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K ru Literary Magazine Issue #1

Cover piece by Sally Thomas


Table of Contents Page 3...............A Word from the Founder Page 4-5............The Hidden Heart by Amanda Li Page 6...............An Open Mind by Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier Page 7...............Skinless/Faceless by Michael Verderber Page 8...............It Will Make No Difference by Mike West Page 9...............Her by Kayleigh Sabo Page 10-11........Cihuacoatl’s Altar by Margaret Elysia Garcia Page 12..............The Seed in the Snow by Sharon Lindsay Page 13..............Whistler by Niles Reddick Page 14..............Death by Jonathan Brooks Page 15..............True Fear by Sarah Beth Kolodziej Page16-17..........A Porsche for Me by Niles Reddick Page 18..............At the Borders of History by Sharon Goodier Page 19..............Hole in the Ground by Sally Thomas Page 20..............Mangrove Madness by Mel A Rowe Page 21..............A Dream Undefined? by Sarah Beth Kolodziei Page22-27..........Déjà Vu by Josh Pomare Page 28..............Empty Question Endoskeleton by Michael Verderber Page 29..............Preparation by Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier Page 30-31.........My Oma’s Migrant Tale by Karen Hendriks Page 32..............Going to the Store by Patricia Holland Page 33..............Wet Nurse by Niles Reddick Page 34-35.........Groves of Green by Kitta MacPherson


A Word From The Founder Welcome to Issue #1. This magazine started off as a simple idea and after months of planning, reading, and editing, it’s finally here. The theme of this issue is beginnings and was inspired by the name of our magazine. This magazine was named after the silverfern, a native New Zealand plant, as it unfolds. Koru means loop and is a symbol of creation; it represents how life changes and yet stays the same. Personally the koru means creation and constant change and this is what I hope this magazine can be, an outlet for writers and artists to express themselves and something that grows alongside us. In this issue you’ll find creative pieces on the theme of beginnings. As you’ll see throughout this issue, beginnings can mean different things. They can be change, growth, death, and new life. The start of something can be painful, but it can also lead to greater challenges and successes and a chance to grow and change into something better and stronger. You’ll find many great fiction, non-fiction and poetry pieces, along with a few pieces of art, in this issue. My personal favourites are The Hidden Heart by Amanda Li, Her by Kayleigh Sabo, Groves of Green by Kitta MacPherson, It Will Make No Difference by Mike West, A Dream Undefined by Sarah Beth Kolodziej and Hole in the Ground by Sally Thomas. I hope you can find pieces in this issue that move you, make you think, enchant you or inspire you to create a piece of your own. Anjulie Te Pohe


‘No need to fear,’ the Minotaur said. ‘You have no reason to flee. Like those who came before you, You’ll be a companion, a friend to me. Your many predecessors Were never frightened or hurt, And when they met their natural end I lay them to rest in this dirt.’

The Hidden Heart by Amanda Li Marked for sacrifice, I listened For the toll of the new century To cry for a child’s blood again For the peace of the Sanctuary. At age ten, my time had come. Hauled to the Labyrinth’s core, I shivered in the dim damp cold: An offering to the Minotaur. Gaze anchored to my dirt-wedged fingers I felt only the quake of great hoof-falls, Felt only the shadow fall above, Snuffing the hope within these walls. ‘At last, another.’ A guttural voice In human speech, to my surprise. Daring kindled my feeble frame And slowly I lifted my eyes To alight on a beast statuesque: Broad torso of man, scimitar horns, A fierce bull’s head, yet with curious eyes, Gentle as a faun’s. ‘You expected a brute?’ the Minotaur mused. ‘A devourer, dumb and wild? Tell me, do you know why each hundred years Your city surrenders a child? I am the last remaining link To that which once blessed the earth; Without the divine, your kind would wither In ashes of shadow and dearth. If I should die, then so should they, So a deal was struck ’tween us two: Each century, they’d send one of their own To appease the ghosts of gods they slew.’ This was a tale I’d never heard; The legends I knew only told Of ritual meals to calm the rage Of one of the monsters of old.

Amanda Li is an Adelaidean freelance writer, dragon appreciator, and SA Writers Centre volunteer. She was previously a sub-editor of the student magazine On Dit and an editor of its women’s edition. See more of her writing and artwork at amandaysanli.wordpress.com.

‘In exchange for my mercy, I ask one thing: Never leave this lair to enter the maze. You’d meet only perils and lose your way And be doomed to wander the rest of your days.’ So relieved was I to hear That I faced no present danger, I bowed at once to his request And vowed to remain in this chamber. ‘If ever you think to fly the nest, Know that these doors won’t yield. With the strongest of spells I learnt from the gods These exits I have sealed. And though you’ve sworn a solemn oath, Oaths might always be broken; To guarantee the truth of your words, I must take a further token.’ What came next, I could not have foreseen: He reached out and plucked out my heart! My soul released a silent scream As I pitched headlong into dark. Gasping, I woke, clutching my chest Where a galloping beat should have marched – Now only stillness, sunk hollow and deep. ‘How do I live, with no heart?’ The lair was aglow with blue fire, Pungent with charring meat. Peering over from the flames, The Minotaur began to speak. ‘Your heart need not be kept in your chest, As long as it stays warm and whole. I’ve stowed it away, hidden but close So its beats may still nourish your soul. Now come and eat, you must regain The strength that you have lost. Do not mourn your departed heart; For life, it is but a small cost.’ Passing the seals as only he could, Each day the Minotaur did the same, Hunting the Labyrinth’s lesser beasts To return and cook over the flames. By fireside, he would recount The days when gods and men Fought as foes, found fragile peace, Then finally clashed again. I grew to look forward to these tales, My mind painting rich scenes Of children bequeathed with metal wings, One-eyed giants and warrior queens.


In turn, I told my stories Of orphans in shabby coats, Pinching coins from silk-lined pockets And pendants from noble throats. The Minotaur laughed at the chaos My comrades and I would wreak; His favourite was the time we raced Wild goats down Sanctuary streets.

‘Together we built the Labyrinth, Each bewildering turn and twist; This chamber was built last of all, Sealed and shrouded in mist. For many a year it kept me safe From the swords and spears of men; My only solace in this self-wrought prison Was the company of my friend. Alas, the human thread of life And he shared with me the skill of craft – Runs much shorter than my own: ‘When spells tinged air and gods still reigned, My dear teacher crossed the Styx; I studied under a master inventor, Hence, I remained alone.’ A man of legend,’ he explained. Together we adorned the lair ‘A godless age dawned, and a hero With ever more sculptures sombre, Discovered me, broke through the seal; Finding serenity in the dull glints, But when I revealed his kind’s need of me Reflections of grey and umber. We settled on our deal: Never would I emerge from this maze Many moons passed, invisible And disrupt mortal affairs; In this sky less chamber beneath; In exchange, they’d let me live No longer was I just a child, And deliver me sacrifices of theirs.’ Timid at Minotaur’s knee. Though this shielded life had granted ‘Now you know my story in full, A simple contentment to me, Call me what you will: Burning yet in my hollow chest ‘Coward’, ‘fool’, or ‘monster’ – Was a longing to be free. I’d bear you no ill will.’ One night as we dined on critter To his usual fireside tale, For sympathy, I called him nothing, I budged in, oblivious Though I latched onto two things: To the secret I’d soon unveil. His seals could be undone, and he ‘Minotaur, since the gods first fell, Could guide me through the Labyrinth. You’ve dwelt here for centuries since. In all this time, have you never found I resolved to resist the final fate An escape from the Labyrinth?’ Which lay me as yellowed bone Amongst my poor predecessors, The Minotaur rumbled with a sigh. Worm-riddled beneath dirt and stone. ‘There’s something you must understand – If ever I were to be buried, This Labyrinth does not trap me, It would be under the sun’s loving eye, For I raised it with my own hands.’ With a chorus of birds to sing my dirge – A free death I would die. ‘While the gods waned in their power And lost the battlefield’s favour Yet I could not leave without my heart, To my shame, I caved to doubt, That vital fragment of me. Allowing my courage to waver. When next the Minotaur left to hunt, As I retreated, I happened upon I took to search anxiously My old teacher, the great inventor. Beneath vast swathes of critters’ pelts, Though he was human, labelled my foe, Amidst hoards of modest treasure: We met gladly as student and mentor.’ Polished rocks and dusty tomes And sculptures we’d crafted together. ‘“This war will destroy the balance,” My mentor gravely said. Absorbed in my quest, I did not know “You must not perish in battle The Minotaur had returned. But ensure your survival instead. The chamber echoed with his voice – Humans are too proud to see With a jolt, I turned. Their dependence on the divine; His eyes were dark with mournful blaze; Neither will the gods admit He told me quietly, Their fates and humans are intertwined. ‘You will not find your heart there, child, You are divine, yet unlike the gods: For I hid it within me.’ Humbler, unclouded by wrath. You must keep their spirits alive Once they have met their deaths.”’

From air, the Minotaur drew a sword And slung it skittering to my feet. ‘Cut out your heart that beats in me. To win your freedom, be my defeat.’ I lifted the sword and pointed it true, But couldn’t bear mete out its end. I resented the Minotaur as my warden, But esteemed him as guardian and friend. I swung the blade-point round instead To the seal that kept me enfettered And struck at it with all my strength Until, at last, it shattered. Lunging without backward look, I bolted through the maze, Sharp stone corners, spiralling steps Coalescing in a haze, Footfalls, that imposter heartbeat, Thudding in my ears, My true heartbeat left behind, Soon to disappear – My ebbing heart, too distant now, Made pale and wan this shell Until the last pulse-thread snapped – And, shuddering, I fell. I arose to light, sweet and green, Summer wind stirring my hair, Lungs swelling with forgotten perfume Far from stale underground air. Running my hands through the grass where I lay, I relished the feathery touch – Not in Sanctuary nor maze, but home In the freedom I’d yearned for so much. Wonder upon wonder, and they did not cease, As I felt a beat dancing strong In the warmth uncoiling from my chest: My heart, back where it belonged. Turning my head I saw leading away Flattened blades where hooves had trod; And winding beside this lonely path Trailed drops of moon-silver blood.


An Open Mind

by Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier is a writer, poet and visual artist published internationally here and there, like in Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Calliope Magazine and The Scarborough Big Arts Book. See more of her works at http://www.kcbgphoto.com/


Skinless / Faceless by Michael Verderber Here I sit, bereft of what I am. Stripped of my old skin. Broken, torn and left skinless. Heartless / Soulless, I remain Years developing a skin; Identity, a vision Now, lost and without a sail My ship runs in soft circles Plowing into nothingness. The task was more than my life It is my identity And now I am simply Faceless As I hunt for a new start Michael Verderber is a Texas playwright who specializes in plays and disjointed poetry. He has been recently published in several magazines and three books: “[nonspace]: theatre off the stage,” “Twas the FLOP Before Xmas,” and “Still Standing Still.” He may be reached at zero_untitled_films@yahoo.com


It Will Make No Difference by Mike West

Standing in front of the “holy” firing squad. Last wish on a pink triangle pinned on my shirt. Boss gives the countdown. Eyes closed and no regrets for how I’ve been living. Someone screams and I feel pelted by loose words and steaming hypocrisies. Verse after verse after verse of past storytelling, religiousized into acceptance by the faithful. I realize that within me, there is no wrong. No evil, no disease, no incurable condition. While I may suffer inquisitions on my skin, my soul becomes free and the fetters release. A blind-fold blows off, hard glaring blue truth stares at me. I can’t turn my back, (how can I?), when I know that this is truly me! Leviticus, Deuteronomy, quote against me, while you throw the stone first and live in hypocrisy? Quote the letters of “WWJD?”, but you fail to see the light that if He is real, He too must love me! You use dead laws to fight your dead causes; wars against gender, religion, sexual orientation, and the pigment of your brother’s skin! Wake up and realize that your help just hurts, even when your best intentions are just false-starts in the race of life! Come on man, don’t you see that you cause me to turn away and fly into Othello, your golden gods cause nothing but Tempests and isolation? When will you realize that there is nothing wrong with me or my lover? You’ll keep throwing these lines at me, hoping that I’ll lose the will to fight and submit to the game over. You severely overestimate the minority’s rise to the vocal majority, no god or man can stop the rain when it’s falling, welcome to how life should have been, because now your “holy” false will make no difference.

Mike West is a student who, when he is not busy cramming for tests or procrastinating papers, can be found sitting under a tree and thinking about how he can help fight the patriarchy.


Kayleigh is a graduate of Kutztown University who loves writing about girls and time travel. She works in the publishing industry and lives in Arizona with four furry pets and a snake. Her writing tumblr is @shotdunyun.

Her

by Kayleigh Sabo She’s radiant, god, the most radiant thing I have ever seen. She moves one hand up my thigh, slowly, with so much care. It’s the best kind of agony. She keeps moving it upwards, finally leaving it on my hip. Her other hand starts on my shoulder, moving downward, pausing over every curve, soaking me into her skin. “You’re so cute,” she whispers, pressing her lips to mine, getting her clear lip gloss all over me. It’s like I have fire under my veins, a giant forest fire in my chest, burning me up from the inside out. She bites my lower lip, then hovers close to me and giggles. She opens her big green eyes just long enough to grin at me before diving into another kiss, before pulling me under like a siren dragging me to my death. I would be honored to be killed by her. I would thank her for stabbing me as I bled out. She lifts her hand and tangles it in my hair, tugging just hard enough to make me feel dizzy. She pushes closer to me, her chest pressed against mine, our hearts beating together like a duet. She hooks her finger around one of my belt loops and pulls my hips against hers. All my breath is in her lungs and all hers is in mine. She tilts her head back, a lopsided grin on her face, a little gap between her two front teeth. “Is this your first time kissing a girl?” she asks. She takes her hand off my hip to brush her dark bangs out of her face, and I desperately want her touch back. She’s like some fucked up drug all the high school kids are into, where one touch is enough to get you addicted. “Maybe,” I whisper. I don’t want her to think I’m some straight girl just fooling around, but I don’t want her to think I’d mess around with just any girl. I desperately want her to think I’m cool, that I’m more than just that girl she works with. I want to make her as hopelessly lovesick as she’s made me for months. “Maybe?” She giggles again, and I want to inject the sound in my veins. “You’re so cute.” She kisses me again, my mouth slippery with all her lip gloss. She kisses me twice, three times. The kisses are too short and I feel like I’m going to lose my mind. “I’ve never seen you at Pride before, was this your first time?” she murmurs. Another kiss. “You’re not out, are you?” Another. I don’t want to answer so I keep kissing her. Her tongue is pierced with some sparkly blue thing. I always wondered what it felt like until now. “Did you forget how to talk?” She stops again, still smiling. She brushes my messy hair out of my eyes, she leaves her hand on the side of my face. She strokes my cheek with her thumb. “I, uh,” I try to remember the question. “I thought I was straight until a few months ago, so…” “That’s cute.” She presses her forehead against mine, her eyes closed. Her eyelashes are ridiculously long, and I wonder if she has fake ones glued on. “I hope you’re enjoying your first girl kisses.” She tilts her head back and laughs. I don’t answer. I just kiss her again.


Cihuacoatl’s Altar

by Margaret Elysia Garcia Timothy brought the last box in from the U-Haul and set it down with a thud on the living room floor of Theresa’s new house in Uptown Whittier. Their house, their house. The plural of them still new often caught him by surprise. Even if it didn’t work out, and they wound up as roommates that was all right with him. The place was more space than he’d ever had before. He loved the idea of the old Craftsman apartment with all the built in shelves. There was this grand nook in one of the bedroom where there must have been a Murphy bed at one time. It had deep enamel double sinks in the kitchen and a curious wainscoting that looked like snakes entwining themselves around the baseboard and midway through the walls of the kitchen, the bedroom, the bath. The landlord had said it was built in 1890. It had withstood big earthquakes. Theresa would feel safe there. In Theresa’s family they’d lost two houses to freeway construction and two to earthquakes. She only lived in old places now. Theresa smiled from the kitchen. She always put together kitchens first when she moved. She got irritated when Timothy went to open boxes of books. You don’t need books to eat, she thought. Timothy pulled a gardening book out of the stack from an open box. They’d been dating for a year. But this moving in together made her feel like they were strangers. “We’re totally going to garden in this place. Did you see all that space on the side yard? And Mr. Jensen totally said that was okay with him,” Timothy said. Theresa rolled her eyes. She hated gardening. She loved vegetables and fruits and totally appreciated and ran with organics and all things good for her. She just didn’t see the point in gardening when other people did it. If everyone gardened, who would buy? She felt she could do her part by not participating in such things. Also? Her grandfather was a gardener, as was her father. Timothy had gone to grad school to learn how to be a farmer. Theresa had gone to grad school so that no one would ever expect her to work outdoors in the hot sun—even if her name was Ramirez. “As long as Jensen is cool with you digging up those old bricks and planting a garden, great. I’ll even buy you seeds and plants, only don’t make me work in the garden,” Theresa said. “Plus why do you have to start on that now? We are just moving in?” “We need to get things in or we will miss prime growing season, babe,” Timothy said. What planet was he from she wondered? Growing season in Los Angeles County? Wasn’t it just January and February rains and then dry and hot? She unpacked glasses and found the crockpot; Timothy went to inspect the soil underneath the pink brick in the side yard. “The soil is so unusual, Theresa. I pulled up the brick. The dirt is dark red and thick. Like it’s been saturated with something. It’s going to be interesting. I did some soil samples. There’s a good deal of iron in the soil, hmm…” Theresa smiled at him. She realized he was really talking to himself not her and that she would only interrupt his train of thought to speak. She got ready for bed and made them both a cup of tea. That night it didn’t matter that she drank chamomile to calm and settle her. She kept hearing the sound of neighbors or someone downstairs arguing. She’d walk down the stair and it would be quiet. Timothy snored besides her and didn’t wake once. “Theresa! Why did you put all the bricks back? It took forever to pull them all up. I’m going to the nursery. Going to get the planting in today!” Bricks back? She wondered. She went to the kitchen window and looked down. All fifty some odd bricks Timothy had taken out of the ground were back where he’d dug them up. “I didn’t touch your bricks!” She called out but he was already backing out the driveway. She finished the kitchen and began unpacking her clothes in the bedroom and setting up her dresser. She heard cupboards slamming in the kitchen. “Home already?” Theresa called out but no one answered. Maybe she was hearing things. She felt


crampy and laid down on their bed. Periods lately had been overwhelming. “I’m back!” She woke to Timothy running into the room. “I bought rose bushes to plant and seeds for vegetables. This will be great.” She smiled weakly. “What’s the matter?” Timothy asked. “Just feeling a little weak. Like I had the wind knocked out of me,” Theresa said. Timothy spent all day on the garden. He removed the bricks and dug into the rich soil in the side yard. He planted the roses and used some of the bricks to mark of little square foot garden patches of vegetables the whole length of the house. He even carted the rest of the brick to the garage and stacked it in a corner. Theresa remained in bed. The worst period on record! She screamed out a couple of times. She got up long enough to put another towel down and change tampons and underwear. She smoked out to ease the pain. Yelled down at Timothy to get her a glass of wine and laid back in the bed with her head propped on the pillow. Timothy brought up her wine and took a shower. She took it and sat up a little more in the bed. She stared at the wall and the wainscoting. It seemed to move, like a pattern of double helices snakes were throbbing across the walls. She rubbed her eyes. He toweled dry and climbed into bed with her. She gave a weak wry smile. He leaned into her neck and sniffed and bit at her neck. It felt arousing and she leaned into him for another bite. “Are you hungry? I made you some soup. I’ll go get it. You don’t have to come downstairs,” he said. Theresa nodded and he slipped away from her and came back with a tray. “It’s a beef and barley soup. I thought it fitting for this time of the month.” Theresa winced. She hated when men talked about women’s cycles as if it were yet another thing on which they had authority. Teresa sat up and sipped it. It tasted a bit salty and a little too bloody too. It reminded her of a German blood soup. “What’s in this?” She asked him. But them the cramping started and she nearly dropped the bowl. She could feel tissue detaching itself from her and making its way out. Her whole body contracted, as if to push. As if to give birth. She screamed and Timothy threw back the covers. He pulled off her underwear and tried to smooth out the towel under her. With a final push, a clot of blood as big as a placenta shot out of her and on to the towel. Timothy stared down at the mess. “What is it?” Theresa demanded, frightened. There were twigs and dirt and the crumbling of the edges of pink brick. Theresa stretched her arm down to her legs and felt the blood and the dirt. Her curandera tia was certainly going to have a good deal to say about this. She should have the house blessed, she thought. “I’m just going to check something, sweetheart. Don’t be alarmed.” Timothy said as he moved to the window. The brick was back in place. The garden had disappeared. “I don’t think we should live here, Theresa,” he announced. She saw him go paler and paler. His breathing was uneasy and shallow. “I don’t know, it’s starting to grow on me,” she said. He didn’t answer her though. She could hear him downstairs now stomping around and packing boxes haphazardly. She thought she heard his car back out the driveway as she got up to wash and change the sheets, scrub her body clean. It’s better that he’s gone, she thought. At dusk she planned to gather up the blood of the birthing and bury it back in the side yard.

Margaret Elysia Garcia is the author of the dark fiction short story collections Sad Girls & Other Stories (Solstice Literary Press 2015) and Mary of the Chance Encounters (Lit Star Press in 2017). She also writes and directs plays and DJs for Plumas Community Radio


The Seed in the Snow by Sharon Lindsay

The seed that had fallen out of the tree, Was now covered in snow, so what could it see? Surrounded by white, only feeling the chill, It reached up above, to poke out of the hill. The air on the outside was lovely and warm! So the seed stretched out and changed its form. It stretched out more and became much taller, During this time, the snow turned to water. The seed looked around, all daring and bold, Its brothers and sisters were all taking hold! No longer the seeds, poking out of the snow, They were the trees, with their own seeds to grow. Sharon Lindsay, mother, wife, security guard. She has been writing since high school, her year 11 creative writing teacher threatened to weigh her submissions instead of reading them to give her a mark. Sharon is working on a few novels, but writes mostly for fun.


Whistler

by Niles Reddick My grandfather was a carpenter, but he was also a whistler and the two went hand-in-hand. You couldn’t find him working---sawing, shaving nailing lumber--without whistling. There was a time I wanted to be like him, to be a carpenter and a whistler, but neither came easy to me. Every time he handed me a hammer, I slammed fingernails that turned blue and came off, but always grew back. He didn’t let me handle the electric saw. He showed me how to whistle, and I followed his lead and pursed my lips and formed an “O” like he directed; there was a slight whisper that sounded more like a damaged metal pea whistle. He told me to keep practicing.

Mostly, I stayed inside and watched television shoes with my grandmother: Hazel, Bewitched, the Beverly Hillbillies. After a hot lunch, I took a nap and they continued to work: him outside in the heat and her inside with window units blowing ice cold air, electric fans on the floor circulating it. In the evening, my mom or dad got off worked and picked me up, usually at dusk. By then, my grandfather was wearing only a t-shirt, drinking Schlitz from a brown glass bottle, smoking a cigar, and watching the evening news: scenes of fighting and death in Vietnam, peace signs from Nixon, hippies being arrested in California, or blacks being hosed in the South.

I continued to practice my whistling every day of the summer and when fall came, I walked to and from school and one day, I heard a whistler even better than my grandfather. Our principal in elementary school brought in a famous whistler who entertained us with “The Fishing Hole,” the theme song to the Andy Griffith Show along with other songs and even bird calls. After, the hallways echoed with kids from kindergarten through sixth making all sorts of whistling sounds. I’m sure the teachers enjoyed the echoes of whistles as did our parents when we all got home. My grandparents, parents, and I didn’t change the world, but the whistling helped us feel better about it.

Niles Reddick’s newest novel Drifting too far from the Shore has been nominated for a Pulitzer. Author of a collection Road Kill Art and Other Oddities and a novella Lead Me Home, Niles has published over sixty stories in literary magazines worldwide. He works for the University of Memphis-Lambuth in Tennessee.


Death

by Jonathan Brooks

Jonathan Brooks has exhibited in Miami, NYC, Amsterdam, France, Germany, and the UK. Brooks’ work has been included in a 50th Anniversary video for the National Endowment for the Arts, displayed at The Louvre, used in a 20TH Century Fox film, and featured on the CW’s The Vampire Diaries.


True Fear

by Sarah Beth Kolodziej What’s the worst kind of fear? Not sharks, snakes, or spiders… or heights, tight spaces, and large crowds… No. It’s that clutching feeling around your heart where a hand surrounds it in what could be a beautiful caress or could crush your very soul in mere seconds and not knowing which…. that’s the worst part because you want to reach through that rib cage and offer your own loving embrace but opening that piece of yourself and trembling as you await a response? That, my friends, is true fear. As a member of the magazine team for Koru, Sarah Beth Kolodziej is excited to be included as a writer in the submission process. She’s from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and a proud alumni of King’s College. Her dream is to make a difference both as an English teacher and as a writer.


A Porsche for Me by Niles Reddick for my Dad and Grandmother

When I turned sixteen, I hoped for a car. As morning faded into afternoon, and my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins drifted in for a free meal and cake, I came to realize I was not getting a car. What made me think I would, I don’t know. Just because my dad ran service and parts areas for an automobile dealership didn’t mean we had money. The lack of air conditioning in our rented hundred-year-old clapboard house with a rusted tin roof, attic fan sucking in dust, exhaust from tractor trailers on highway 41, and the occasional spraying skunk were all proof of poverty. Even more, my siblings and I got one pair of tennis shoes from Sears at the beginning of the school year that was to last us a year, and hand-me-downs from our older cousins came in recycled grocery store paper bags when we visited my grandmother on Sunday afternoons after church. Visiting her was proof it wasn’t just us who were poor. It was the generation before, too. We sat on the porch swing, sweat beads trickling down our backs, in the South Georgia heat, and fanned with funeral home fans trying to stay awake while my grandmother talked about relatives, ailments, and church to my dad as they all rocked in rocking chairs with paint flaking. Passers-by could see the family huddled on the porch, surrounded by hanging baskets, pots full of all sorts of plants, some of which were used for cures and others that added beauty to my grandmother’s sinking and leaning house. From one end to the other, the house had shifted and made me feel like I was going into the ground or coming up if you were going back. “What you need a car for?” Grandmother asked. “Go places.” “Ain’t nowhere to go around here,” she said. “Maybe go on a date.” “Leave the girls alone. Time for that later. Them girls just want to trap you. Get you a job, start saving up for some dirt.” “Dirt?” “Yep. Once you get you some land, you can get a house, plant a garden.” “Yes mam.” It didn’t do any good to argue with her and while we all loved her, she hadn’t been anywhere, didn’t know the potential a car would bring. She’d never learned to drive, mainly relying on others for rides to the grocery store or church. Sometimes, she’d walk, but as she’d aged, she relied on others more. A broad and stout woman, she would have been a linebacker and played football had she been a man. She cooked better than anyone in the family. First time my mother met her, my grandmother made my mother make biscuits to prove she could cook for my dad. At some point dad would interject, “Well, we best be getting on home.” My grandmother would try to get us to stay. Baths, school the next day, homework all became my mom’s reassurance we needed to get home.


Our skin stuck to the vinyl seats of my mom’s 1966 Buick Skylark as we drove the twenty minutes’ home, windows down and bugs occasionally zinging our skin in the backseat. When we got home, I noticed for the first time how empty our backyard seemed without a car for me parked there. The football, last tag, hide and seek we’d played through the years no longer had meaning. Had it not been for my dad’s job, he wouldn’t have a car at all. He got to drive a car from the lot every day—sometimes it might be a customer’s car that he needed to hear and feel to better understand the complaint and sometimes it might be a brand new car. We were the envy of our friends when dad drove unique vehicles home and we rode around in the town: The Thing, a convertible Bug, or the Rabbit. We didn’t feel poor because of that and because we always had food to eat. A week later, I had driven mom’s car to town to shop for records at K-Mart, and stopped at the shop to visit my dad. He was standing at the wooden blue desk where he stood doing paperwork on cars for forty-five years. I noticed a baby blue Mustang II on the lot and mentioned it to my dad. He said, “Come out back. I got something to show you.” We walked out back to the fenced in jungle of wrecked cars, junk cars that were used for parts, a treasure hunting ground for me when I was younger, finding money in ashtrays, ball bearings used for marbles, or an occasional toy left behind. “You see that?” he asked. “Yeah, I see that junk car,” I said sarcastically. “You can have it. We’ll get you some tires, a new engine, paint it. Be good as new. I can get it fixed for next to nothing.” “What is it?” I walked around it feeling sick to my stomach. “A Porsche.” “I don’t want a junk car. I’d rather buy that Mustang.” “How you gonna pay for that?” “I got a job bussing tables at the motel restaurant by the interstate.” “Okay, then, go talk to one of the salesman.” I did talk to the salesman, and for the next two and a half years, I had a car payment that took almost two weeks of pay per month. The Mustang II was used with 35k miles, formerly owned by a young preacher. The air conditioning didn’t cool and needed repair; it cost too much and since I didn’t have the money, I rolled down the windows or turned the glass vents in to get a breeze. I didn’t care. It was mine and looked better than my mom’s car. The next weekend, I drove separately to my grandmother’s and took her for a spin. “This is nice,” she said. “Want to drive?” “No, I ain’t got any use driving a car and you be careful. That light’s gonna change, so slow down. Let those people behind you know you’re gonna stop by tapping your breaks.” For someone who didn’t drive, she did well offering instruction. Five years later, three front-end wrecks that landed several people in the hospital, and a hundred and thirty-five thousand miles, I sold the Mustang II. I bought a silver Buick Regal with velvet seats and electric windows. I felt uptown. While I have long regretted not taking the complimentary Porsche, I have come to rationalize that because of my wrecks, I would not have lived had I taken the Porsche because the front end was hollow, the engine in the back.

Niles Reddick’s newest novel Drifting too far from the Shore has been nominated for a Pulitzer. Author of a collection Road Kill Art and Other Oddities and a novella Lead Me Home, Niles has published over sixty stories in literary magazines worldwide. He works for the University of Memphis-Lambuth in Tennessee.


At the Borders of History by Sharon Goodier

5000 BCE Tigris-Euphrates Valley wonderful intuition humans image of God 500 BCE Indus Valley Hindu synthesis many deities creators destroyers outside human consciousness 500 BCE months of meditation Buddha intuits the Eightfold Path to peace in us on earth 600 CE Mohammed receives the Koran Code of Life for believers Meanwhile indigenous peoples intuit earth as nurturing mother deserving respect Today planet in decline global poverty marginalization of entire peoples humans trafficking other humans for profit Native people got it right Two wolves in each of us wrestle for dominance One brings life, prosperity, generosity the other death, destruction, greed The one that wins is the one we feed

Sharon Goodier is a poet from Toronto, Canada. She has had poems published in Adana, an anthology of women’s spirituality (U.S. 2015), was long-listed for the Mary K. Ballard award (U.S.) in 2014, a short story The Year of the Donkey New Legends Anthology (U.S.)


Hole in the Ground

by Sally Thomas (Hey look, it’s the cover art!)

Sally Thomas is a high school student and aspiring artist from Perth, Western Australia. She has a love for books, games, and all things fantasy and sci-fi.


Mangrove Madness by Mel A Rowe

Sprouted seedlings resemble spikes, scrape against my flesh. Muckladen arms reach for skeletal roots I grapple, slip, and use to drag myself through waist deep mud, heaving air like a waterless fish. Mosquito’s buzz seeking entry points. Lizards lurk, leaping amongst limbs. Sea-snails leave go-slow slime trails. Mud Crabs, the size of red smarties, scamper sideways. Tumbling over a wall of intricately tangled roots, I collapse on grey sludge and stare upwards to leaves laden with salt crystals that hide the sky. Eyes wince at the pungent vapours of mud and saline entrapped within this humid tidal filter. The tide’s gone. Its return promises man-killing crocodiles, box-jellyfish, sea-snakes, and sharks. I sit up, flick the hermit crab off my arm, and scour endless mangroves. My pulse races, body trembles, tasting briny mud and gumcutting shell grit. I ache, sting, and itch all over from salt riddled grime, as my lower body begins to sink watching my tracks dissolve. Can’t stop. Land, solid land is my goal. Or I could give in and be absorbed here forever. Like a stranded sea slug, I flop over masses of tangled roots that dig into my spine. My husband gone, courtesy of the crocodile crunch behind me - so was my past the more I lurch towards my new future. Mel A Rowe is a writer & wannabe weekend wanderer, trying to not get lost in the remote regions of Northern Australia. http://ruralromanticramblings.wordpress.com


A Dream Undefined? by Sarah Beth Kolodziei

Inspired by Langston Hughes Hughes asked what happens to a dream deferred, but I wonder what happens to a dream without definition, a dream which the dreamer holds, but knows not what makes it up, one held by dreamers with ambition and prideful desire for that dream, yet they know not if they have even found it. Does that almost nonexistent dream fade with the sunset and rise again next morn? Or crumple like an old flower pressed within an unopen book? Does it take years to grow like the classic evergreen tree only to be chopped down each Christmas? Maybe it deflates like a poorly blown balloon…

Or maybe…just maybe it rises with a helium stronger than oxygen, flourishes on Christmas morn and somehow never lets its needles fall, preserves itself despite the test of time, and although the world can’t see it, gleams a beautiful blossom of sun as the dreamer reaches out and grasps the imperceptible, clutches the ribbon trailing from that boisterous balloon and rises with it on an infinite climb, no longer a dream deferred or undefined for the dream itself is the breath of life, a newfound hope, clung to just as Gatsby clings to the green light.

As a member of the magazine team for Koru, Sarah Beth Kolodziej is excited to be included as a writer in the submission process. She’s from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and a proud alumni of King’s College. Her dream is to make a difference both as an English teacher and as a writer.


Déjà Vu

by Josh Pomare Bill crosses the lawn before Donna has turned the car off. It’s as though he’s been standing beside the door watching the road through the rain, ready to open out the John Deere umbrella. She expects to see Piker at his heels, sloshing through the puddles on the lawn. “Hey Dad,” she says, stepping out of the car. He hugs her with his free arm; rain drips from the umbrella into her collar, down her spine. “So good to see you, Dad.” “You too Princess, how was your flight?” “It wasn’t too bad.” She pops the boot. Bill hands her the umbrella. “Go see your mother, I’ll get your bags.” Sue is rinsing tomatoes in the sink. Her head turns at the sound of the door closing. Slowly, a smile blooms. “My God. Donna,” she says, smearing her hands down her apron. “What are you doing here?” She comes forward, reaching out. She’s more wrinkled, her eyes squarer somehow. Donna rests her head on her mom’s shoulder. She draws a long breath through her nose, drawing in the old familiar smell of the house. When she lets go, Sue rubs Donna’s arms. Her smile is a nose wrinkle. ***** After dinner, Sue clears the plates. The open fire gnaws a wedge of wood. When Sue comes back to her seat, she tilts her head to look into Donna’s eyes. They talk about the house, how Miriam from next door finally passed away. Donna tells them about the woman in the seat beside her on the flight, she was returning from South America, she had been on a trek to Machu Picchu. Sue turns to her husband. “So were you in on the surprise all along?” “Why do you think I made her bed up this morning?” Sue taps her lips with her index finger. “Mmm. Very sneaky.” “You look well, Mom.” “Well, I feel well.” “Yeah?” “You’ll be fifty-six tomorrow,” Bill says. Sue frowns at him for a moment. “I weigh as much as I did when I was twenty. I’m walking with a friend, Margot, from up the road. Every day at four.” “Exercise helps,” Bill says. Sue makes her lips thin and nods. “I remember Margot,” Donna says. “You do?” “She used to look after me sometimes.” Sue frowns. “Right. Of course.” She lets out her breath, her shoulders sink. With nothing else to say, Sue yawns an octave and stretches. “Are you tired, Mom? Don’t stay up for me.” “I’m okay, I’ve been sleeping well.” “Wish I could say the same.” Bill snorts and gives his big gas lamp grin. “It’s only seven o’clock in Melbourne, Dad. I probably won’t be sleeping any time soon if that makes you feel better.”


In her bedroom, she swallows her contraceptive and rolls the tiny blue Valium between thumb and forefinger. She drops it in the open makeup bag on the floor, best to save it for the flight home. Did I grab my phone charger? She gropes through her luggage fishing up a rosary of underwear. The phone doesn’t turn on. Outside, the storm climbs to a crescendo, the wind presses the windowpanes. It’s midnight and the house is still. Waiting for sleep, she thumbs through a few pages of one of the Tim Winton books from the shelf. She thinks about her Mom. She is changing, going through puberty in reverse, eventually she’ll be a baby again. The phone’s dead but she needs a portal to the real world. She needs Google and Facebook. It’s a real condition, she read about it online once. Technology induced anxiety. T.I.A. Technology-absence anxiety disorder. T.A.A.D. They’ll have an acronym for it. One day no one will need to carry a device, it’ll be in our brains. No need for memory. Digital dementia. Dee-Dee. The old cream coloured PC is in the study. She finds the power button in the dark and at once the machine ticks and whirrs. A few minutes pass. Donna hugs her knees in the leather office chair. The monitor blinks to life. That old reliable blue screen, these things hard wired into the national grid. She opens the browser and begins to type in Facebook. Then she changes her mind and types in Wikipedia. She hears birds when she wakes. Pulling the curtains lets the light flood in to every corner of her room. The wallpaper, with its memories of pot smoking and teenage sex, has faded. She opens the door. Sue is there. “Donna,” she says, palming her heart. “I was just—” shaking her head “—listening. I guess. I don’t know who I thought was in there.” A fishbone is lodged in Donna’s throat. “Happy Birthday, Mom.” “It’s today, isn’t it? Thanks for reminding me.” She rolls her eyes. “I was going to have a shower.” “Let me get you a towel.” “I remember where they are. Go put your feet up.” In the bathroom, the heat bulb is a tomb of dead insects. She lets her pyjama bottoms fall and watches her reflection in the mirror fade to a spectre. Déjà vu is a by-product of the function of recognition memory. Remembering at exactly the time the memory is being created. If the memory is not being created, déjà vu cannot occur. She tests the water with her hand, steps into it and picks up the soap with the Imperial Leather sticker. She holds it to her nose. She always hated the smell, ever since Bill had ground a bar of it against her teeth for saying the word fuck. ****** Donna sits on her bed studying the yard. Sue is out there, whipping a shirt, pegging it up on the Hills-Hoist. The lemon tree is overgrown. Years ago, children had sat around it, playing duck-duckgoose while Sue carried a tray of cheerio’s stuck with tooth picks. Later, Sue had collected the scraps of pass-the-parcel and the hide and seek countdown began as the kids flew away like fallen leaves. Ready or not. “Morning love,” Bill says, glancing up from the Daily Post. “How’d you sleep?” “Good thanks, its strange waking up in my old bed.” “I bet.” She pours a glass of water, takes a sip and stares at nothing in the yard. “I was going to ask, where’s Piker?”


“Piker?” Bill shrugs his grey eyebrows. Sue comes in. “I could swear something’s been getting at the tomatoes again,” she says, holding the washing basket against her hip to close the door. “Donna’s asking about Piker.” “Piker?” she says, the nib of her tongue slides along her top lip, the way it does when she’s trying to guess what herbs someone’s used. Her gaze roams the carpet then she looks up. “Piker ran away, dear. Months ago.” Donna stops breathing. “What?” “She ran away,” Sue says. Donna’s pinned her father with her eyes. “Ran away?” “One day I got home and the side gate was open. We thought she’d come home, but she didn’t.” Donna shakes her head. “I told you on the phone,” Sue says. “When did she run away exactly?” “She disappeared in December, right before Christmas,” Bill says. “She was getting on.” Donna let’s all her breath out at once. “She ran away, what, eight months ago. And I’m finding out now.” “Please don’t make a big deal, Donna.” “I’m not, it just seems like something someone should have told me. That’s all.” The washing basket in Sue’s hands is trembling. “Did someone leave the gate open?” Bill stares at the ground, kneading his forehead. “It’s no one’s fault, Don. We both forgot to tell you.” Donna crosses the room. She takes the washing basket from Sue’s hands and puts it on the couch. The she hugs her mom. Nobody speaks for a moment. Bill clears his throat quietly. At last he says. “Do you want a cup of tea or something? Maybe I can start your birthday breakfast?” “I’ll make it. I’m perfectly capable of making a cup of tea. Do you want something to drink, Donna?” “A coffee would be good, Mom.” “I’ll see if we have any.” Bill is watching his wife the way a man might watch a river in which his best friend was once swept away. Sue pulls out a container replete with tea bags and pours them on the bench. Then she shuffles them all back in quickly and snaps the container closed. “Nope, nothing. I’ll head down the store and grab you some.” “It’s fine.” “I’ll go. You just relax, Sue. Come for a ride, Don?” ****** The old ute takes a few seconds to turn over and when it starts, the entire chassis rattles. Donna frowns out the window at the passing scenes, everything has changed, houses painted, new shops, a roundabout plugged in to the road where there was an intersection. “That’s a pretty bloody important thing to forget, Dad.” “You have to take it easy on her. She thinks she’s getting better.” Donna looks at him. “So she’s not?” “Well, I don’t know, Don.” He is gently shaking his head. “Seems only yesterday she was still teaching. It does mean the world to her you visiting.”


Donna shivers. In this day and age, there must be a way to fix this. “Ugh.” “What?” He wheels the ute into a park. “It’s still going.” “What is?” Donna just shakes her head. ***** Bacon hisses. It fills the kitchen and the lounge with an aroma that reminds her of this house and the toast they used to buy. Is it Mollenbrand? No, like Mollenbrand but not. Mollenbrand, starts with M. Mollen- Mollen-berg? No, that’s not it. Maybe it starts with V. Volle- Vollesomething. “Stop that.” “Hmm?” “I said stop frowning or you will end up with wrinkles like me. Get your fingers out of your mouth too.” Donna holds her nails out in front of her. She picks at a jag in her thumbnail. “I already have wrinkles.” Sue is stirring a cup of instant coffee. She sets it in front of Donna on a coaster. “You’ve got perfect skin.” Donna takes a sip and screws her face up. “What is it, too hot?” “Instant,” she says. “It’s pretty terrible but I need caffeine.” Sue flaps her hand on Donna’s wrist. “Gee, thanks.” The bacon makes the bed of paper towels transparent. Sue puts it on the table, and goes back to the pan. She opens four eggs into it. When the eggs are done, they sit down. Sue takes a bite of toast, chews it thoughtfully. “Tell us more about your job?” “Well, what do you want to know?” In the distance somewhere a dog is barking, the square of sun leaning up Donna’s leg becomes brighter. She doesn’t take any toast or bacon yet; she puts the jag of her nail back between her teeth. “Well we want to know what you do.” A vibration in her voice, the wrong note rising through an orchestra. Bill clears his throat into the back of his hand then spears a couple of layers of bacon. “I work in an office. I answer phones and send emails.” She pokes out her bottom lip. The loose skin of Sue’s neck swings as she swallows. Her eyes sharpen. Donna is hit with an urge to lean on her mother’s shoulder and hang her arm across her back. When she goes to speak, she can’t force the air over her vocal chords. “A jobs a job I suppose. What about your house, tell me about your house?” She looks at her father. “I live in an apartment with a guy called Chris who is my boyfriend.” Bill’s watching his wife’s face. “Aha Chris.”—taut smile—“We have a name.” “Stop it, Mom.” “So tell us more about Chris?” “Like what?” “Oh I don’t know”—her fingers dance in the air—“what does he do?” “He sells computers or something doesn’t he, Don?” Sue makes an is that right? face at Bill. Donna pokes at her hair with her fingers. “He works in my office. He sells accounting software.” “Accounting software?”


Donna nods, her mouth draws into a smile but her eyes are searching. “I can’t wait to meet him.” Her mom’s smile lingers as an afterthought. “We could always visit Melbourne?” she says turning to Bill. “We could, maybe.” Bill, the one burdened with memory, Donna thinks. Sadness grows like a tumour, pressing on her organs. Something unsaid fills the silences like rising water. She can’t eat any more breakfast. Standing, she goes to take her dishes to the sink. Sue shoos her away. “I’ll take those.” The plate clatters on the table. “Don,” Bill says. ***** The bathroom tiles are damp and warm like human flesh. She holds the tacky peach-coloured soap to her nose. “…if it’s fine weather we will go, won’t we?” Sue stops talking when Donna closes the bathroom door. “Do you mind if I call Chris? I’ll pay the charges. I didn’t bring the charger for my mobile—” “—Don’t be silly,” her father says, heaving up from his recliner to fetch the phone. “That’s the problem with these Machines everyone’s got. Unreliable. I’m surprised you’ve bothered to learn his number at all.” “I wrote it down before my phone died.” She hasn’t used the cordless since she was a teenager. She remembers clutching the cold plastic to her face, stage whispering late into the night. She dials the number, it just rings and rings. That afternoon, Donna steps out into the backyard. The dew, in the shadow of the house, soaks through her socks in patches. She tries to find the unmarked spot where five puppies are buried near the vegetable garden. By now they’d be yellowed bones—the smoke had unthreaded from the corners of the box that the microwave had come in; Bill leaned out the window of the Ute, the engine growling, doesn’t hurt them, see. At the back of the block there is a Pohutukawa. It’s filled with flowers like a cloud of crimson smoke wafting through the leaves, there is nothing like it in her new home. It’s always been there, growing slowly. There’s a good sitting spot forking out from the trunk. Taking a branch to pull herself up, she finds it’s grown, she can’t grip it. Letting go, her hand falls to her chest and rests there as though she’s holding something precious. Soon her hands will be like her mothers, a bird’s-nest of bones and veins and papery skin. Will she always remember the stickiness of the bark? Even if a memory leaves the brain, she thinks, perhaps the teeth remember or the finger tips. They go to the Black Plum in the afternoon so Donna can have a real coffee. Bill hands Donna the newspaper and says, “Did you see this.” Donna looks down, on the front page is a grainy photograph of a man clutching an orange life jacket with one arm, the other is raised waving. “What happened?” “Bloke flipped his boat round past the point.” “Mmm.” Donna swallows. She’s just staring at the picture. The white singlet the man wears is a ghost hanging from him in the grey water, pulling him under. “How far out?” “A k or two, I guess.” “Who found him?”


“Rescue chopper.” “He should have just swum for the point.” “Probably a bit far when it’s that choppy.” “Better to swim than tread water.” Bill shows the pink of his lower lip, shrugs. “I would have gone for it.” “I bloody bet you would have.” He laughs. “You wouldn’t think twice.” ***** There’s a tap at her bedroom door. “You awake?” “Kinda.” “We’re heading down to the craft market and were wondering if you wanted to come along?” “What time?” “Soonish.” “I need a shower.” “Take your time. I’ll make you a cuppa.” “Coffee please, Mom.” “Coffee, yes that’s right.” She holds herself against the tiles beneath the shower head. The water pulls her hair into an eel, sucking the base of her skull. The water runs between her fingers as blood runs from a wound. She takes up the bar of soap and begins to lather it in her hands, beneath her arms, down the insides of her legs. ***** Outside of the plane, the clouds are mother of pearl. Sue delivered her goodbye like an uppercut, a cheery see you later. It was all Donna could do to keep from folding over, breaking down. Bill hugged her so long she shuddered. “Shit, we miss you, Don. Make sure you call us when you get in.” The plane engine drones. He had smeared his hand down his face and sniffed, then he rubbed her arms. His hands were hard as grout. “Look at me.” He laughed a solitary huff of air from the back of his throat. She wanted words, something with substance: a thick edge of steak he could chew over as his back aches at work, or when the ads are on the tele, or when he rises late at night to make sure Sue has turned the stove off, closed the gate. The engines drone. The jerking cackle of a baby winds up at the back of the plane. Chris will be at the airport when she lands. She swallows the Valium and pulls her sleep mask over her eyes so no one can see the tears.

Joshua Pomare is a copy writer, freelance editor and general creative based in Melbourne. His work has been published in The Herald as well as Bide literary among others. He also hosts the fortnightly podcast On Writing. Joshua is currently working on his first novel.


Empty Question Endoskeleton by Michael Verderber

How did I end up breathing so empty? How did this life become everything? The crutch is removed; I am left feeble My endoskeleton has gone missing And the remnant flesh gives me no construct No build and no solidification. Manipulated from outside inward. I have been lashed and must grow stronger skin It births into my exoskeleton One full of scars, indentions and symbols Of my resilience and history Of my life, or what is left to exhale

Michael Verderber is a Texas playwright who specializes in plays and disjointed poetry. He has been recently published in several magazines and three books: “[nonspace]: theatre off the stage,” “Twas the FLOP Before Xmas,” and “Still Standing Still.” He may be reached at zero_untitled_films@yahoo.com


Preparation

by Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier is a writer, poet and visual artist published internationally here and there, like in Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Calliope Magazine and The Scarborough Big Arts Book. See more of her works at http://www.kcbgphoto.com/


My Oma’s Migrant Tale by Karen Hendriks

My Oma was a free migrant. She sailed to Australia on a big ship. Then Oma lived in a migrant hostel, till Oma and Opa had enough money to build their house. Opa built the garage first to live in, till they could afford the house. My Oma never shared much about Germany. It is because of Hitler. He hurt good German people too. Oma’s dad was the mayor until they put the wall up in Germany. Oma could never go back. Her hometown was on the wrong side of the wall. If you left you could never get back in. In my mum’s jewellery box is a heart locket that was Oma’s Mum’s. There is a picture inside of her as a young girl. Sometimes I sneak inside mum’s bedroom and put the locket on. I place her near my heart. I can see her smiling at me. Even if people don’t share stories because it hurts their heart there are clues. Oma says you have to work hard and speak English. She is an Aussie now and she wants to fit in. Oma practices her English everyday. I help her by reading my picture book stories to her and she reads them back to me.We learn things together. Oma watches “Wheel of fortune” in the evenings and solves the clues. I am so proud of my Oma. She never stops learning new things. Oma even did an English correspondence course. Oma has a special cake plate that has come all the way to Australia from Germany. Although it is chipped it is a link to a faraway place. Birthdays are special. Oma bakes the best German Cakes in the world that sit proudly on the cake plate. German apple cake is scrumptious. Oma has a Christmas fir tree with decorations that came from Germany. There is a frosted bauble that has a reindeer on it. It was cold in Germany but it is hot in Australia. Oma has candle lights on the tree. In Germany it is a tradition. Gidday! My name is Karen Hendriks and in a past life I was a teacher. Now I am a children’s writer. I love the sea, walking Elmo our dog, visiting libraries, local coffee shops, and being with my friends. My stories come from the heart, the best place to write from.


Oma likes everyone to come to her house on Christmas Eve to celebrate. The Food is special. German potato salad has gherkins, ham, eggs, and dill in it. The lettuce has a special dressing that has vinegar in it. German dumplings melt in your mouth. Oma bakes German gingerbread that has a faraway flavor. We all feel special eating our German Christmas food but Oma makes sure we have Aussie food too like a Christmas Ham. Oma has a special China Cabinet that she keeps all her treasures in. Sometimes I am very lucky and get to play with them. Oma likes elephants so there is an elephant and reindeer too. The other things in there are from her travels in Australia. There is even sheep wool from the Big Merino in Goulburn. Oma is proud of her new home. There are silver spoons that have little pictures on them of all the places in Australia that Oma has visited. Oma has so many I can’t count them all. There is a little bell with an edelweiss flower that is from Germany, but Oma loves West Australian wild flowers and thinks they make a parade of colour like no other. She went on a very long bus trip to see them. If I get a cold Oma makes me take a teaspoon of sugar with eucalyptus oil on it. I am never allowed to go bare feet when it is cold. Oma knits bedsocks for all of us kids. She worries about cold chests too and crochets singlet vests too. I think that is because it was so cold in Germany. Oma makes cross-stitch tapestries that take a long time to make. Oma’s tapestries are a clue to her homeland. There are reindeer in the snow, a little wooden hut with fir trees and mountains with snow on the top. I know they remind Oma of Germany. Oma is an Australian citizen now and her certificate hangs proudly on the wall. Oma’s watch is really old. Oma has to wind her watch everyday to make sure it keeps the time. It reminds her of times gone by. Now my Oma is very, very old and will not live for much longer but I have many memories to store in my heart. It was very important to her that we are all able to be free and safe in Australia.


Going to the Store by Patricia Holland

Mourning the loss of a favorite store never can be as sad as mourning for a loved one. The day I saw the last Campbell’s Music Store newspaper ad it rang the doomsday bell; I mourned, but it was with a wave of nostalgia and lingering sadness, not overwhelming grief. For you can’t really feel grief for a store, can you? Campbell’s Music Store’s Last Day GOING OUT OF BUSINESS SALE TOMORROW THE DOORS CLOSE FOREVER • All pianos, organs & other musical instruments, • All furniture, fittings, and fixtures must go. Remember when you saved your allowance for weeks then splurged, spending all of it in your favorite store? If you were independent enough and old enough to pedal, your mom probably waved goodbye and let you ride your bike all the way to the store. Or maybe she gave you some bus tokens and let you take the bus all the way across town. I mourned that sense of independence. Those safe-for children days are gone for good. In the time before Amber alerts and missing children’s pictures on every milk carton, kids grew up with more freedom, less money probably, but more freedom to walk, bike or bus to their favorite store and spend their allowances on favorite things. I mourned that time of freedom. After I finally learned how to play the piano well enough to entertain my family and friends, I would save my allowance each week then take the bus through the suburbs and into Washington, D.C. to reach my heaven, my nirvana, my favorite store Campbell’s Music. Oh, how I mourned the loss of my favorite store when it closed. The two-story store on F Street struggled along just a few blocks away from the more imposing White House and other buildings of “official Washington.” There was always a Steinway Grand piano on display in Campbell’s big plate glass window. Even in those long-ago days, before portable keyboards replaced pianos in most homes, before Amazon and other Internet stores stole most of Campbell’s business, their profits rose with the sale of Steinways and fell if there was a Steinway drought. I loved the tiny, sequin-bedecked old lady whose job title was probably bigger than her salary. Miss Sally, the Campbell’s Sheet Music Demonstrator, played the piano (or other, lesser instruments) for eight hours a day in Campbell’s Music. She sat at a Steinway Grand (of course) and would play any sheet music a customer handed her. She would play the Broadway tunes or simple pop hits I wanted to hear. Then somebody would give her pages-long music by Beethoven---trying to trip up Miss Sally with very difficult sheet music. She would smile, gently place her gnarled arthritic hands on the keyboard and sight read the piece—with expression and perfect tempo—even if the piece was so tough it would make a concert pianist cringe. Miss Sally and I were both in love with the piano salesman, Mr. Cresce. He looked scaly old, scary old when I met him. Older than Miss Sally! He would swoop out of the piano showroom as I paid all of my allowance, my tiny fortune, for music books and sheet music. Kissing Sally on her cheek, he’d say, “Have Miss Pat’s musical interests changed? Is there any classical music in her bag?” Week after week I disappointed him. “No,” Sally would say. “She picked out Pat Boone and John Denver tunes this time.” Finally, the day came when Sally smiled at Mr. Cresce and said, “She’s finally done it. She just bought The Album of Favorite Strauss Waltzes and…” then she paused to give her piano a little Hallelujah trill. “She bought The Album of Classic Piano Solos!” On that day, that glorious day, well before the era of political correctness, Mr. Cresce made a courtly bow then kissed me on the cheek (I remember how his large, bristly mustache tickled). Then he escorted me into Campbell’s big showroom and sat me in front of the pride of the store, a nine-foot long Steinway Concert Grand. Placing my book of classic pieces on its music rack, he asked me to play Mozart’s Minuet in G for him. At first I was too terrified to try it, sight unseen. Miss Sally came to my rescue. She began playing the tune and I managed to keep up with her after the first few bars. Then we hit the second part of the tune and I lagged behind her like a tuba player racing to catch up to rest of a marching band. When I lost my place in the music I stopped playing but Mr. Cresce came to my rescue. He leaned over and pointed to the next measure Sally would play. I caught up with her and we played the minuet over and over again, Miss Sally and me. That day, my two musical friends managed to teach me how to love and play classical music. (Well, they got me started with the first piece and I loved them for it!) Flushed with success, I went home that day humming the tune and smiling at strangers on the bus. But I’m not smiling now. Who will do for my children what Miss Sally and Mr. Cresce did for me? Who will gently steer them into learning something difficult but exciting? Specialty stores like Campbell’s have been run out of business and old store fixtures like Miss Sally and Mr. Cresce have gone away, too. I mourn them most of all. They won’t be there anymore to teach the next generation of children how to love playing music, all kinds of music.

Pat Holland says she does impossible things now that she has retired, “Time seems to expand past 24 hours a day, because I’m a full-time farmer, a full-time freelance writer, and a part-time graduate student now.” When she was 17, she went to work The National Geographic Society just two days after she graduated from high school. Over the 25 years she worked there, her job changed from proofreader to researcher, writer, and special projects editor.


Wet Nurse

by Niles Reddick I was a pall bearer at my uncle Harry’s funeral and felt torn. On the one hand, I hated it--hated that he’d died, hated what my cousins and aunt were going through--but I wanted to honor my dad’s request for his brother and honor Uncle Harry. I respected the way he lived his life, working at the mill and running his family farm on the side with chickens, goats, cows, and a pond stocked full with bream and catfish. I’d been a city boy and was always captivated by the quiet, the oddness of rural life. I’d even seen my uncle shoot a snake out of a tree. My grandparents, dead now for almost thirty years, had five children and he was the second to pass. His sister Doris who’d died as a child from pneumonia had been the first in the family to go, then my grandparents, and now Uncle Harry. It was hard to remember my grandparents now. Memories of them were fragmented, like flashes in a dream. After the graveside service, we gathered at the church for a meal. An elderly woman came up to me and said, “Oh how I loved your grandmother.” I nodded. “Yes mam. We do miss her.” “She saved my life when I was a baby and many others, too.” “How’s that?” I knew my grandmother didn’t drive, didn’t work outside the home. “She was a wet nurse. Nursed me and kept me alive when my own mama couldn’t.” “I had no idea.” I imagined my grandmother in a rocking chair on her front porch suckling babies, a strange vision. “I’m sorry about your uncle.” “Thank you,” I said, and the older woman teetered off to the dessert table. My wife smiled and I told her I didn’t know about that. Later, I saw my aunt Barbara Jean cutting a slither of pecan pie. She bent over the dessert table, her bones giving shape to thin skin as she cut the pie with the precision of a physician. “Aunt Barbara Jean, that’s not a big enough piece.” “I know, but I’ve got to keep my blood sugar in check.” “Was Granny a wet nurse?” “Apparently so, but that was when I was young. I don’t recall details, but she kept babies some for extra money and I guess it helped keep food on our table when Daddy got sick.” “I never knew it.” “Speaking of babies, you remember her bad leg?” If my grandmother had been a man, she would’ve been a linebacker on a football team. She was broad, but had thin legs from the knees down. “I vaguely remember her having an issue with her leg. Mostly because of the old photos I’ve seen where she has it wrapped.” “Know what finally healed that ulcer on her leg?” “What?” I expected aloe or some herbal concoction given she had plants for medicinal purposes that she always used. “After birth. She called old Dr. Clement who was in his eighties then. He told me to come down to the hospital. He had wrapped a glob of it in a bag, told me to slice it and wrap it around her ulcerated leg in a poultice, changing it every other day for a week. End of the week came, and it healed from the inside out.” “After birth? That sounds disgusting.” “Don’t be silly. Some cultures make soup with it. Animals eat it. You ought to see the dogs at your Uncle Harry’s. Bought kill each other to get that after birth from a cow.” The city boy in me winced. “Well, it does make some scientific sense given the nutrients during pregnancy.” “Sure it does. I had them save mine from my kids and kept it in the freezer for years, right next to where I kept the hamburger meat. Used it when they got burned or had cuts. Didn’t need no doctor, no medicine.” “Amazing, I said, and changing the subject. “You doing okay?” “I’ll be alright. We’re all going to the tunnel at some point. Glad I’ll know a few folks when I get there.” “Me, too.” I wanted to tell my dad about the wet nurse and the after birth to get his reaction, to see what he knew, but decided to wait until later. It occurred to me just how much in the world had changed. No one heard of wet nurses much anymore and I’d never heard of a physician prescribing after birth as treatment. If this worked and helped society then, though, I figured it might come back around, like everything else.

Niles Reddick’s newest novel Drifting too far from the Shore has been nominated for a Pulitzer. Author of a collection Road Kill Art and Other Oddities and a novella Lead Me Home, Niles has published over sixty stories in literary magazines worldwide. He works for the University of Memphis-Lambuth in Tennessee.


Groves of Green by Kitta MacPherson

Waking up Thursday morning, my consciousness rising like an escaped balloon out of murky fields of green, I realized I had been dreaming about the metasequoia. That means I had been thinking of Dr. L. The trees and the scientist came into my life some time ago, a few years after my husband died. I came across the metasequoia first – on a Rutgers University research farm in East Brunswick. The wind schussed through a giant cluster of them that morning. I was working, researching a news story about hickory nuts, and headed down a different path. Like so many invisible arms, the metasequoia pulled at me, called me. The sun spilled through their branches, casting the stand in a pale green light -- a hue unlike anything I had seen. The world smelled sweet and piney. The 360 residents of this copse were living fossils, the lonely representatives of a species that once filled forests when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. I was captivated. Cousins of the majestic California redwoods, the metasequoia stood tall and gently commanding, embracing their environment with soft, bright green needles the color of inchworms. Looking to learn more, I tracked down Dr. L, a botanist at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and one of the world’s leading authorities on the trees. What was I seeking? I now know that beauty has a restorative power. It came to me later that, for reasons I couldn’t fathom, Dr. L soothed me, too. The trees brought me back to being engaged with the world. And Dr. L, almost in tandem, nudged me out of emotional numbness. We met at the garden’s Lily Pool Terrace. Tall and muscular, the middle-aged scientist gripped my hand with gusto. “You would like to see the metasequoia?” he said. “Oh, yes,” I said. He told me to call him by his first name. I couldn’t. Trees speak to me. As a girl, I climbed my family’s grove of oak trees with zeal. I wanted to escape the gravity of earth. I wanted to be shrouded in the verdant cocoon of their interlacing branches. Up there, I was never afraid. Dr. L led me through the Japanese Hill and Pond Garden, its electrifying peony beds in full bloom. We ambled through the Cranford Rose Garden. I struggled to ignore the beckoning fragrance of hundreds of varieties. He told me he was married and that his wife lived in a city in New England with their high-school age daughter. His wife had a good job at a biotechnology firm. He saw them every other weekend. I told him I was a widow. After 20 minutes of walking at a brisk pace, Dr. L froze and pointed. Three grand metasequoia towered over a broad green field spotted with fiery wildflowers.


“Ahhh,” I exhaled. There was more. He showed me a dozen metasequoia penned into a compound the size of a McDonald’s restaurant. Two hundred feet tall, they had escaped the boundaries of the fencing, but only in a vertical sense. I should have been satisfied. I wasn’t. I wanted something more. Dr. L suggested we meet back at the garden on a Saturday two weeks from that day and drive to Long Island where he said we could find some splendid specimens. I said I would bring my youngest son, who was ten at the time and a “budding scientist.” Dr. L smiled, delighted to hear it. Looking back, I liked this man and wanted to listen to him talk. He seemed lonely, too; at loose ends. We met on the appointed day and headed for the North Shore of Long Island. I drove. We zigzagged on winding country roads. We traipsed through former estates with vast tracts of lush wood and open lawns, areas that had been deeded to public trust. He was right about these particular metasequoia. They were Paul Bunyan spectacular, larger than life. Gnarly, twisted roots at their bases made them belong more in a Brothers Grimm tale than in the stark sunlight of the present day. We took turns taking photos with the camera, with Dr. L insisting I get into the photo with him. When I look at the pictures now, I look awkward, as if I am afraid of standing too close. It was the first time I could imagine enjoying the company of another man since I had lost my husband of 22 years. I believe Dr. L liked talking to me, too. He reached out to me several times after our drive to Long Island but I was never able to join him to seek out the rare fossil trees that so fascinated us. Recently, he wrote me from China. He was born there and had been invited back as chair of a biology department at a prestigious university. He accepted. His wife remains in the U.S. When I think of Dr. L, I think of strong, tall trees and branches with oddly soft needles. The world is green, the light diffused. The air smells clean.

Kitta MacPherson is an award-winning science writer who teaches journalism at Rutgers University in New Jersey. She spent most of her journalism career at The Star-Ledger of Newark where she reported on numerous breakthroughs in science and examined the research behind the controversies over climate change and genetically engineered foods. She holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Non-Fiction from Fairleigh Dickinson University.


Koru Mag: Issue One - October 2016  

Koru Mag is an online literary and art magazine

Koru Mag: Issue One - October 2016  

Koru Mag is an online literary and art magazine

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