), three ribs, and two more vertebrae. They didn’t need a scan to see that both 33
eyes had disappeared as well as his hair, his right ear and some of his tongue. Blind and mute, his greatest comfort was feeling Lyla kiss his cheek and whisper sweetly in his remaining ear in the hour before the surgery. He tasted her cherry lipstick and tears as she kissed him just before a mask was placed on his face and he went under. I saw she was crying and wanted to dry her eyes but she was too far away. Merv’s body was fresh enough. The doctors cannibalised Merv’s body for his kidneys, gall bladder and three feet of his small intestine. The rest was unusable thanks to a poor diet and stab wounds. Later that day a fresh donor was sourced, a teenage boy who had accidentally been poisoned when his otherwise careful mother, Catherine, added what she thought was Cayenne pepper to his shepherd’s pie as she read a novel about men and women. For future reference, Cayenne pepper is red. When he woke up he couldn’t feel anything. The doctors took the proactive step of replacing his original lung too to ensure consistency of breath. A lot of his brain had been removed when the doctors discovered that it was riddled with holes. Luckily, most of his limbic system - his hippocampus, limbic lobe, entorhinal cortex and orbitofrontal cortex – was intact. The orbitofrontal cortex is required for decision making. The hippocampus is the long-term memory centre. Cayenne pepper is red. His new tongue felt big in his mouth. His new eyes had trouble focussing for extended periods of time. His scleras were bright, cherry red. He looked at Lyla for the first time in a week. He saw through his new eyes that her scleras were red too, in raggy waves. He remembered the taste of cherry ice lolly and salt. His new hair was not growing. His new arm rose as if to say hello. His new eyes saw that she didn’t move but I saw something change behind her mouth. The doctors decided after some debate to remove his heart and replace it with a donor heart. Though it was unscathed, the doctors figured that a pre-emptive operation was for the best. After his heart transplant, he sleeps fitfully most of the time. The beds in the intensive care unit are comfortable and visiting hours are excellent. He half-sits up in bed and Lyla stirs beside him, no longer as afraid of the spidery patchwork criss-cross of stitches splayed on his abdomen and around his thighs, hairline, shoulders and genitals, or the bandages, or the catheter, or the machines dripping water and blood, beeping, humming, there, and gently as she stirs he brushes her cheek with his new hand, and as she recoils he remembers he has no feeling in his arms, or his legs, or his whole body, or anywhere, anymore, and he hears a rush somewhere inside his head 34
as he decides to rouse her from her half-slumber and she wakes up and looks at him with something in her eyes and he whispers raggedly with his new voice that he loves her and she cries for a while and she says that heâ€™s changed, heâ€™s not the boy she loved anymore and then she stands up with legs bending like a plastic fork and she leaves and her perfume stirs in the air and he and I watch out of focus as she walks away.
by Thomas McNally
hen the first in the series of bizarre events took place back home, I was in my twenty-third year of living in London. I had worked in the same financial services firm for a large part of that time. Even though I had by then spent most of my life abroad, I maintained contact with my family and visited as much as my heavy work load would permit. The events coincided with what proved to be a rather peculiar disruption in my working life. It was around this time that a young man named Patrick Berkery joined our firm. He was originally from Longford and, now in his mid-twenties, he had recently finished up his studies in Dublin. Although he was naturally still quite naïve and inexperienced, I was impressed by his self-assured and calm demeanour. My instinct was that he would adjust well to the work dynamic of our team and so I hired him. Never had my instinct been so regrettably off as on this occasion, though. Perhaps I had been too eager to help out a fellow Irishman and allowed myself to be blinded. Whatever the true cause of my error in judgement, Patrick become a significant burden in the months that followed. When the time came for him to take up his post, he was already not quite as I had expected him to be based on the interview. It is possible that I am allowing the subsequent events to colour my memory, but the man joining our team seemed different to the one I had previously met. In reality, the change was probably a lot more gradual. Patrick was not as sociable as he had been. However, there was more to it and what struck me as a change or deterioration in his character continued steadily. Patrick worked hard, or rather worked a lot. Most of our employees work long hours, but he seemed to put in more than anyone else. He was, without exception, always first in and last to leave. He showed no interest in going to lunch with his co-workers or going for drinks after work. The only things anyone ever saw him eat were crisps, nuts, and chocolate bars from the vending machine. It was a struggle to engage him in any topic of conversation. His colleagues soon learned this and didn’t persist with him. Although surprised by Patrick’s apparent change in character, I made a big effort with our new employee. It didn’t really matter to me if he was quirky or had his ways. Maybe it was just his settling in period. I could still vividly remember how green I was when I landed in off the boat all those years ago.
Unfortunately, as the weeks passed, Patrick became even more difficult to deal with. It was developing into a major problem for me because the rest of the team found it impossible to work with him. Despite being ever-present at his desk, none of them were able to coordinate their work with him in an effective way. They didn’t complain openly about him, but when I pressured them to give an explanation of their methods or choices on a particular project they would admit that they were forced to work around him. As they saw it, he didn’t seem to care and was either not competent or not interested in cooperating with them. I struggled with this situation that developed around Patrick. In the past I had been ruthless when I needed to be. I had fired people and made difficult choices such as refusing promotions to employees I got on well with personally. However, with Patrick I felt a duty to make an extra effort and be more patient. Even though it was not strictly fair to the others, the only reason to be more lenient was the fact that he was also Irish. There was a limit to my good will towards him. There had to be. The situation deteriorated further until Patrick was little more than a body occupying a desk-space. His contribution to the company’s work load was approaching zero. I confronted him on numerous occasions about work that needed his attention. He would have the relevant files open on his computer but nothing ever got done if it was down to him. He would respond to me calmly in a banal and uninformative way that just made me angrier and got under my skin. Countryman or not, I felt I had no choice but to fire him. The situation was potentially very damaging to my reputation. It was making me look weak. I was the one who had brought him in and he was becoming known for all the wrong reasons outside my department. I made one last attempt to plead with him to sort himself out, something I had never done with any other employee. Life could be pretty sweet, you know,’ I said to him. ‘This job could earn you a lot of money if you do it right. I know you have it in you to do it, to follow me.Your record and your qualifications are pretty good. What is there for you if you don’t turn this around?’ It changed nothing. Instead, I faced the task of removing Patrick from his desk. He did not leave when he was informed he was being let go. His stubbornness and steadfast apathy was causing a commotion. The rest of the team watched from behind their computer screens at the unfolding drama. I never dreamed it would have come to this but eventually I had to stand back while security escorted Patrick away. I watched from close behind as he was led out of the building and on to the street. He lingered for a moment before merging into the passing crowds. I thought that would be the end of the matter. But the next day as I was walking into the building, I noticed Patrick sitting on a step a few feet away from the main entrance. I 37
was shocked to see him but I didn’t say a word to him. I continued on walking and hoped he would be gone by the end of the day. I tried to throw myself into my work and if anyone mentioned that they saw him out there, I dismissed it and refused to talk about it. At the end of the day Patrick was still in the same spot, looking idly at the heavy stream of passers-by. Still I did not speak to him. I deliberately chose a route that allowed me to avoid going near him. However, when he was there the next day and every day of the week that followed, I had no choice but to address him. This turned out to be utterly pointless. He was even more infuriatingly apathetic than before. He didn’t seem bothered or embarrassed by my confrontational questions. I wanted to know if he was angry about being let go. Or if he was judging me in some way. I sought an explanation but he would give none. His presence in that spot every day disturbed me more than I could have expected. I could have taken steps towards getting him removed but I didn’t want it to come to that. The man was clearly unstable and I didn’t want to contribute further to his worsening condition. I resolved to do my best to live with him being there – for the immediate future at least. As mentioned at the outset, this disruption coincided with the strange events back in Ireland and they became associated in my mind. I was in the habit of regularly scanning some of the Irish news sites and one day (not long after Patrick had joined us) I came across the following report: ‘At approximately 6:15 this morning, a man was seen running along the hard shoulder of the M11 motorway near the Gorey exit in Wexford. He was running against the flow of traffic and was wearing what a number of drivers said looked like a vampire fancy-dress costume. It was completely black with a long cape flowing behind him as he ran at a high speed along the motorway. Witnesses reported that the man looked directly into every car that sped past, exposing his fangs in a grotesque expression. His face was painted white, with fake red blood dripping from his mouth and covering his chin. His stare was described as “wide-eyed and ghostly” by one driver and “so creepy” by another. The man eventually scrambled away over a ridge. The Gardaí said they suspect that he immediately changed out of his costume into everyday clothes because there were no known sightings of him in the area since then.’ The story was reported in all national newspapers mainly for its absurdity and comic value, although it was widely recognised that the behaviour was very dangerous and could have easily resulted in an accident. In the days that followed, no new information on the man had come to light and the whole thing was receding in people’s minds. The incident was on the verge of being forgotten when the second sighting occurred. It took place eight days later, again very early in the morning. This time the man appeared on the M18 in Clare. His behaviour was said 38
to be the same as in the first sighting, but the descriptions given this time were more elaborate. The vampire-man was reported to be running at a great speed as if ‘in a frenzy’. His eyes looked ‘dead in his head’ and his mouth was wide open as if ‘frozen in a scream’. Another driver said that although the man looked right into his car, it felt like he had ‘looked right through’ him rather than making genuine eye-contact. I was intrigued by the strangeness of the story and I followed it closely. The whole tone of the story changed after this second sighting. A debate had been sparked and it seemed as though every sector of Irish society had something to say about it. At first, it was mainly the politicians, the Road Safety Authority, and media commentators. These voices were united in their condemnation of the individual, who they implied must be unhinged or mentally unstable to engage in such bizarre behaviour. But with the third and fourth sightings that occurred in the weeks that followed, the debate became more nuanced. Different sides were developing. In the interest of balance, radio shows chose to include people who were not merely concerned with condemning the vampire-man’s behaviour. These people called on the listeners to reflect on why the man was doing this. One commentator remarked rhetorically: ‘Isn’t it obvious that something is dreadfully rotten in our society? And who could condemn him for attempting to highlight that fact with a dramatic statement?’ Others retorted that there was no statement being made, only a madman dressed in a costume and risking lives. Life had to go on as normal, and so it did. The vampire-man became a regular fixture in Irish society. People expected him to turn up on some road, somewhere in the country at some point. The only constants were that the sightings were always on motorways and always during the first hour of the break of day. Exactly which motorway in which part of the country, or on what date, could not be foreseen. The Gardaí and the media did all they could to discern a pattern or a purpose, but none could be found. It was frustratingly difficult to catch a person who was so determined to be subversive. A Garda Assistant Commissioner was forced to admit that the chances of apprehending him were slim. It simply wasn’t practical to have Garda cars stationed around the country in pursuit of one individual. As with all difficult cases, they had to rely on such tried and tested techniques as criminal profiling. And that depended on there being a motive for committing a crime, as well as precedents. But this case seemed to be unique. The unspoken hope was that the man would just stop what he was doing so there could be an end to the embarrassment he was causing to the authorities. Three months after the first sighting, though, there was no sign of it ending. By this time there had been nine separate occurrences as far north as the M1 in Louth and as far south as the M8 in Cork. The story was receiving international media attention. Whoever the person was, he was making himself heard, even though his message was still unclear. 39
Simply because I was Irish, most of the people I ran into at work or when I was out would ask me about the story. I had no idea what to say about it. At that distance, people were able to joke about it. People back in Ireland were no doubt laughing about it too, but they also had to live their lives around it. I wondered if some would choose to avoid the motorways at that early hour. Would it change people’s behaviour in any way? Local county councils decided that something had to be done about it. The Laois council was the first to publicly advocate that temporary road signs should be erected along the motorways warning drivers to be cautious. The idea was lampooned at first, but when it became apparent that the problem wasn’t going away, it was decided that signs should be erected. A new sign was invented: a red and white image of a face with long visible fangs, and the warning ‘Remain Vigilant’ written underneath. The measure was harshly criticised, with most people insisting that it would only encourage the man and possibly inspire copycats. This was the kind of thing that provoked ridicule from many of the people I met. I laughed it off, but the frequency with which I was forced to discuss it began to irritate me. I remember when the first images of the vampire-man appeared. A video was taken by someone who had passed the man and pulled in to record him. It was uploaded toYouTube with the title, ‘Beware of Vampires on the Hard-Shoulder!’ I watched the footage of the man running along the motorway with his back to the camera and the traffic speeding past him. Towards the end, he could be seen running at high speed up a ridge and out of sight. Although the video was of poor quality, the figure was surprisingly chilling. It was not at all what I expected. There were no bright, gaudy colours on his costume. Everything was black. And the cape seemed to be quite heavy because it didn’t blow about very much in the wind. Occasionally, he would jump or skip slightly, as if he were about to launch himself at one of the cars. But then he would continue his line and maintain his speed. Most of the comments on the video were jovial, but many also expressed their encouragement for the man. By this time, Patrick had been fired and was stationed outside our building. The situation with the vampire-man had also escalated and, as predicted, he was inspiring copycats and followers. Initially, this took the form of pre-planned flash-mobs of people dressed in vampire fancy dress suddenly congregating in public spaces in different towns or cities around the country. This was mildly irritating for the authorities but generally viewed as harmless. It became a greater problem when these groups began to occupy these public spaces by setting up camp and refusing to be moved. These people were dressed in cheap and flashy vampire costumes and provocative make-up. They were not at all as visually striking as the man who was inspiring them. These events too received international attention. It made me cringe. I took the view 40
that it made Ireland look a little more ridiculous in the eyes of the world. The people of Ireland dressed as vampires demanding to be heard. And these people – who were they? Were they just a ragbag collection of the pretentious and the unemployed? That was the problem with these protests. They become magnets for shitehawks. I read some of the attempted justifications of their actions. One defender remarked: ‘There is a noble tradition extending back at least to Voltaire that identifies capital with vampire-like qualities. What Voltaire called “the stock-jobbers, brokers, and men of business” were those “who sucked the blood of the people in broad daylight”. They were the real vampires and were “not dead, though corrupted”, and “lived not in cemeteries, but in very agreeable palaces”. Ireland has been corrupted and we are merely giving vivid and explicit expression to that unassailable fact. We believe we can’t move on until we acknowledge that.’ These commentators tried to imply that the people in fancy dress camped out at the Parnell Monument, or Eyre Square, or whatever other public places, were organised around such high-minded ideas instead of merely blindly following a fad and imitating the actions of someone that neither they nor anyone else could understand. Patrick – my own private inexplicable burden – would be a better fit with these people. I could trust my judgement on that at least. Every time I thought about him or saw him, I wished for him to go away. And every time he stayed; stuck on me like a dark shadow.
by Elaine Cosgrove
t is a wet feet city fed-up with runny noses, sore throats and sluggish mornings. It is a city of permeable clothing, consistently unprepared for the rain. It is a city of visitors more noticeable because of their windbreakers, wellies and Gore-Tex puffer jackets. It is a city of people finding camaraderie through hot port, and tea, afternoons, snuggled together, going from surface- talk to deeper conversation and then back out again to deal with the tissue of the day. It was once a merchant city of archways, gateways, and Norman walls. The purpose and the heart of the city always stayed the same. It accommodated the newer ways of consumable cultures—cafes and shopping centres—no matter what changed the habits of its people. In this city, on this early evening in April, the Coroner breaks from reviewing the details of a bad crash which happened out in the county last week and he watches the assured steps of shoppers from his second floor office window. The clocks changed yesterday and evening light has started to stretch out. Pushing back on the wheels of his black leather chair, he yawns and looks down on the late shoppers’ heads. Red wool beret, black beanie, platinum blonde, shiny bald, a girl’s paisley hair band and a gaggle of latexblue poncho hoods bob along the cobbled main street. He sees a tourist clutching a bottle of water in John O’Flaherty’s shop, and listening to the shop-owner talk. John’s place is as postmarked and part mythical as the bog- old True Irish Rain postcards waiting to dart off from their stands to destinations domestic, and long haul flights away. Bodies with tilted umbrellas for heads hurry past the shop’s door with a downpour of rain. The Coroner often witnesses John’s well-seasoned manner—in spite of his bad humour—with tourists who enter the shop. Tourists who would be sopping and beaming, saying, “Oh gosh, that’s wet out!” and John replying, “Ah sure, it keeps the grass green at least” and laugh as warmly as he possibly could for custom, rubbing his hands off each other to counteract the cold. “They say they like it—the break from the humidity and the heat,” John explained to the Coroner, yesterday. “Is that so, John?” the Coroner said “And us wanting the complete opposite.” “Those high-stressed jobs and whatchamacallthem... SUVs would have you mad alright, I suppose.” Five young ones dead and all the Coroner had—officially—were the crashed names
and their demographics: their ages, their sexes and their addresses. On this particular day, it seemed the city was bleaker than usual to him. He was at the point of solace and heartbreak approving their death certificates for issue, and his verdict of ACCIDENTAL DEATH filed. In recent times, he had dealt with more car crashes than he wished to handle. The last time, there had been a couple in the car: high speed against a wall—driver drunk. You see, a rough patch had weathered the city since mid-March and spirits were especially raw come the cusp of real summer.The Coroner’s father –who was still living— reckoned that the rain lived inside all of us. His father delighted in giving credit to rainy days, and radio stations, for the serene dampness of our souls. Whenever the Coroner and his young son visited the man in the house, he would throw up the radio a notch and say, “Here now, lil fella, hop up here on my knee and we’ll listen to the match”. His father loved to talk about the penury of islanders gone by. It was his way of reminding his son that things could have been much worse for their family, growing-up in the Na. A blanched copy of Tomás O’Criomthain’s An tOileánach was as familiar to the Coroner as his father’s coal stained hands. He had to leave that tiny rural town because of boredom and ambition. The Islanders left because they had to, he would say. They had to abandon the island—the land that gave them little except soil to build houses, the sea that gave them all their food—because the sea, and the land were swallowing them up completely, and spitting out their bones. The Coroner’s mother shared her husband’s opinion but nearing the end of her life, she would become distanced from it, gathering an obsession for blaring sun. She envisaged sunnier climates and plentiful lives. A tall stack of sun holiday brochures became the sundry of the kitchen table and fake sunflowers sent from friends, for the hospice, took over the sitting room. Every day, she waited with her shrub-like hair covered in a scumcream, knitted hat and her knuckles rested on the pane. She was waiting for the cancer to take her. The upset of it stayed on in the Coroner’s mind and today, at his desk, he feels a little lost. The toxicology report in front of him returned results that all five teens had varying levels of a ‘dissociative anesthetic’ in their bodies at the time of the accident, as well as alcohol. The Coroner gathers up his coat and goes out for a gander around the city, to put shutters on this dreadful day. Outside the remnants of the old city’s walls, in the sprawl of the new one, in a pub, Pat Egan stands at the gold bar railing tracking the countertop’s wood and the Coroner sits in a high chair with green leather slashed open from a brawl a decade back. Pat’s hands always smelt of fresh red meat. They were stubby, short-nailed, meal and he drinks a neat Red Breast. The smell from his skin and the flesh of the day clings stiffly in the air. The barman 43
watches Sky Sports, his arms crossed, uninterested in the two men’s conversation. Pat is salt of the earth sound and from the city’s basin, and the Coroner enjoys meeting him. The two dead girls and three dead boys, the Coroner explains to Pat, had been in a lowriding, red Honda Civic rallying around the peninsula’s roads—wet, wet roads and bald tyres. “This is the county’s boredom”, he says, tipping his pint forward to show Pat how the liquid could easily flood out, if you lost the control of your hand. “It’d been paint stripper vodka that killed the first two. I still remember the exact date: April 4th, 2004. Now, this was not just a blast load of vodka and sloppy driving but vodka with ketamine, Pat—they call it K. A young man who works in the Courts says if you take too much—and it seems these kids had not a notion of what too much or too little was—your body goes completely paralytic and your mind keeps going and going. K-hole. Imagine that? You’re practically in an iron lung.” The breathing from Pat’s nose gets louder and his hand clasping the tumbler trembles a little more at talking aloud, but he tells the Coroner: “I’ve seen similar cars on those half three and four mornings while taxi-ing Liz back from a friend’s house, or an eighteenth birthday, or the past few years, collecting her from a Stephen’s Day reunion. Did I tell you she’s a care worker in London now? But whenever she’d be back, she still comes home late, telling me about the different lives her friends from school have taken on. She’d have her head hung and half-asleep with the headlights trancing on the trees; her belly full of curry-cheese chips that she’d annihilated with one of those plastic forks. She’d talk more freely, after being fed, about the matters of her friends and drop hints at her own. She’d drop a name of a lad I’d never heard of, saying I met a lad who’s Dad you might know? And I’d be smiling into the dashboard dials’ light pretending to glance at the air freshener wobbling from all the dips and humps of the road—she’d be embarrassed if she noticed me smirking, you know. So, she’d be going on about who was out and how such and such was getting on; what the nightclub was like; and did she see such and such a person’s son or daughter—those who’d moved away, those who’d stayed on. She’d give out about the state of pissed ones in re-named nightclubs and her accent would be getting stronger, like, returning to hard, neutral consonants from those clipped vowels of her new friends, and life across the water. Anyhow, deeper in-land, curving away from the sea, the mountains hide into themselves and this is where your lamplights cannot cover enough of the road ahead: it becomes almost a dead straight grey. Dead straight and eerie like mist you see in horror films; the night shining down on you. The trance would make her feel sick, our talk would go, and she’d close her eyes and rest her chin on the palm of her hand. It’d be dead quiet in the car, not a twitch but our thoughts in our minds. 44
Anyhow, Liz told me she reckoned people go joy riding because “They’re bored, Daddy” and I’d leave it at that, remembering when she went out for a stint with a lad who fancied himself a handsome sort in his white Subaru. It wasn’t the car that bothered me; it was what happened in the car that did. Sure, we all like a bit of a thrill and freedom, don’t we? But, Jesus. What would be going on?” The Coroner nods at Pat to assure him that he understands what he is saying. In Pat’s butcher shop, there is a corkboard on the wall behind the weighing scale and a cold meats’ slicer with little colour-headed pins holding up photographs where scenes of Pat’s closest family members. His parents peer out in grayscale from over the lip of a small fishing boat; Liz laughs on her college graduation day. She has a toy red heart pinned to her sapphire dress and her arm slunk around his shoulder. His wife, Ann, looks proud of her new hairstyle and winks at him; her blonde bob glistens in their back garden. He thinks about the cars’ squished noses lying in a lump, in a black ditch behind a reflective sign for a sharp bend. He thinks about the black-less inside of the car, and the black light out of their minds on that 4 am morning; the Plough idle in the night sky above them. It was the K-hole, the slick sloppy roads, the bald tyres and the limestone-walled ditches; both accidents, taxi men coming back from the city on the bay found the dead in their cars. Were their limbs at least ready for the pain? Pat wonders. He wonders about their thoughts voyaging into a trance on the dead straight grey. He looks out the window of his shop. A light shower of rain winds up. It is a sun shower. From it, a slit of sunshine lilts through the glass of his deli counter, past the cold meats, past the raw shoulders of beef, and finds itself on the corkboard. The golden light sails over the photographs and falls over the weighing scale and slicer. The steel glimmers for a few seconds. Pat looks around the shop and speculates: if the sun breaks over the bay and if it is raining at the same time, could this city be the most tranquil city in the world to look at?
by Amadeusz Kępiński
infantPiotruś was born. His father was very proud. He was his mother’s precious treasure. His mother was only seventeen. He was his mother’s precious treasure. He was his grandparents’ curse. Now he lies asleep in his little cot. His father comes back form work. He is a forester of the nearby woods. Whenever he walked through the apartment’s door he brought with him the smell of pines. His army coat pockets were always full with forest fruit. Today he brought back blueberries and mushrooms. The sun was about to set and it came through the bathroom window painting the white tiles red. The scented steam rose from the water and spilled out into the hall. The big man came in, he turned the tap off, undressed. In the water he let out a long sigh. The mother soon followed. She wore a knee-long white dress. The tips of her long, honey coloured hair dipped into the water as she sat beside her husband. They performed a sort of intimate ritual every time he came back. He sat in the bath while she cleaned the cuts around his hands and picked ticks out of his legs. They talked. We are running low. I am worried. I know, my love. What are we going to do? I’m going to have to think about that. I asked my parents for money. Don’t be cross. You shouldn’t have. Don’t be cross. I’m not. Summer is only beginning. We’ll be okay for a few months. And after? We have a few months to figure that out. Don’t be worried my love. Young Piotruś woke up and his cries came muffled from behind the wall. The mother left to comfort her baby. The father lit up a cigarette. The bathroom window opened to a view of a forest covered valley, behind which lay the city of Słupsk. What an ugly thing, the city, thought the father. The sun came down behind it, the tall buildings - now black silhouettes towering over the forests and fields. It was good while it lasted. But how will 46
I tell her? How? 8 and a half One day Piotr will listen to Harlem Jazz and the words of a poet will bring him back to this moment. SOUND: Far in the distance there is laughter of a class-room full of children. Every fourty-five minutes the ringing of a loud bell by which he counted the passing of time. Closer by, the wind a havoc among the tree tops and down on the ground it blows less but still picks up leaves and dust and rustles. The rope squeaks. A crow caws. SCENT: He can smell his own sweat, it always gets so warm before a storm. Apart from that a smell of pines, a smell of lavender and a hint of the womanâ€™s perfume. He touches her leg and feels paralysed, the stiffness and the coldness surprise him. He moves back a couple of steps. Sits down and looks up again. How strange a woman looks without her clothes. How strange she sways with the wind. And can she be found in her body or is she already gone? How strange. He sits there a long time. There is no fear in the boy. At first curiosity and then it passes. A sadness and a stillness. Then detachment. He picks up a stick and draws poetry in the sand for he does not know how to write just yet. His first work of art. The day PiotruĹ› became Piotrek. The day the woman swayed in the wind like the heart of a mute grandfather clock. Everything slowed down. How strange she swayed in the wind. How strange the rope squeaked when the woman swayed in the wind. A strange fruit. Hanging. sweet sixteenOh Piotr, yes I will call you Piotr even though now you insist on Peter, what have you done with your roots? You are a true city boy now. Alcohol, at first sip a bitter pleasure now became like honey to you and you drink and drink more and... excess! Girls, at first sip a kiss of sweet honey but excess! Piotr beware! First time you brushed shyly of a girl your age - that was sweet. Then you tasted and plundered and pillaged, feasting on their bodies. Piotr you ruin their hearts, my Piotr! You break their bodies, you use their innocence to wipe off... what? They will not remember you well. You will forget their names. Even if I could speak to you now I would not say these words to you, it would be of no use. One day you will understand, tonight you are Dionysus. Oh Piotr, you hate your Father because he could not understand the city.You hate your mother because she took you so far away. Lord of whisky - the water of life -think! Piotr, think! If I could I would kneel in front of you and beg to you like a dog, to think, that is all. Or else I would hold you by your longish hair and punch the truth into you blow by blow. 47
I would lift you up by your longish hair and punch the wine and the sex out of you blow by blow. You are a giant among your peers, and even though your ego casts a shadow on mine I am not your peer and I could knock you out if only I could. If only I could I would punch you and blow by blow reduce you to a pulp, a broken body in a pool of blood. If only I could. Oh Piotr, young god of wine and sex how you partied on the night of your sixteenth birthday. You fought your best friend - you crippled him - you took out his eye! With a bloody nose you ran off with his girl. Casa Nova Piotruś! You called her your little moon flower because you made love to her in the white moon light, on a bed of red rhododendrons. She had goose bumps on her thighs. A cold night, shivering bodies, taste of blood in your mouth, moon light, rhododendrons.You called her other things.You broke her beauty that night young Piotr, she does not remember you well.You do not remember her name my young Piotr, my Jack of broken hearts. You broke your own beauty Piotr, time and time again. It will not be long before you understand.Young Piotr you are a stain on my conscience.Young Peter you and I are one. I am twentyWork clothes off. Smell of paint. A shower, a shave, Old Spice deodorant. Feeling like a new man. --Hello? Yeah buddy! In how long? Mmmmh, can you make it fourty-five? Ok, ok, ok, cool, cool. See you there. Of course I’m wearing a suit. See you there--. Eat quickly, no, need a lot of grease. Open fridge, fry an egg on ham, grate cheese onto toast, let it melt, egg on ham on top. Eat. Brush teeth. Out. * Hammered, five of us, holding hands - spinning circles on O’Connell street - all five of us. Jack and Aoife, Sarah, Rory, and I. Everything a blur. Navy sky, coloured billboards, cars pass with their yellow lights and neon streetlamps. Again we look at the sky, the face of the moon slowly consumed by clouds. We spin. A city in paralysis. What?! No, an ecstatic city of static! Potential everywhere, my life is good and will get better. In this city it can, and if I get this city right I can get anything right. Rory, Rory! Huh? If I get this city straight I can get any city! Rory turns sharply, runs up to the window of McDonalds and vomits. Some of it stays in his long brown curly hair, which sticks to his face. I brush it off, uncover the bottomless pit that was once his his eye. We pick him up, we go inside. Cup of coffee, and he is feeling better, eye-patch back in place. Quarterpounder and fries for me. Sarah threw a pickle up in the air and it stuck to the ceiling. We all laugh. What a pleasant night and oh, it is only 48
beginning. Borderline sober and outside again, cold air hits my face. Night has come, the eternal brunette to quote Ti Jean, but god, does she have to be so cold? Ahhh cold women, warm beer, ahhh one of these nights I just don’t fit in. Who sings that song? Rory? What? Who is Warm Beer and Cold Women by? Oh I know it, a voice and a piano... Was it eh... feck. Ask me later, forget now, stuck in the back of my throat. Was it ehh... I stop listening as I see her walk into the Mezz. Oh if I could only sing to you, dear reader, of her beauty! Beauty and so much more. But please understand that to make her my muse would forever ruin her! So much more than the object of this artist’s desire, to objectify, to use her as a symbol - the worst sin. And did she smile at me? How lucky would that have been. I will convince the lads to come in there with me. I have no choice. And I will be honest with her. I will not use her. We follow her in. ** Sitting high up in the air, on scaffolding along Eden Quay. The people below do not notice. It is a good up here, in moments of awkwardness we can be silent and follow the life of the street below us with our eyes. I turn to her, she takes the bobbin out of her hair, lets it spill onto her shoulders. With it, a scent of almonds. Although we aren’t saying much we talk. We already know each other. We chat and fill in the insignificant details of our lives so far. Your name is Einín, ah a little bird, how appropriate to sit up here with you and watch the life of Eden from above and my name is Peadar, you know that, you heard of me? What did you hear? About that, well I want to be honest with you, that was a different me, we all go through stages like that - you call it growing up. Understanding? I’m not gonna fuck with you, tell you the whole truth, do not tell it slant, let you know - if you understand what a wonderful thing - if you do not, oh well, oh well. Too good for me, I will not spoil you. The sky begins to turn pink again. Morning is coming - we have talked all night. She wears my coat, and it looks funny on her. I’m shivering. We climb down. Say good bye on Marlborough street. A quick kiss. Good bye. and forever Piotr is twenty twoHis good eye is fixed on a low flying plane as his hand traces the letters carved out in stone. When the mist rolls off Howth head they fly much closer to us. Their noise invading 49
these sacred cemetery grounds. The stone is shaking from it, it makes him shiver. And on top of that the weather has the cheek to rain. What would you make of this? What an obvious question. Piotruś, Piotrek, Piotr, Peter, Peadar- How should I remember you? By the way of flesh, I was seventeen when you made me a cripple - this glass eye, a gift. And when my body begins to rot like yours is rotting now the eye will stay, and when my body is muck like yours is muck now, the eye will stare. My body is marked, my mind scarred by a memory of you. He kneels down, opens up a pack of Johnny Blues, takes one out, buries the rest in the freshly turned soil. A little flame, inhale, a coughing fit. Now for the whisky, a sip and the rest out, over the headstone. A form of prayer. In the name of the cancer and of the liver failure and of the holy death. Amen. Tears down his cheek. This time they are honest tears, at your burial they were forced. Why am I so insecure about this? So what that I didn’t feel like crying. I couldn’t. But I did. Appearances must be kept up, no one must know that I am a clockwork man, my eye not the only organ made of fragile and cold glass. What bullshit this, this is real crying now. Savour it. His hand returns to the cold stone. I will not forgive you Peter, how could I? My life, I lived it in your shadow. Now, you are gone, and the light is blinding. Plato’s grotesque realms. Our art, the form -perfect. I owe you this. Thanks. And so much more. Thank you. And my anger? How juvenile. I am not cross with you Peter. My hate is for the material bodies we live in and the material world. How unfair, how unjust, how amoral, how immoral, how absolutely fucking ridiculous it all is. And I miss you. And my feelings are nothing compared to hers. How upsetting to think of that. Your little singing bird, how fucking sad.You were good to her. Here she comes now. Don’t you worry Peter, I will take care of her for you.You have my word for it. Einín pushed open the heavy, screeching cemetery gates. She walked along the short stone wall, in the direction of the fresher graves. Rory got up, nervously fixed the buttons of his coat and walked towards her. They embraced each other and held each other, both trembling, both crying. Enjoying the warmth of each other’s bodies. Rory too torn up by too many emotions did not try to rationalize what the green bump, under her orange cardigan could have meant. Holding hands they walked back down to Piotr’s grave, and stood there until the rain stopped and the sky turned a brighter shade of grey. We stood there until the rain stopped and the sky turned a brighter shade. 50
by Cee Hazzard
Online | RnaJ
by David Burns
ustavortegadleon and the streets of Dublin. Sun up there, down here; staring from a cross the street there was Danieleduardoperezgonzalez, smoking. Hola, como estás, Daniel? I dreamt a dream tonight. I dreamt I had a job and we spoke English and it wasn’t always sunny. Y yo tambien. Oh, and what was yours? Los sueños casi siempre mienten. Has comido? No. No, I was in bed asleep and when I woke up, I didn’t have any more money than last night. No job, no food, no friends apart from you. Wifi is the only thing keeping me alive in my apartment. Y Maeve? Seguís juntos? Hermoso barbudo de la promiscuidad sin igual jijiji. Peace. Peace. Please just shut up about that. Ok, vamos,tomaremos algo. My mind misgives said the man in the classroom. If we run into Alex, I’m liable to kill him. Hace calor y estoy sediento,no veremos a Alex y si lo vemos será su mala suerte no la nuestra jajajaj. Bracelets or backpocket bandanas but arms bare to the elbow they turned down Wicklow Street. They turned into a bar. They sat on stools. 2 Cervezas, hombreee. Collars open, elbows open and pressed against the edge of the counter. Arms brown like dogeyes. Gustavortegadleon took out his phone and lay it face up flat on the counter. Danieleduardoperezgonzalez took out his phone; unlocked it so the screen lit up. The beers came and Gustavortegadleon held his up, to his friend, ¡salud! To your health, said Danieleduardoperezgonzalez, and to the chance of rain. Me gusta cuando hace sol. You and no one else. Or, at least, I don’t. Or, at least, I only like the sun when I’ve enough money to stand in the shadow of the beautiful señorita. Maeve nunca dejaba una sombra en la que se pudiera estar. Let up about Maeve for Christssake. I couldn’t give a damn about Maeve. I want a job and a life. I couldn’t care less about that woman or any women. I want a job. Or, I want to leave. What I really want is for it to rain for once. I’d give up all the girls I ever went out with for it to rain right now. Si las chicas son faciles de dejar ,debieras probar con chicos. Maybe, you’re right, said Danieleduardoperezgonzalez, maybe that’s the answer. Maybe if I was gay, I’d have less problems. Maybe I wouldn’t be in this country. No hay nada malo con este pais. The sun on their necks, the windows behind them, the door a long way to the left opening to Alexemiliano walked in. Danieleduardoperezgonzalez distracted from conversation, drinking, noticed. The problem with this country is that it’s so fucking small, he growled. Come on, let’s go. He slid forward on his stool so that his feet hit the floor and he was standing, still looking over to Alexemiliano who had just come in and had not yet sat down. Alexemiliano stood, staring back at the both of them. No mires solo a nosotros. O si vas a mirar, 52
entonces debieras de hacer algo tambien. Leave it, Gustavo, said Danieleduardoperezgonzalez gripping his friend’s arm the tense lithe flesh of his upper still sleeved though bared lower down arm spoke violence. Leave it, just go. Gustavortegadleon shook off the hand that held him and snapped, este pais está hecho a tu medida, Daniel. He would have walked to the door where Alexemiliano still stood waiting warily smiling daringly but the barman with worry said to Danieleduardoperezgonzalez : there is a door at the back. Please, I don’t want trouble. I’ll call the cops. They left. You’re so quick to fly off the handle. You think you’re so hot but one day I won’t be there to hold you back and that day, you’ll be in a bad way. Tu piensas que tengo miedo a Alex?. El es un ganso y es mas ganso que tu. You think you’re someone different than who you are, said Danieleduardoperezgonzalez, you’re as skinny as my sister though not half as sharp. Stick to picking up boys. Dejo la pelea para ti? Yes, leave the fighting to me and that way there’ll be an end to it. There’ll be no more of it. Gustavortegadleon started laughing. They walked through Stephan’s Green. El es sabio! No, I’m just not stupid. You’d have to be stupid to fight for a girl, even more stupid to fight for an ugly girl, and possibly the most specially stupid to fight for an ugly girl even though you’re gay. Yo no peleo por nadie, excepto quizás por el sol. Peleo por que me aburro. If you’re bored then drink or find someone. Or dream. Think about leaving like me. Think about leaving with me! I could keep you out of trouble; you could get me into trouble. We could find new girls to fight over. We could find jobs. Me gusta esto aqui; no quiero trabajar You only say that because you live at home. Danieleduardoperezgonzalez kicked the dry ground, the dead grass that still stuck in the Earth. They sat on the banks overhanging a dried up bed. Cigarette butts and cracks in the dry ground beyond beneath them. Gustavortegadleon started to roll two cigarettes. The tobacco hair in his hands. Tu huyes de las mujeres! And that makes you mad, I s’pose? Anyway, I am not. I don’t care no more than you do about any woman. You might love boys and I love my family, and you, but I don’t love this place. Tu eres Irlandés. Aqui es donde tu perteneces. Irish, English, French, Spanish; what’s in a name? I grew up watching TV from America. I grew up in a different place. I don’t belong here or there or anywhere there’s no work or rain. I want to go to England but if England was like this, I’d want to go to Lanzarote. I am what I think I am. Breathing the air doesn’t change the colour of your blood or mine, it’s red anywhere. Hablaste en cualquier lugar. OK, suficiente.Tu eres quien eres por donde naciste y por lo que dices no me importa de ninguna manera. They smoked. The sun shining balefully so sweat on their brows. Shirtsleeves bundled, arced backs bending towards the dried dip in the ground where water lay a long time ago no water there anymore. The trees, the leaves, September. Danieleduardoperezgonzalez fished 50 cence from somewhere in his trouser pocket.Tarnished, burnished in sunlight he shew it to Gustavortegadleon. He said, ‘this is me, this is us, this is our life,’ and posing it 53
between bent thumb and curled index, he flicked so it spun and landed out further. It landed. Laughter. They turned from it lying on the dried, cracked ground. Alexemiliano stood standing with two others above them by trees. Same smile straining warily daringly down. It changed, handsome mouth speaking, ‘este soy, estos somos nosotros,’ his friends, ‘esta es tu vida,’ his knife. Words over, a moment falling like a ton of rain like all the rain at once drenching star destiny. Then Gustavo, up Ortega, in hand from somewhere: d’Leon. But, three points spinning constellation star cross up across : No, Gustavo! Surging upwards like tsunami surging down like monsoon strange weather, for a short woman! Blades! Between Porqué tienes un cuchillo??! Suficiente! My blade, Daniel, get out! My fight. Come on you bastard. Largate, largate! Llamaré a la policia. Se quien eres. Call the cops? You’ll be calling an ambulance. It’s to your funeral, Alex! Alex! Frantic, his fingers fearing metal Danieleduardoperezgonzalez’s hand swept in the mêlée shoving Alexemiliano’s blade went by into Gustavortegadleonnnn. Nnn Alexemiliano let go the knife sticking in Gustavortegadleon staring down and Stephan’s green so sunnilly empty. The three of them only. Danieleduardoperezgonzalez turned, Alexemiliano started running, caused him to turn back. Bleeding, the other caused him to turn back again. Por Dios Gustavo tienes un cuchillo en el pecho. Dios mio Dios mio, tienes un cuchillo en el pecho. Dios estás sangrando. El bastardo. Estás sangrando. El bastardo por Dios, estás sangrando; el bastardo este. Estás herido??? You got in the way, Dan. Gustavo, porqué te metiste?? Dios Dios, por una chica por el amor de Dios, hay una mujer ahí, tengo que irme. Ella me ha visto. Oye! Llama una ambulancia! Tienes que llamar una ambulancia! Gustavo, tengo que irme antes de que vea mi cara. Damn your house. Damn your dan house. Dan, you’ll never see your house both your houses my house or your house. A potato blight on both your houses on your granny’s house.You’ll not be going home leaving me alone, a plague on both your houses, the one here now and the one you have later on. A property market crash on all your houses. Oh, write me a poem, Dan. Dan, I’m dying Daniel <<II,III,I,I,I,II,I,II>> « Entré por laberinto tan extraño, fiando al débil hilo de la vida el tarde conocido desengaño; mas de tu luz mi escuridad vencida, el monstro muerto de mi ciego engaño, vuelve a la patria, la razón perdida » 54
Online | Photograph: The Round Tower
by Maria Sukhamikova
Online | Brace Yourself
by Kendall Madden
“Is there anything specific you want to be named?” I ask. “I love the name Eleanor.I just named my new car Eleanor,” one of the women answers. “Hmm. Not Charlotte,” the other says. “Maybe Sophie. Wait.” She wraps her right hand around the wrist of her left arm. “What are the names of the two women who drive off the cliff?” “Thelma and Louise!” Eleanor says.Her voice sounds rougher when she is excited. “Make us Thelma and Louise,” says Sophie. *** Eleanor approaches the red door to the restaurant and places her hand on the knob, turning to Sophie. “Shall we?” A stream of air sneaks through the door as it closes behind us. We descend into the basement and sigh a little. The dim lighting and cool air are welcome. We haven’t yet adapted to the strong sun and heavy warmth of spring. After glancing around, Eleanor chooses a small rectangular table set away from the main seating area. The remnants of a tape-delayed football game flicker across my peripheral vision. At first, our conversation is hesitant. The songs in the background fade from one to the next, creating a quilt of music that spans decades and genres. Eleanor tells me she’s from New Hampshire. Sophie is from Vermont. They both moved around, but eventually found their way back to towns along the Connecticut River. A waiter ventures over to our secluded table, asking if we’d like anything. A water each for Eleanor and me, a Diet Coke for Sophie. “Well, I guess I’ll start at the beginning,” Eleanor says. When she was only twelve, she came home from camp and her family had sold their things. They were moving to Florida. That day. “It was just me, my mom, my dad.” Her father had grown depressed by the darkness of New Hampshire winters and had found a job delivering Suburban Propane in a state with more sun. That’s where Eleanor went to high school. After she graduated, she waitressed at a country club for a year. She went back to school, but dropped out when she got pregnant. Her parents moved to South Carolina, but Eleanor stayed in Florida for three more years. “Things were good,” she says, condensing that time into small words. “Then one day, my father shows up and says, ‘Pack your shit. You’re coming.’ Again. You’d think it wouldn’t have been such a shock.” Eleanor pauses, looking at me for a moment as she takes a red plastic cup from the waiter. Then she returns her eyes to a patch 56
of wall above Sophie’s head. “You eventually think about where you started making the wrong choices in life. I started dating dumb-ass men. People that wanted tobe controlling. And then, eventually, abusive.” After a few years in South Carolina, Eleanor returned to college. A year-and-a- half later, she met the man who would become the father of her second daughter. Her older daughter, Anna, was five. “I was 27,” she says. “At this time, I never smoked a cigarette. I didn’t really drink. I didn’t do drugs. I didn’t realize he was hooked on Oxycontin. I just couldn’t figure out why he was so mean. He broke my foot. And broke my daughter’s arm. My six-month-old daughter’s arm. I took her to the emergency room and that night, social services took both my kids.” Sophie looks at Eleanor. “I just can’t imagine being so angry at a six-month-old,” Sophie says. The movement of Eleanor’s ponytail is the only indication of her nod. “He’s just an idiot. He’s dead now.” “Oh, that’s right, he’s that one,” Sophie says, leaning back against the wall. Eleanor and Sophie could almost be related. Their hair is dirty blonde with a hint of red; the only difference is that Sophie’s falls in a long, intricate braid down her shoulder. They both carry some extra weight. But more than anything else, something in their faces and gestures creates an uncannily accurate mirror. Eleanor glances back to me. “I spent a year and thousands and thousands of dollars trying to get my kids back and all that time I was advised to stay with this idiot. So I worked two jobs, or three, and paid off all my bills. And when I got my kids back I left that motherfucker.” Eleanor brushes a loose hair back from her forehead, exposing a thin silver chain wrapped around the wrist of her arm. “Let’s see, what happens after that. Oh, a couple more jerk boyfriends and then I met the one. Who I thought was the one. I found out he smoked crack and did my first crack hit with him when I was 31. And that just sent me into a downward spiral.” Eleanor lost her kids again. And ended up in jail. A few times. Addicted. “I don’t know. I lost everything. I was homeless at one point – living in the back of a U-Haul attached to a car with no brakes.” Then she moved into Willow Grove, a halfway house for women. She stayed there for six months. She was doing well. One night, her roommate brought crack home. The next day, the roommate told the workers that Eleanor had gotten high. She was forced to move out. She stayed clean for a while. She worked cleaning houses. She didn’t make enough to live so she sold drugs. It was still barely enough. Her roommate from Willow Grove called, hoping that Eleanor would sell to her.And she did. The woman’s husband was wearing a wire. “They set me up 57
and I went back to jail,” she says. Our waiter returns to check on us, but Sophie sends him away with a smile and a wave. She lives with the man who runs this restaurant. Eleanor gives Sophie a look that contains a conversation. “I tried rehabs,” she continues. “This is the problem I found – I left many rehabs and halfway houses because when you get there, the people there have never been where you’ve been. They’ve never done drugs. So how are you going to talk to me and tell me that it’s going to get better? It isn’t. You don’t know that. Your kids aren’t living with somebody else because of the choices you made because some idiot said ‘Just try this.’ And it was the best frickin’ high I’d ever had in my life. It ticked me off for the longest time because I didn’t do anything until I was 31. Why did I start then?” We fall silent. “Oh,” Eleanor says. She pauses. “I forgot something.” She laughs, but there’s no force behind it. She looks at the table. “I’m not laughing because it’s funny. I still don’t feel comfortable talking about it.” She tells me about being raped by a friend when she was sixteen, while his friend held her down. She kept silent, didn’t tell her parents, or anyone, for a long time. About a year later, when she had her first boyfriend, she told him. And then he killed her rapist. “That’s small town Florida for you,” she says. “There were so many headlines from that horrible ordeal and I recently, finally, threw away all the newspaper articles.I held on to them for twenty years. Why?” She pauses briefly. “I don’t know. Maybe to remind me of where I came from.” Eleanor returns her eyes to me briefly, before settling her gaze on Sophie’s elbow. We are quiet for a minute.Eleanor sips her drink, Sophie watches her.Then Sophie speaks. “She’s doing well now.” Eleanor smiles. “I got my kids back. Have the respect of most of my family and friends. Have my own business” – she cleans houses – “and I’m in my third year of college. I don’t sell, I don’t do.” She laughs. And looks at me. Smiling.“And I just bought a brand new car.Finally.”Her deep blue Toyota Venza replaced an overly worn red Jeep that was her father’s. Eleanor points toward Sophie. “Now, when we show up in this town, we feel like we belong.” She continues smiling even as she presses her hands together and takes a deep breath. “But I still live with my mother. My father died a year and a half ago, so we kind of keep each other up.” “But we hang out – do girl stuff,” Sophie interjects. “That’s true.Do you know what I’m craving?”Eleanor answers her own question in a raspy whisper. “A strawberry margarita.” Her voice returns to normal volume and her mouth turns up slightly. “I’m so tired though, if I had a drink right now, I’d probably just go to sleep.” “It has already been a long week,” I say. “I know!It’s only Tuesday!” “At least it’s not Monday,” Sophie adds. 58
We sit and sip our drinks in silence. “It’s still not easy,” Eleanor says. *** “I guess it’s my turn, now,” Sophie says. She looks at me less than Eleanor does. “My parents split up when I was 13 and I moved around. A lot. I couldn’t get into school because I didn’t live with either of them at that point.” Her words rush out attached to one another. “My mother’s boyfriend was molesting me so I couldn’t live with her and my dad had met somebody and moved away. So I was living with family but nobody had guardianship of me, so I couldn’t go to high school for a while. And then, in a period of two, no, three years, I was raped three times.” Sophie is silent for a moment. Her chest moves slightly as she takes a slow breath. “So, that’s probably what leads me to self-medicate,” she continues. “And definitely I do. Did. Not so much now. I don’t want to go back to jail.” Sophie got married as soon as she graduated from high school. She was married nine years and had a son. “My husband was an alcoholic,” she says, “and he became very abusive.” She presses her hands together tightly and her fingertips turn red. “So we finally split up and I did the single mother thing working 80 hours a week.” Then Sophie met someone else. Someone she thought was different. “I ended up having a daughter with him that I don’t have. Her father took me to court because I worked too much and she was in day care too much. I was just trying to do it by myself but they took her away from me.” Sophie hasn’t seen her daughter since her fourth birthday – that was three years ago – but she is in contact with her son. “He’s 13 now,” she says, smiling wide enough to show her top teeth. “I see him a lot.” She pauses for a moment and looks at Eleanor. I can see Eleanor’s chin dip as she makes a small nod. “When I got divorced,” Sophie continues, “I kind of started partying a little bit. I’d never really done that as a teenager ’cause I hooked up and got married right off. I ended up dating some drug dealers and got hooked on pills.” She looks back at me.Quickly. Then at the table. “I had always been on pain meds. I’ve had a whole bunch of surgeries so I knew I liked them. But when you do them every day. All day. You get hooked really fast.” She moved on to stronger things. “I ended up with a possession charge,” Sophie says.“For heroin. I was sent to Sullivan County Jail and Eleanor was my roommate.” Sophie’s sister died from cancer ten days after she went to jail. “She was my best friend,” she says. “My entire life.” Sophie wasn’t allowed to attend the funeral, but some friends went in her place. “That was the hardest day of my life,” she tells me.“But this one” – she points at Eleanor – “listened to me staying up all night.We took care of each other.” There’s a long pause as Eleanor and Sophie each wait for the other to speak. It’s Eleanor who breaks the silence. “Jail is a strange place. You’re very angry. And you do nothing all day.” She looks at Sophie, who is nodding. “When you come out – if you were an addict 59
when you went in, you’re definitely an addict when you come out.” “It’s a long time to be away from the world,” Sophie says.“And you have nothing to come out to.You’re coming out to nothing.” They tell me they were lucky.“Most jails don’t have programs, or anything, to help you,” Eleanor tells me. “But we had this work release program,” Sophie continues. “You had to be really super good,” Eleanor says. “And then you could go work for certain amounts of time. We took as many hours as they would give us because we didn’t want to be there. We’d rather be at work.” “But then we got wrapped up in bullshit,” Sophie says. “And we got sent down to the other jail. We supposedly threatened some girl in the bathroom. That never happened.” Sophie tells me she works in town now.“At the café over there,” she says, gesturing towards the southeast corner of the restaurant.“Someone finally gave me a chance.” *** “I need a cigarette,” Eleanor says, looking at me.“Is that okay?” We leave our things at the table and are walking out of the restaurant, when Sophie’s boyfriend intercepts us.“Headed out?” he asks with a smile.We’ve already been here for over and hour. “Nah,” Eleanor says. She holds up a pack of cigarettes in explanation. “And I’m taking a non-smoker!” Her voice is high and raspy. She is delighted with her small non- rebellion. “Well, don’t pollute her,” Sophie’s boyfriend says through a laugh.He opens the door for us.At the top of the stairs, we emerge blinking into the sunlight.The world is shades of white, and we can’t look for too long.Eleanor leads us under the awning of an adjacent building.She and Sophie are careful to position themselves downwind.We speak more causally out here. “Did you know Sophie is a baker?” Eleanor asks. “She’s good. Like really good.” She turns to Sophie. “Do you have any of that apple thing left?” “Yeah, it’s upstairs.” “Well, she has to have some,” Eleanor says, gesturing toward me with her cigarette.She looks back to me.“It’s incredible.”She stresses each syllable of the word, savoring them. Their cigarettes fade to ashes and we return inside, but part ways at the staircase. Eleanor and I head back to the table, and Sophie goes upstairs to get the cake. While we wait, Eleanor arranges things in her small purse. She finds a few loose bills and replaces them in her wallet.She laughs, then looks at me.“You know, going to the grocery store, I get out my calculator. Thank God there’s no tax here because I wouldn’t be able to figure that out!” Sophie comes back to the table, carrying a professional-looking cake.It’s covered in 60
smooth white frosting and a caramel spider web stretches across the top. “Wow,” Eleanor says.“What’s in it again?” “It’s apple cinnamon with cream cheese frosting.”Sophie smiles and speaks faster.“And the batter.I put more apples and cider in than flour.” “You have to try it,” Eleanor says to me.“It’s unreal.” “That’s what I’ve been told,” Sophie says.She never tries her creations After a pause Eleanor says, “I have to write a midterm tonight.”She extends the sound of “mid” so it becomes a groan.“I need some fried pickles.” She’s working toward a masters in psychology. She just found out she has three more years of school to become a certified counselor. Sophie waves over our waiter and Eleanor and I each cut a piece of cake. “I went back to school too,” Sophie says. “I just have no idea what I’m doing yet.” “That’s okay,” Eleanor says. “I didn’t either. I just took some classes and some intrigued me and then I knew that’s what I wanted to do.” “I want to do something with my art,” Sophie continues.She creates art in all mediums, but food is her favorite. “Someday I’m going to be a baker,” she says. “That’s what I really want to do – open up my own bakery.”She takes a slow breath and shifts her attention to Eleanor’s collar. “Baking is one of those things I can do without much effort.Most people – they can’t get the dough to rise when their making bread or whatever.They just don’t get it. And I can do it without effort.” Sophie’s boyfriend walks by the table and leaves her with a smile and the plate of fried pickles. “You live together,” Eleanor says. Her voice grows raspy and her syllables extend. “Can you spend five minutes without staring into each other’s eyes?” “Oh, yeah,” Sophie says. “Like that ever happens. Not so much.” Sophie and Eleanor share their laughter. “I’m never going to get married because that’s always going to happen,” Eleanor says. She pauses then adopts a lower tone and grumbles, “Oh, here he comes.” “Exactly what was I thinking,” Sophie says. Eleanor is serious for a moment. “I hope one day that doesn’t happen.” Then she raises her pitch and speaks like a storybook grandmother. “I’ll just go, ‘Oh, we’ve been together twenty years.’” Sophie lifts her eyebrows and joins her voice with Eleanor’s. “Yes, and he makes your heart go pitter patter still. That would be lovely.” “It would be,” Eleanor says. Her voice has returned to its normal timbre. “Doesn’t work for me,” Sophie responds. *** Almost a full hour has passed since we came back inside. The plates are empty and we 61
are quiet. It’s time to go. We stand, and Eleanor immediately hugs me. “Thank you,” I say.I see Sophie flatten a few bills on the table, clearly covering more than the cost of the food. She scribbles on a napkin and pins the whole pile under an empty glass. As Eleanor steps back, Sophie takes her turn to wrap her arms around me. We weave through the restaurant back to the double doors that lead to the staircase. As I watch Eleanor and Sophie climb ahead of me, an almost forgotten memory finds its way to the front of my mind. I can picture a man. About the same age as these two women. Gray is starting to show at his temples, but his only wrinkles are from the sun. He found out his wife was smoking crack, that she was sleeping with her dealer to finance the addiction. The man made a trip to the dealer’s house to scare him off. But he brought a gun and ended up killing the dealer. During his sentence at San Quentin State Prision, he would sit outside and looked west toward Mt. Tamalpais. At 2,571 feet, the peak stands taller than anything else in the surrounding counties. Eventually, he was released.The following day, he looked east toward San Quentin from the summit of Mt. Tamalpais. I can picture the way his eyebrows knit together as he told his story. I almost run into Sophie who has stopped behind Eleanor.We’re at the top of the stairs. Eleanor looks back to Sophie.“Brace yourself.” The red door swings open, and we rejoin the world.
Online | Photograph: [Untitled]
by Cee Hazzard
Online | In That Order
by James Hussey
inding myself inside, I adjusted to the dun, windowless space, a sinus that was awaiting the infection of phone calls. I blinked rapidly to soften the visceral attack the shifting lights between hallway and office had played on my soundless transition. To aid the recovery, I opened the should-have-been hidden bottle of whiskey that stood on my desk, swatting a drunken fly from the open top. Or at least I felt the presence of the blasted inebriate, unconsciously draining this elixir. Stoically, I steadied my straining heart and reminded myself to enjoy these five minutes of deserved solitude. The numbing fruitiness just didn’t spike me as I wanted however, and thinking tautological thoughts, I discarded some aspirin into my mouth. All ready but the washing down, I told my ingestive/ digestive faculties to help me as much as they invariably would not. Disliking authority as I did, my innards refused to cooperate and left me no choice but to lift Pandora’s receiver on the torrent of the barely-functioning, the over-functioning and the anhedonistic that populated my morning. Jean was unavailable, but in one of those happy coincidences that meant I was still alive, she passed through the corridor at that exact moment, moving to her space. “Morning Dr. _____”, a voice called from the hallway cheerily. Cheerily I replied in kind and left it at that for her, a secretary that carried the scent of the hopeful working classes. Today’s bouquet of digestive biscuits with a hint of stale cigarette smoke, lightened with subtle undertones of sugary tea was not something from which one could escape easily. The smell of the proletariat, once a badge of pride, now reminds us of their survival. Failing to represent a refugee or asylum seeker, peppery and exotic, screaming over the divide of worlds without noise, trying to unescape the manner to which they have become accustomed. These people have left savannah and prairie, slaughter and pogrom to discover that they cannot escape humanity’s relentless ugliness, they merely season the (melting) pot of scum that rise to the meniscus, without being strained. Neither a benefit-drawing precarian, no amount of carbolic soap will wash that little spot. The smells of indoors and takeaways, red bricked harems full of children and disorder, the fug of smoke that wafts inevitably from the encased yard past the latest in Asian technology, wafts ironically and uncaringly over medical cards and trumped-up insurance claims and only-used-outside crutches and casts. These inescapable slippedthrough-the-net cases that are products and reproducts of unfortunate buildings and a propensity for poor life choices.
But I digress. Jean was hired because of the digestive biscuits. They, she, allowed me to imagine pink armchairs once coloured more strongly, with various food stains, faded on one side to provide a better vantage point for the television, away from any in-streaming sunlight. It made me remember choir galleries, surrounded by men, local to some degree, chewing and coughing, smelling like the parfumeries of Grasse. Jean reminded me of my mother as I looked down from that height, a figure who, in this space, I looked upon but never at, distantly juxtaposed. For these reasons, Jean was a perfect fit for the office. I would not see her from one end of the week to the other, but this passed off without complaint. I could sit in my part, assaulted by phone calls, the bacteria of the outside world, without disturbing either routine. These five minutes of solitude now become days on end. I felt obliged to observe the curiosity of this ritual lack of contact. I had once seen Jean’s graceful arm extend from her burkha/office, and wished to look upon no more. As far as I knew, this was what we both wanted, although I found no time to ask. If only, at this early stage, she would remove the fly and leave me to amble in my free air. At least I could hold onto something in this maelstrom of arthropodic annoyance. A mantra of calm that would not fail in the face of Strains of a cello suite emanated from Jean’s space of self-improvement, what the middle-class called a radio and men with (n)(r)atty moustaches (Oh aren’t they just darling, their clothes don’t fit!) decided upon collectively as a gateway to a wireless unconnectable GOLDEN AGE, for her represented a deeper engagement with life. Necessarily not her life, anyone else’s but hers, her bleedin’ boss doesn’t even speak to her for Christ’s sake! Should she put out in the interest of office environmental relations? She should have said this while receiving a self-improvement-blow-dry but instead revealed her intention to this confused young priest, at any rate, quite apart from radical sexual innocence, his grasp of a ruling sceptre in the public sphere belied no phallic intensity, no matter how central the Word was, words on the street were not his thing. And to think I had gathered this from a flash of her arm? A mere trick of the wrist? Even those shadowy right wingers would barely call it pornographic – although the arm has remained etched furiously into the cloud-driven sexual storyworld, a metonym for the meandering lustfulness of the she-devil that preoccupies my loins, the embodied flesh that ginnels through the stoop of my imagination, minded for pleasure and pain in equal measure, not withholding both but certainly not outlasting my-or-herself. Any second now she would have finished transcribing phone messages left from the evening before and would place them under my door, notifying me briefly of their presence. 65
“Seven this morning, Dr. _____, “ she piped outside in the hallway that separated our dimly-lit cubes, “you could be a busy man today.” Enthusiasm. Enthusiastic.The flicker of zeal and… do I sense…Yes, anticipation in her voice that remains unquelled, stoked if you will by my mere presence. Lucky me however shall I deal with there is no luck in this, no smiling eyes or happy tongues. Mine can only itch insatiably with her a mere few metres away I will never be alerted of her plump bosom that heaves wishing only to be closer to the name she uses umpteen times diurnally.Youth like hers I will pay, sully in my mind but never corrupt, decency that though I outrage does not please me. No, she stands directly before Him all the days of her life, unaware of her higher consciousness I simply cannot entertain more than that limbic abomination that flashes upon my solitude. I must reply, and immediately withdraw. I said thank you inaudibly, finding my speech strangely slurred, thought it better than repeating myself. Removing my shoes and socks I tiptoed to the door, where seven cards containing faintly legible handwriting lay. Returning to my desk I pored over the diseased and depraved that wished to be cured. To what cure? These would-be nasties that will always remain conditional, problems not worthy of my time, a precious gift and, for Jean, all I could (mentally) present. To her softening thighs, dipped in the ennui of my imposed distinctions. I must float from Jean and practice the art to which predominantly, this space has taught me. Avoidance… They despaired of being themselves these…, and yet, were I to tell them to become somebody else, I would invite them into only what they wished most. Start again as someone new is not the answer, despair as yourself with this medication. A change is too much good for the rest. Card #1: B_________ B________, woman. Continuing anxiety from last session, visited with alarming bouts of paranoia. Selfmedicating with vodka… I must imagine this peroxided succubus as a patient, something I cannot do. Her sausage thumbs and sausage toes leap from my reverie and shake my mind, this woman will remain from my sight until sympathy overhauls my strictures and presents my lecherous spirit the solution that what the woman is attempting to repress but must, for mutual good, embrace, is a formidable… Flick flick flick. Jean’s narratives were so entertaining, her faux-medical descriptions belying a rudimentary education coupled with ambition and socially mobile consciousnesses. A headier cocktail than I could deal with this morning. Card #2: R_______ D_____, woman. Delusional, left alarming message describing how the mole on her left cheek had ceased to be a beauty spot and was beginning to mount an insurrection of her eye, possibly with the intention of invading the pituitary gland… Intolerably ugly, even accommodating for lighting, atmospherics, humidity etc. This slow-roasted ham hock will dally beyond 66
care, until her pituitary is consumed by a superficially benign mole (little does she know her spleen is annexing the lymph nodes, even as I quell stirrings of tumescence regarding Card #1). Flick flick flick. No delusionists, delusionals today. Not with this fly circling my tumbler. Card #3: G_____ H_____, man. Had encountered himself ordering an extra print-run for his already in-the-soup newspaper from the publishers via a quasi-out-of-body-experience, a scene that had deeply disturbed the people of D_______, not expecting well-known local journalists to sit clutching a phone in a decommissioned telephone box… The mode of communication was surely not the primary upset of the scene? I could not bring myself to think about him, although he had spoiled the rumblings of the afternoon of two ladies in a facing tapas bar who, due to his extra-cranial behaviour had, unfortunately it can only be presumed, dropped: •Slice of chorizo •1cm x 1.5cm x 0.5cm piece of queso manchego •A (incredibly misplaced it must be said) kalamata olive that, once constructed on a cocktail stick, represented that lunchtime’s mise-enbouche, onto their respective laps, adding to the injustice of the breakdown a launderette receipt and a truly unappetising meal (although the flan was, as all reports have suggested, outstanding). Flick flick flick. It was a bloody daddy long-legs, sinisterly named, full of –philia and ill-will, a damned crane fly in front of my desk. I stood to smack it with card #6 under which card #7 had adhered and caught the menace with an equivalent hook. Right up through its corresponding perineum and levelled plaintively, a complete triumph. I threw the splattered cards in the appropriate receptacle, ensuring no contact was made with the bloodless sucker.The morning, it must be said, was looking up, one death, and, at that, not a patient, although similarly futile. Card #4: (promising) J____ M_______, woman. Woke up fondling herself and has not stopped since. (Explicit message, sorry Dr._____, scribbled Jean). Has masturbated chronically throughout the afternoon, stopping only to collect and feed her nieces after school. Fears deeply for the wellbeing of her clitoris, which she claims to have newly discovered this morning, but is delighted to say her breasts have swelled to an unprecedented level. Wishes to see you only to express her militant sexual-ness and overt F___ability. No flick. But is this clitorally empowered 30 year old what is needed right now? The worst thing her self-immolating passion could drive her to is the purchasing of a Brillo 67
pad, and fortunately, my medical expertise did not stretch to cavorting with pseudoGambian women. For what it was, I would arrange to bump into Card #4 in the bookshop in which she worked, pretend to hold interest in the latest bestseller that would service that most erogenous zone of all. From here, this woman is phenomenally corruptible, corrupting. I would talk on about the existentialist bent of the author, his nationalist tendencies and certain quibbles about the latent homoeroticism de rigueur in all literature. Her eyes brightening and a developing palsy in her right hand, my shortened breath will commune with hers mere inches from each other. Flickering across the semi-concealed freckles and features of this pixie will arrive the memory of the phone call, a distant thought amidst Bacchinalian excesses. Leaning in to her unresisting body and whispering through the crimson mane of this de facto Gretchen “Poems to a rose are written But an apple must be bitten” the sweetening aroma of the coffee break’s cigarette will emanate and I will avoid thinking of Jean the workingclasses digestivebiscuits televisualdrivel freshlybrewedtea and Saint-Saëns’ greatest hits (although maybe the latter will fit snugly into this situation’s grimly climactic danse macabre) and place a daring paw on an area of her 100% biodegradable dress that the English professor behind me would not approve of but cannot quite help but nurse his erection with thoughts of a stopwatch on G_______ Street. After this our respective lunch will be (forbidden)fruitful, a delicacy that outlasts all cuisine and I will repress the knowledge that, in what seems like a previous existence, I have burned Card #5 with the help of some deliciously alcoholic accelerator, endangering an annoyingly enthusiastic visitor’s corpse, a radio, and Jean. In that order.
Online | Photograph: [Untitled]
by Susanna Gailbraith
Online | The Glump.
edded to the commonly dismissed thought (due to a lack of rationale, but rationale was, for her, as she says, rubbed out the bottle with the genie) that a rose could bloom in every season, she pretended she was waiting for one to bloom as she swept the last bead of sweat from her brow and fanned trembling hands, feeling detached due to the true temperature, in front of her face to fake the appearance of warmth when that was a lie and the sweat came from, visually but not likely, the pit of her stomach. Vomit began its preliminary upsurge only to be shot down by her fervent refusal and a long breath that was a bit too chilled for her warm imagined liking, having disrupted it. It now was late January and too late for smoke-like breath, she decided. This air was enough to return both a squirrel and her breakfast into hiding. Enough to block a rosebud, freezing its depths and blowing hard wind to its tip, freezing and paining what would be a brain. Aware that her mind should be travelling through reasons of her appearance today, on this porch, charred from an incident of two decades previous when Jonny Simple made her believe she would look like The Flash if she ran around with her shoes on fire after being dosed in lighter fluid, she instead pondered whether her legs, feeling detached, were still beneath her lumpy waist or her tongue, also absent-like, was amidst her unpolished teeth, but she was soon reminded it was there with a taste of garlic. Perhaps her breath was not likely to aid in the surprise of her arrival. Perhaps she should just keep her mouth closed; that would be easier. But perhaps it wouldn’t matter. Perhaps her affinity for long, disgruntled thoughts and therefore her narrator’s affinity for long sentences could distract from the onslaught. We create each day a promise to walk, unless confined; skin molded to velour contours. Her interior monologue stated as follows: “I can’t understand why I stand here as much as I can’t understand why I spread my arms so wide when I write on a desk or hunch my back to read a book in my lap rather than broaden those shoulders so crunched and crumbled, lift my elbows out, and grasp the book forward and open, like a waltz with words, like a team of fingers tittling to pages – making a rap, a rap sound on the pages. Such occupies my brain. Small distractions. Loosening grip on a railway, a little train rolling through whack-a-mole style rising and plummeting mountains rather being the one that could reach the “top”, what ever that is. Perhaps the train could lift off into a perfect late fall sky, moving so fast flying goggles and a bright red scarf are necessary.”
Her scarf was indeed a deep scarlet. Scarlet for her heart, very much still thumping, never forgetting to remove itself from her brain. Placing her weight on the tips of her toes, she began to rock back to her heels as the thump of her heart, unable to stand simply, yet unable to move from her spot, and trying to reconnect her detached limbs while her hands dove into the heat of her pockets. She thought of what was on the other side. She knew, as she rocked, but decided to rock and focus on the slow rocking instead. Fret-ting, bet-ting Collec-ting, set-ting Tim-ing, mim-ing All the best kind Of lost sign-ing Stop signs, are never en-forced by those late comeers to ev-ery des-tin-a-tion Back once more, and forward with enough force, she knocked with trembling (cold) knuckles against the forgotten wood. After so much deliberation, you would think her shivering nerves would climax postknock, but the rocking stopped. The hand stilled and placed itself back into comfort, lint bits and all. Perhaps the effect was all in anticipation. It wasn’t going to come to the door. No greeting. No notice of the wood. Flinging her scarf once more around her neck, she thought of its color as matching not her heart, but right before her heart stopped, what color her face would radiate if she hung herself right there on the porch. She was kidding though, of course, in these thoughts. She loved it, The Glump, of course. We create each day a promise to walk, unless confined; skin molded to velour contours. “Cover your legs” she knew she would need to say. She decided to rock ag-ain. Do you think the color, dark green, could start to dye (die) the under-legs? In the area of waddle-flub that you might have used to flap on your own mother or close female relative, thinking it fascinating to have so much unnecessary flub that moves around so easy. She had never tried to flap the waddle-flub of The Glump. Do you believe that an attachment, between two bodies would give you something to live for? Not in the sense of plopping perpendicular to the in corduroy lines of plush fabric? Do you think someone could penetrate? Find one’s way between the masses? She thinks of where she would sit upon entering. Probably the old kiddy chair opposite The Glump’s mature throne. It was never moved. Neither was the kiddy chair, for that 71
matter. Door open now. “Hi Ron.” To her chair, with her name carved on the back, misspelled, beside a design of two bunnies and cabbage. “Uuuch” from the mature chair. Like a whale to its blowhole, The Glump’s mouth to chips. Not even the garlic mouth of the mouth in the wood chair would allow for such an uncontrolled push. “Ruffles?” At this, the figure, the mass averted gaze from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and cast two cow-eyes, black in depth of gall, upon her. For about 16 seconds, their eyes and chair positions remained in lock and facing each other almost like two infatuated dogs forgetting their entire outside lives for a moment to get lost in play, frozen, then to smell each other’s bottoms. This feeling left like the easy flight of pups back into well-trained obedience. “How ar—“ “-- Grand. Very good. Smiling lots.” “Mmh. Good.” “Grand, even.” Ron sat on the couch between chair and throne. Middleman, middle feeling, middlebrain, neutral essentially, he sat on the ottoman. He had brought cake with him. Under an assumption based on previous knowledge that with rainbow icing came double fudge cake beneath to be served with Smartie ice cream, he presently got back up to bring something he must have forgotten in the kitchen. It doesn’t wait for the ritual. “Not yet.” “Uuch.” “Please.” “Oh you pretty Chitty Bang Bang, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang we love you…” The cream arrives. She blows out one candle. Already in a trance of in, and in, and in, etc. “Can you cover your legs?” Ron covers the legs instead with a blanket large enough for at least 3 children to make a substantial fort. As he moves back and settles back in the middle, his hand brushes over her own legs as he reaches for the empty plates. One plate not yet empty, never empty, The Glump asks her to shovel now as its own arms were now detached, too tired. Now on the ottoman, a middle-man, on the middleground, she fosters, this time, the strength of the glue that forms two lifeless bodies together. Shoveling in an in, She thinks how she just walked three feet to get there… how 72
we create each day a promise to walk, unless confined; skin molded to velour contours. The dish is done. No need for sanction. Bye Glump. Detaching from the ottoman, and in turn the wood, she leans forward, grasps, and wraps the scarlet scarf around the neck of her solitary company without getting too close to smell another possible release of the blow-hole. As she places, out of the corner of her eye she spies the door that should be closed, providing an inch view into the bathroom holding a man, helpless but entirely in control doing things that only result from a lack a penetration with the mass. The compliment of its occurrence, as he stares at her during, doesn’t reside. She instead looks at the addition she has placed on the mass, approves, and retrieves her pocketknife, as the back of the velour chair is too empty. She adds to the deep engraving from each surprise arrival jagged letters carved to try and tear through the glue: “The Glump.” Whispering “a name its beholder will never see,” she passes her chair and label, the bathroom and the char, for the last time.
Contributors Alison Vanderkruyk
A third year visiting student from McGill University in Montreal, but originally from Vancouver, Canada. For her undergraduate, she studies Literature, History, and Communications, but while she is at Trinity, she is solely focussing on Literature.
Born in Gdansk, Poland in 1992. In 2004 I moved to Dublin. I am now studying an M. Phil in Literatures of the Americas in TCD. I live in Howth, Co. Dublin.
An international postgraduate student in the MPhil in Irish Writing program.
A second year PhD student in the School of English and folk singer songwriter. [www.conorlinnie.com]
Currently trying for a place in the M.Phil in Creative Writing at TCD after an undergraduate there in French and English Literature.
Born in Sligo in 1985. Most recently, her work was published in 30 under 30: An Anthology of Short Fiction, and The New Binary Press Anthology of Poetry:Volume One. Last year she studied for a masters in Creative Writing at the Oscar Wilde Centre. [www.elainecosgrove.tumblr.com]
a.k.a. Belliup Brunswick, Soren Ticklesmacker & Flem Reggledydeggledy Poonce. A Senior Sophister in English. He’s read over 7 books, not one of them the Bible.
A Junior Sophister student of French and Spanish.
A postgraduate student in the School of English. He will return to anonymity shortly.
A former tabloid newspaper reporter, roulette croupier, playwright and whiskey barman. He is currently completing a doctorate in the School of English at TCD on the aesthetics of Anthony Burgess.
A Senior Freshman English Literature and Classics student.
Kendall grew up just outside of San Francisco and now studies English and Neuroscience. She writes about what she finds interesting in the world, which is, pretty much everything.
Irish-Danish, studying for the MPhil in Irish Art History. She writes, paints and photographs.
A Senior Freshman student of Psychology. She has a passion for writing and a penchant for poetry.
A third year Trinity student majoring in English who is currently on an exchange programme at the National University of Singapore. Her interests include film, theatre, literature and photography.
A Senior Sophister student studying English. Outside of college he is currently working on a collaborative project to update James Joyce’s Dubliners to a modern setting for television.
Currently studying for a master’s degree in Irish Art History. While she has toyed with the idea of teaching her real lifetime goal is to move to New York and become a successful artist. Sarah’s hobbies include watching films and daydreaming.
Sophie is in her second year of English and Drama at TCD. She was born in England but grew up moving between American and Europe. She loves writing, directing and wine. She credits her literary genius to her Geordie grandmother, Millie.
A Senior Freshman in English Studies. This term she is coordinating the Beginners Creative Writing class with the Literary Society and she is the Editorial Assistant for Abridged, a poetry and art magazine based in Ireland.
A Senior Sophister student of Economics and Philosophy at TCD. In his spare time he enjoys music, photography and whisk(e)y.
Thomas graduated from TCD with a PhD in Philosophy in 2011. He has completed an Irish Research Council postdoc and worked as an adjunct lecturer in Philosophy at TCD. He is also a practicing artist. [www.thomasmcnallyartist.com]
by Sarah Coates 76
www.icarus-magazine.com ÂŠ Trinity Publications 2013
Published on Nov 22, 2013