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Vol.1, No.2 August 2013

LAKEVIEW International Journal of Literature and Arts

Runner up, The Best Magazine - Saboteur Awards 2013, London “A Brilliant Journal. Truly International.” - Hanif Kureishi

Writers’ Forum

Sacred Heart College, Thevara


LAKEVIEW International Journal of Literature and Arts

Writers’ Forum

Sacred Heart College, Thevara


Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts, Vol.1, No.2 August 2013 Published by Writers’ Forum Sacred Heart College Thevara, Kochi, India Only the copyright for this collection is reserved with the editors of Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts. Individual copyright for artwork, prose, poetry, fiction and extracts of novels and other volumes published in this issue of the magazine rests solely with the authors. The magazine does not claim any of those for its own. No part of this publication may be copied without express written permission from the copyright holders in each case. The magazine is freely circulated on the World Wide Web. It may not be sold or hired out in its digital form to anybody by any agency whatsoever. All disputes are subject to jurisdiction of the courts of the Republic of India. © Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts, 2013 Graphic Design - Mariam Henna Page Settings - Mariam Henna Cover Artwork -Margie Beth Labadie Title: Dave’s World 14 Media: Digital Dimensions: Variable Date: 2011 Editorial Board – Jose Varghese, Aravind R Nair, Mariam Henna, Abraham Varghese, Abraham J Thayil Advisory Board - Alan Summers, Bill Ashcroft, George Szirtes, John Antoine Labadie, Kala Ramesh, Loree Westron, Mel Ulm, Rana Nayar, Sanjukta Dasgupta, Sudeep Sen


Editorial

A

s promised earlier, we are back with a bigger, better issue. One could perhaps call it a bumper edition, with 336 pages of literary and visual art works from 153 contributors. Thanks to the phenomenal response from around the world to our call for submissions, we had no other go. There is also a special feature that focuses on haiku and related poetic forms, guest edited very effectively by our advisory board member Alan Summers. Wait for more special features on other forms of poetry, fiction and non-fiction in the forthcoming issues. We have some literary competitions lined up too, leading to the publication of winning entries in the journal.    Welcome John Antoine Labadie, Loree Westron and Kala Ramesh to our advisory board. John has done a great job choosing the best from our Visual Art submissions. A few works by our students were also chosen by our editorial board. The new student editors are Abraham J Thayil and Abraham Varghese. Mariam Henna Naushad remains the cover art and lay-out designer, with much more experience gained from her work with the journal. All our advisory board members helped us establish contacts with top-notch writers and get incredibly good submissions. We extend our thanks to them.    A pleasant surprise came along when Lakeview was adjudged Runner Up in the Best Magazine category of Saboteur Awards 2013, London. We got a reader comment that goes ‘Lakeview is a breath of fresh air, no clichés and obvious choices. Here to stay.’ It is indeed a great achievement to get an international recognition soon after the publication of the first issue of our journal.    Enjoy the various stories, poems, reviews, interviews and visual art by the established and upcoming writers and artists. We look forward to receiving your feedback and contributions.

Jose Varghese August 2013


In This Issue Peter Daniels (Poetry) Saint Cedar Burial From the Ceiling

13 13 13-14

Bethany W. Pope (Poetry) An Allegory

14-15

Gopika Nath (Poetry) Shame Regret Perceptions

15 15 15

Vanessa Gebbie (Short Fiction) Parallax

16-19

Branch Isole (Poetry) Grandchild Few and Fewer

19 19

Jonathan Edwards (Poetry) Holiday Six Bells

20 20-21

Kujtim Morina (Poetry) Intermediate Zone

21

J. Desy Schoenewies (Visual Art)

22-24

John MacKenna (Short Fiction) Sacred Heart

25-35

Paula Lietz (Visual Art) Jonathan Taylor (Poetry) Martin Parr, Boring Postcards Camera Angles Neptune the Mystic Kevin Cadwallender (Poetry) Pins dropping on the Bones of Saints. Bacterium Keeping the Tenor Bull under Lock and Key.

36-38

39 39 40

41 41-42 42

Ashley Stokes (Short Fiction) Catriona’s Five-Year Plan

43-53

Ernest Williamson (Visual Art)

54-56

Alicen Roshiny Jacob (Interview) The Return of the Historian: An Interview with William Dalrymple

57-61

Geoffrey Heptonstall (Poetry) Of The City

62-63


Emma-Jane Hughes (Poetry) Sleeping Gopikrishnan Kottoor (Poetry) The Old Horse The Backyard

63

64 64

Debz HobbsWyatt (Short Fiction) Rush Hour

65-69

Pei Yeou Bradley (Visual Art)

70-71

Daniele Serafini (Poetry) Return to Campoformido Traces Exeter

72 72-73 73

Afric McGlinchey (Poetry) A kind of rescue Our father

73-74 74

Clark Zlotchew (Short Fiction) Going For The Gold John J. Brugaletta (Poetry) Canonical Hours Bhaswati Ghosh (Poetry) The Cities

75-81

81-83

83-84

Michael Pedersen (Poetry) Postcard Home

84

Archana Mishra (Visual Art)

85-87

Jose Varghese (Interview) In Search of Other Lives: A Dialogue with Konstantin Bojanov

88-98

Oindrila Ghosh (Book Review) Silent Days: A Silence Redolent With Many Voices‌

99-100

Dustin Hinson (Visual Art)

101-102

Brian Kirk (Short Fiction) When the future happens

103-108

Tim Wells (Poetry) Bidaaye Edgar Allen Poe and the Awful Therapist

108 109

Patrick Connors (Poetry) Hoops The Moon

109 109-110

Noel Williams (Poetry) Shooting the breeze

110

Burritt E. Benson (Visual Art)

111-113


Kazi Anis Ahmed (Short Fiction) Good Night, Mr. Kissinger Murali Sivaramakrishnan (Poetry) From The Notebooks Of A Naturalist Rizio Yohannan Raj (Poetry) Tree Stories Soul Stories Eleanor Leonne Bennett (Visual Art)

114-122

122-123

123 123

124-126

Rumjhum Biswas (Poetry) Ouroboros

139

Michael Mirolla (Short Fiction) Treacle & Esteros

140-149

John Antoine Labadie (Visual Art)

150-152

Dipali S. Bhandari (Poetry)

153

Alasdair MacAulay (Poetry) (And Atlas, I)

154

Laura Cleary (Poetry) Strandhill Atlantic

154

Kathryn A. Kopple (Poetry) At the Wharton Escherick Museum

127

Madeleine D’Arcy (Short Fiction) Hole in the Bucket

Nikesh Murali (Short Fiction) End of the Road

155-157

128-133

Gina Gibson (Visual Art)

Pete Cantelon (Poetry) Piecemakers

157

134-136

Arthur Heifetz (Poetry) Circus of the Indigent

158

Kevin Cadwallender (Visual Art)

159-160

Valerie Sirr (Short Fiction) Film Stars

161-165

Francesca Biller (Poetry) Half Girl from Full Mother Sébastien Doubinsky (Poetry) Non-Sutras

137-138

138


Anna Sujatha Mathai (Poetry) Chagall’s Lovers Tadas Žvirinskis (Poetry) Metamorphosis Murray Alfredson (Poetry) Cheating age

166

Pradeep Dharmapalan (Poetry) Portrait

191

166-167

Ankita Anand (Poetry) Self-Study

191-192

167

Amber Lee Dodd (Short Fiction) The Dancers

192-196

Mario Angel Quintero (Visual Art)

197-198

199-205

Alan McCormick (Short Fiction) A Town Called Fakfax

168-177

Sheri L. Wright (Visual Art)

178-179

Andrew J Keir (Short Fiction) The Camel Jockey

180

Abraham Varghese (Poetry) Journey to a Funeral

205

Elizabeth MacDonald (Short Fiction) New Year’s Resolutions

206-212

Jude Gerald Lopez (Poetry) I’m no longer the same

212

Steve Babbitt (Visual Art)

213-215

Manorama Mathai (Short Fiction) Returned Daughter

216-218

Simon Williams (Poetry) The Sound Of Ice Cracking On Sardine Lake Noel Dufy (Poetry) Night Watch Amanda Oosthuizen (Short Fiction) A Pylon, a Dress and the Rattle of Reeds

180

181-188

Meg Tuite (Poetry) Separate Tongues, Twin Scars

188

Margie Beth Labadie (Visual Art)

189-190


Bhanusree S Kumar (Poetry) The Revival Nabina Das (Short Fiction) Stoical Life Of Gurudas Roychoudhury Namitha Sebastian (Poetry) Teutonic

219

220-230

230-231

Natasha D. Lane (Short Fiction) Standing in No Man’s Land

231-242

Tripti Singh (Visual Art)

243-245

Mamta Madhavan (Interview) A tete-a-tete with Anita Nair

246-247

Neil Campbell (Short Fiction) Pheasants

248-249

Turlach O Broin (Visual Art)

250-252

Paul GnanaSelvam (Short Fiction) Komalam and the Market Women Andy Hedgecock (Interview) A Tangled Ball of Wool

253-258

258-262

Victor Abrao (Visual Art)

263-264

Sharlene Teo (Short Fiction) Volunteers

265-274

Collins Justine Peter (Visual Art)

275-276

Stephen Graf (Short Fiction) Heisenberg’s microscope

277-283

Jaydeep Sarangi (Interview) Jaydeep Sarangi in conversation with Rob Harle

283-288

Susmita Bhattacharya (Short Fiction) The Luxury Of Quiet Contemplation

288-291

Moa Lindunger (Book Review) In-between language and identity

291-292

Arun Prasad.R (Poetry) Question No.1.Define Communication

293

Oscar Windsor-Smith (Short Fiction) Charity Begins

294


Ammu Venugopal (Visual Art)

295-296

Jude Gerald Lopez (Short Fiction) The Grief of Losing Oneself

297-299

Revathy Suresh (Visual Art)

300-301

Mel Ulm (Book Review) Shauna Gilligan’s Happiness Comes From Nowhere

302-303

John Kurian (Short Fiction) The Black Hearted People

303-304

Nepa Noyal Tharappel (Visual Art)

305-306

Mariam Henna Naushad (Short Fiction) The Wild Rose

307-309

Shamenaz Shaikh (Book Review) Michelle Cohen Corasanti’s The Almond Tree

309-311

Agna Fernandez (Visual Art)

312-313

Haiku (Special Feature)

315-348

List of Contributors

349-383

Editorial Board

384-389


Poetry|Peter Daniels Saint Up on the height of the push, the boat rides with the saint ahead shielding the seafarers. They keep the boat peaking into the trough, then it dips with the saint’s bowels rising where he clings on: humble his belief, boat, heave him up, still believing, surprise this island.

Cedar Burial The dead transmute their elements into a cedar, a climbing pile of saints taken from beneath and built up to stand as supplicants, a body of prayer, a grounded synod from the worms and grubs, bottom feeders, gathered to release their offerings with the sap ascending where the moon lodges in the green oily branches and the birds perch to elevate their sounds. The dead are moving upwards to the highest light the sky can hold, to find the sun at the zenith.

From the Ceiling Muscular spirits attend the approaching chariot, courtly in servility, hovering elegant and skilled in blue robes for deepest heaven, terracotta down to earth; human representatives pose in togas, armour, or kilts; bare-torsoed heroes clutch at diaphanous stuff floating for modesty, lamps and oil-jugs of gold. Up in the misty atmosphere above the cornices, 13

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dawn tinged with thunderclaps where clouds hold raindrops heavy as minims; there’s tangible music, columns of harmony, sky violins that swoon as they glide. The deity is ready, knows which way the door opens; always in control, he’s untouched by heat or cold, is present as the bombers tear through the gauze curtain, the frescoes crack, walls and pediments collide.

Poetry|Bethany W. Pope An Allegory When you were ten years old, thin and carved with the transient luminous beauty only given to pre-adolescent boys who glow like alabaster lamps your legs erupted in hundreds of warts. The virus raised them in puffy popcorn clusters that you hid from our mother as best you could, swathing the well-turned, blighted limbs in lengths of beige cotton. You noticed, in addition to this, that your tongue felt coated, your nostrils clogged, though no mucous flowed. For two weeks you burned your tongue without noticing, your meals all tasted clotted and bland. You never suspected that you flared with fever also. Our mother found you out eventually, while you were dressing for a party at the local pool. Driven by a love of aesthetics and not causes, she focused on the blights, blasting them with a dropper full of acid which burned and steamed the warts away, without leaving scars on the precious stone korous. 14

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The fever lasted a week longer, when we finally drove you to the hospital your hidden flesh was permanently damaged, your taste and scent scarred over and gone. Grown now, your body is beautiful. Your muscled surface scintillates with the glow the gods bathed their heroes in. Your gold-curled head could fit Aneas, or flame with the fierce Achilles’ wrath. But wine in the cup holds no mystery for you, you cannot grasp the taste or scent of blood. An enemy not dazzled by the beauty of surfaces could fill your cup with bitterness without fear. You could so easily vanish from earth.

Poetry|Gopika Nath Shame No escaping my shadow. Sharper the light, more intensely she appears. In darkness, stalks unseen.

Regret When the light-sensitive. have departed and wind storms at wooded trunks no-one speaks of the turbulence

Perceptions Wind swept aside lies beneath the voluminous shalwar. She has bowed legs

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Short Fiction|Vanessa Gebbie Parallax

I

was only saying to Frances, the woman on the next machine, night shift, ‘Think about it. If true North exists, and I’m not saying it does, then you’ll come close to pointing in the right direction if you go straight to the end of the pier.’ I walked my fingers up my outstretched arm to show her. ‘It’s slowly does it,’ I said. ‘One foot in front of the other, slowing everything down. Like you’re only just realising you can stand upright. Oh, and you have to watch the horizon with both eyes.’    Frances pulled the plug on the injection moulding. Threatened to go to the supervisor. Said I was harassing her. Typical bloke, apparently.    ‘Look,’ I said. ‘The pier points to true North. That’s all I’m saying.’    Frances asked to be moved to the Amtec room, so they moved her. Brought in this man off the replacement list from the agency instead. George something, from Romania. Pronounced Gay-Org. He just got on with the job and no talking back, smoked roll-ups in tea-break, two moles on his left cheek and that’s about it. He was no-one. Inasmuch as anyone can be no-one.    That night - after a couple of weeks - we were conversing like old mates. Or rather, I was conversing, he was listening. Three a.m. teabreak, just him and me on the shift, us and the hiss of the hydraulics like something breathing beneath the factory. The Amtec room closed for re-tooling, so no Frances and the others making snide comments about true North.    vxI was explaining, to myself as much as anything, ‘It’s got to do with parallax, Gay-Org. The way an object moves if you look at it from different angles. Only it doesn’t.’    Georg stirred his tea, listening. My Romanian is limited. His English is worse. I looked over at him, ‘Know what I’m on about?’    He smiled, put two more teaspoons of sugar in his mug. ‘Parallax,’ he said slowly.    ‘Exactly. Useful concept. You can measure the distances between stars that way. I think.’      He nodded.    The machines packed up at four-thirty. Power cut, I reckon, although they said later it was the fuses blowing all together, and the notice they posted the next day talked about going for compensation from Grant Bros. But for now we’d have to take two weeks off, quarter pay. Georg looked at the notice (hasty photocopy, four typos) and he said the most complete sentence I’d heard yet,    ‘This very difficult,’ he said. 16

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‘You’re telling me, mate,’ I said.    Then, he said the thing that made me invite him to stay for those weeks off. ‘This very difficult, like parallax.’    It turned out he was taking about rent. Or the lack of it. Some place down by the docks, one of those illegal hostels, six to a room, mattresses on the floor.    In the car, he pointed to the speedo. Grinned. Pointed to the speedo again.    ‘Of course, yup,’ I said, and he was right. 30 mph to me in the driving seat was 35 mph to him in the passenger seat. The needle moved. Or didn’t.    Georg didn’t mind the state of my place. Since Helen went I don’t do much clearing up, but I do like my reading. Kid’s encyclopaedias. Get them really cheap these days, out of date before they’re printed. Georg picked a few up, put them in a pile, patted it.    He wouldn’t bother me, just for a week or so.    After a couple of days we did go a bit stir-crazy. You can’t just say ‘parallax’ over and over, and smile and bob and look endlessly through your fingers at things on the wall moving relative to a chair on the rug between you and them. So, the third day, we went out. We walked on the prom, then on the pier, and I pointed out to sea and said, ‘True North?’ and Georg smiled and pulled his collar up. We walked round the lake, round the town centre – didn’t have a lot of spending money, so not much we could do. I pointed to the edge of town, to where you can see the start of the hills, and the pylons. I said, ‘Up there?’    He nodded, wisely. ‘Up there.’    Up to the hill, to the hangar woods. There was enough petrol in the car for a few miles. Hadn’t been there since goodness knows when – good place to walk, do some bird-watching maybe.    They must have changed the roads since I last came up here. What I thought was the right road became a lane, and the lane petered out at a farm gate. We reversed, ready to try again. I could see the ridge above us. Georg pointed at the trees, old trees up there on the skyline, rows of them, dying mostly, birches I think.    ‘You get those in Romania?’ I said.    He just echoed, ‘Romania...’    I always thought Helen and I would end up living in a village, somewhere small, pretty, hills, woodland. Fields. Here we were, Georg and I, sitting in the car on the escarpment, above plenty of villages, those trees lined up over our heads. Roots lifting out of the earth like they werereaching for something. I’d been reading the paper to him over breakfast, something about Romanian gangs. He’d brought the paper with him, rolled it up, slapped it on his thigh now and then. 17

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I don’t know what time we set out, after the walk on the prom, the pier, round the town, but it wasn’t that light. Georg took out his roll-up tin, looked over. ‘You mind?’ I said I didn’t, it was fine to smoke. The lane was narrow, overhung with trees. Not that easy to reverse round those corners, the banks far too close. Georg had stretched back in his seat, looking out of the window, up, up at the ridge over our heads. Down below, lights were coming on in the houses. The sky between the trees was grey, the branches and trunks like black things drawn against the evening. He’d lit up, the car was smoky. Made the trees blur, made the patches of sky grow and blossom like there were angels waiting in the tree-line. I was backing the car slowly, very slowly.    Georg leaned forward, tapped the speedo.    ‘No miles,’ he said, like it was an order. He was grinning, nodding, like this was something he’d been waiting for.    We’d almost stopped. ‘If we’re going backwards, I suppose the mileage undoes itself?’ I said, and then there was a sound, the evening coming into the car, cool, and Georg had got out into the lane.    “You do not see me,” he said. “ I am not here since last week. OK?”    “OK, I said, ‘But...”    He pointed to the paper, rolled up where he’d been sitting. As if it would tell me the rest.    “But...’ I said again.    But he was gone through a gap in the hedge, between the trees. Up there, I saw him, crossing the last bit of escarpment, climbing towards the ridge in his cheap gym shoes. Thin jacket flapping. Gone.    I’d like to say I smelled something, perhaps. Something different, spicy, heady. But I didn’t. Just his cigarette smoke thinning with the open door, the air. I’d like to say I heard something – a stone turned beneath a shoe, the rush of last year’s leaves, whatever noise the sky makes when it turns from grey to greyer. Or a rook leaving a dying birch tree on a ridge.    I waited. Three days into a week off, and you’re open to things. More awake. The same as when Helen left. I waited.       When it was really dark, I turned the car in a gateway and freewheeled down the hill to the village. To the pub. Ordered a pint, and a steak. Didn’t worry about how I was going to pay. There weren’t that many people in there. A couple in the corner drinking glasses of wine. Ayoungster throwing darts. And the bloke behind the bar, thin mousy hair, foreign accent, like Georg’s. He could have been Georg – they all look alike, high cheekbones, grey eyes – only of course, he couldn’t have been.    There was a sound then. The woman in the corner running her finger round and round the rim of her wine-glass. My plate was empty. My pint. The lights of a car reflected in the window, white light, red light. 18

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White light. Red. I moved my head from side to side, the light changing colour depending how you looked at it. From here. Or there. And the wineglass went on singing until I wasn’t sure it was the glass at all.

Poetry|Branch Isole Grandchild Apple of my eye Desire of my heart Experiencing moments as you grow memories that we share Secrets known by only we two these joys are but a few you bring into my life Seeing my child, your parent and a little of my own similar characteristic traits familial antics, movements, tones Natural dispositions of a genetic three part and parcel passed through our family tree You test the bounds of love Stretch patience from inch to mile Yet disavowment melts to nothing Overpowered by your smile Captivated by your innocence Confounded by such honesty One moment angelic the next rough and raw No matter what you say or do all retrospective redeemed by a whisper of “I love you” Grandpa

Few and Fewer When you’re gone Few will know Fewer still will care...

On your day one or two may remember and smile, what more could you hope for? 19

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Poetry|Jonathan Edwards Holiday Let’s go away. Let us squander the day in a Jacuzzi, in a fetching hat with holes in it. Let a drained beer glass balance on our noses and not slip. Let’s look up through it at a clear sky. The thing we do not want now is our lives. Let’s go away. Let us unspend the day. Let who we really are be make-believe. Here are our toes. Let the soles of our feet be things which touch the ground and let us stroll everywhere. It’s silly, babe, to try. The thing we do not want now is our lives. Let’s go away. God, let’s not use the day. Let lazing be our jobs and our jobs just memories, our bellies things which flop into a pool or else fill pleasantly. Let floating ashtrays be something we buy. The thing we do not want now is our lives. Let’s go away. Let us not seize the day. Let it be beautiful. Let us doze through it. Let’s make the word Lilo a verb and do it or have it done. Let the waves do the work and let all our sighs be contented sighs. The thing we do not want now is our lives.

Six Bells The blast made a museum of the mine: no marks on them, their hands still clutching tools, we found them dead in the middle of their lives. We found them kneeling, lying down to die, these men who’d warmed all the world’s living rooms. The blast made a museum of the mine. We hoped, and tunnelled under rubble-piles, turned a corner, found them dead in groups. We found them dead in the middle of their lives. 20

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To find them was to step into a time our friends weren’t in. We prayed to see them move. The blast made a museum of the mine. We carried them up to their children, wives. We carried them up to the surface, to be buried, in the middle of their lives. Radio-friendly birdsong. A thousand eyes on the pithead on a sunny afternoon. The blast made a museum of the mine. We found them dead in the middle of their lives.

Poetry|Kujtim Morina Intermediate Zone Intermediate Zone between male and female, is full of electro-magnetic waves, strands which arise from the eyes, and spread all over the space. The game of electrons continues unhindered, giving visible and invisible signals The intermediate zone becomes more vibrant, especially when we are facing a young girl or a beautiful woman. We can discern with the soul’s eyes, thousands of silver threads which swarm restlessly, giving bodies a wonderful vibration and a gravitation between them. When the numerical proportion among the sexes is unequal, there is interference and resonance of waves, which in the extreme can provoke an electric arch. The physical joining of bodies is not but the end of miracle.

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Visual Art|J. Desy Schoenewies

Wind Dance Oil on Canvas 30” x 24” 2013

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Stance

Oil on Canvas 60” x 48” 2010

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Vulnerable Oil on Canvas 30” x 40” 2010

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Short Fiction|John MacKenna Sacred Heart

H

e sits in his car. It’s late in the afternoon and the last of the autumn light is being wrung from the heavens, dribbling down onto the flaky, rusted stubble of a long, wide field. He watches an old crow flail jadedly across the dull September sky, in search of its rookery, and he thinks of his young daughter running carelessly along the sprawling summer beach, her sun-bleached hair flying like a thousand short kite strings in the brightness.    And he remembers the shadow of a gull on the warm summer sand.    “Look,” his daughter says. “Look, there’s a bird under the sand.”    “That’s a sand gull,” he says.    “What’s a sand gull?”    “It’s a magic bird. It can fly on the sand or under the sand. You can see it but, if you try to touch it, it isn’t there.”    She looks at him quizzically.    “See,” he says, pointing to the circling shadow.    His daughter watches the silhouette darken and lighten as the bird swoops and rises unseen above her head.    “What does he eat?” she asks.    “He eats the wind.”    “Does he?”    “Yes.”    “Why don’t we see him every day?”    “Because he appears only to children who are very good and even then just once in a blue moon.”    She throws him that look again.    “The moon’s not blue.”    “Sometimes it is.”    “I never saw it blue.”    “Do you remember the first night we were in America?”    “Yes.”    “Do you remember the moon when we came out of the airport building?”    “Yes.”    “Do you remember what colour it was?”    “Orange.”    “See. You’d never seen an orange moon before that but there it was. And you’ve never seen a blue moon but you will.”    “Tonight?”    He shrugged. “You never know. It’ll be there when you least 25

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expect it and when you most need it.”    “What does that mean?”    “You’re full of questions,” he laughs, swinging his daughter high into the air, twirling her above the sand and sea, throwing her into the sunny sky and catching her as she falls screaming with laughter.    And out of nowhere, as it always comes, the memory. He is dancing with his wife, her head against his chest, her body warm against his own, her hands light on his shoulders, his arms around her waist, the music moving them in some slowed-down version of a waltz, and he shivers in the burning sun and looks at his daughter and he feels a desperate, surging need to know that she will have happiness in her life.    “The sand gull is gone,” the little girl says.    “It’ll be back.”    “Will it?”    “Of course. It always comes back to good girls. Always.”    She smiles and he hugs her and puts her back down in the warm shallows of the Atlantic water.    “You know the way you write in your little book every night?”    He nods.    “Why do you do that?”    “I’m keeping a diary of our holiday.”    “Why?”    “Because it’s special – just you and me.”    “Are you keeping it to read to Mum when we get home?”    “No but I could.”    “What does it say?”    “Lots of things.”    “Like?”    “Like about what we do each day, about the sea and the weather and where we’ve been and things I’ve been thinking and tonight I’ll write about the sand gull.”    “Will you read it to me tonight?”    “Okay.”    “Will you read it to me every night?”    “Yes, okay.”    “Promise?”    “Promise.”    They paddle on, the sunlight surging over them like a reassurance.    “Don’t forget to look for the sand dollars,” he says and they lower their heads and walk slowly, eyes scanning the shining sand for the elusive shells.    That night, as he tucks his daughter into bed in her air-conditioned room, she reminds him of his promise to read from his diary.    “I haven’t written today’s entry yet.”    “Well read me what you wrote for the other days.” 26

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“It’ll be boring.”    “I’ll tell you if I’m bored.”    He goes into his room and returns with a notebook.    “Is that your diary?”    “Yes.”    His daughter settles herself against the soft pillow and waits.    “This is from the first day.”    She nods. He clears his throat.    “The heat when we came out of the airport building was like a wall. We’d been warned but I wasn’t expecting it.”    “That’s silly, it wasn’t a wall,” his daughter says. “It was just hot. If it was a wall, we wouldn’t have been able to get out, unless it fell, and if it fell it might have squished us.”    “Told you it’d bore you,” he says.    “Read more. I’ll see.”    “I like the way the houses here are built into the woods. When they build, they use the landscape; they don’t clear everything. They knock as few trees as possible and then they put up the timber frames and block-build around them. As we drove down from the airport, coming through the tobacco fields, the skies opened and we had a glorious thunderstorm. ”    He pauses.    “That’s ok. I kind of like that. Read me something about the beach. About us at the beach.”    He leafs through the pages of the notebook.    “Ok, here’s something, but you may not understand it. There are several houses strung along the beach, straight out of ‘Summer of ’42’. That’s a film, there were houses in it like the houses along the beach.”    “I think I know what you mean. You don’t have to explain everything. I’ll stop you if I want to ask you something.”    “Yes, Miss,” he smiles.    “Now go on.”    “The heat on the beach is intense but the breeze makes it manageable. I’ve been careful that L doesn’t get burned.”    “L. That’s me. Why didn’t you write Lynn?”    “I was writing fast. I was tired.”    “Oh, ok. Go on then.”    “The only things that are annoying on the beach are the jets from the airfield down the coast. They come in loud and low and really should be farther out to sea.”    He notices her nod gravely.    “It’s just that kind of stuff.”    “Well, why don’t you write more interesting things, like about the sand gulls and the sand dollars and stuff. You can write them before I go to bed and then read them to me and I’ll tell you what I think.”    “That sounds like a very good idea.” 27

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“Now,” his daughter says. “I’m tired.”    She reaches up, wraps her hands around his neck and kisses his cheek. “Goodnight, Daddy.”    “Goodnight, sweetheart. I love you.”    “And I love you.”    She turns, nesting her head in the pillow, closes her eyes and smiles.    In the morning they go body-boarding in the shallows but, his daughter is terrified by the sound of the breaking waves and he takes her back to the swimming pool near the apartment and that night writes his diary entry while she’s in the bath and reads it to her as he tucks her in.    “I miss trees here – deciduous trees. The sea is pleasant when it’s warm but it’s too changeable. Trees change, too, but differently, more slowly. And they have the sound of the sea in their leaves. The sea is not so constant, regular yes but capable of great unpredictability and viciousness and the power to swallow. In the forest the change is more gradual, leaves fall, trees fall but there’s a peacefulness and a smell of growth not threat. And saplings, leaves unfolding, flowers, even the smell of cut wood.”    “I’m sorry that you miss the trees,” his daughter says.    “That’s okay. I’ll get back to them.”    “And I miss Mum sometimes.”    “That’s good, too, and you’ll get back to her soon.”    Later, he sits in the tarn of light from the reading lamp. Outside, beyond his glassed reflection, the sky flares and fades with distant lightning above the rumbling sea. He turns a page of Lifting the Latch and reads of Stow and Adlestrop and Oxford. The names are freshly beautiful in the American heat. He remembers them as villages and cities emerging from the English summer haze and he catches his own slight smile in the mirroring glass.    His daughter is playing in the shallows of the sea. Another young girl, more or less her own age, is playing with her. Together they build a sand dam and giggle as the surging ripples eat the walls away so that they can start again, a foot closer to the high watermark.    He stands with the girl’s father.    “They give the impression that they’ve known each other for ever,” the man says.    “Yes.”    “I’m Ken, by the way.”    “Al,” he says and proffers a hand.    “Vacationing?”    “Yes. For three weeks. 28

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“Couldn’t have chosen a more remarkably picturesque place.”    “No.”    “Been coming here since I was a kid myself.”    “You’re lucky.”    “Yeah, I guess I am, blessed with the good fortune of being born in the land of the true and the home of the brave and the beautiful.”    The girls move again, hunkering in the warm, slow water.    “By the way,” the man says. “My daughter’s given name is Melissa.”    “And this is Lynn.”    “You’re European?”    “Yes.”    “English?”    “Irish.”    Ken nods and smiles.    “Always appreciated here.”    “Thank you.”    They stand together, watching the children play.    He watches his daughter building sand castles in the rising morning heat. He lifts a piece of driftwood from the beach and carries it to her.    “Sand only.” She waves him away.    He smiles and runs his fingers along the bleached and faded timber. He thinks about how the sea wears everything to a smoothness – shells, stones, timber, wire and glass. How, by the time they wash up here, every jagged rim has been robbed of its roughness and its edge.    “Homogenised,” he says out loud but his daughter appears not to hear him.    Back in the apartment, making sandwiches for their lunch, he turns on the radio. Judy Collins is singing Jerusalem. He stands transfixed while Blake’s words pour over him.    And did those feet in ancient time    Walk upon England’s mountains green?    And was the holy Lamb of God    On England’s pleasant pastures seen?            

And did the Countenance Divine Shine forth upon our clouded hills? And was Jerusalem builded here Among these dark Satanic Mills?

            

Bring Bring Bring Bring

me me me me

my my my my

bow of burning gold! arrows of desire! spear! O clouds unfold! chariot of fire! 29

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I will not cease from mental fight, Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand, Till we have built Jerusalem In England’s green and pleasant land.

   Later, at that time where day and night begin to merge, he walks with his daughter on the orange sand and they find a long scarf of seaweed.    “What’s that?” his daughter asks.    “It’s a small sea dragon,” he says, lifting the golden green ridges in his hands.    His daughter looks at him, searching for a give-away twist of the mouth but, finding none, she returns her gaze to the puckered shape that rests against her father’s arm.    “It’s sleeping,” he says quietly.    “Can it make fire?”    “Not the sea dragon. Fire and water don’t mix. Do you want to touch it?”    The girl is uncertain.    “It won’t bite,” he says.    She lays an uneasy hand against the slippery seaweed.    “It’s soft.”    “Yes.”    “And it won’t bite me?”    “No.”    Again, she touches the spongy, wet crests.    “Would you like to put it back into the sea? That’s where it belongs.”    “All right.”    Gently he drapes the ribbon of seaweed across her palms and she carries it down to the murky sea and lays it delicately in the small waves. Together they watch it blend into the dark water, retreating with the receding waves until it disappears into the wide Atlantic.    “You’re a lucky girl.”    “Why?”    “You’ve seen a sand gull and a sea dragon. Some people live their whole lives and never see either.”    “Do they?”    “Yes, they do,” he says and realises the night has fallen. “Time for us to head for home.”    “Will we be able to find home?” the girl asks, suddenly aware of the darkness. “Yes, we will. We’ll follow the lights.”    Feeling the sand crabs scuttle across his feet, he swings his daughter onto his shoulder, turns his back on the black, uncertain water and moves towards the distant, lighted windows. 30

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He is sitting at the table, writing about the sand crabs, when the telephone rings.    He considers not answering but he knows it will ring and ring, every two or three minutes until he does.    “Hello.”    “Hello. Al?” His wife’s voice from halfway across the world.    “How are you?”    “Fine. How’s Lynn?”    “She’s really well. She’s sleeping.”    “At this hour? Is she sick?”    “It’s midnight here.”    “Oh yes, of course.”    Silence spans the thousands of miles.    “When will you bring her back?”    “Sorry?”    “When will you bring Lynn back to me?”    “Why are you asking this? You know when we’re back,” he says quietly, forcing himself to be calm.    “I know nothing. Who’s there with you?”    “Lynn. She’s sleeping, like I said.”    “Why are you whispering? There’s someone in the apartment, isn’t there?”    “There is no one else here. I was sitting alone writing my diary. Lynn is sleeping.”    “Put her on to me.”    “She’s asleep.”    “There’s someone else there.”    “There is no one else here, just the pair of us, as you and I agreed, Lynn and me, for three weeks. That’s it. No one else.”    “I don’t believe you.”    “It’s the truth.”    “Are you feeding her properly?”    “Yes. She’s eating really well. Lots of fresh air, lots of good food, lots of sleep.”    “And you’re putting her suncream on?”    “Yes.”    “Factor fifty.”    “Yes.”    Another silence and he imagines the waves rolling over the buried telephone cables.    “You realise how much the legal fees are going to be?” his wife asks.    “I’ll pay them. All of them.”    “You realise this is an act of gross selfishness?”    “Yes.”    “And I don’t believe there’s no one else there. I don’t believe 31

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there isn’t someone else.”    He scratches his forehead and sighs very quietly.    “We’ll talk about it when Lynn and I get home. Back,” he corrects himself. “I’ll have Lynn ring you tomorrow at one; that’ll be eight in the morning your time.”    “Will you?”    “Yes, of course.”    “And there’s no one else there?”    “No one.”    “You said once you’d die for me.”    “I almost did.”    “I’m sorry.”    “I know. Me too. We’ll ring you at eight in the morning, ok?”    “Ok. Goodnight.”    “Goodnight.”    They sit in a bright, clean restaurant and a smiling waitress comes and stands at their table.    “This young lady will have a burger and fries and a Sprite. And I’ll have...could I just have a large salad?”    “My daddy is a vegetarian,” his daughter says.    “Is he, honey?”    “Yes. He was a vegetarian before I was born. Weren’t you?”    He nods an embarrassed nod.    “This lady is busy, Lynn. She doesn’t need my life story.”    “We saw a sea dragon last night on the beach and we put it back in the sea.”    “Well, ain’t you the lucky girl. Been here all my life and I can’t say I’ve seen one yet.”    “My daddy said I was lucky, too.”    “Your daddy’s right.”    “And we saw a sand gull one day.”    “Wow. You’re blessed!”    “Lynn,” he says, “the lady is busy.”    “Are you busy?”    “Not so I can’t hear about sea dragons and sand gulls,” she smiles a warm smile. “But I’d better bring your Sprite or you’re gonna run dry and then you won’t be able to keep me entertained with your stories.”    The little girl giggles.    “And coffee for your dad?”    “Thank you.”    Later, they go to SafariLand but he finds he doesn’t have the $25 they need to get in. The woman at the admission booth looks at the $19 he counts out and shrugs and listens to his explanation about having left his money in his other jeans.    “Sorry, honey. No mon, no fun.” 32

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They walk slowly to the car.    “We’ll come back another day.”    Across the hedges and fences they can see the water slide and the rides he promised he’d bring Lynn on. He knows she’s upset but she doesn’t cry.    When they get back to the apartment, they play chess in the afternoon heat and, as the sun begins to sink, they go down to the pool and his daughter takes her first, tentative strokes and he remembers the day she first walked.    Later still, they ramble to the edge of the woods and watch the fireflies do their flame dance and they catch one in a jar and bring it back to the apartment and when his daughter falls asleep he opens the jar and releases the fly into the darkness that’s beginning to blow a storm.    They spend most of the following day at the pool. His daughter is frightened by the rolling breakers on the beach, by the pounding of the waves after the previous night’s slow gale. Only in the early evening, when the sky is clear and the heat is clean and the sea has calmed do they go walking on the beach.    Mostly, they have it to themselves. Five hundred yards ahead of them the surfers skim to a standstill and then turn and paddle out again, in search of a last few breaking waves, reminders of the previous night’s turmoil.    He watches his daughter scrutinize the sea, nervous of whatever violence it still might hold. He inspects the pieces of flotsam and jetsam on the sand: a broken, plastic fish box; three battered kerosene cans; a plank of yellow wood; dead fish, their mouths wide open in a series of silent cries, and what looks like a human heart.    For a moment, he cannot believe what he’s seeing. His daughter has wandered ahead, dragging a piece of timber from the shallows; she is writing her name in the sand. A giant L and a tiny y and two ill-fitting ‘n’s.    Bending he looks more closely and, yes, as far as he can tell, it is a human heart. He feels his own heart pound in his chest, its every throb a punch against his ribs. What to do: lift it and take it with him to the apartment? What then, call the police? Explain why he had moved it from its resting place.    “See my name?” his daughter calls.    “Yes, I see. That’s very good.”    He walks to where she’s standing, hoping that when he turns there will be no heart on the sand.    “Will I write your name?”    “Yes, do. Can you spell it?”    “Course. Silly.”    She drags the piece of timber through the damp sand, slowly carving the two letters.”    “And mum’s?” 33

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“Yes.”    Again, she sets about the task, her tongue between her teeth, concentrating hard, working her way through the eight letters of her mother’s name.    “Now,” she says, standing back.    “That’s wonderful. You’ve done a great job.”    His daughter nods and hands him the piece of timber.    “Can we go back now? I’m hungry.”    “Of course.”    He steers her away from the waterline, away from the dark heart resting on the shore.    “Let’s see if we can find a sand dollar on the way back.”    He sticks the piece of timber into the sand, well above the high watermark, an indicator for the morrow. For now, there is nothing he can do. He doesn’t want to bring the heart to his daughter’s attention, doesn’t want to frighten her with this macabre gift from the sea.       That night he dreams the dream again. He sees himself, the second youngest man at the long table, hardly more than a boy. This is all he ever dreams. The reverie never takes him beyond this point and on to the other, darker days that followed. Instead, he sits with the others and someone begins to sing a soft song. He knows this bit of the dream has come from elsewhere, from another time and place, when they would sing together. It comes from one of the nights at a desert campfire or an evening in winter when they were crowded into one room in someone’s house. But, in this dream, the singing happens at the long table. It starts at the other end, Andrew’s voice running like a low, slow river beneath the conversation, gradually making its way into the ears of the listeners, stopping their speech until the song can run freely, without the word-rocks getting in its way, until each of them picks it up and feels the lightness of its beauty begin to lift them. Always the same dream and the same song that seems about to explode, to drive them from their seats and lead them smiling through the marshalled, silent streets outside. Forever, he sits waiting for someone else to rise; he waits to follow, he knows he will not lead. But the song never quite reaches that pinnacle. Instead, it fades away, the words becoming sparser, the silent gaps expanding to fill the moments between those words until, at last, there is only the silence, and the room is as it was that night, full of fear and indecision. And then he wakes, as he always does, his body a berg of perspiring skin, his hair dripping sweat into his open eyes.    Outside, he hears thunder rising and falling, catches the sheets of lighting through the window of his room and hears the wind begin to rise.    The following morning, he leaves his daughter with her new-found friend, Melissa, and Melissa’s mother at the pool and jogs to the 34

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point where the timber marker still skewers the warm sand. His stomach is churning, bile rising in his throat. He tries to remember how far above the tidemark the heart was resting. He wishes it gone but he needs to be sure, needs to go back. If it is still there, he has no idea what he’ll do. Chances are the tide or a scavenging gull will have lifted it, yet it doesn’t matter if the heart is there or gone. What matters is the fact that it was there.    The sea is calm, the tide retreating steadily. And, indeed, the heart has disappeared. He walks fifty yards in each direction, scanning the sand and the shallows but no sign of it remains. The surge of the sea or some wandering foragers have done their work and there is no longer what Ken might call a situation requiring resolution.    Standing in the shallows, Al vomits, the clear water diluting the green liquid, sucking it out into the deeper waves and the open ocean beyond.    That afternoon they drive to SafariLand. To his relief, the woman at the box office is not the woman who turned them away. Inside, the park is virtually empty. He counts five people onthe paths between the rides.    “Right,” he says. “Where would you like to start – water slide, roundabout, bumper cars, dinosaur, elephant swing?”    “Can we do them all?”    “We can do them all. We have all afternoon. Twice if you like.”    She laughs.    “Really?”    “Really.”    “Mum would love this, wouldn’t she?”    “She would.”    “Can we come here some time with her?”    “Let’s hope we can.”    And now he sits in his car. It is late in the afternoon and the last of the autumn light is being tightly wrung from the heavens, dribbling down onto the flaky, rusted stubble of a long, wide field. He watches an old crow flail jadedly across the dull September sky, in search of its rookery, and he thinks of his daughter running carelessly along the sprawling summer paths of the amusement park, her sunbleached hair flying like a thousand short kite strings in the brightness.    And he remembers the shadow of a gull on the warm summer sand. And the sacred hearts of those he loved and lost.

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Visual Art|Paula Lietz

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Poetry|Jonathan Taylor Martin Parr, Boring Postcards As if a holocaust of dullness sometime late ‘70s froze us depopulating our England, wiping out all children

Farnham’s new Post Office, lonely motorway services on M1s and 6s sans cars between various nowheres,

leaving cones, scaffolding, terraces and caravans, Preston’s shopping centre, split-level housing, Cumbria,

post-war concrete entombing us as we stare faceless, motionless beyond the frame at futurity mindless of our own cold beauty.

Camera angles At first degrees are all in their 80s looking down a precipice from the vertigo of maturity. He must’ve had a tired hand. Gradually, over tens of minutes, collapsed years, they rise (or fall) to 70, 60, 50 counting something down. No longer is everything grass, carpet, sometimes there are walls, fences too, trunks of trees not yet leaves. And then 40, 30, 20 and you’d think they’d reach zero eventually, a kind of recognition, equality, but before that the world falls, breaks from a tired hand, unsteady, and suddenly it’s minus 90, just sky and sun, and towering adult silhouettes passing over like eclipses.

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Neptune the Mystic     Pace Gustav Holst Flutes sempre pianissimo 4.5 billion kilometres away, 218 degrees below zero lullabying in ice, 5/4 arpeggios rocking between E minor and far-off G-sharp minor, though also never quite either, as if our fingers would pass through chords’ methane blueness upwards to piccolo and oboe, ammonia clouds piled alpinely above 5,000 degree A minor core of trombones below untouched by harps’ treble tremolo, faint rings of silicates on celeste, klangfarbenmelodie’s cirrostratus: harps, flutes, violins con sordini, eddying, buffeting, dismembering the lullaby into somnolent ticking clock, where a year is two lifetimes, and where brass chords shift bitonally unresolved on their tonal opposites, dark spots in orchestra’s atmosphere 13,000 miles in diameter which seem beautifully still from afar but up closer contain harp glissandi, cyclonic violins, supersonic storms, thunder unheard, organ pedals, timpani, then Allegretto chorus beyond language, high sustained G to ecstatic canon, cut short by magnetosphere of dissonance: deep E minor whorled with E flat, till discords finally release their traction, as we drift to Kuiper Belt and beyond, leaving only sirenic treble voices echoing behind us ad infinitum, a farewell, calling back or warning, cadence-less. 40

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Poetry|Kevin Cadwallender Pins dropping on the Bones of Saints. Sharp and shining like Lucifer, The coruscating pins drop under candlelight, Over the bones of St. Anselm of Lucca. Finding hidden places to nestle, Between sternum and rib And filling up his hollow mouth Like scripture. The engine that drove the obsession Long left its mountings, the tongue That recited from memory, holy writ, Long since uprooted. A bizarre acupuncture, To raise the dead, They bury their steel heads In the rags that clutter Where his groin used to thrive. Obsession is the first rule of faith And the second.

Bacterium When I turned off the firewall of my life A relationship poem snuck in, Found a caustic corner to infect Grew like bacteria unnoticed. It took days of bleach and marigold gloves To elbow away the mark it left. I wonder sometimes when I am Scrubbing the grime off the cooker If I had not taken the time to remove it, what that bacteria might have become? A cure or a curse? 41

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Only one letter separating both. I lick the stamp of memory And wait for my taste’s reaction Curious as Louis Pasteur Over his heart’s petri dish.

Keeping the Tenor Bull under Lock and Key. Bulk-bought in the graveyard freezer half a ton of bull, heavy as a minotaur, shrink-wrapped colossus, snort-less, thoughtless, inert on the roof rack of a shuddering corsair. We are making lewd references to beef horning out jokes to gouge our guilt. headless hunters of the garden grill. salivating at the memory of steak. Across the dawn and drawn by the body roped to our appetites. we sing the inane pop songs of the hour. before lapsing into reverie and dumbness. Sliding off with grunts and a dull thud bloodless cretan, man-handled to a bench scrubbed clean, aprons and cleavers and would you say that butchery is an art? A little girl in pink dungarees drips ketchup onto her leg, smiling, gives a dog a morsel. The rest in the freezer in the roll top garage suspended, caught before a last disappearing.

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Short Fiction|Ashley Stokes Catriona’s Five-Year Plan

W

hen Matt Driskell rang his wife to arrange their weekly ‘date’ she made a transparent excuse. She was having Sunday brunch with the Mapsons tomorrow. She would need to charge her batteries tonight. He shouldn’t need reminding that Karen M can be flippin’ hard work. Before he could explain just how vividly he remembered flippin’ Karen, how monumentally Karen loomed in his dreams, how in his cloudiest, most haunted moments Karen M acquired the proportions of one of the great heads on Easter Island, that to him she was like a vast Girls’ World made out of granite and shipwrecks and mangled submarines, Catriona had told him that she had to dash. She was already late for her fish pedicure. She could, though, fit him in after work on Wednesday.    Before he could even ask how she was, Catriona had put the phone down.    He paced the flat all afternoon.    He left the flat at the same time he would usually set out for dinner with his estranged wife. He had no idea of where he was going.    It was dark when he found himself in Mosvka, a new vodka emporium where a long black counter curved like a sickle around the bar area. The Odessa Steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin was projected onto a wall at the back. It was on a loop and Matt watched the pram trundle down the Steps a few times. The footage was far more violent than he remembered, shockingly so for such an old film. At the counter he was still, as he had been throughout his long walk around the streets, repeating to himself that his marriage was over. The verdict was in. She would tell him on Wednesday. He was sure of it.    Halfway through his fourth kamikaze he stopped repeating that it was over. He hadn’t been listening to the conversation of the young couple sat next to him. He hadn’t noticed until now that the guy with his back turned had spiked pink hair and a shrill, excitable voice. He hadn’t noticed that a girl in a black sixties-style cocktail dress was stealing glances at him.    Matt didn’t consider himself a vain or stupid man. When that girl was born he would have been close to the age she was now: late teens or early twenties. But, still, that expression on her face: urgency, fascination.    Perhaps.   Breaking eye contact with the girl, Matt wondered if Moskva was a chain or a one-off establishment. Until tonight he had been part of a chain. That chain had snapped. There could be one-offs now, and no more Five-Year Plan. He could go free market, laissez-faire. You 43

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couldn’t control everything. A marriage wasn’t a bell curve or phone app. It wasn’t predictable or functional. Bollocks, he’d spent his whole working life dealing with code and systems. He liked to be spontaneous sometimes. She knew this.    He was having another argument with Catriona in his head, he realized. Why had she become so unhappy and restless? Until recently he had agreed to everything that she’d asked of him. He had followed the Plan. Five years ago, after all the prevarication, they did get married on a beach in Antigua. They had then bought a house. They did renovate the house and trade up to a bigger, more impressive property. They had visited what she called her Seven Wonders of the World: the best luxury resorts in the Maldives, Dubai, Egypt, Goa, Barbados, Mauritius and Malaysia.    The first Wonder holiday was actually pre-Plan. He had proposed in Pangkor Laut and that night, on the back of a postcard she, tipsy and giggling, had written out her Five-Year Plan. Unaware that it would become a legally binding contract he’d signed his name under hers at the bottom of the list. He’d baulked only when Plan Point Five started to burn a hole in her to-do list.    A terrible balalaika version of The Winds of Change by The Scorpions played over the Moskva’s PA system. At first the couple next to him sang along to the words, the pink-haired guy’s voice loud and histrionic, the girl’s an embarrassed whisper. Her hair was tied back, apart from two sharp strands that caressed her cheeks. Her top lip seemed somehow over-firm, between a pout and a swelling.    When the girl had refrained from joining in a whole chorus of The Winds of Change Pink Hair stopped his caterwauling and ordered some drinks. Matt noticed that his red T-shirt was emblazoned with a retro Wonder Woman logo. When he handed a glass to the blonde they sipped in silence, like naughty children bought off with a treat.    ‘So amazing,’ he said.    ‘So amazing,’ she said.    ‘I’m going to sample the mischief. I can’t let them alone for a minute.’    He waddled off towards a group of kids crammed onto a black leather sofa beneath the projection. The careering pram flashed across his back. Matt found himself staring at the projection after Pink Hair had sat down. Again he watched the pram bouncing along the Odessa Steps until he realized that the blonde in black was still sitting next to him.    ‘Matthew,’ she said. ‘You’re Matthew, aren’t you?’    He wasn’t merely surprised. Fear tingled across his shoulders.    ‘Matthew, from Interzonal?’ she said.    ‘Matt, actually.’    ‘So amazing.’    ‘What’s amazing?’    ‘Interzonal. Amazing.’ 44

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‘Have we met before?’    ‘The Digital Vistas seminar. You gave a presentation.’    ‘I was crap, I apologize,’ he said. He hadn’t been remotely crap, he knew. He’d returned home that night and rang Catriona, telling her that he had been like a hurricane tearing through that airless, fawn-brown conference suite.    ‘No, no,’ she said, ‘what you said, so amazing, sort of inspirational, and your websites! I love your radical, logic-based mindset.’    They shook hands in professional fashion. Her name was Tamara, she said. He offered to buy her a drink. For the first time in months he felt a rush of real blood.    ‘These are so amazing,’ she said as another round of kamikazes arrived. She had posed herself against the bar in a way familiar to him from dozens of serendipitous meetings and exploratory soundings in airport lounges and HQ cafeterias. She explained that she was in the third year of a Bsc in Web Design and Internet Technology with Marketing. Web design was her passion. She was going to give it her everything. She was like this, she said. Always taking advantage of opportunities. Always thinking ten seconds ahead.    She gave him a long spiel about her business plan. Her start-up would be called Celery Blu. Her ideas were both naive and vague, but he didn’t criticize. Instead he presented a capsule version of how he’d started in the business, a capsule version of the capsule version he’d given at Digital Vistas. Sent his first email in 1990. Built his first website in 1992 when he’d been a trainee programmer for a Dutch-owned insurance company. Started Interzonal as a sideline in 1995, ahead of the herd, and by 2000 was subcontracting and taking on staff.    ‘Do you know Philip Sprague at Bytekunst?’ she said.    ‘I know Phil.’    ‘Could you introduce me?’    Matt considered being helpful and mentorish here, and explaining to Tamara that networking should never look quite so obviously like networking. A girl on a fishing trip who doesn’t check the weather beforehand will sink to a watery grave.    Then he wondered if this was strictly true. It was certainly true for fat, sweaty men on the palpable make. It might be true for older and less svelte women. It was undoubtedly true for anyone with an alreadyestablished reputation for failure. It was true for them. Tamara and her ilk, though, they’d been given a special pass.    She might not know this yet.    He suspected that she already knew.    When she handed him a white business card he tucked it into the back pocket of his jeans and imagined ahead some sparse, cool bedroom where the sunrise was wiping down the night.    ‘So Tamara,’ he said, ‘what tunes you into?’    ‘Oh, just what everyone else likes. Listen, what do you think of 45

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this . . .’    He was hoping she was going to suggest another, more intimate venue when the pink head popped up between them.    ‘Tamaramasalata,’ he said. ‘Your taxi awaits.’    Two other girls and a young guy in a brown, waxy leather jacket – the sofa posse – loomed up behind him.    ‘Oh Pitch,’ said Tamara. ‘This is Matt Driskell, from Interzonal.’ She pointed her forefingers at each of their chests. ‘Matt. Pitch. Pitch. Matt.’    ‘Pitch?’ said Matt, an unusual pulse surging in the hinge of his jaw. ‘Is that short for something?’   ‘C’mon kids,’ said Pitch. ‘Party time.’    He took a forceful stride towards the exit. The others failed to follow. Tamara had leant in closer to Matt.    ‘It was supposed to be a Mad Men party but it’s gone a bit mafia.’    The other three, a girl with Lego man hair, a forbidding Japaneselooking ultravixen and the guy in the waxy jacket all muttered and twitched and seemed to Matt peculiarly anxious that Tamara get a move on. Matt suddenly feared being left in Moskva, abandoned to the prams and the Cossacks and however many more kamikazes he could sink before chucking-out time.    Tamara slipped off her stool, patting her side as if she was checking for something. All the while Matt fixed his eyes on her and continued to stare even when a cold sweat bothered his hairline.    Eventually, she said, in muted voice, ‘You can come back, if you want.’    As he followed Tamara and Co out of the bar he glanced around at the projection. For the last time the wheels of the Odessa pram teetered on the edge. He realized that this was the only section of the film he had ever seen. He didn’t really know what it was about, or what ever happened to those rushing, tumbling people.    There was a long ride in a black people carrier out through the new developments to a place Matt didn’t recognize, a cul-de-sac of late-nineties town houses. It was dark inside the party house and when Matt got out of the people carrier to pay what turned out to be a substantial fare there were no beats thudding from the interior. Inside, the hallway was decidedly unpacked with crazy kids. Pitch shouted ‘cocktail patrol’ and he and Tamara disappeared into the rear of the building. Matt was left sitting on a futon in a front-facing lounge. On a proper sofa the colour of Barney the loveable dinosaur, Joss and Vanessa – he’d found out their names in the taxi – intermittently fiddled with their smartphones. Sometimes they even smiled back at the screens.    The boy in the waxy jacket was sat cross-legged on the floor. His name was Hergé. Matt hoped someone had gifted the lad a cool-sounding nickname. If not, the parents ought to be put in the stocks and 46

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pelted with out-of-date tapenade and rotting pak choi.    Once or twice Hergé muttered something to Joss. At one point she handed him her glasses. He wore them for several minutes before passing them back. Matt was bored already, but satisfied that he’d only been free for half a day and by nightfall had wangled an invite to some sort of party. Tonight was the start of his next five years. Tamara had already given him her number before she insisted he come back with her. He knew the etiquette. Kids just hung out. They let things happen. They experimented. At heart he still was one of them. He wasn’t that old yet.    This is what Catriona wanted to change in him, ever since she’d started to think with her womb, making plans on behalf of their ... no, her unborn children.    Plan Point Five: Children.    He didn’t want to think about this now and scanned the room for a point of reference that could spark a conversation. Above the mockfireplace hung a framed poster of the Scissor Sisters.    This is how you networked. You pretended to like things that you knew other people liked even if you really hated them. He’d slip Tamara this top tip later. He could be mentorish. He could be anything he liked now.    ‘So, Hergé,’ he said. ‘You into the Sisters?’    ‘You have to,’ he said, ‘if you live here.’    ‘Aren’t they’re a bit old now?’    ‘Don’t let Pitch hear you say that.’    ‘What do you do, then, Hergé?’    ‘Same as these guys.’    ‘Matthew,’ said Vanessa. ‘You know Philip Sprague of Bytekunst?’    ‘I know Phil, yes.’    ‘Can you please first make an introduction for me?’    Before Matt could answer, Pitch bounded into the room and slammed a jug of mojito onto the coffee table.    ‘Get your tongues out of each other’s throats, girls, and whip the ass off this mutha.’    Nobody reached for a drink until Matt picked up the jug and pulled it to his face.    ‘Pitch, mate, you need to put the chopped mint in first, not last.’    ‘Oh shut up and imbibe, Lovejoy.’    Pitch wedged himself between Joss and Vanessa. He had an oddly narrow, birdish face that in combination with the hair gave him the appearance of a pink cockatoo. Even though he dressed like a teenager he must be heading north from thirty. He was clearly a code-red plank, a tosser, but Matt knew not to mentor Tamara on this score. He wondered if it would be rude to get up and find her.    She reappeared, though, and tiptoed rather unsteadily around the coffee table, all the while looking for somewhere to sit. The only 47

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seat left was on the futon next to Matt. She sat on the floor and reached over for the jug.    ‘Here, let me,’ said Matt, realizing that she was attempting an awkward manoeuvre from a low angle. Her face looked rosy and puffed up, as if she’d been crying, or shouting or shouted at. He made a point of eye contact as he handed her the glass. He hoped she wasn’t in trouble for bringing him here. He couldn’t believe there were actually house rules about this sort of thing.    ‘Salud,’ she said. ‘I hope everyone’s been telling you all about their amazing selves.’    ‘Oh they have,’ said Matt, raising his glass to the room.    ‘Vanessa’s from Osaka. So amazing.’    ‘And Joss here is from amazing Nuneaton, aren’t you, pussicat?’ said Pitch. He reached around and gently slapped the side of her face with the back of his hand. ‘We’ll play a funky game in a minute. We like games in this house, don’t we, kids?’    Nobody said anything.    Nobody put up his or her hand.    Matt shuffled along the futon and dipped his head towards Tamara.    ‘You OK?’ he said as quietly as he could. ‘Has something happened?’    She might have been sending him some signal with her eyes. Her lashes fluttered as she downed most of the mojito at once.    ‘You say the mint goes in first?’ she said.    ‘Yep. This tastes like it could be poured over a lamb chop.’    ‘Mint, then the rum?’    ‘No. Mint. Ice. Then the rum.’ This was what it said in the Crazy Cuban Cuisine book he’d bought for Catriona after they spent New Year in Havana two winters ago.    Tamara turned around. ‘Pitch, Matt says that the mint goes in first?’    ‘I bet he always puts his mint in first,’ said Pitch.    ‘Pitch is very naughty,’ said Tamara. ‘Very naughty indeed.’    ‘So, how did you guys meet?’ said Matt.    ‘On a staircase with the candelabra,’ said Pitch. ‘Or in the living room with a spanner, I can’t quite remember.’    ‘Shush, naughty,’ said Tamara. ‘He came to talk to us at uni. He’s very supportive and gave us lots of free advice and then he said we could live here.’ She leant forwards to speak into the gap between Matt’s knees. ‘It’s cheap rent, but we have to do other things.’    ‘What things?’ said Matt.    ‘Oh, you know,’ said Tamara.    Pitch stood up and waved his arms about.    ‘Let’s all play a pleasant game.’    No one reacted. The same inscrutable, glum expression lined the faces of Hergé and the girls on the sofa. 48

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‘So, Pitch,’ said Matt, ‘what line of business are you in?    ‘Can’t you tell?’    ‘He’s not a mind reader,’ said Tamara. ‘Unless you are, Matthew. Are you a mind reader?’    ‘Sometimes. I have these flashes of insight.’    ‘Ooh,’ said Pitch. ‘Flashes of insight.’    ‘Pitch is amazing,’ said Tamara. ‘He sells products from small boutique designers into the big retailers. They all love Pitch’s pitches. And he’s an amazing salsa teacher, too.’    ‘That’s quite a CV,’ said Matt. ‘Pitch isn’t your real name, though, is it?’    ‘It’s the name they gave me, honeyslut. Now it’s game time, babies.’    He stood up and pulled the coffee table to one side, creating a space in the middle of the floor between the futon and the sofa.    ‘What’s your real name?’ said Matt.    ‘Take your shoes and socks off, Mr Insightful. You’re first.’    Pitch was standing on one leg now. He reached down to remove his shoe. Then he switched legs and took off the other shoe.    When Pitch was barefoot and standing with his hands on his hips a feeling coursed over Matt. The feeling had a single connotation. It reminded him of when he’d been eight or nine and at Cub Scout camp and this man had led him into woods that seemed to go on for miles and miles. The man kept saying that something important was coming, something Matthew would like. When they finally arrived there was nothing but a crater and a tyre swing. Someone had broken the swing. A tractor tyre and a coil of electric blue rope lay far down below in the dust.    Even then Matt knew that this wasn’t the important thing. Something was supposed to happen. Beforehand, the very air and the bracken had shivered with future knowledge.    One day it would happen.    One day he would get ever so lost.    It was time to leave. It was nearly three in the morning. These mojitos on top of the kamikazes did not sit well in his stomach. He couldn’t drink all night any more. His instinct was to ask Tamara for the street name, then leave the house and call a cab outside. Something was very wrong here. Tamara should come back with him tonight. He could put her up. He’d find her somewhere else to live if he had to.    ‘Shoes off, Daddio,’ said Pitch.    ‘Leave it out,’ said Matt.    ‘Do you know what this means?’ said Pitch. ‘Do you have the faintest of foggy ideas what this means?’    ‘I don’t give a monkeys.’    ‘The rules say,’ said Pitch, ‘that Tamaramasalata will have to take your place.’ 49

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Matt was about to tell Pitch where he could stick his rules when Tamara knelt up on one knee. She stared down at her shoe and started to untie the clasps and straps.    ‘Tamara,’ Matt said. ‘You OK with this?’    ‘She always ends up liking it in the end.’ Even Pitch sounded like he was trying to convince himself of something.    ‘Tamara, put your shoes back on,’ said Matt. He would call a cab now. He would get her out of here.    She stood up, her fingers hooking the back-straps of her shoes so they dangled at her thigh. She looked at Matt and then craned around to stare at Pitch. She froze, then shivered, and jerking into action dashed past him and out of the room.    Matt followed her. He couldn’t see her in the hallway but then noticed her pale frond-like arms receding into the darkness of a room further along. He walked towards her and on the threshold reached around the doorframe to find the light switch. A kitchen-diner flashed up before him. At the other end of the kitchen was a utility room. He found Tamara’s shoes outside the locked door of what he assumed was a downstairs bathroom.    He knocked lightly with his knuckles. He heard her being sick. He slid down the wall and sat with his hands between his knees. Whoops and yelps and some indiscernible chanted phrase drifted through from the lounge. He checked his Blackberry. There were no messages or missed calls and it was late. Dead late.    Usually at this time of night he’d be in bed with Catriona. She would often quiver in her sleep and wake him up. He would lay on his back then, his thigh against her thigh, and count backwards until he drifted off again. In the morning she would be awake before him, propped up and keeping watch when he opened his eyes. She would often laugh and pretend he’d said terrible things in his sleep.    It hadn’t been like this for months, though. It hadn’t been like this for longer than a few months.    At this time of night, early on a Sunday morning, in the flat he now rented he would have returned from his ‘date’ with Catriona. They would have come no closer to a resolution. He would be inching his way down a bottle of single malt, going over and over and contradicting her reasoning until he was woozy enough to attempt the dive to the bottom of the bed in the bedroom. He would be awake after ninety minutes and up again, patrolling the flat in his dressing gown and still arguing with her in his head, terrified of something that he could not describe to himself or to her.    Maybe he had said terrible things in his sleep after all.    If she could observe him now it would not impress her that at the lowest tilt of the night he was slumped on the concrete floor of a utility room in a house at the arse end of nowhere. She would not be intrigued by the glass backdoor through which he had a view on a deflated 50

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paddling pool that looked like a decomposing sea creature beached on a patio fringed by nodding weeds. She would feel superior to his longing here. She would see herself as a luxury, prestige product compared to the slip of a girl behind a door; a girl on her knees being sick; a barefoot girl in a second-hand dress; a child who couldn’t stand up for herself.    They were still chanting in the lounge. There were yelps of pleasure.    He remembered the first time he’d seen Catriona. They used to wait at the same tube station every morning. He noticed her many times, pacing the platform with her coffee and paperback and her different scarf for each day of the week in winter. These moments lingered in his thinking until he’d realized that not ever knowing her was going to hurt something inside him. He remembered the colonnade under which they first talked and how hard she’d made impressing her seem. He remembered that after the first time he spent all night beside her he had experienced an overpowering sense of fate. The hem of her sarong had fluttered in the sea at some place he couldn’t now name. He remembered the night they climbed onto the roof to see the comet, and the rain that dripped from her hood when they were caught out in a storm in Umbria. He thought of Pangkor Laut and signing off the Plan and how wonderful it had seemed that ahead were these things they would do together.    He could call her now, or he could intercept her before she left for brunch with the flippin’ Mapsons tomorrow. If he waited until Wednesday his waiting, his non-reaction, the non-manifestation of passionate gesture would become the deal-breaker. He knew that on Wednesday she was going to tell him that it was over, and after it was too late he would wish more than anything that he had capitulated and agreed to Plan Point Five.    It was all quiet on the bathroom front now. He wondered if Tamara had a Five-Year Plan, or if she really did only think ten minutes ahead.    He was still, technically a free man.    The dawn would come soon.    The night was running down.    He should leave.    He was still waiting for her and somehow couldn’t stop the waiting.    If he could go backwards he knew he would go back.    If he could just stay here he might forget.    A door opened somewhere towards the front of the house. Footfalls traipsed up the stairs and spread out across the ceiling.    ‘You still here, sunshine.’    Matt startled. Pitch was standing in the kitchen. Under the spotlights, the pink spikes of his hair glittered with sweat.    ‘Want a drink?’ said Pitch. ‘Not much fun sitting down there on your tod.’    ‘I’m OK, thanks.’    ‘Guess what?’ 51

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‘What?’    ‘I won.’    ‘Congratulations.’    ‘You should have played. I might not have won then. It’s so dull being a winner, like, constantly.’    ‘I was worried about Tamara.’    ‘She’ll be alright, matey. She never handles her booze. We’re on at her about it, like, every single bitchin’ day.’    ‘I’d like to be sure.’    ‘Okey dokes, but if I come down tomorrow and find you still doing a watchdog impression I’ll consider you the world’s most stupid man.’    Pitch turned off the light as he left. It struck Matt that sod’s law Tamara would decide to come out now. If his dim male shape suddenly materialized in front of her she would probably scream.    He stood up and knocked on the door, this time hammering it with his fist.    When the door opened she looked crushed, her eyes bleary and her dress wrinkled.    ‘Oh God,’ she said. ‘What are you doing?’    ‘Checking you’re alright.’    ‘Of course I’m alright. I’m asleep.’    ‘You don’t look asleep, or alright,.’    ‘Christ. The time. What time is it?’    He followed her into the kitchen. She turned on a striplight beneath a kitchen cabinet and poured herself a glass of water. He watched her drink. He wanted a drink too, a long glass of that.    ‘I’m sorry, Matthew,’ she said, pottering around the kitchen as if she didn’t know the way out. ‘This hasn’t been an amazing evening.’    ‘I thought you wanted to talk to me about something?’    ‘Did I?’    ‘Yes.’    ‘What?’    ‘You tell me?’    ‘When did I say that?’    ‘In the bar.’    ‘Oh. Did I? I don’t remember. Oh crumbs, I feel rank.’    She did now find the doorway. He followed her. In the hall she paused, still with her back to him. So casually, it seemed to him, so sleekly did she reach around the back of her head and slip off the clasp that tied up her hair that he felt like he was watching an advert for luxury chocolate. Not the gaudy adverts you see now. The lavish, soft-focus adverts you used to get when he was a boy. How agile she now seemed, as she spun about on her heels. For a moment he thought she was, after all, still awake enough to take advantage of the situation.    ‘Matthew,’ she said, the glow of the yellow-grey morning light firing the wisps of her hair, ‘you will remember to tell Philip Sprague about 52

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me, won’t you?’    Outside it was so bright that it could have been noon. He had no idea where he’d ended up last night. As far as he knew this district didn’t even have a name. All the houses looked the same: the same pale brickwork, the same box hedges and the same steeply slanting roofs. A fair few were up for sale.    As soon as he’d left Pitch’s house he realized he’d spent all his cash on the initial taxi fare. So far he had not found any shops, let alone a cashpoint. He kept walking. He was exhausted and could easily curl up and crash on a verge or traffic island. He was thinking less about sleep than heading off Catriona before she left for the Mapsons. But if he turned up looking like this, unkempt and stinking of vodka, he’d gift her another dealbreaker, further evidence that he was no longer father material. He could never change. She had asked him to go away and think about these things. This is what he would show her.    He reached what seemed to be the edge of the suburb. Cornfields stretched ahead of him. The clouds looked like giant hunks of coral floating in a blue tropical sea.    The first day of his next five years.    He walked along the side of the road, not sure if he was heading towards home or away from it. He took out Tamara’s white business card and tossed it at a hedge.    Eventually he found a service station with a shopping mall. At an ATM he withdrew cash. He bought an americano in a coffee franchise and asked the barista to tell him where he was.    Outside, at the rear of the mall he found a shabby, litter-strewn picnic area. A convenient and fun place, he imagined, to let the kids run around and break up a long journey. He sat down at a plastic table and couldn’t seem to summon the energy to call a cab. He held the paper coffee cup and twisted it around in his palms, reading over again the copy printed on its side: You have been Warned: You are about to Experience a Social Phenomenon.

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Visual Art|Ernest Williamson

Artist delving into her craft 54

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Regardless of What You Face 55

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The Classical Dancer 56

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Interview|Alicen

Roshiny Jacob

The Return of the Historian: An Interview with William Dalrymple

W

illiam Dalrymple’s The Return of a King is the definitive analysis of the first Afghan war. In the spring of 1839 British forces invaded Afghanistan, re-establishing Shah Shuja on the throne, in reality as their puppet, and ushering in a period of conflict over the territory still unresolved today. With access to a whole range of previously undiscovered sources, including crucial new material in Russian, Urdu and Persian, and contemporary Afghan accounts including the autobiography of Shah Shuja himself, Dalrymple’s masterful retelling of Britain’s greatest imperial disaster is a powerful and important parable of neo-colonial ambition and cultural collision, folly and hubris, for our times from one of our great historians and commentators.    In an interview with Alicen Jacob, Dalrymples speaks on length about his new work and a whole lot of things that interest Dalrymple - Photo Credit: Jose him. Varghese

Alicen Roshiny Jacob (ARJ) : If you were given a chance to meet one of the characters in this book in flesh and blood whom would that be? William Dalrymple (WD): Difficult question to answer... I think the most complicated, complex character and much charming would be the character of Alexander Burnes - this flawed British or this flawed Scottish traveller and spy and diplomat , who is enormously clever and understands Afghanistan but allows himself to take part in this unnecessary invasion of Afghanistan against his better judgement when he knows that it is not necessary. He knows that it is a rather mistaken project even before he goes for Afghanistan because he is lured by his ambition. He wants a promotion and he accepts the grand post of Deputy Governor even though he knows the whole thing is a misconceived mistake. In other words it’s a story of a very clever, talented, charming man who allows his ambition to get the best of him and who ends up being hacked to death at the Kabul bazaar- he comes to a very tricky end, a very unpleasant death, entirely of his own ambition.    Shah Shuja himself is someone I would like to meet. Again someone who is different from how history has portrayed. It’s very clear from his memoirs that he is an extremely intelligent, charming, civilized thinker who looks back to the timurid and mughal forbearers. He likes 57

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gardens, he likes jewels, he was a poet, enormously gifted and civilized figure and far more persistent and has far greater stamina than British had given him credit. So I’ll be very intrigued with him, he’s a highly misunderstood character, and he’s from the same tiny subtribe as Karzai – I was called to Kabul last week to be interviewed by Karzai who is very interested in Shah Shuja’s work and he was able to quote to me great chunks of Shah Shuja’s poetry which I didn’t know.    The third character would be the British spy master Sir Claude Wade. He single handily causes the war, again through his own ambition, he is jealous of Alexander Burnes who says that the invasion is not needed, but to preserve his own position as the senior figure in this war, he goes ahead and allows the invasion to take place....so he’s a very interesting character and I think he is the person responsible for all this. ARJ: Almost all Afghan women characters seem to be silent throughout the work except for Wafa Begum, the sister of the Barkzai, whom Shah Shuja marries so as to end the feud between them. WD: I don’t think that’s the case actually. I think that Afghan women are much more prominent than we give them credit for. Wafa Begum is an extraordinarily powerful character as is Dost Mohammed’s mother and I think that both the Afghan and British women play a prominent role in this book. I wouldn’t agree with that. This is not near women’s rights. This is not near proto feminism. But I think the image of Afghan women has been very weak and a marginal character is not right and I think that the West has misunderstood the role of Afghan women, they are much stronger than you realise. Wafa is exactly the example of what I say an extremely strong sort of Afghan woman. ARJ: Could you tell us something more about her? WD: Yes. Wafa Begum was like many women from elite backgrounds in traditional courtly societies, she’s from the barakzai clan. She’s the sister of Dost Mohammed and she’s married into the rival Sadozai clan and it’s like for example, Sonia Gandhi marrying Priyanka into Genaral Kayani’s family (laughs)or would be equivalent to marrying her to Bilawal Zardari Bhutto. And so this woman finds herself at a very young age given over into the camp of her enemy and yet as these women usually do in these situations, she acts both as a peacemaker but also ultimately she’s very much at the the role of her husband’s aide de camp and so on. And she is largely responsible for Sha Shuja’s success. Several of the Afghan sources say that as long as she was alive Shah Shuja was alright and only he goes adrift once she can no longer rely on her advice. He is imprisoned by the governor of Kashmir in a dungeon in Kashmir, and Wafa Begum, who is a woman, who is out of power, who has little going for her in a sense...Shah Shuja has lost his throne, her husband is imprisoned, manages to persuade Ranjit Singh to invade Kashmir on the whole and promises him the Kohinoor if he does that and Ranjit 58

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Singh fulfils his promise. He gets Shah Shuja out of prison and it’s a remarkable story. ARJ: Alexander Burnes is one of the stalwart characters in this book. How different would the situation have been if, Lord Auckland instead of heeding to the opinions of Wade and Macnaghten, had listened to him? What is your assessment? WD: Well I think that’s the great missed opportunity. I think that this war was entirely unnecessary and the British going to Afghanistan to spend huge amounts of money and lose thousands of troops. In a way a war that was not necessary and many will agree that it is true with the current invasion. That we could’ve got rid of Al Qaeda and got Bin Laden too, without having to invade the whole country. I don’t know the details of this but many have put forward the view that Mullah Omar was open to a deal, that he would’ve given up Bin Laden rather than lose power and we could’ve got rid of Bin Laden and the whole of Al Qaeda without actually invading. In other words in both cases both invaded the country without considering all the negotiations and all the diplomatic options first. ARJ: Mohanlal Kashmiri seems to be as skilled as his master, Alexander Burnes. How do you perceive him? WD: I love Mohan. He’s a very intriguing character. The only biography written on him in the 1940’s comes with an introduction by the young Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru saw Kashmiri as exactly the sort of character who is full of talent but who, thanks to being an Indian under colonial rule, fails to get his justice. His career is destroyed by the British. At the end of the story we study that he is penniless, the British ignores his advice, the uprising takes place, Mohanlal borrows money under his own account in order to bribe the Afghans into ‘divide and rule’ and he tries to persuade various Afghan factions to help the British. Now none of this actually works out and Mohanlal is left not paid back at the end of all this. Very interesting. ARJ: We learn that the Great Game is not over with the battle between 1839- 1842. WD: Well I think the 1970’s was the last throw of the Great Game. It was exactly what the British had feared would happen in the 1840’s. In the 1840’s it was extremely unlikely and I don’t think it was a realistic anxiety. But obviously it did finally take place in the 1970’s. What’s going on now is the Great Game or so, but not the same equation of Russia against the part of South Asia. It is now a very much different game- to keep the Al Qaeda at bay and keep American control, proAmerican government; pro- Western government in Kabul. So it’s a different equation. It’s a different Great Game, but in both Afghanistan is the central piece in the jigsaw. 59

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ARJ: How did Britain as a nation react to the whole idea of the Great Game, when it was presented to them- the Monarch, the Parliament? What were their opinions at its different stages? WD: I think, in this period, a lot of the decisions were taken in Calcutta as it takes about five months to get an answer from London. So no one is relying on parliament really to take the final decision. It’s very much taken by the men on the ground. But that said, the greatest example of the “dodgy-dossier”, the proof that Alexander Burnes’ reports are edited very heavily to make it look the piece reporting the invasion of Afghanistan. Well in fact its original dispatches were strongly advising against it. So the parliament does have a role to play - a role but is misled as to the actual scenario. The government blue boxes which contain these documents are revealed soon after the war to be in effect to be faked, to have been so heavily edited that they are saying opposite to what were written, were intended to say. ARJ: In what way was the First Afghan War a dress rehearsal for the Mutiny of 1857? WD: The two are very different events but they are linked. The regiments which initially rise up in 1857 are the regiments which had had been in Afghanistan and the people who had lead like Subedar Bakht Khan who leads the sepoy forces in Delhi, are veterans of the Afghan conflicts and they believe they were deserted by the British and left to their fate to be enslaved and killed. And the misbehaviour of the British Officer class in 1842 to their sepoys is a huge cause of resentment among the sepoys. There is a document written by the Afghans about the war. The accounts of the war like the Akbarnama and Jangnama are printed in Indian and Persian presses and they run up till 1857. In other words, Indians are learning from the success of the Afghans in defeating the British in order to work out how to beat the imperial power and so you have a very ready audience for Afghan accounts of defeating the British in India in the 1850’s. ARJ: In your book you have included the accounts of even hawildars and sepoys like Moti Ram and Sita Ram. How did you come across these accounts? Did you find more of this sort? WD: There are very few of these, but they are very precious and they took a lot of finding. There are three good accounts of sepoys. One is Sita Ram’s accounts, which some scholars argue that it’s a British fake because the original manuscript didn’t survive and somebody would say that it would be written by a Briton. I don’t believe that. I think internal evidence is stronger that it is actually a genuine account, and I’ve used in both The Last Mughal and the Return of a King. I’ve seen other British fake accounts when I was doing The Last Mughal and it was trying to ape sepoy voices and they are very obviously fake. This one reads to me as true. 60

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Moti Ram’s account, when he was a gurkha, and when he was interviewed by one of the veterans of the war on his return in the late 1840s and the account written at the fall of Charikar contain two appendices with Moti Ram’s account at the end of it. I was very excited when I found it as it’s never been used before.    And the third account is in the Court Marshal Records in Indian National Archives. A lot of the sepoys who survived and who managed to get away from the main column, the death march of the retreat and made it back to Peshawar and were then put on court marshal and tried as deserters... and those court marshal records which survive in the Indian National Archives are very revealing...how the sepoys when they tell that they didn’t desert but how they managed to escape from the killings and making up into the mountains and make their way back to India by a different route.I’m glad that you brought that up. ARJ: There is an African Proverb which says “unless the lion has his own historian the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter”. So was this book an attempt from your side to give the Afghans a chance to vindicate themselves, to say the truth from their side as well? WD: Yes, very much. It isn’t just Afghan against British accounts. It is internal Afghan accounts; the victors in Afghanistan were the Barakzai dynasty. And the descendants of Dost Mohammed and so Shah Shuja is very much underrated in my view and in these Barakzai sponsored accounts which were taught. It isn’t just the British who defeated it, it’s their allies the Sadozais. I’m a great fan of Shah Shuja’s. I think Shah Shuja is a much more interesting and much underrated character. When I was in Afghanistan , what they were more interested in was the version I give of Shah Shuja, as he’s a far more civilized, interesting, tenacious, brave and resolute figure than they have been taught in their histories. And the most interesting discussions that I had were about that.

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Poetry|Geoffrey Heptonstall Of The City

Towards a better space The City in Mind The view from here is familiar. We see how far it is From the urban ideal, Then we may propose Where to begin living again. A city of cypress easily burns. A house of glass reflects on us all. Then there are the cedars, Cool in the shade of noon, Shelter for lovers in a storm. Though the ground may give way, The fears are fire and flood and plague. This city has seen them all The City Discovered And we wonder who lives here Where the threads of attachment Are woven in complex patterns. Who calls the strangers’ case In a city of shadows? Truth may take every room in the house, Only to be homeless again Now a hard hand directs us. Some may find a private place In the light of experience, The engine of imaginings Written in unsupposed styles. We seek the stranger within. The City Exposed Beneath the streets sleeps the anger. Behind the anger is the blade Glistening in the low light. When money talks there is a sound 62

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Out of the measureless depths. The walls are whispers From the world of chances That float like feathers. Consider the hope of the hanging man. He dreams of seas in storm. His words are wounds: An autumnal afternoon, Anniversary of war. The City Remade What rumour is heard, Returning to source: Raw like a wound, Deeper than a dream? Late leaves fall on stone and steel. Better voices speak in the rain Washing those elegant walls. The woman in her cafĂŠ corner, Accustomed to silence, Smiles beneath the sunflowers Painted on a sea blue wall. Children are amazed by the rainbow They follow all the way home.

Poetry|Emma-Jane Hughes Sleeping At some point in the night she will always assume the same form, that returns her to infancy. Or the photo of her aged two sleeping on the sofa, curled about her three-month old brother, her arm around his barrel frame as if the picture froze some moment and compels her to return. 63

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Poetry|Gopikrishnan Kottoor The Old Horse Now that’s an old horse, so full of fleas. The tail, running out of mane, won’t get them all, but the old body is still trying. Remember what once was, milk white, the swift run behind wind mills, where the grass was good, and held so much water. His hand upon your back done gold. That was a time with dew drops to drink. An old horse, it won’t remember a thing. The fast race, the prompts, the wake up and whips, things that brought you to the hills. Try, and remember, a voice going underneath the blanket, calling, out, in a clearing forest of words. He is still there. Father at the blue gate with his handful of straw when you kept licking him like a calf.

The Backyard That’s a place for old oat tins, and corn flakes wrappers. Where you go but seldom, looking for some adventure, like a sudden snake, or even a mongoose, chasing a fleeing squirrel. It is where mom used to throw baby shirts, when they got torn, and where her broken bangles, shone all day as if to say that they were still, all glass. A backyard, it teaches you more than the Bible and Sunday mass. There, a tendril curls, clinging to the bright touch-me-not, and that’s where white periwinkles spring up with magic in the new rains, alongside a kindergarten of pure milk mushrooms. And there, the bitten fruit, of Eve, and the wild bats also fall. It is a place where you won’t go, easily after dark, without a torch. Because you think, ghosts really live there. Little ghosts of little things you secretly want to come back to flesh, because that’s only place where you went with your home spade to dig and bury something that loved you, without ever saying a word, wrapped up in its little white ball of fur. 64

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Short Fiction|Debz Hobbs-Wyatt Rush Hour

I

t’s about choices, you said. Turn left instead of right, you said. See where the road takes you, you said.    That was two weeks before they found you. Suicide, they said.    I stand with my Oyster card pressed to the machine, wait for the gates to spring open, a line of people standing behind me, their impatience prodding like an OAP with a brolly – move along, Miss. Hurry, hurry, hurry. I wonder what would happen if I just stood still. Would they step through me, is that how it feels to be a ghost?    But I don’t stand still. I shuffle through like a herded animal as the gates snap shut behind me. Then I press my card into the pocket of my coat; hold it there and think if I close my eyes maybe I could just disappear.    “You should feel better by now,” Emma, they say.    “It’s been nearly a year, Emma,” they say.    “But she was my best friend,” I say.    I don’t close my eyes. I don’t disappear. I do the same thing I do every day, I follow the red line: eastbound to the right, westbound to the left. Mustn’t stop. Nor do I turn around. But I do remember what you said: Don’t you wish you could just pull a sickie? Miss your stop? Turn around and walk the other way?    “No,” I said.    “Maybe,” I said.    “Every day,” I said.    I listen to footsteps, tinny sounds that echo; a hollow tube of people, marching. Always marching. Until you pointed it out I’d never noticed it. Now it’s all I notice.    Clippedy clop.    Clippedy clop.    Clippedy clop.    Mustn’t stop.    “That’s the trouble these days, “you said. “No one ever listens.”    I remember when you said it; in Starbucks, not long after it opened. We couldn’t believe we had our own Starbucks at The Label Company, could we? The girl was having trouble with your skinny latte, the bubbles were foaming over the sides of the cup onto her fingers and she was swearing in some language we didn’t understand, while some fella started moaning, said he’d asked for a white chocolate mocha and not caramel something or other.    “Bubbles are fine,” you said. 65

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“Really,” you said.    “We need to get back to work,” you said.    And the guy got louder saying if he’d wanted a white chocolate mocha he’s have bloody well asked for one and the girl made you another skinny latte.    “Do you ever feel invisible?” you said.    Some fella in a suit brushes past me, almost presses me flat against the wall so I’m staring at a poster of some indie rock band I never heard of, with psychedelic colours oozing out of guitars. The guy never even says sorry, carries on walking, focussed, robotic, a brief case in one hand, a rolled-up magazine in the other. It’s only as he turns I see it – OK Magazine. Really?    “Everyone has something about them,” you said. “Something that makes them different; something out of place.”    Is that how you felt? Out of place?    Why didn’t you tell me?    “You alright, Dear?”    I must’ve been mumbling and I’m still staring at the psychedelic poster, gawking at the drummer’s crotch it seems, and now some old biddy has her hand on my shoulder.    I turn. She looks kind of familiar, but she can’t be.    “I’m fine,” I say. “Really, I’m fine.”    It’s what I always say. It’s what you used to say. I always knew you’d been crying.    Why didn’t I ask?    As I step back I almost collide with a posse of students in black leather with art cases and metal bits in their faces. They look at me, but then I realise it’s like they’re looking past me or over me, or through me.    Is that how you felt?    The old biddy fumbles with a suitcase on wheels, yanking at the handle. It’s a white suitcase, a picture of a bald eagle on the side. Really? I think about asking if I can help, but instead I watch as the people keep coming, tutting at us like – don’t we know we’re not supposed to stop.    I catch the eye of a woman in a brown pin-striped suit, the strap of her laptop case rested on her shoulder. She has the same expression as the rest of them, programmed – must-get-to-work. I wonder if she’s ever pulled a sickie? It’s as she walks away I see a sticker slapped across the front of her laptop case, the words: I went to see Barry Manilow and never came back. So now I’m laughing. It echoes and the old biddy looks back at me like I’ve lost it and I wonder for a moment, as I stand there with everyone else moving around us, if she’s the only one who really sees me.    “Everyone’s too busy,” you said.    “No one cares what happens,” you said. 66

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“Look Em, I could fall in front of this train right now,” you said.    You were standing too close, over the line, leaning in as we heard the hollow roar of the train. “Stop,” I said. “Come away from the edge,” I said.    “All people would care about is it making them late for work and they’ll be looking at their watches while they scrape me off the tracks,” you said.    “Why d’ya have to be so morbid?” I said. “Not everyone’s like that.”    You looked at me then, shoved your hands into the pockets of your long black coat and said: “Everyone’s like that.”    And then you added: “Do you ever think about dying Em?”    “No,” I said. “Do you?”    “No,” you said.    “Maybe,” you said.    “Every day,” you said.    I watch the old biddy as she drags her suitcase. Maybe it’s something about the shape of her nose, her lips, I want to say something but she speaks first. She says, “You can be anything you want to be. What are you waiting for, Em?”    What? How? Wait ... it’s something you said to me once.    Why did she say that? How does she know my name? Do I know her?    But I don’t say it. I watch her walk away, slowly, awkwardly, in her blue mac, the clear plastic of a rain hat poking out of the pocket. I imagine pictures in her purse – five grandchildren, no six, one on the way. I never used to invent stories about people. It was something you said; about everyone having a story but no one takes the time. And now I wish I had taken the time.    It’s not too late. I can still see her. I can still ask.    But instead I watch until she’s part of the moving tube of people. Until she’s gone.    And now I’m wondering was she even here?    Clippedy clop.    Clippedy clop.    Clippedy clop.    Mustn’t stop.    “No one really knows anyone,” you said.    “But I know you.”    “We’re work colleagues,” you said.    I walk, slowly at first. I’m still thinking about the old biddy, about how people are all the same, yet different. It’s what you said, when you asked me if I thought history was like a loop that kept repeating itself. Like hamster wheels you said. You keep peddling but you end up in the same place anyway. 67

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I said I didn’t know.    Is it?    Is that your story?    I asked you to my flat once, remember? You said you were allergic to cats. I said I’d put Starsky and Hutch outside then.    “It’s the hair,” you said.    “What’s wrong with the hair? I thought you liked the new colour?” I said.    “No not your hair, the cat hair. It gets everywhere.”    “I’ve got a Dyson Animal.”    “What?”    “It really sucks,” I said.    “So does being allergic,” you said. You laughed then, a proper laugh, and then you cried.    “I don’t know what it’s like to have pets,” you said. “Nan wouldn’t let me.”    “What about your mum?”    “My mum killed herself,” you said.    “Oh,” is all I said.    Clippedy clop.    Clippedy clop.    Clippedy clop.    Mustn’t stop.    I wonder what would happen if I didn’t lift my feet, would I get dragged into the bottom of the escalator? Would I go round again? Is that what you meant? Are we all on a giant conveyor belt wondering where to get off?    Last stop: Land’s End.    Why there? Did you plan it?    I do lift my feet. And now I stare at rows of pictures, west end plays: must-see musical spectaculars. I’m standing still but everything else is moving.    “Sometimes I wish I could turn around right now.” That’s what you said and you reached for my hand right there front of everyone on the Central Line. “It’s about being free, Em. Haven’t you ever wished you could fly? Leave the city behind?”    “No,” I said.    “Maybe,” I said.    “Every day,” I said. I say it now. Some spotty fella stares at me so I stare back.    You never told me about your mum. Is that what she did? Did she jump too?    Did you buy a single to Penzance, or was it a return?    I might cry.    I wrap my fingers over a crumpled tissue in my pocket, half-turn to see a fella in a pink footie kit – at eight-thirty in the morning. 68

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Really? Now I am crying. He looks at me, unshaven, dark hair. I look past him at the line of suits – some walking, some standing, all moving.    Turn around – swim upstream. That’s what you said.    So why didn’t you? Or did you?    What would happen to the wine-labels if I wasn’t there to fill in the spreadsheet and raise purchase orders? Would they even notice?    A man at the bottom of the escalator strums on a guitar and a scruffy dog wearing a bandana collar looks up solemnly as he guards a hat of pennies.    You must like dogs? I asked you once. I sent you the link to Battersea Dog’s Home on Twitter. Remember?    “I can’t look,” you said. “It makes me sad,” you said. “It’s the eyes,” you said.    “You should get a dog. You’re not allergic to dogs are you?”    You shrugged.    So I told you how I’d always wanted to work with animals. A kennel maid or a vet nurse maybe.    And you said: Do it then. What you waiting for, Em? Do you really want to work with labels forever?    “What about you?” I said. “What do you want to be?”    “Free,” you said.    And are you – are you free now?    There was a Tweet, from you, I didn’t know it was part of a poem. I didn’t even know you liked poems. It said: I took the road less travelled by.    I wonder what happens to all the Tweets when we’re gone. Is it like the birds? Is there a roll call at dawn? Am I the only one who sits there staring at a screen, waiting for you to Tweet back?    When you never turned up for work that day I left you four Tweets.    No one knew where you lived. They had to call Human Resources.    I hear the squeal of brakes, the rush of air made by the trains as they speed along their tunnels.    Maybe I should go back, drop a penny in the man’s hat, ask him how you get to Battersea Dog’s Home. Maybe they’ve got a job going?    Turn around. Do it Em.    Now I hear the old biddy’s voice: What are you waiting for, Em? I think about the eagle on her suitcase.    And right there, mid flow I do it. I turn around. You’d be so proud of me. I walk against the surge of faces. Pushing, shoving – prodding. Hurry, hurry, hurry.     Keep walking Em. Don’t stop Em. Spread your wings, Em.     It’s about choices you said.    Today I’ll turn left instead of right.    Today I’ll see where the road takes me.    And that will make all the difference. 69

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Visual Art|Pei Yeou Bradley

Forever Figueres

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Tomorrow is Sunshine

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Poetry|Daniele Serafini Return to Campoformido to my father Tullio, aviator

Returning to Campoformido it is as if your photo (the one in your flying jacket Your comrades close by & your face unguarded to the future) had never been taken. Returning to Campoformido it was as if, unexpectedly, you stepped from the family album to retrieve, this moonless night, a brief flare of youth a gleam of wings that never bend to the wind nor flex with time. Returning to Campoformido it is as if, for a time, you were twenty again and asked me with a knowing smile to uproot our shadows from the earth to prepare to fly together this time without a parachute. Tornando a Campoformido Translated by the Irish writer and poet William Wall

Traces Even the fox is leaving his lair sniffing familiar air An abrupt stop in headlights under a bright flare of sheaves What sign remains by which to trace 72

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his primitive echo small pulse in the sun’s face? Tracce Translated by the Irish poet Fred Johnston

Exeter I do not know if it is lull or absence of wind That stirs me in this sleepless August, A hostage here to parapets and spires, Far from the sea-coast where, Like light stretched loud above the rocks, One face emerges clear among the shadows. Here summer is not born But dying blurs with autumn Perhaps it’s a lull in the wind that I am seeking, A hoarse silence which conveys Not voices, not memories, But deadened light, reflection of other life. Exeter Translated by Harry Guest

Poetry|Afric McGlinchey A kind of rescue She can’t inhale any more of this dispsomaniac tang, the bursting out of his boulder-sized words – droops, like a fox’s tail caught in a shower of rain. His rage, as usual, has turned her upside down, bringing out the other one, the one who launches, like a whale leaping up out of the ocean, while she disappears into nothingness. 73

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Later, she comes to, to find herself carried in a cradle of human arms, panic hitting her in the throat, bruises blooming; she tries to cover them, looks up to see a corridor of huge trees peering down, green faces leaning. Across the sky, a white arc wakes the beginning of memory... then a mighty uprush, burning; his smiling mask, finger beckoning casually, as though talking of the weather, or moving house, or furniture, yet eyes fixed as poignantly as a bridegroom waiting for his lover. Arms release her at the door, and she ducks behind it, fragments of a hideand-seek self flicking into place like a coin into a slot. On the camber of her hips, evidence of thumb-prints.

Our father This morning, the ghost of Li Young’s father asks: Did you pray? And Our father springs to my lips, salvaged from an other self, perhaps a yearning for that early time when mysteries were clear. I am far from those days of certainty now: that child kneeling at the bed inside the dark of closed lids, hands pressing those words like a love heart between the pages of a book. I speak aloud. Words fill the night, like stars.

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Short Fiction|Clark Zlotchew Going For The Gold

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e sat sprawled on his stained and tattered easy chair, a six pack of Budweiser at his feet, one of the bottles in his left hand, the remote in his right. He took a long gulp of beer, laid the remote down next to the pink teddy bear on the metal tray table before him, and reached for the Big Mac. He closed his eyes and savored the succulent beef patties, the cheese, the lettuce, onion, pickles, sesame bun, and the secret recipe “special sauce” that Sims was sure contained mayo, ketchup and relish. He let his taste buds bathe in the savory juices as his teeth and tongue caressed the food before he gulped the mass down, feeling its bulk pass satisfyingly all the way to his stomach where it came to rest, producing a feeling of contentment. The contentment faded when he looked at the pink teddy bear. He sighed deeply, then tore his eyes from the stuffed animal.    Joe Sims had just returned from the Lakeland Ice Cream Factory to an empty house. He had sweated the day away on the production line in one-hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Yet his hands froze numb while packing those ice pops as fast as he could so his supervisor wouldn’t yell at him. In fire and ice, he thought. All that’s missing is the Devil jabbing my ass with a pitchfork.    He felt shame and rage when Mr. Hanson, in front of his co-workers, called him a lazy slug. Just like his father used to do. Except his father would smack him around too, and later tell him it was for his own good, because he loved him. Joe would have dearly enjoyed smashing Hanson’s round, pink face into mush, but he needed the job.    He took another slug of the Bud from this, his third bottle. The first is for the thirst, the second one to make sure, the third is to relax... He felt the bitter effervescence change to sweetness on his tongue, the cold liquid in his mouth to a soothing warmth in his belly. He told himself he felt good. Good food, good drink, and the Olympics on the little screen. Eat, drink and make merry. Or is it Mary? What more could you ask for? He belched contentedly. He unbuckled his belt and unzipped his fly, to give himself breathing space. Hell, in high school he had to put extra holes in his belt so his pants wouldn’t fall down. He still had the muscles, he reassured himself, they just weren’t quite as hard as they used to be. But he could get back into shape easily whenever he wanted.    The men on the T.V. screen were frying fresh-caught fish, drinking beer and smiling ecstatically at each other. Damn commercial. Now, what brand is it? Ah, who gives a flying...? Beer is beer. Screw those fat cats on Madison Avenue. Look at that: those good old boys seem to be having a great time just sitting around, eating, drinking and grinning at each other like assholes. “It just doesn’t get any better than this,” 75

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one of them said. What the hell do they know? Bunch of faggots, probably. He tossed the empty bottle onto the floor, one more dead soldier, and reached for the fourth bottle. The fourth is for... Damn, I can’t remember what the hell it is for. Well... The fourth is...to relax even more. He twisted the cap off, skinning his finger, and took a long swallow.    On the screen the runners were burning up the track. God, he felt good watching them run. As though he were watching himself when he ran in high school, when he was trim and in good shape. He watched the screen and saw Michael Johnson shooting ahead. And Joe Sims was Johnson, running effortlessly, in perfect physical condition, his mind clear, confident in his abilities. And it was he, Joe Sims, running, breathing deeply in and out, sweating a healthy sweat, flying. The crowd was cheering him on. They were proud of him, all America was proud of him as he kept at it, plugging away, passing the others, leaving them in his dust, one foot after the other, left, right, left, right...    He crossed the finish line first, broke his own record and won the Gold Medal. The crowd was on its feet, screaming, delirious with joy. They loved him. He could feel the love enveloping him. All America loved him. The whole world loved him. Because he was strong and courageous and most of all, determined. How good it felt. How good...    Dave Thomas, the CEO of Wendy’s, spoke to him soothingly, homeylike. Like an old friend. Someone you could trust. Good old Dave told him how delicious his product was and how much you got for your money. And Sims could see how great it would taste. It made his mouth water. In his mind’s eye –his mind’s mouth?--he could feel his teeth sinking into it, as Dave’s actually did, the juices soaking into his tongue and bathing his taste buds. He had just finished his Big Mac (Sorry, Dave.) and here he was, hungry again, looking at sly old Dave, that conceited son of a bitch, grinning in that self-satisfied way, chomping away, smacking his lips, telling him to go out and get one of those whatever-you-call-them just so the rich bastard could make even more money. Yeah, well, go screw yourself, Davey boy. Funny thing is: Sims knew he would have gone out and bought one or two of them if he weren’t so damned comfortable in his easy chair watching the Olympics and drinking beer.    If Janey were there she would have gotten him something from the refrigerator. She would’ve had all kinds of good stuff in the fridge. He glanced at the pink teddy bear lying on the tray table. He loved Janey so much, damn her. But she had to go and get mad and run away. He hated her for leaving him, the bitch. Just because he smacked her around a few times. Spoiled brat, it’s her folks’ fault, they babied her too much. ...I wish she were here, though.    He tossed bottle number four to the floor and reached for the fifth. The fifth is for... Is for... He unscrewed the cap, not noticing the pain as it cut deeper into his finger. Shit, who cares what it’s for. He giggled and was surprised at the sound. It’s for making me feel good, that’s all 76

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I need to know. He took a long drink, then belched with satisfaction.    He frowned. He recognized that sappy music and knew the suckers were going to tell him that you needed to give your lady a goddam diamond if you wanted to show her you loved her. The music sounded kind of classical and inspirational, the bastards, to make you think people who could buy diamonds were more cultured and made love in a more refined way than ordinary folks. Like it was something sacred, for Chrissake. Well, okay, maybe it was sacred, but what the hell has that got to do with diamonds? Huh...! I bet if I gave Janey a diamond she wouldn’t have run off on me. But I just can’t afford a diamond... No, I can’t, damn it! He pounded his fist on the arm of the chair, raising a puff of dust. Well screw you, Mr. wise-ass DeBeers money bags. And you too, Janey, if what you needed was a diamond.    The boxers were banging away at each other. Go on, go on, go on... Keep punching, Antonio, keep punching. I’m blasting away at the Cuban guy. He can’t hurt me. I’m made of iron. His fists feel like friendly pats when he manages to land a punch, which he doesn’t do too often, ‘cause I’m fast on my feet, and I duck and weave. Jack be nimble Jack be quick... But I’m punching the hell out of him. I’m creaming the bastard, creaming the Cuban, creaming my old man... --what!?--... creaming my boss, I mean, that son of a bitch Mr. Hanson. I’m knocking the shit out of him. I’m banging away, mashing him into a pulp. For an instant he saw Janey at the receiving end of his fists. Again. He pushed the image from his mind. It was Mr. Hanson. It was the Cuban champion. And the crowd was cheering. They were on their feet and screaming. They love me. Yes, they love me. Yes they do. They really do.    Tears streamed from Joe Sims’s eyes. He was disturbed to find he was weeping. What the hell am I crying about? Mohammed Ali, feebly lighting the Olympics torch, flashed through his mind, followed by that scene of the people crowding around him, asking him for autographs... Mohammed Ali was smiling, but he was in bad shape, couldn’t speak, couldn’t answer people’s questions. Could hardly move, it looked like. But he smiled. A dumb-looking smile... What the hell was the poor bastard smiling about? Joe was overcome by a sudden sadness. A guy like that, the way he once was, and look at him now... Joe began to sob. Goddammit, what the hell do I give a damn about Mohammed Ali? He made his millions. He did all right. What the hell do I give a damn! And he sobbed even harder. He raised the fifth bottle to his lips, tossed back his head, closed his moist eyes and drained the bottle. Then he flung it to the floor. He felt a little better, calmer.    The women gymnasts were performing. Women...? They’re tiny little girls is what they are. And that giant of a coach, the Romanian guy, hugging the crap out of them, getting his jollies right in front of the cameras as if it was okay. Who’s he kidding? But those tiny little girls sure have skill. And guts. Not afraid to get hurt. And they’re cute. They have beautiful legs too. Yeah... Really beautiful. And the Ukrainian 77

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one, with the name nobody can pronounce, the one that knows how to dance like a ballet dancer, she’s even sprouting real live boobs. You could see them bounce. Boy, when they get a couple of years older... And perfect control over every damn muscle in their little bodies. They’re so bouncy, so...rubbery, so damned... What’s the word...? Flexible, yeah, that’s it. And supple. That’s what they are. Supple. Good word. And the one from China, what a great smile to go with the legs, what a wonderful, bright smile. It makes you feel all warm inside to see her smile. She’s smiling right at me, I can feel her eyes on me. Janey used to smile like that... Used to... Back then... At me... But not lately... Just because of some lousy bruises once in a while. And a chipped tooth. That’s no reason to run off and leave a guy, when a guy loves her like I do. Damn her to hell! I hate her! I’d like to kill the bitch!    Joe Sims registered what was taking place on the screen. There was that nice family --mother, father and little daughter--visiting Disney World. Probably cost them a mint: the trip, the hotel, everything... And the kid looking so sad, so damned disappointed, after having dragged her mom and dad all through Disney World. What the hell does the little brat want, anyway? Oh, yeah... She looks up and her face brightens like the sun shining through the clouds. What does she see? Her dear old grandpa back in the land of the living? The face of God? Looks like she’s having a religious experience... Oh, no...! Jesus Christ, it’s Mickey-freaking-Mouse!     And then she whines in that sappy way that could make you puke, “I’ve been WAITING --my WHOLE LIFE-- to meet YOU!” Then she runs over, the stupid little airhead, and hugs the goddamn asshole in a mouse suit like he was the dearest thing on earth, her eyes closed the way Janey used to close her eyes when we kissed, to feel the kiss better...    Who the hell are they kidding? Mickey Mouse...! She should be hugging her mom and dad, not that stupid son of a bitch in a mouse suit. What kind of values are they teaching kids, damn it! What kind of family values...? A little girl like that, pissed off at her folks after they spend all that money getting to Disney World, just because she hasn’t seen her big-deal hero, Mouse Man. And then she goes all syrupy and weirdo when she sees him. And she forgets about her folks and runs over to big-eared Mickey the Moron, who’s nothing but a $5.25-an-hour jerk in a mouse suit, and then loves the hell out of him. The little bitch.     ...Damn, I could’ve had a nice little daughter like her, maybe, if Janey hadn’t gone and made me so mad that time when I punched her in the gut and she couldn’t catch her breath for a while. And then she bled and had to go to the hospital...     The tears streamed down his cheeks once more. His body shook. That’s when she lost the baby, and I know it was my fault. But she shouldn’t have gotten me so pissed off! She shouldn’t have. It was just a little punch, that’s all it was... I didn’t mean it... He sobbed, took a deep breath and held it. Then let it out. 78

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He glanced at the pink teddy bear on the tray table, then reached for the sixth bottle, and cursed when he saw it was the last one. He opened it by reaching across to hit the top against the window sill. Then he brought it to his mouth, head back, eyes closed, and chugged it down. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, emitted a long series of belches, and tried to focus on the screen, the screen that was hard to see because it was so misty. Why does it look so misty? Things looked out of focus and bent out of shape as though they were under water.    The red-headed Italian with arms like Hercules was on the stationary rings, muscles bulging, body rigid, face blank, not showing any strain, looking like it was a piece of cake, the conceited bastard. Joe Sims was on the rings, felt his own iron muscles bulging, the deltoids, the biceps, the lats, the pecs, the abs... He felt the power in his trim hard body, every move perfect. The crowd went wild, they felt admiration for him, they felt love. They all loved him. Janey would be sorry now. But wait... He saw Janey among the cheering crowd. She wasn’t cheering; she just stood there quietly. On her face a look of admiration, of pride, of awe, of love. Then she slowly glided down out of the stands, strode across the field, passed in slow motion through the delirious throng and came up to him. She looked adoringly into his eyes. Then she held out her arms... *    Joe Sims awoke at 6:3O A.M. to Ann Curry on NBC News. She was talking about the TWA explosion, showing color footage. Then she reported the latest news on the bomb at the Atlanta Olympics. She even managed to look concerned, like it really mattered to her, the phony. ...Death and destruction... Every day, every miserable goddamn day. That’s all there is. What the hell’s it all about?    Ann Curry told him it was 6:4O. Christ! Time to get my ass in gear for my shift at the ice cream factory, where it’s a hundred damn degrees all day long, even though I’m grabbing cold ice pops and sticking them into boxes, one after the other, after the other, after the other, hour after hour, day after day...    He was in his tattered and stained easy chair, still wearing yesterday’s clothes, reeking of sweat, sour ice cream and stale beer. And the taste of shit in his cottony mouth (get the blue mouthwash) and a sledge hammer bashing in his skull (grab the Aleve). He looked down and saw the empty bottles littering the floor. Janey would have gotten rid of them, cleaned up. Then he noticed he was clutching the pink teddy bear to his heart, the one he had bought when Janey told him she was pregnant. And he felt, along with his dry mouth and his aching head, the sensation of falling down an elevator shaft straight to hell.    “Oh, momma, momma...!” he whimpered aloud. “What’s happening to me?”    Muscles stiff and cramped, he forced himself to get up out of the chair. With great effort he lurched toward the bathroom. He pushed 79

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himself. He would make it to work on time. He could do it. Yes, he could. He would. He’d make the 4OO meters, and come in first, because he was a winner, a champion. He’d be awarded the gold medal. And everybody would cheer for him. And would admire him. And would love him. Yes, love him. Even Janey. He’d just keep running and running and running... *    Joe Sims kept running along the tree-lined sidewalks past the single-family dwellings where he knew happy families lived, couples with children who rode tricycles and boarded the school bus every morning pushing and shoving, making a cheerful racket. He was running against the clock. He had to get to work on time. He hardly noticed the leaves that were starting to turn from green to pale yellow and red. He hadn’t even had time to pack a bologna sandwich for lunch. He’d make do with the ice cream employees were allowed to eat on the job.    He heard the train whistle as he walked toward the tracks he would have to cross on his way to the Lakeland Ice Cream Factory.    The factory, two blocks past the rails, loomed before him in all its dirty grayish-yellow bleakness. Looking at the windowless mass made him queasy. And he was out of shape, he acknowledged. He was no longer running as fast as when he left the house. He was no Michael Johnson. He was panting, sweating, slowing down. His heart was pounding, his temples throbbing.    He turned his head to the left. The train was in sight, gleaming in the sun. It came from far-off places, was going to far-off places, places he had never seen, never would see. It was shiny, beautiful, as it sped smoothly along the tracks, free as the birds overhead. The birds didn’t have to work. All they did was eat all day long. Their food was everywhere, free for the taking. They didn’t have a boss. Didn’t have a care in the world.    He looked ahead and saw the factory. Felt the factory as a blow to his stomach, as a weight on his chest. He could aleady feel the hellish heat, see Mr. Hanson’s pink face, hear Mr.Hanson’s grating voice calling him a lazy bastard. Joe Sims felt sick. His stomach was twisting into a ball. His breaths came in gulps. His pace slowed further. He felt as though he were running in a dream, his legs weighing a hundred pounds each, moving in slow motion.   He was almost at the tracks. The silvery locomotive with the red stripe --gleaming brightly, reflecting the morning sunlight-- was cheerfully blowing its whistle in greeting. It made Sims feel better, almost happy. He reached the rails and paused to catch his breath. He stood on the crossties panting, and looked at the factory with dread. He shivered from cold sweat as a light autumn breeze stroked his shirt. He felt an invisible wall beyond the rails, a force field emanating from the factory. A presence that would not let him pass. Joe Sims turned to face the beautiful train that merrily whistled as it rushed to meet him. 80

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He could see right through the locomotive into the passenger cars, into the car where Janey sat with their daughter, the one who loves Mickey Mouse. They forgave him. They were smiling at him. They would pick him up on the way to Disney World. He opened his arms wide to receive them. Note: Going for the Gold was originally published in the short-story collection, Once Upon A Decade: Tales Of The Fifties (Concord, North Carolina, Comfort Publishing LLC, 2011).

Poetry|John J. Brugaletta Canonical Hours I. Matins (midnight): Now is the turn, though still the chill at heart. If we slept on, the rustle of the rat, the chitter of the bat and crying sprites would be this dark night’s voices by default. To honor You, we leave our beds and sing of light, of healing, of your fondness for us foundlings who see none of these as yet. II. Lauds (dawn): World of fuchsia, azure and a hundred greens— world of hands and faces. Every dawn new life, parable compact insisting You await, seated at the table’s head, the candles, torches, hearth, your face, all lending light, and we at peace again. III. Prime (6 a.m.): In the gruel, in the bread, every grain your jewelled head. By our molar grinding of these we know your tender love. Thus another way You bring life to us that we may sing 81

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songs of gratitude and praise in this world of ice and haze. IV. Terce (9 a.m.): When our parents broke your single law, for our deep flaw You sentenced one to work and one to pain. What some will see as bane, we take as blessing in a harsh disguise. Though none too wise, we love the hickory of a handled tool, the milking stool, the calluses like honor on our hands, the sweat that work demands. On this we concentrate instead of birth and its attendant mirth. V. Sext (noon): Day by day we walk our lifelong path. The light we prayed for when the world was dark dazzles all our sight at every noon, fields aglow like fire and yet uncharred. Father, teach us to survive your grace. Inure our souls that we may bear your love. Allow these flames, semantic as they are, to give us, like experience, a taste for love when we are drowning in its light. VI. Nones (3 p.m.): Incomplete, our toil, heads drip sweat like holy oil. Now we breathe to God an incense word, though it seem absurd. What appears as sloth gives the soul a cup of broth. Good, this sacred, brief, mnemonic rest in the Father’s breast. VII. Vespers (sunset): Now our work afield is done with the leaving of the sun. Water purling from each face glistens like transparent lace. One who sits apart now reads words that wisdom writes and heeds. All we’ve done and said today 82

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helps us see what prophets say. Now our voices rise like smoke as our unclean tongues invoke heaven’s host to shelter us from the rays of Hesperus. VIII. Compline (bedtime): Here is the night again, the bridegroom of the sun now as unreal as tales that children hear. But, though we have not seen the sun, we’ve seen the world by light he’s shed. May we retain a glimmer of that light behind our lidded eyes that we may step more safely through our dreams.

Poetry|Bhaswati Ghosh The Cities Two cities live in the City. One survives on frozen habits thawed every night-cell phone alarms, recycled intercourse, snores, chanted mantra-like. It’s the city that keeps offices, banks, coffee shops and hospitals running with tired precision. This city chews on cold, stringy Mondays-Thursdays, for the deep-fried Friday that follows. The city’s twin blends with the usual city smoother than cocktail mixes. It walks with, holds hands of, gives an ear to the normal city. 83

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The twin claims park corners in stealth, to exhale late-evening ecstasy. This city doesn’t stiffen at night, but flows over it-river-like, turning nocturnal conventions on their heads, revving up bars, street corners. Swinging to music, floating on lights, jazzing up drinks with heady alternatives. It is the city that makes headlines, with 3AM shootings, gang-war or not, reminding the City Normal to better watch out. Or else.

Poetry|Michael Pedersen Postcard Home Whiteskin teaches children: modals, syntax, intonation; learning not to be so fatalistic, so serious for home; how to pay the family thanks. With friends will practise market origami: seeding guava, peeling star-fruit, and I bought a bicycle – its yellow frame with wire basket is sure to make you laugh.

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Visual Art|Archana Mishra

Acrylic on Canvas 24x24

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Volcano Waterfall Acrylic on Canvas 80x80

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Interview|Jose Varghese In Search of Other Lives: A Dialogue with Konstantin Bojanov

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ulgarian producer Konstantin Bojanov, born in 1968, is a quadruple-threat producer/writer/director/visual artist. He graduated from the Sofia National Higher School of Fine Arts and received his M.A. from the London Royal College of Art. After a period of documentary film studies in New York he became a visual artist and filmmaker. He shot and produced his first documentaries and shorts: in 2001 -  Lemon is Lemon, in 2002 - 3001, in 2004 - Un Peu Moins and in 2005 - Invisible. In the same year he established his first US based company, while three video installations marked his carrier (Quintet without Borders,  2007, Crash, and Burning Ghats, 2008).  Bojanov found international success with his first feature Avé (2011). The bitter-sweet hitchhiking story of two young people crossing the post-communist Bulgaria took part in 60 festivals and received nineteen prizes and over twenty nominations. It has been commercially distributed in France, Switzerland and Poland and sold to HBO Latin America and TV channels in France, Turkey, UK and Switzerland. Among his various projects now is an adaptation of William Dalrymple’s Nine Lives. He was in Kerala in connection with the research for this work and was gracious enough to share with Jose Varghese his first impressions and his views on how to tackle the challenging project.

Konstantin Bojanov - Photo credit: Jose Varghese 88

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Jose Varghese (JV): Hello Konstantin, welcome to Kerala. Hope you enjoy the monsoons here. Konstantin Bojnov (KB): I am trying to make the best of it. It is quite an experience. I have always been here during the dry season. This is the first time I am here during the monsoons. And it is a concern for me how it would affect my research on Nine Lives - the reason why I am here. However I didn’t want to postpone this trip one more time. So, I decided to go on with it. JV: Can you tell me bit on how this project on Nine Lives evolved? I guess you are going to call it ‘Other Lives’. KB: ‘Other Lives’ is a work title. It’s a very challenging project. Challenging for a number of reasons. I believe that my research trip now is going to help me finalise the way I want to tell the story. I need to see whether all the nine stories become part of the film, or they are to be reduced to a small number of selected stories. Hence the work title ‘Other Lives’. And the idea is to produce a theatrical feature which hopefully will not exceed two hours. So, in order to be able to go in depth into each story, nine stories in a two hour format might be a lot too much. The work title reflects the idea that the stories might have to be fewer, since we couldn’t at this time give the original title. JV: How did this project materialise? Did you get a proposal from someone? Did you think twice before accepting it? KB: Actually, I originated the project. One thing that I do very often is to go to the local bookstore. Nine Lives was in the shelf on one such occasion, for the newly released non-fiction paperbacks. It caught my attention. The reason for that was my love, interest and obsession with India for over the last ten years. I didn’t know much about William Dalrymple. I read a summary (blurb) of the book. And in some ways, not being able at the time to physically travel, I wanted to transport myself to India through this book. I really didn’t know what to expect and I was very surprised with what I actually discovered after reading the book and how the book affected me and what it made me think. So I was so fascinated by the book and the characters that almost immediately I contacted William Dalrymple. JV: When did this happen and what was his response? KB: This was in April of last year. He responded within minutes. I told him about my interest in turning the book into a film. And then we had to take the next step and deal with agents and lawyers and had negotiations and so on. In the mean time, Dalrymple was working on 89

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and finishing his new book The Return of the King. And he shut himself up and disappeared for several months. I didn’t really know what to make of it. But for good or bad I am a very persistent person. So, although I was not hearing back from Dalrymple or from his agent for a long period of time when I wasn’t sure of what the reason was, I kept at it, and kept sending emails and kept making phone calls until at the end of November when William Dalrymple finished his book and he apologised for not being in touch and for neglecting my emails and said he had to finish his book and couldn’t think of anything else and then he went on a six month tour with his book. And we managed to sign the auction agreement in April. So, it took me a year to get the agreement in place. So since mid-April things went off in a fast track. I was first expecting that we could sign the agreement in September so that I could be here in October-November. I didn’t want to lose the momentum, the energy, and I decided to go ahead and come to India and research some of the stories. JV: Do you believe it is necessary to know India a bit closer before you start the project? KB: It was for me very important to have a first-hand experience of the characters and locations before I could solidify my ideas of how I want to tell these stories. It’s a challenging project for many reasons. Because it is very important for me as a film director to not fall into the trap of creating a film that deals with exotic subjects. That is so far removed from my intentions. On the contrary I am trying to strip all exotic elements as such and to focus on the human story, on the human condition, on the specificity on the lives of these people, and also to try to tell these stories in a way that they have a universal resonance; that they would be understood anywhere. JV: Why do you think they will have a universal appeal? KB: They are stories about human aspirations. They are about people reaching a point of no return and drastically changing their lives. This is where the surprise came for me. Basically I was looking for an escape when I first came across the book. And yet what I found were characters that I could strongly relate on many levels despite the differences in culture; despite the fact that most of them live their life, from the European perspective, in an extreme way. Most of the characters basically possess nothing. They have these solitary pursuits of transcendence; of trying to transcend their daily lives. JV: Which is the first story that you are going to research? KB: It is the story of the Theyyam dancer in Kannur, Haridas - for 90

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me what was really fascinating about the story was not the dance itself; it’s not the anthropology and origins of this tradition. What was important for me was this is a person, a human being, who leads a kind of dual life. Ten months out of the year, he does menial jobs. He digs wells. For a long period of time he was a prison guard – in a very violent prison. He belongs to a low position in social ladder and hierarchy. Yet in the two months when he becomes the Theyyam, when he actually practices his art, he transcends that life. He becomes something different. He is treated differently, and the way he comes across in the book is basically that he lives for that experience. JV: Were you struck by his religious fervour? KB: All these stories have religion as a major element. Yet I am trying to not ignore, indeed it is impossible to ignore, the religious aspects with these endeavours, but to again focus on the deeply human aspects of these stories.

JV: Will you have the story of the Jain nun in your project? KB: Yes, indeed. One of the guiding principles of Jainism is that of nonattachment – to places, to people, to objects. And it’s something I had always been grappling with – the meaning of possessing objects, the meaning of attaching yourselves to someone to the point that you could get easily hurt. The meaning of attaching yourselves to places. In the case of this nun, she goes against the basic principle of her devotion and develops this life-time bond with another nun, going against the principle of non-attachment, of solitary life. For me, this is a love story not in the romantic sense, but in the human way. And when her 91

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companion nun decides to put an end to her life because of suffering, because of advanced cancer, she decides to do the same. Here it’s about how you could almost choose the option to give away your last worldly possession, which is your body. She goes on this eighteen months of gradual fasting until her body slowly withers away. JV: Did you have to face some challenges to convince your producers about the way these stories could work in a visual form? KB: It’s difficult to convince producers and financiers that I can tell the story in a way that it doesn’t end up being an anthropological study; but it becomes a film that can be seen everywhere. The goal of my research trip now is to be able to generate the written treatment of these stories that can convey the way these stories can be retold. I am not doing something unlike what Dalrymple did in several of his books. That is, taking a text, often an ancient text and transforming it. Even in his very first book, he took the writings of Marco Polo and followed his route from Jerusalem to Xanadu, which was the summer capital of Kubla Khan in the Fourteenth Century. Later in his third book From Holy Mountain, he took the manuscripts of these two Sixth century monks who went through the Middle East visiting different religious figures who live in remote places. I am doing the same with the book that is not centuries old, but only a few years old. But I need to find my own unique perspective, and I need to bring something from myself. Otherwise, what is the point of me making the film? JV: Are there any films on India that have really impressed you, to the extent that you might include a few technical and thematic elements from them in your project? KB: The French director Louis Malle made a film in 1969, which is a film that I really love. I have watched it countless times. It’s a six hour documentary, in seven parts. And it is called Phantom India. He came here to India and spent a year, along with a cameraman and shot this cinéma vérité– documentary. It’s almost like a personal diary. It’s a masterpiece of observational cinema. There are a lot of things that I really like about the film. First is the level of dignity and respect and sort of appreciation for the subjects of his film. Second is that he inserts himself as a narrator – an off-screen narrator – of these stories that he had seen, these people he encounters, and I am planning to use a similar tool in narrating the story. I will try to be the off-screen narrator of these stories. I am not planning to produce a traditional documentary - there will be no sit-down interviews. I would like to film their daily life now and to tell the story of their past and how they arrive to this point of their lives. Because this is extremely important for me – the personal journey up to the point of now, up to the point when the film takes place. 92

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So I guess it will have a different tool than what is used in conventional documentaries.

From Louis Malle’s Phantom India (1969)

JV: What will you call it – a docu-fiction, or a non-fiction feature film? KB: Non-fiction feature film - and I would also like to mix fiction and non-fiction together, which is also a necessity, since some of the characters are no longer alive, and I need to tell their story as well. Where the real characters are unavailable, I would like to find similar characters to play the real ones from the book. JV: So, you will use real characters when they are available? KJ: Yes. The book was researched and written just six years ago. And yet, four out of the nine characters are no longer alive. The Sufi Fakir from the book ‘Red Fairy’ passed away only three weeks ago. And also the Devadasi from ‘The Daughters of Yellamma’, as far as we could assume, is also no more. She had AIDS. Her story is extremely tragic and touching at the same time – someone who so violently protested against the decision of her parent to commit her life to that of a devadasi, she did the very same thing to her two daughters, and both of them died in their twenties. Her dream was to save enough money to stop working. She bought some land, to be able to have some cattle there and live out of that. As long as we know, she is no longer alive. The Jain Nun is no longer alive. And the Story Teller also passed away while the book was being written. His wife and son now continue the tradition. JV: How could you connect with all these stories, as a film maker? KB: These are very very different lives from one another. Extremely different from my own life. Yet, in all these lives, I could find something that I could relate to. I could recognize, if not myself, people that I 93

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have grown up with. The book actually succeeds extremely well in not drifting to exoticism and orientalism, and instead to really focus on the human being. The book deals with religion as well, but the core of it is not religion, in my opinion. I could connect well with these characters because they are real human beings who can have a similar existence in any part of the world, with their passion, solitary goals and so on. JV: In what way is it going to be different from, or similar to, your earlier documentary Invisible? KB: I think there will be both the elements of Avé, my last film which I made two years ago (in 2011), and Invisible which I made a very long time ago (in 2005). I came to Films from Fine Arts, I was educated as a fine artist, many years I made art, and in fact I continue to make art these days. So, I came to make films late in life. Invisible was my first feature length film. It was a documentary. It deals with a very harsh subject of six young people of various ages addicted to heroin. In the late Nineties and early Two Thousands, Bulgaria was flooded with heroin. The country has always been on the route of drugs coming from Asia into Europe and then the States. This was the first time in the country’s history that the drugs became available in the streets. The film is very flawed, but even in this case I tried to give platform to the characters to tell their own story and how they view the world, rather than me being the interpreter of these stories. So as much as also possible, I would like to do the same thing here with Nine Lives. As an off-screen narrator I would like to connect the stories, give them a personal touch, but give voice to the characters themselves. It’s important for me to create the context of each, but it would be in such a way that the characters would tell their own stories. Another way this film would relate to my previous project would be in terms of imagery. I would like to keep the images as simple as possible. I may try to create a poetic realism. Indian films from the Seventees onwards, for instance the ones by Satyajit Ray...I love that kind of poetic imagery that is very different from what Bollywood generally creates. In that respect, visually, I believe this film will have a lot in common with my last film Ave. Something else that I may have this one in common with Ave is that I would structure it as a read movie, with me going on a trip to discover these people. So, it will have very different location in one part from the other. And it will be an essential part of the story to try to connect them together. JV: I have just started watching Avé and it looks like an intense, unique film. And even though you say that Invisible was flawed in some ways, I found it deeply engaging too. I even wondered whether those six people depicted in it were real people or just actors. KB: They were very much real people, with very real addictions. I 94

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got rather attached to some of them. And I kept in touch with some of them. It was indeed a very difficult project.

JV: So, the transformation of the characters is also real? KB: Yes, the transformation is also real. There is a four years’ gap between the beginning and the end of the film. After I finished the film, it became very difficult for me to get out of it emotionally. Because of how difficult their lives were, to just keep engaged with them was tough. I had to selfishly pull myself out of my engagement with them, and to preserve my own sanity. JV: After your research, how do you plan to proceed with the project? Are you going to have discussions with William or, are you going to keep him out of the picture and interpret it your way? KB: That was one of the stumbling blocks before the signing of the agreement. And I can understand his position. This is a book that was written years ago. For him it is a thing of the past, and he didn’t want to re-engage with the book. He has been very helpful in putting me in touch with people like Gautham Subramaniam who put you in touch with me. He was also a researcher for four of these stories. He worked with William. I am actually yet to meet Gautham in person, but I am seriously considering collaborating with him as a writer on the project. For me, creatively having an Indian viewpoint, an input on this project is a must. As a ‘foreigner’ trying to tell these essentially Indian stories, you could very easily drift into the territory of a singular point of view, which I would like to avoid. I am also considering other creative elements to be used in the film, like working with an Indian cinematographer. At this point, there is an Indian co-producer, a Kolkata based company called Overdose. As a director, I would approach this as a collaborative process. The creative producers, the writers...it’s a team that 95

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works together, not a dictatorial director who says, yes, I have a vision, and then everyone should facilitate that vision. I am just not like that. It would be a collaborative process with the characters, the co-writer, the cinematographer and so on. JV: It seems you have a keen interest in Indian books and movies. You have already mentioned Louis Malle and his documentary. Do you have other favourite Indian writers or film directors? KB: I must confess that despite my love for India, I am not much familiar with contemporary Indian literatures. I am a little more familiar with Indian films, especially from the independent film scene. One thing that directors like Anurag Kashyap achieves is that they don’t fall into the trap of Bollywood rules of making a film, and they manage to make their films on their own. They do everything the way they are not meant to be done. There is a whole new generation of young film makers like him here as I understand. In terms of contemporary Indian literature though, I have a lot to catch up on. JV: Have you seen the recent movies Midnight’s Children by Deepa Mehta and The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mira Nair? KB: I actually tried to watch The Reluctant Fundamentalist. I found it incredibly artificial. On many levels I found it plain bad. Short of the first film with which she became famous, Salaam Bombay, I haven’t liked her other films. Her previous film The Namesake was an okay film, but that is not really the type of film I am interested in. JV: Do you have a soft-corner for sidelined people – who inhabit the underbelly of cities? KB: I definitely do, and I also definitely care for the way they relate to the world that surrounds them. I am very careful when I use the word spirituality, but it is the question of evoking yourself to endeavour and pursue what you consider significant. When the centre of your being becomes how you relate yourself as a human being, how you reflect on the world that surrounds you. I have always been attracted to people who pursue with extreme conviction solitary goals. And with no exception, the characters of Nine Lives represent that. In many cases, from a Western viewpoint, they would be considered as artists, although they don’t view themselves as such. The by-product of their devotion is in fact art, whether it is music, whether it is dance or whatever. These are people who can, like me, pursue their goals against material lobbies. So I have a soft-corner for them. JV: Your characters in Invisible refer to the Indian culture and 96

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attitudes to ‘time’ in a dreamy way. KB: But that is an illusionary viewing. But if you look more carefully, India spends much more time to spiritual betterment. There is something distinct in the approach of the mystic and the metaphysical here in India than in Europe or America. And I have an attraction to that part. JV: You are also a film editor? KB: Yes, but I often try not to edit my own work. But apart from directing my own films, I am involved in the editing of the work of the younger generation of directors. JV: Can you talk a bit about your recent movie Avé? You have mentioned in some interviews that it is an autobiographical work. And what connects the two unlikely characters in that movie? KB: Although it is a work of fiction, there are some autobiographical elements in it. It is essentially an unusual love story. It takes place on the road. Two young people meet while hitchhiking. These two people can also be considered outcasts. They could not be any more different from others. The girl is a compulsive liar. She invents different personalities for herself. She does that not in order to have personal gains, but to protect her own fragility. The boy is more like a Catcher in the Rye type of character. He is compelled to tell the truth no matter what, no matter how much he can hurt someone. And these two very unlikely characters meet on the road. The boy is hitchhiking to the funeral of his friend. And the girl is looking for her troubled brother. They spend four days travelling together, on the road. And at the end both of their lives are changed. Although it is a very simple and low-budget film, every element of its production was difficult and lengthy.

From Avé (2011) 97

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JV: What do such situations teach you? KB: For me, part of making films is learning to be patient. It so happens that a film takes a long time from me. A friend of mine often poses the question how to eat an elephant, and the answer is, one bite at a time. I am going to approach this new project that way. JV: What is your take on the short movies that are all over YouTube these days, most often made by young students? KB: Like anything else a majority of them may lack any significance, but a few of them are brilliant. Both directors and actors start by making short movies. Even in my case, I made a number of short experimental movies in the beginning, which were shown in galleries. I find the short movie format quite challenging. It’s not easy, it’s like a short poem – you have to be very precise. It all depends on the intention. As long as the story that they narrate engages you, and makes an impact, that’s all I care about. Technical aspects are secondary in that case. If you could sympathise with the characters, or find something about humanity revealed in a movie, that’s a work worth watching. JV: You are also a writer and visual artist. Do you write anything other than for the films? KB: No. If I write something like that it would be my own personal reflections. Years ago, in my teens, I used to write poetry, and some of them got published. JV: What about the visual artist part of you? Which medium do you use? KB: I make photographs, digital art and sculpture. JV: This should rather have been the first question – when did you realise that you wanted to be a director? What is your academic background in arts/films? KB: This may sound like a cliché, but I have always wanted to make movies. Even when I was very young, even as a kid, I used to write scripts for films. When I was at college, I made short films. I went to London Royal College of Art for my Masters and did Documentary Film Studies in New York. But it is not always necessary to have an academic background in the craft before you start making movies. If you look at the large number of famous directors, there are many who never went to the university to do a course on film making. A course may help in some cases, but it is never a must that you do it. 98

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Book Review|Oindrila Ghosh Silent Days: A Silence Redolent With Many Voices…

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t is commonly accepted that Poetry has the power to move hearts, take one to realms never ventured out to or explored, to make the stillest of silences resound with words… Jaydeep Sarangi’s Silent Days proves all of these! The sheer force of variety, imagery, depth and versatility make the poems of this collection appear to be a slide show of emotions and perceptions which subtly captures the dilemmas of a ‘city-bound’ poet still in love with that scent of the countryside which filled his mind with universal compassion and the veins with the sap of poetry, making him a poet-of-everywhere!    The poems in this collection may appear at first glance to be without a set pattern, with no arrangement to give an ostensible sense of development, but rather a random splash of impressions which leave splotches of colours on the readers’ minds. On a closer scrutiny a kaleidoscopic pattern emerges.    There are clusters of poems which reveal a subtle, often unnoticed, division within the poet deeply-rooted to a poem like ‘Morning’ which “poisons night’s lullabies”, or falling prey to the tempting snares of “a slave in . . . semi-urban/ Consort in a Metro suburb” (‘Stop Here, Please) and ‘Missed Calls’ where the hateful diurnal routine and unstoppable pace of a city-life (“In Tollygunge auto line”. . . “call back little later” . . . promises hide their faces/Amidst crowds of everyday duties. . .) blend themselves with fond-familiarities (. . . aroma of chanachur and puffed rice. . . ) which give birth to new associations, new memories (The pleadings of the boy back home - / “Bring me colour pencils today”). From the acrid angst of cities the poet’s mind and heart flow back to his roots entrenched in ‘The Red Soil Allure’ where the mind tired, with venturing out into the urban jungle, fondly recalls and reaffirms its camaraderie with the ‘hunting-freak tribal children’ and delves into the memories of childhood bliss on being gently touched by the ‘loose strand from Ma’s saree’. Never is the connection with the colour, scent and people of his rural roots and forefathers (who “settled near the temple of Kanakdurga”) lost or severed (‘My Family Tree’) and the poet exclaims in ‘We are Connected!’ as he seems to “carry [his] ancestors . . . In a collage. . .” with and within himself, always!    For Jaydeep Sarangi poetry is not mere emotional respite or a record of impressions. Writing is for him, as he says ‘Is to engage with conversation’ (‘The Act of Writing’), it is a means, at times, to empower and also to provide voice to the subaltern… gradually his ‘silent pen becomes [his] sword’ (‘Homeless in My Land’) and at others occasions to act as sensitive listener to the ‘Heaps of Hushed Hurts/ [which] Demand to be heard/ Unspoken fossilized feelings… Torch of expression…/In 99

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every Dalit’s wordy pool’ (’The Torch’). Ultimately, the Silence of centuries of stifled tales of pain and oppression is what needs to be broken, the marginalized, the peripheries need to be brought centre-stage of society and the concerns of literature, until the poet no longer has to act as the ‘Bilingual Bard’ to carry the unheard of, repressed voice of the downtrodden, the dalit, to speak for the “poetess … hanged for her words of protest” to urban society and Academia, and stop wonderering “Can the rickshow puller speak out/ The untold legacy of subjugation?” (‘Towards the Center’). From pieces overtly social (‘Why This Neglect?’, ‘’Going To A Holy Place’), and directed towards giving a voice to the disempowered and voiceless people entrenched in the soil from which this poet hails and feels it his prerogative and responsibility to “speak for [his] soil”, we find occasional meandering streams which reflect his sensitive and romantic vision of the world he inhabits and also life in general. From a loving father’s affectionate tracing of the tiny footsteps which discover “Newer Lands” (‘For Titas’) and anxiously seeks to preserve this world from decaying in which he too has a “ darling daughter” (A Rose is A Rose’), to musings on life (which is “ a forbidden fruit”), time, cherished memories of friendship ( in that sincere personal paen to Niranjan Mohanty in ‘Friendship’) and ageing, which is not a reason for bitterness but rather an amusing occasion “of watching/[himself] growing sweetly old” (My Other’).    Poetry creates the poet in the process of being created and shaped within his mind… and this is true of the poet of Silent Days. The poet defies confinement and seeks to be “Like the reckless flow/…gush unstoppable” and claims confidently “I know myself well, as deep-sea animal”, and from being a “home-bound refugee in all stations” (‘Refugee’) counting his ‘Silent Days’ only to voice the unspoken saga of the fringes and restlessly weave his way through the hearts of his readers through poetry… which alone will prove to himself and to them whose tale he unfolds that: “ Your bows and arrows attract me to work,/ Your land and forest take me to your side;/ You are a vision. . ./You are not a blank page, I understand/Your history is on your side” and that ‘[He] is On Their Side’! A poetry collection which appeals to the deepest stirrings of the heart through its simplicity, honest expression and the poet’s unmistakable love and zest for life in all its forms! Silent Days should, and will, take the poet many places, for he reminds us that – we are all, underneath our superficial differences, “Longing for the red soil” of our metaphorical roots and seeking to salvage every moment from decay as “ we never know what follows the next day”.    Silent Days, Jaydeep Sarangi, Cyberwit net, Allahabad, 2013. ISBN 978-81-8253-396-7 100

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Visual Art|Dustin Hinson

The New World

Digital Media, 16” x 24”, 2013 101

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Currents in Flux

Digital Media, 16” x 24”, 2013 102

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Short Fiction|Brian Kirk When the future happens

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t is almost Christmas. There is an unusually giddy atmosphere in the office after the public have gone. Plans are made, taxis ordered; spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends are phoned and reassured briefly before the bacchanal begins. It is the last Thursday before the holiday and it is a pay day.    Thomas is sitting at his desk sipping a mug of coffee, absently fingering a pile of filing that will not get done today. Directly opposite him sit Jenny, Mark and Morgan. Jenny and Mark are roughly the same age as Thomas, late twenties, but Morgan is older, forty perhaps, unmarried, a drinker and gambler, but well read, cultured, never short of an opinion, a man of some reputation in the office. He has just rolled five slim cigarettes, placing four of them neatly in a tin box he carries for that purpose. The fifth he puts behind his ear, a deliberate act designed to irk his supervisor.    ‘Their fourth album was infinitely superior to their first,’ Morgan says. He looks around the table at his colleagues, his gaze finally resting on Thomas.    ‘I just meant that I think they’re a different band now.’ Thomas shifts uncomfortably in his chair.    ‘Yea, a better band.’ The matter is closed. Morgan looks around at each of the three again before checking his watch. ‘Are we hanging about here all night or what? Come on!’ He gets up.    As one the other three rise, put on their coats and follow him. They walk to the rear of the open plan office, past filing bays full of the sad detail of the personal lives of the jobless, and on down the stairs to the back door where they each swipe the clock with a thin plastic card before stepping out into the frozen late afternoon.    ‘Jesus your clock is in shite Tommy boy!’ Mark is laughing, his arm linked through Jenny’s already.    ‘I know, I know. I’ll work a couple of long days next week before we break up.’    No one ever passes any remarks about Jenny and Mark. Everyone knows she is married, and some of them, including Mark and Thomas, attended her wedding the previous summer. Thomas wonders what they do when they leave the pub together after hours of drinking. Does he say goodbye to her out on the street and put her in a taxi home to her husband? Hardly. Thomas finds people impossible to understand these days.    Anna phoned earlier but he did not pick up the call. He is not sure why. Anna is pregnant, ten weeks, and the nature of their relationship has changed in that short time. She is consumed by excitement at the 103

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prospect of the baby, but fearful of the birth itself. He feels disconnected from it all, as if he doesn’t have a role to play. When he told the others at work they were very supportive; they bought him drinks, a cigar, and made some lame jokes at his expense: ‘Did you hear Tom’s Anna is pregnant? Yea, who’s the father? No idea, but when he finds him he’s gonna kill him!’    Earlier she texted: ‘r u coming home soon?’ He replied after a while: ‘going 4 1 with gang c u later.’ Shortly after that he switched off his phone. He didn’t like it when she sent a barrage of texts while he was in the pub. They always provoked a salty comment or unsubtle mime from the others: whipped! under the thumb! – that sort of thing.    Morgan leads the way. They know where they are going but no one has actually said it aloud. It’s all part of the ritual. They stop on an island in the dark of evening between four lanes of stationary traffic. Among the glare and the noise of the city at rush hour the soft lights of the pub across the road look impossibly attractive.    ‘I suppose I could have just the one,’ Mark says to no one in particular, fighting a smile.    ‘Are you game?’ Morgan looks at Thomas and Jenny in turn, deadly serious, as if he has not said those three words every Thursday for as long as they can remember.    ‘Sure what harm?’    Jenny laughs. ‘You boys and your games!’    They move as one through the tide of lights, white washing over red relentlessly as the cars and their jaded occupants inch their way homeward to prepare for another day of the same.    Inside the pub it is noisy, but it is a different noise to that of the street. It is the sound of human beings laughing, talking, singing, flirting. Morgan orders the drinks; he does not have to ask what is wanted. Everyone in the place knows him and he nods to them gravely as they say their hellos. The barmen defer to him on matters of politics, religion, sport, art and culture. Thomas likes to watch him as he moves through the crowd, a man in his element, doing what he was made to do with style and gravitas. They find a table in the corner and sit down. Already Mark is whispering in Jenny’s ear eliciting a grin, while Morgan begins an opening address concerning the shortcomings of the Social Welfare system. It is merely a warm up; a brief deferral to the work they are paid to do. Soon he will find other, more ethereal subjects to reflect upon.    Each goes to the bar in turn and returns with four drinks. It seems no time at all until Thomas is buying his second round. He can’t stop thinking about Anna, wondering should he turn his phone on, but he doesn’t. For the past hour he has been listening to Morgan talk at length about the modern novel. He seems to have read so widely, to know so much about the theory and practise, Thomas finds it disconcerting. It’s at times like this, in these wistful drunken moments, that he misses 104

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being in a band. It gave his life some meaning, it made the deathly slow days in the office almost bearable, it helped to dispel that dreaded feeling that he will still be doing the same thing when he is forty. When he complains about his job Anna merely tells him to take a long look at his customers and count himself lucky. But he can’t.    He watches Morgan’s face as he continues to talk. The older man is unshaven; his pale skin blotched red here and there giving him the look if an ersatz teenager. Wiry black hairs protrude from his nostrils and ears, and he has the beginnings of a bald spot on top which he hides as best he can with a sweep of black hair. For the first time Thomas realises that his hair colour is far too dark to be genuine.    At some stage they go to a club. By now Jenny and Mark have made themselves scarce; they are sharing a joint outside or on their way back to his place. Morgan and Thomas are at the bar again. The order has changed now to shots and bottled beers. When Morgan goes to the toilet Thomas searches his coat pockets looking for his phone, but it is gone, God knows where. He knows he should leave, just go home to Anna and do the right thing, but when Morgan comes back to the bar he slaps his buddy’s raised right hand with his own and downs another shot.    He is dancing with his eyes closed, feeling the music inside and around him. He opens them again and sees a very young girl, wrapped in a short, tight black dress, moving slowly, sensuously. He cannot take his eyes off her. He moves towards her and starts to dance beside her. Without looking up she begins to dance with him. Together they perform a dumb show of the sex act. He puts his hand on her and she does not resist, so he sends his hand on down to feel the hard curve of her rump beneath the ribbed material of her dress.    They are locked in the last stall in the ladies’ toilets. He is pulling at her tights and she is pushing up her dress and wriggling out of her knickers. She pushes him onto the filthy toilet seat and sits on him, pressing down and up, with her back to him. Outside the flimsy door he hears the voices of other drunken girls. Despite the alcohol he finishes quickly, and she climbs off him, straightens her clothes and leaves without speaking.    He is in the back of a taxi, suddenly conscious. His throat feels hard and swollen and he tastes the dregs of rancid vomit in his mouth. His stomach feels like it’s been kicked by a horse. Morgan is arguing with the driver over the fare.    ‘Fucking robbing Pakis!’ he shouts, and he helps Thomas to stand upright as the cab pulls away. ‘This town is in the shits Tommy. They let too many of the cunts in when times were good. Now we’re rightly fucked!’    Thomas can see the house now. It is a pleasant suburban street of three bed semis, but he has no idea where it is. It is a family home, and even in his drunken state Thomas is impressed, but he also feels guilty 105

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when he thinks of the damp shitty flat he rents with Anna, where his child will soon have to live.    Once inside Morgan gestures for silence and they make their way upstairs as quietly as they can. They ascend again towards a converted attic and are just about to enter when an old woman’s voice calls out for Morgan.    ‘Shit! You just go on in. I’ll be back in a mo.    Thomas sits on the bed and surveys the large room. The walls are lined with shelves all stacked with books, DVDs, CDs, videos and even old vinyl LPs. There is a stereo, TV, DVD and video player mounted on a homemade wooden bench. Morgan comes back after a moment but says nothing. He rolls out a sleeping bag for Thomas, which he gratefully zips up around his fully clothed self. Before he dozes off he sees Morgan open one of the roof lights so that he can blow his smoke out into the night.    The next morning they are on the bus together early. Morgan did not offer breakfast or even coffee. Thomas is still feeling drunk, and Morgan looks like shit, but he is talking again as the bus lurches from stop to stop among the early morning traffic. It is the immigrants again, but there is a playfulness in his manner now. He keeps slapping his thighs and rocking in his seat, nodding to himself in agreement. Some of the other passengers raise their eyes from their newspapers from time to time to consider him. Thomas wishes he would just shut up.    ‘See how many of these eastern Europeans we have signing on now? Hardly a vowel to their name! Ah yes, the great Balkan vowel shortage of 1967, when the Russians took all the best vowels from the people, leaving them with virtually unpronounceable names. And now they come over here to find work and commit fraud on the state so that they can send home the money to their families to buy used vowels on the black market!’    He takes a hip flask from his coat pocket and offers it to Thomas.    ‘No, thanks.’    He takes a slug and replaces it.    ‘Think it’s going to be one of those days Tommy boy!’    And it is. By eleven Tommy is in the staff toilets, locked in one of the stalls, dry retching. He can hear other staff members coming and going but none of them check to see if he is okay. By lunchtime his hands are shaking badly, and it is plainly apparent to everyone in his section every time he picks up a sheet of paper. His supervisor, an older woman with a scrubbed plain face, eventually takes him to one side.    ‘I think you should go home Thomas.’    ‘No, no, I’m fine.’    ‘You’re not. You’re sick, from drink. I’m not blind. Listen, just go, for your own sake, while it’s just me talking to you. If the manager sees you in the canteen at lunchtime he’s going to ask me about you, and I’m not going to lie for you. Do you understand? 106

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Thomas gets up and puts on his jacket. It is almost lunchtime anyway. From across the desk Morgan lifts an invisible drink to his lips and raises his eyebrows.    ‘Hair of the dog?’    ‘Why not.’    Thomas opens his desk drawer and feels for his cigarettes. He can feel every beat of his heart, every breath in his lungs as if they might be the last. He knows he should go home and let Anna scream and shout at him. He would say sorry and she would cry. Days would pass in silence but, given sufficient time, things would return to normal. He really wants to go home, but he cannot face all that just now, so he proposes to defer the inevitable. He wishes he could shut his eyes and jump ahead to a point in the future when it would all be over. He truly wants to be forgiven but he also demands to be understood.    Out on the street with Morgan by his side again Thomas regrets agreeing to go for a drink, but he doesn’t say anything. The pub is quiet and they sit where they sat the previous evening. This bothers Thomas for some reason, but he does not ask Morgan to move. As usual Morgan buys the first drinks, pints of lager this time. Thomas notices the shake in the older man’s hand as he raises the glass to his lips before swallowing a quarter of it in one go. Thomas looks at his own beer and his stomach turns over, but he brings the glass to his lips nonetheless and sips a tiny amount. He tastes only ash and that soapy saliva that sometimes appears before vomit in the back of the throat. Morgan is quiet for once and Thomas is thankful for that.    He goes to the toilet and stands over the bowl in a locked cubicle until the retching subsides. When he returns to his seat Morgan is on the phone. He looks up at Thomas and holds out the phone to him.    ‘It’s for you,’ he says.    ‘For me?’    ‘Yea.’    Thomas puts it to his ear. He knows who it is before he even hears her voice. Anna sounds as if she is speaking from another country, over a very poor line.    ‘Thomas, is that you?’    ‘Yes.’    ‘I was trying to get you all night.    ‘I’m sorry, I lost my phone somewhere. I stayed over with Morgan in his place. I meant to call you, I’m sorry.’ He can see Morgan watching him, listening to every word he says, and he hates him for it.    ‘It’s okay, I’m just glad you’re okay. But I need you to come right away.’    ‘What is it? What’s wrong?’    He knows it’s bad news. She is too calm. She should be screaming down the phone at him.    ‘I’m at the hospital Thomas,’ she says quietly. 107

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‘Jesus!’    That’s it, he thinks, that’s why she isn’t shouting at me. She doesn’t need to.    ‘What is it Anna? Are you okay?’    ‘Yes, I’m okay.’    ‘And the baby?’    ‘No.’    ‘No? What do you mean no?’    ‘I’ve lost the baby.’    Such a strange thing to say, as if she had mislaid it somewhere and it might show up in an unlikely place at any time. But it won’t; he understands that. It is dead. Now she cries. Thomas can see her in his mind hunched over the phone, her body wracked by sobs. Their unborn child is dead. He is thinking of her alone and childless in a building full of flowers and mothers and newborn babies. He can’t help thinking that his life has been given back to him, and all he feels is useless guilt.    ‘I’m coming,’ he says. ‘I’m coming to see you Anna, I’m leaving now.’    He places the phone on the table and walks out the door without looking back at Morgan, and all the time he is wondering how long he must wait before he can tell her it’s over.

Poetry|Tim Wells Bidaaye* Eating curry with Hasina when three Brick Lane girls walk in, look to her then me, quizzically. They question her, not in the usual Sylheti, but Bengali. When Bengali comes out it’s time to worry – it’s like getting a letter from the Council. English please, says Hasina, I’m with my friend. We are your people, throws out the first girl. Hasina looks to me then turns to them: No, you are why my family left home to find home. *Farewell in Sylheti

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Edgar Allen Poe and the Awful Therapist The clock strikes the hour with baleful tone. The Awful Therapist inclines toward me and opines ‘Same time next week.’ I realise with dread clarity: my fate is sealed.

Poetry|Patrick Connors Hoops Soot was the Harrison family dog Everyone in the neighbourhood felt      Like she was theirs The Harrison family trained her      To jump through hoops, sit pretty Put up with a number of very young kids      And be utterly adorable I last saw Soot’s picture      When Cyndie was taken from us God rest their souls –      I cried that day for them both Many days since have been a struggle;      I don’t dream of the days of chasing Soot around But rather to pursue the dreams      Which have beckoned me for almost as long How many more hoops must I jump through      How much more must I endure Before I can live my truth

The Moon Many of us revere the moon A dark, celestial body Which reflects Earth’s light By varying degrees Based on our wary movements About a brilliant, blazing Sun 109

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Which makes its rounds around us In what we selfishly call a day The moon seems so alone; The glow around it Doesn’t allow to see the stars Especially from the smog-ridden city I can stare at it for hours Sing soulful songs from long ago Write first lines of unfinished poems About everything I’m missing

Poetry|Noel Williams Shooting the breeze In the swerve of the air eliding those spaces that separate breath from the breather, the desired from desire, I can feel as a river feels in spate, sliding, sluicing, bruising along sky steep and curved between peaks of sunlight, between valleys where thin frosts glaze the length of our nerves, looping on a wheel I’ve pinned to cloud, as kestrels skid the wind, I tailspin, to plummet as free as despair, scaring the earth; or wrestle the stick to flip under the span of a limbo-low bridge, to scratch up the thrill of another day lived, another mark, imagining each particular kill. I pull the joystick hard.

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Visual Art|Burritt E. Benson

Dragonslayer for hire

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King Me 112

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The Potters Dream

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Short Fiction|Kazi Anis Ahmed Good Night, Mr. Kissinger

T

he first time I met Henry Kissinger, I was shocked at how frail he appeared. Of course, “met” is a strong word when you are a waiter. But waiters in restaurants of a certain elevation, like butlers or barbers of another era, enjoy a strange though controlled intimacy with the men they serve.    At a place like The Solstice, it is almost expected for a good waiter to get past the menu with repeat visitors. Once in the middle of a conversation with a silver-haired lawyer, Kissinger was groping for the name of the capital of Tajikistan. It was a delicate call; I took a chance: Dushanbe.    “What is your name?” Mr. Kissinger asked me with slight bemusement.    “James, sir. James D’ Costa.”    “Where are you from?”    “Bangladesh, sir.”    “A James from Bangladesh? An unlikely name for a Bangladeshi, isn’t it?”    “It’s an unlikely country, sir,” I replied as I swept away the crumbs from the thick white tablecloth.    Encounters with the famous and the mighty was one of the great perks of my otherwise often tiring job: politicians, movie stars, authors, sports heroes, socialites. Just the week before meeting Kissinger, I had witnessed the daughter of a real-estate tycoon storm out in tears over a breakup. A month before that I had to find a spare pair of trousers for a druggy star who had soiled himself in the men’s room. I was moved by the graciousness of Gregory Peck and charmed by the sweetness of the Queen of Jordan. Once I pulled Harvey Weinstein away–I am an exceptionally big man for a Bangladeshi–when he struck a young director who had crossed him. Yet, somehow the little repartee with Kissinger felt like the highlight.    When I brought the check to Kissinger, he asked me, “So how is your unlikely country doing these days?”    “Quite well, sir,” I replied, trying to stay neutral.    “It can’t be doing that well if you are here, can it? How long have you been in America?”    “Just two years, sir.”    “I hope your country isn’t still a basket-case for the sake of those who are stuck there,” said Mr. Kissinger, as he wrote in a fat sum for the tip.    Clearly, I had not been forgiven for Dushanbe. But the insult was 114

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excessive. The dessert knife, still on the table, flashed before my eyes. Kissinger’s neck was soft and crumply enough that I could have pierced it with a blunt instrument. I have always been given to sudden and extreme bursts of rage, though I try not to act on them. The last time I did, I had to leave the country. I removed myself from the scene with a brusque “Thank you,” leaving the farewell ritual to a smooth-faced actor amenable to my bullying. *    As far as the American immigration service is concerned, I am a political refugee. The real circumstances of my departure are of course more complicated. I used to be an English teacher at a private college in Dhaka. One would not expect a character like me to become a teacher. I harked back to British times when tough guys became teachers, and ran gymnasiums to train young anti-colonial radicals. I doubled up as the games teacher for my college. Not the pot-bellied, whistle-blowing kind. I taught the boys how to dodge and tackle, taking hard falls with them in the rain-sodden field on summer afternoons.    I felt free to egress into unnecessary territories. Anytime the faculty had a new need–not something as grubby as a salary-increase–but a new line of acquisitions for the library or an expansion of the common room, I would lead the negotiations. I chided the peons when they slacked off on keeping the bathrooms and corridors clean. I bullied the bullies among the students. I could have asserted myself in a bigger arena, but felt content with the little theater of my college. I enjoyed scolding socially well-placed but negligent parents.    In addition to temperament, I was helped in my subtle transgressions by sheer physical size. I was big not just for a Bengali, but for almost any nationality. I could crack open a hard coconut shell with the back of my fist. I used this trick to awe the newcomers and to intimidate any challengers. I should have known that my predilections destined me for trouble. A student, whom I had failed, begged first for re-grading, then re-examination. Then he grew bolder, offering veiled threats. Violence has become so common in Dhaka that everyone knows a two-bit goon and feels free to lean on that assumed advantage. I slapped the boy hard and told him to focus on his studies. A few days later, I spotted a clownish trio, wearing gold-chains and sunglasses, dawdling outside the college gate. They leaned against their 100cc Japanese bike as if it were a Harley.    I found their posture comic and paid no heed to their hard stares. But a few weeks later when I was returning home, they fell upon me without any warning or preamble, just as I turned the corner onto the dark alley leading to my house. I took a cut to my chin, but managed to wrestle away a bicycle chain from one of their hands. The student was the slowest to escape. I chased him down and with one metallic swish from behind caught him across the face. I should have stopped right there; but I could not forgive a student who would dare raise a hand 115

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against a teacher.    The fact that I had acted in self-defense, even if excessively, was completely overlooked in the ensuing uproar. A few students began a boycott of my classes, and a few parents pressed for an investigation. My defense grew weaker as the boy, now the victim, languished in a hospital. Within a week, no students attended my classes. The authorities asked me to take leave pending an investigation. Old stories about my prowess and vigilance circulated with sinister exaggerations. The boy’s parents pressed criminal charges. I did not have the appetite for the legal fight, nor for the humiliations needed to resolve the issue out of court. I managed to secure an American visa, and upon landing filed for asylum. It helped that I was a Christian with a record of secular activism from a country growing ever more radical. *    When I say I am given to sudden rage, it is not entirely accurate. I have always lived in a state of seething rage, but its focus has shifted over the years. Targets receded while new obsessions bloomed. As a child, if the cooking was not to my liking, I would hurl the bowl of curry at the wall and watch the yellow sauce dribble down our much-stained wall. In a developed country they might have submitted me to some form of treatment or counseling. Back home I received vigorous thrashings from my father, but I lost him too early in life to know if his admonishments might have made a difference.    During the war of liberation I was only nine. My father, pastor of a small church on the outskirts of Dhaka, was shot dead by the Pakistanis. The soldiers invaded our house early one morning. Somehow the army skipped our town in the first days of war, when Dhaka was massacred. But a couple of months later, they entered our town blaring the message that anyone who lived peacefully and cooperated would be unharmed. The next morning they came for my father, the first operation in our town.    I remember that ten or twelve soldiers had entered our little compound. I imagine more surrounded the house and guarded the arched gateway of our very old house. My father came out to the verandah, already bent in submission, appeasement dripping from his voice. That’s what I remember most vividly. The image of my father on his knees, shirt open, pleading for his family. My mother and I watched from behind a door. My mother held my one-year old brother to her breast. The child, sensing disorder, began to bawl. Luckily, the soldiers were not interested in us. They had come specifically for my father, who they believed was aiding insurgents. Having ensured that there were none hiding in our house, they left us alone.   One soldier stood by the gate, under the old Arjun tree, with a leer on his broad square face. In a moment like that your comprehension can transcend your age and become universal. I knew even at that age, and in that moment, that the soldier was not smiling with malice, but 116

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out of idiocy. He fired suddenly at a goat that leapt out of the vegetable patch at one end of our compound. The major leading the operation blasted a series of expletives at the idiot soldier and ordered him out. Then he turned and barked another order, and my father was shot ten or twenty times, I can’t remember, even after his body had gone still on the ground.    Many details of that morning are no longer vivid in my mind. I don’t remember if it was a cloudy morning, or which neighbor was the first to rush over once the soldiers left. What I remember vividly is the shaking, kneeling figure of my father, and the smiling face of the idiot soldier. Where is he now? I wondered as I grew older. What if I went to Karachi or Lahore some day, and found him behind the counter of a store?    My unstable moods, in the absence of my father, grew more volatile for a period. Especially in my teenage years, I got into scrapes constantly. I spent almost as much time in suspension as in class. I daydreamed, not of girls, or football, or cars, or anything teenagers commonly fantasize about, but of revenge. I drafted elaborate plans to execute the killers of 1971. It would not be necessary to kill all the culprits; I required only symbolic justice.    Yet, justice was the only thing that my country failed to deliver. I became involved in secularist politics after democracy was restored in the early ‘90s. I organized awareness-raising events in small towns. But, to my dismay, once in power, even the liberals succumbed to compromise. Eventually the killers and collaborators became ministers. I gave up on wider political work, and became increasingly concerned with upholding vestiges of order and dignity in the immediate and small arena of my college, until, of course, things went too far. *    The move to America seemed to calm my spirits. Or, my shaky legal status in an alien land had a restraining effect on my temper. We had sold the old family property to raise the money for my passage. I blew much of that fund on a rental deposit for a one-bedroom in Sunnyside, Queens. My brother, who didn’t mind selling the house for my safety, was irritated when he heard of this move. The few contacts from home I met, and later avoided, advised me against it. But having spent the first few weeks with six young Bengali taxi-drivers in a two-bedroom, I was sure I wanted my own space. I had never lived alone before in thirtyseven years. I couldn’t believe how good it felt.    I liked being alone when I woke up, and when I went to sleep. I could see living alone for the rest of my life. I had loved girls, and I had been loved back. But the one girl I might have married, I lost for reasons I still don’t understand. I felt no strong need for companionship at this time. I worked one long shift from noon to ten at night. I liked having much of the mornings to myself. To go sit at the diner by the station, with a paper, made for a morning hour more delicious than any I had known before. I liked the smell of coffee, and I liked how in this 117

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country they topped it up endlessly.    While my work was not easy, I had it easier than many of my countrymen. I could not pass by any Bangladeshi fruit-seller on winter mornings without a shiver of pity for them, and thankfulness for my luck. My move up the restaurant ladder to The Solstice was rapid, thanks mainly to my English and general quickness. I enjoyed learning about the great wines of the world–the difference between a Petrus Pomerol 1998 and an ordinary $100 Merlot– appealed to some arcane aspect of my temperament. I loved the elaborateness of our accoutrements, the hierarchy, the rituals, and the art of effacing it all into a seamless, effortless performance. Here, finally, was a civilized order.    I was never desperate, like millions of my countrymen, to leave Bangladesh. I had never given serious thought to emigration, never explored any such options. Yet trading the chaos and violence of Dhaka for the relative calm and order of New York felt like a boon. My new city, like my place of work, offered me a world of rules. In return, I needed to keep my overdeveloped sense of dignity under check. Surprisingly, this task came as a huge relief. No longer did I have to measure every smile, look, or gesture, nor constantly defend myself against the slightest omissions of respect.    I felt no great longing to go back to Dhaka, even for a visit. Of course, I missed aspects of Dhaka. I missed the Kal Boishakhi rains that heralded summer with a sudden and terrible lash of winds and hail. I missed dal puris with hot tea at the stall by my college on foggy winter mornings. But on the whole, I was happier in my new life. The owner of a Bangladeshi restaurant in Astoria approached me at regular intervals to teach at a public school loaded with Bangladeshis. The man was a busybody who took an interest in community affairs. “The boys and girls need a Bangladeshi teacher, a role model. Someone strong and good in English.” Sometimes he came to see me with sidekicks to add weight to his appeal.    “Surely you know why I left home?” I said to dissuade the man.    “People there always overreact and exaggerate,” said the man gallantly. “I pay no heed to rumors.”    Clearly, they were desperate for a good teacher. But I was not moved by their need or flattery. To accept their offer would mean getting drawn into the community, and the politics and issues from home. I did not wish to have any old feelings stirred up. But I should have known that it is not easy to leave worlds behind. Just when I thought I had fully bulwarked myself against my past, it ambushed me from a completely unexpected direction, in the unlikely figure of Henry Kissinger.    Like all educated Bangladeshis, I held Kissinger culpable to some degree for the genocide that occurred in my country in 1971. I knew that he did not order it, but I also knew that he did nothing to discourage his Pakistani clients, though he wielded enormous influence on them. These were issues I had gladly left behind. Yet, suddenly now 118

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the issue was palpably before me, demanding to be fed and humored. *    I hoped the second time Kissinger saw me, since it was already several weeks from our first meeting, that he would not remember me. Instead, as soon as I brought him the menu, he greeted me affably, “James, right? From Bangladesh?”    “You are very kind to remember, sir,” I said trying to put on my best faux-English politeness. It worked well with the older crowd.    “James is a bit of a student of world politics, even geography, if I remember correctly,” said Kissinger to a budding blonde newswoman who was his dinner companion that night.    “Again, you are too kind, sir. May I bring you some water? Or, call the sommelier?”    “Sure, sure, there will be time enough for all that. Tell me first what you think of this terrible attack,” said the old man easing into a winged leather chair. The old fox was not to be diverted easily. Once during the meal, and then again when I brought him the check, he tried to trap me into political talk. I would not have expected Kissinger to be the kind of big man who engages underlings, let alone service staff, in chats of any kind. But clearly I piqued some perverse interest in him.    I persuaded the head waiter to assign me to the front part of the restaurant, adjoining the bar-lounge area. They preferred to have the good-looking actors work that area. People like me, people with personality, we were told, were needed in the main dining room, where the more demanding older customers were usually seated. Luckily the head waiter, a bushy-browed, gay Englishman of great Old World charm, had taken a liking to me, and I managed to get my area changed.    The next time Kissinger walked in, I could watch him with relief from a distance. I was talking a young couple into ordering our hideously over-priced special of the night–a Kobe Wagyu beef with cockle clams Agar Agar in a seaweed soy sauce. It was the latest invention of our famous Spanish Chef, a diva of insufferable proportions. In the middle of my sale, suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the head waiter with a twinkle in his old eyes.    “Kissinger asked for you,” he murmured in my ear, and turning to the young couple in his cheeriest tone, “May I continue taking your orders, please?”   This was more interest than I expected or required from Kissinger. No doubt the man had a streak of sadism in him. He would not stop pestering me with probing questions about the state of my country. One day he asked me if I thought it was a matter of time before a Bangladeshi would be caught in a terror attempt.    “Why just attempt, sir, why not an actual attack?” I blurted out, on the verge of losing control.    “I can’t imagine they would have the competence, can you?” said Kissinger with a smile. 119

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I could feel the vein in my scalp throb. I placed the wine bottle back in its silver bucket before I was tempted to swing it down on Kissinger’s face. After that second encounter, I could not stop thinking about harming Kissinger. Not since my teenage years, had anyone or anything sparked such sustained fantasies of violence in me. A steak knife would of course be the obvious choice of weapon in this context. I was not sure I would be entirely beyond committing such a bizarre attack.    My entire past, I realized looking back from the calm perch of my new life, was strewn with acts of petty violence. I used physical force to impose my will, whenever my personality or reasoning was not enough. It came easily with people against whom a certain degree of violence was permissible in my culture–students, servants, urchins, neighborhood toughs. But I pushed the boundaries of even other relationships. Once I took a rude parent by the arm to walk him out of my room. I banged on the table of my startled principal to make points. Another time I shook a policeman almost senseless for trying to shakedown my scooter-driver. All those actions–more than I could actually list–pointed inevitably towards the excess of my last action.    So many people in the world–from Chile to Cambodia–had a case at least as justified as mine against Kissinger, yet was I the first to have access both to his enemy and to dangerous weapons at the same time and place? How many times had he been exposed to the possibility of a stray, lunatic assault? *    Kissinger came to The Solstice at least once a month; usually for dinner, and never failed to engage me in what he must have considered friendly banter.    If I really wanted to hurt him, all I would have to do is wait for his next visit. I would watch him from the bridge to the serving station, eyes glazed and lower lip hanging, signs of a glutton, or just age, slowly passing morsels of rich food from his plate to his mouth on the tips of a silver fork. I could snatch that fork away and stab him in the eye faster than any security man could bat an eyelid. Besides, they were easily distracted with a plate of appetizers. Realizing that I had him in my hands seemed to have a calming effect on me. No matter what impertinent comments he made, I thought to myself, Old man, you have no idea how close you are to danger!   I wondered if he was rude to people from every country whose independence he had opposed. Or, did he detect some streak of defiance beneath the veneer of my professional politeness, which prompted him to make rude remarks about my country? I expected the animal instinct to be strong in a man like him. Instead of outright injury, I toyed with the idea of insults. Splashed wine, stinging slap.   The more I thought about it, I also realized that no injury I could cause him would get either Kissinger himself or the world to see him as I wished. Still, part of me wanted to be provoked to the point of 120

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explosion, no matter what the outcome. Could you get deported for mouthing off to a former Secretary of State? Could such rashness be construed as a threat to national security?    Of course, even the slightest of actions entertained in my fantasies would cost me my job, if not land me in jail. For all my pride, I found that that was deterrent enough. I didn’t understand why life’s restraints worked so well on people like me, but not on the likes of Kissinger. Why can some people literally get away with murder, becoming ministers or dining on Pemaquid Oysters, while we can only stew in impotent rage?    I chose as a sign of protest the habit of leaving it to other waiters to see Kissinger off. I refused to pull his chair or fetch his coat. Dodging these tasks became an art, made easy by the fact that four other waiters were perfectly happy to step in for a big man. The head waiter himself loved attending to his biggest clients so much that he did not seem to notice that I was absconding from my proper role.    I started working fewer nights, having finally relented to offer private lessons to some Bangladeshi students. Some of them struggled to pass high school, while others strove to earn good scholarships. These tuitions paid very little, but I found that they formed a good balance with my restaurant job. Instead of cursing Kissinger all the way back from work on the 7 train, I jotted down little points for the next day’s lessons. I was sure I could get many more of my students qualified for college than they seemed to think possible.    I had saved up enough money to buy a place of my own, though I chose to send it back to my brother. I told them to buy an apartment in Dhaka. I started taking a Bangla paper now and then to my diner in the mornings; football scores of teams I once rooted for brought a strange glow of warmth to my heart. The novelty of meeting a figure like Kissinger began to fade. He stopped seeming like history embodied. I began to realize the impossibility of finding satisfaction in the event of a great wrong. I asked my students, during a lesson on the Liberation War, “Can you forgive those who don’t even know that they need to be forgiven?” I drew blank stares and diverted the discussion to other topics.    I thought of writing a letter to the student whom I had hurt. Even though I was sure he could never forgive me.    Kissinger’s provocations did not abate. I see you have once again topped the list for corruption. What is it with your people? Don’t you really think it might do better as a province of India? The man’s capacity for offense was endless. But his comments could not touch me anymore. Indeed, when he came to The Solstice soon after the Bangladeshi Independence Day, I reminded him of the fact, knowing full well he might use it as an opening. “Not much to show for thirty some years, except billions in aid and debt.”    “So it would seem from afar, Mr. Kissinger. But not up close,” I contradicted, taking a chance. At any rate, the man’s predictability amused 121

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me.    That night I finally saw him off. I fetched his coat and opened the door, towering over his short, stooped figure, moving slowly under heavy layers.    “Thank you, James,” said Kissinger, as he stepped into the cold March night for the warm cabin of a waiting limousine.    “Good night, Mr. Kissinger,” said I, drawing the door of the Solstice behind him to a close.

Poetry|Murali Sivaramakrishnan From The Notebooks Of A Naturalist 1.Wagtail Let us step on the tail of the mountains. Let us fly between the waves. No tree, no bush, no thorn Is light enough to hold us. The sky tremors with the lightness Of our touch. It is nimbleness that is our natural right. Shearing the thin waters of dawn and dusk We live off the moonlight. Tied to our tails all the year round The earth shares sighs and dreams. 2.Indian Robin As I stood between their cluster of leaves and breaking eggs The surprised pair dived and reeled, in and out, beak-full of Long- winged flies and hairy caterpillars. The air was dense with fear tremor and instinct. The black bird flicked its tail furiously as if To wave the red earth into submission. The brown one stood patient tied to the twig. Her eyes were elements of homing. The nest was full. I did not want the young to know I was there And so left with my long shadow disentangled From the bush and sky. And neither had left the bush. (25-05-11) 3.Spotted Dove The summer hauled a red hot sun across blue skies, Reluctant; there is neither alternative nor forgetting. The spotted dove perched on a high exposed twig— Leafless the tree had dried, and clutching still With left over life a red earth, searching For water—the bird cooed and consoled--all 122

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Tenderness, all love, soothing, touching the heart of the drying bark Letting life come to pass, once again. It has stayed on All night, all summer, till the leaves clustered round One by one. And now there are a million hearts. (25-05-11)

Poetry|Rizio Yohannan Raj Tree Stories* 1 leaves, purple trees, fragrant earth, thrusting

4 leaves, florid trees, flaming earth, dry

2 leaves, spicy trees, bursting earth, sizzling

5 leaves, burnt trees, blunt earth, enduring

3 leaves, luminous trees, winged earth, moist

6 leaves, reminisced trees, wraithlike earth, cracking, knowing

Soul Stories* 1 limbs, feral soul, darkling fire, emergent, waiting

4 reason, hearthed soul, seasoned fire, fenced

2 eye, dreaming soul, drifting fire, hunted

5 mind, split soul, forged fire, raised

3 tongue, beset soul, spirited fire, dreaded

6 all, none soul, done fire, emergent, knowing

*From the series Rites of Passage 123

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Visual Art|Eleanor Leonne Bennett

In the workshop

Whaley bridge, England

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Poetry|Kathryn A. Kopple At the Wharton Escherick Museum How to distill light from rough bough, thwarted twig, and scarred quartz? What had Wharton seen in the wreckage of autumn, when the ground sopped under his boots, pitch soil paradise for bobble-headed fungus, the hill a steep cut out under a sky all (a)glare, the sun under siege, tarnished gray, as always this time of year; the insistent maples seeping sap, and wasted in those woods, the hills went not from green to saffron to wine, but burnt themselves up; the greens charred remains, crisps on cruel limbs; and Wharton’s ghost out there, collecting the bruised, incidental and fallen, hauling the wood to shed, the stone to quarry. Wharton worked with whatever nature gave him, no deformity left unturned. I was angry—and deformed in spirit. Life, I felt had turned me to rubbish. At my side, my son, his father—our visit a diversion from troubles. When the subject of mistresses came up, I winced, but that roof, bending in ways that mystified— I expected planks and shingles. Wharton sought waves of green, the blended cement of an addition kept safe a portion of blue sky. How had Wharton made verse of a forest stripped so quickly of color? Our guide opened the door and in we went, where Wharton had outrun the dangers of quaint and folksy, and instead configured puzzles into hinges, seamless sculptures rose from floor to ceiling; harmony without effort. I wouldn’t look at my husband, only my son. We climbed the caracol ladder to the alcove where Wharton slept; each step levitating in open space, and one slip, one misplaced step, would have sent my husband or me or our boy to the hospital. We didn’t slip. The slips were prologue and the future still uncertain; but the house Wharton fabled into existence held so much enchantment. Our fable messier but persistent—

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Short Fiction|Madeleine D’Arcy Hole in the Bucket

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t’s 5.20pm on a hot day in July and my head hurts. I’m about to slide out of the office through the side door when someone calls my name. I’ve no choice but to slink back to the front desk, where Eva from Reception presides benevolently in crisp cotton and full make-up.    ‘I’ve got that number you asked for, Leanne,’ she says. She comes out from behind her desk and hands me a folded piece of paper. ‘I wrote down another number for you too, dear,’ she adds, in a lower tone of voice. ‘You know, when my marriage fell apart I was devastated. But I went to talk to somebody – her number’s there – and, honestly, it did the world of good.’    ‘Oh. Thank you, Eva.’ I take my diary out of my bag and place the paper carefully between two spare January pages. This is worrying. I only asked Eva if she knew a good electrician.    It’s 5.32pm and I’m going home on the rattling, oxygen-starved Piccadilly Line tube. I can hardly breathe. I’d like to get out at the next stop, climb back up into the sticky city air, find an air-conditioned bar and order a nice cold beer, but I swore to myself this morning I wouldn’t drink until the weekend. Since me and Killian split up three months ago, I’ve gotten into the habit of joining the systems support guys for after-work drinks every Friday, but lately the drinking seems to have extended itself to Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays as well. There’s no harm in it, but I probably should cut down a little.    Thing is, I like the company. I’m not shagging any of the lads, by the way. Wouldn’t dream of it. They’re just good friends. ‘Don’t shit on your own doorstep,’ is what Killian, my ex, used to say. Pity he didn’t take his own advice. I did try to be promiscuous myself after we split up, but I’m no good at it. I’ve decided I’m better off being celibate.    Alcohol is different. I’m not going to give that up. I overdid it a bit last night, that’s all. Edward Barker, Freddie Megabyte, Loopy Goldsmith and myself went to the Shakespeare Lounge after work and played pool for hours, fuelled only by lager, Walkers crisps and pork scratchings. All three of them walked me to the tube at closing time and I felt fine until I got out at Turnpike Lane, when my balance seemed to desert me. I had to crawl up the escalator on my hands and knees – but I got home all right in the end.    Eva from Reception couldn’t possibly know about last night, could she? Why the hell did she give me the number of a therapist? It’s a bit condescending, actually. I know I’m not one hundred per cent but I’m coping well, all things considered. Ok, I did get a warning for bad time keeping but I’ve improved a lot in the past two weeks. 128

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Except for this morning. Blame the hot weather. I decided to wear a dress, but when I put it on I realised to my horror that my legs were like a cat’s, so I had to shave them. Then I nicked my heel with a Ladyshave and blood began to dribble everywhere. I had to put a wad of toilet paper between the raw stripe on my heel and the back of my shoe, then I limped to the corner shop to buy bandages before getting the tube to work. I was twenty minutes late, but I’d have been early only for that.    The tube train is almost full and I feel ‘dog-rough’, as my Dad used to say. The smells of sweat and aftershave make me feel faint. Thank goodness I got a seat. A busker is singing at the other end of the carriage. She’s not much good.           There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,             There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, a hole. The man sitting next to me stands up and as he moves away I notice two singed circles on the velour seat covering. They remind me of the cigarette burns on my shabby green couch. I really must quit falling asleep in front of the television.           Then fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry             Then fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry, fix it. The singing voice is thin and definitely off-key. I recognise the tune. It’s a children’s song, a ‘round song’ we learnt in school.          With what shall I fix it, dear Liza, dear Liza             With what shall I fix it, dear Liza, with what? I wonder if I could get something in the D.I.Y. store to fix the faulty sockets in the kitchen. Surely I wouldn’t electrocute myself? I can’t afford an electrician. I’m into my credit zone already and pay-day’s not for ages.    ‘It’s ridiculous to have only one socket that works,’ I said to Killian a million times. ‘I have to plug the kettle in to make tea first, then unplug the kettle to make toast. Normal people in normal kitchens don’t do that.’    ‘It’s simple to fix. Those electricians cost the earth,’ he told me. ‘I’ll get round to it.’ Of course, he never did.             With straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,               With straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, with straw. The busker’s voice sounds oddly familiar. I lean forward in my seat and glimpse her through the crowd of passengers standing in the aisle at the far end of the carriage. She’s wearing faded black jeans and a longsleeved grey t-shirt. Long dark hair hides her face and she continues to sing as she holds a battered hat towards the passengers nearest to her. Oh Jesus! She’s asking for money – and I know her. It’s Alicia. And she’s practically begging.             The straw is too long, dear Liza, dear Liza,               The straw is too long, dear Liza, too long. She’s going to see me in a minute. What’ll I do? Will I put my head down… look at my shoes… pretend I’m not here? She’ll be embarrassed. 129

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I’ll be embarrassed. She won’t want me to see her…    She moves robotically along the carriage as she continues to sing. Most of the passengers pretend she doesn’t exist. They read books and newspapers, listen to their I-pods and text on their mobile phones. Some of them shake their heads. A grey-suited man waves her away dismissively. A large lady counts her small change.           Then cut it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,             Then cut it, dear Henry, dear Henry, cut it. I put my hand in my bag and find my purse in one of the zipped compartments. I look inside it, furtively: two tenners and a few coins. I wonder how much I should give her. I’ll wait to see if she recognises me. Someone told me ages ago that her new boyfriend was on heroin and that she was a smack-head too. She probably needs money for a fix.    But it’s Alicia from back home, Alicia from Atharnavar. I can’t pretend I don’t know her. I stand up, sling the strap of my bag round my neck and make my way towards her, lurching between the knees of seated passengers, gripping one overhead handle after another as the train bucks and sways.    ‘Hi Alicia,’ I say as I get closer. ‘Long time no see!’   I smile as if we’re home for Christmas and we’ve met by chance down the pub, but it must be six years, maybe eight, since that’s happened.    ‘Hi,’ she says. She seems only vaguely surprised to see me.    ‘How are you?’    ‘I’m ok,’ she says.    Her face is very pale and there’s a scar on her chin. A dark red stripe of lip liner outlines the edges of her lips, but the lips themselves are colourless; she must have forgotten to put her lipstick on. I hate myself for noticing. I remember an afternoon in her house, before she dropped out of her beautician’s course, when she gave me a facial, then a makeup lesson. She taught me a handy hint: Use lip-liner around the edge of the mouth, then fill it in with lipstick, either a darker colour or a lighter colour, depending on whether you want to make your big lips small or your small lips big. I was impressed.    ‘I knew you were in London – but it’s amazing how easy it is to lose track of people, isn’t it? I haven’t seen Paula or Katy for years.’    ‘Me neither,’ she says. Her eyes tell me nothing.    The train lurches to a halt at Caledonian Road and we both clutch the pole nearest to us.    ‘Mind… the gap,’ says a disdainful male voice over the tannoy.    As people leave the carriage and others board, I try not to study Alicia too closely. I’m relieved her t-shirt has long sleeves. Maybe that talk about her being on drugs is rubbish.    ‘Are you still with Killian?’ Alicia asks me after the doors close and the train moves on.    ‘No. No, I’m not.’    ‘What happened? You were together such a long time.’ She 130

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looks at me sympathetically.    I swallow hard and try not to cry. ‘I kicked him out a while back. He… well, he was unreliable.’    ‘All men are the same,’ she says. ‘My Dave… he’s done a lot of bad things. But I love him, you know?’    ‘That’s all very well…’    ‘I can’t believe you split up with Killian. Everyone thought you were made for each other.’ She looks at me with her big black eyes.    I don’t want her to say any more. It hurts.    The train rolls into Holloway Road Station and screeches to a halt. People jostle on and off the train.    ‘I’m getting off at Finsbury Park,’ she says.    ‘Me too.’ I’m not too sure why I say this but actually it’s a good idea. I’ll get the bus to Crouch End, buy some food there, maybe a few cans of Red Stripe.    The doors close and I smell fried food with a hint of engine oil. I’m reminded of a summer back home… carnival smells of chips and candy floss, diesel and patchouli oil, chair-o-planes, roundabouts, bumper cars and the Big Wheel, hot sticky nights down town, spotting ‘talent’ with Alicia and the others.    ‘Do you remember Perks Fun Fair?’ I shout, over the clanking noise of the train as it rushes through the tunnel.    ‘God, yes.’ She seems animated all of a sudden.    ‘You ran away with the bloke who worked on the bumpers.’ I can see him now, in my head. Emaciated rock-star thin; we mistook it for glamour. You could see his knees through his worn jeans. His hair was oily and black like the grease under his fingernails, and he leapt carelessly on and off the backs of the bumper cars with a fag in his hand and sparks in his hair, smiling at Alicia with a glint of gold.    ‘My mother went completely over the top,’ Alicia shouts, above the noise.    ‘You were only fifteen, to be fair. She rang the police, didn’t she?’    ‘Talk about ridiculous.’    The train stops abruptly at Arsenal and we’re separated briefly as people disembark and others shuffle their way on. As the train sets off again, Alicia leans closer so that I can hear.    ‘They got the doctor for me and everything. We’d only gone up to his place in Sligo for the weekend. His mother wouldn’t let me stay. I didn’t want to, anyhow. You had to take your shoes off at the door and go outside to smoke. I thought he had his own place.’    It’s noisy as the train rolls into Finsbury Park. Alicia steps off the train and onto the platform. I follow her as she makes her way through the crowd towards an exit. Her hair is still long but it’s tangled. She used to iron it straight, back in the old days, on her mother’s ironing board. Her mother nagged that she’d do herself damage and asked me to talk some sense into her, while Alicia said, ‘Help me, will you? I can’t do it 131

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all on my own.’    I’m not sure that Alicia wants to talk to me any more but I feel reluctant to let her go.    ‘Do you live near here?’    ‘Yeah.’ She steps on the escalator and I follow. As we ascend, she adds, ‘Sorry I can’t invite you back for a cup of tea. The place is a mess at the moment.’    ‘So is mine. My mother would kill me if she saw the state of it.’    She says nothing.    ‘I was sorry to hear about your mother,’ I add, quickly. ‘I hope you got my card. I couldn’t get home for the funeral. It was too late by the time I heard.’    ‘That’s all right,’ she says. ‘Thanks anyway. She thought the sun shone out of your arse, didn’t she?’    ‘I don’t know where she got that idea.’    ‘She had a lot of strange ideas.’    I can’t think of anything to say to that, so I say nothing.    At the top of the escalator Alicia walks through an open barrier. I follow her but I’m asked to show my season ticket.    ‘I’m going this way.’ She indicates the right-hand tunnel.    ‘Me too.’    We walk on, towards the exit. A shaft of sun falls sideways along the floor just inside the tunnel and in the brightness she seems to fade.    ‘Do you fancy coming out for dinner some night? A few drinks?’ I ask. ‘It’d be my treat.’    She stops and squints in the sunlight of the street, pushing a swathe of dark hair behind one ear. Her skin does not look good in this light.    ‘Fine,’ she says.    ‘Will I ring you?’    ‘Ok.’    I rummage in my bag to find my mobile phone, and then tap her number into my contacts list. ‘Speak to you soon.’ I hug her quickly, and walk round the corner to the bus stop. As I stand there, waiting for the bus, a terrible worry about Alicia overwhelms me. I take the two notes out of my purse – two tens – and run back the way I came, in time to see Alicia stub out a cigarette and walk into the tube station.    ‘Alicia,’ I shout. ‘Wait a minute!’    She turns.    ‘A present.’ I hold the money out. ‘I’ve missed heaps of your birthdays.’    She stares at me, and her expression changes from surprise to a kind of hate. She grabs the two notes and shoves them in her jeans pocket.    ‘You have no idea,’ she hisses. ‘No fucking idea at all. You never had. Why would you, with your proper job and your proper boyfriends and your proper this and your proper that? Little Miss fucking Perfect…’ 132

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I stand in shock as she walks away. Then I run after her. She pushes through the crowd and steps onto the down escalator and I see the top of her head and then she’s disappeared. I try to follow in her wake but the ticket collector stops me and asks to see my ticket, and by the time I reach the southbound platform she’s not there. I try the northbound platform but she’s not there either.    The back of my shoe chafes against my bandaged heel as I limp home. I smoke three Marlboro Lights on the way, to distract myself from the pain.    When I get home, I kick my shoes off, throw my bag on the floor next to them and slump down on the singed green couch. What the hell is wrong with Alicia? I was only trying to help. I ring the number she gave me. A puzzled male with very little English answers.    ‘Sorry, wrong number,’ I say.    I’d kill for a drink now, but in all the upset I forgot to buy alcohol, or even food. There’s a half-eaten Thai takeaway on the coffee table that’s two, or maybe three, days old. The ashtray is overflowing and empty cans of Red Stripe lie helpless on the carpet, like skittles. Everything’s a mess.    I drag myself up from the couch and walk barefoot into the bathroom. It shocks me, to be honest. It’s in a right state after my shaving ‘accident’ this morning. I’m half-afraid to go into the bedroom now. I’ve an awful feeling there’s a couple of used condoms under the bed from the night I took that scuzzy guy home from the Queen’s Head. That was desperate. I couldn’t open my eyes properly next morning because I’d forgotten to take my contact lenses out – I thought I’d gone blind for a while.   My stomach is rumbling, so I brave the kitchen where I locate a pot noodle that’s only slightly out of date. I fill the kettle and unplug the toaster so that I can plug the kettle in and that’s when I get a really weird, creepy feeling, as if I’ve been watching a version of myself doing this very same thing over and over again for a very long time.    ‘Ridiculous,’ I say out loud, but I feel a bit shook by the events of the day. The pot noodle is disgusting. I look in the fridge for something else to eat. Lo and behold! Two cans of Red Stripe are glistening in the fridge behind a hardened slab of yellowed cheddar cheese and a pot of jam. I’ll just have one, I tell myself. I take it out, pluck the ring-pull off and drink from the can – and it tastes pretty fine.    While I pop open the second lager, I think about ringing the numbers Eva gave me, but it’s too late to call anyone now. I’ll clean up, instead, as soon as I’ve drunk this.

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Visual Art|Gina Gibson

Digital Media, 2013

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Digital Media Date, 2013

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Digital Media, 2013

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Poetry|Francesca Biller Half Girl from Full Mother Long before my mother was ever a child, She sang love songs to the youth-birds And sometimes offered dark tea and bursting fruit swells, So that I could be born in the brightest of lights. It must have been somber and beautiful still, As she picked through the land as a poor laid-out girl Cultivating crops that seemed impossibly dead, While her torn skirts ruffled in dust and bloodshed. Still, she whispered in dawn and at dusk, That I would be blossomed and ripened one day Still, she called out my name in the dark, As if everyone heard her as if a keen lark. With her brothers away for a trench-mouthed war, Young sisters and mothers hummed and lifted Pans and pots filled with heavy warm soups, Awaiting a letter and a soft-glanced word. Never a lyric was told for her pains, As she walked liked a princess with nothing to gain Never I watched her cry or gleam sorrows, About such sad yesterdays, fears of tomorrows. Whispering in tongues from a place in her heart, My mother once told me about my place I was dreamt of in slumber and kept of notes high, My Eurasian eyes was her beaming joy-sky. One day she told me while her face wilted strong, That there was never a time I could not belong Even though I cried lightly when called a half-breed, She lilted and pronounced me a full-seasoned seed. Birthed by two races, felt into my bones, I carried all shadows of cultural tone Yellow and white, the colors of spring, The waxing and waning of all belonging. At last my song of the half-girl is sung, 137

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As I spiral it along for my mother’s face At last I have wandered into the song, That can only be hindered from too much grace.

Poetry|Sébastien Doubinsky Non-Sutras -1Fiction -the desire that made Burroughs’s hand tremble and shatter Joan’s brow like an empty glass Poetry -the desire that made Rimbaud shut up and forget his illumination in the printer’s shop Love -the desire that made Buddha sit under a tree and become another Buddha -2if X is an object (draws a shape in the air) then we know that we can look at it from various angles but we also know that X is not an object (draws a shape in the air)

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Poetry|Rumjhum Biswas Ouroboros The sulfur flames of factory furnaces tease smoky-orange skies. I cannot find Eucalyptus leaves floating in a pool from whose gelid embrace an October breeze has driven swimmers away. No families ensconced in toasty parlours, wrapped in the warmth of sweet cardamom tea. Nothing. The town where I was born and raised was consumed years ago. The road ended where a dirt track raised its dust and dreams thereafter took on the textures of rust. Sleep offered a blanket of powder, the residual sulfur of a past where an old English cottage piano played its last notes to a scurry of school girls and their reluctant hymns. Corridors swung around a rose garden with overflowing tubs. A duck pond slept beneath a duvet of algae. On its banks a Queen’s Flower tree formed a natural bench, where I could and did, with stubborn abandon, sweep time away in dreams. My stake in that history is sealed and cannot be disclosed. Except for that palette leaking out its primary colors, making strange snake tangles on the canvas, making me chase cities, states, countries, until I am nothing but a creature from everywhere and nowhere. And I used to take comfort in that knowledge. But now a new day has come with a clang and a peal. Helpless, I watch memory congeal, become a scab. I turn around and find a foolishly dreaming child. I feel the tremors of a disintegrating umbilicus, and my body cavities devouring space, muscle and bone like quicksand. I see my seasons rolling from beginning to end. There is no past here, just history warning, flicking out its tongue, rattling its tail. Again and again.

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Short Fiction|Michael Mirolla Treacle & Esteros Act The First

W

hen first we meet Treacle Sauter, be prepared. She might not give her real name. She might offer “Eel Cart” or “Act Reel” or “Cat Leer” or “Reel Cat” in its stead. Not that she’s embarrassed about her birth name (although others have mentioned that she must have had some pretty fucked-up parents to have christened her after either syrup or syrupy speech). It’s just that this juggling of letters is one of the ways to keep her brain from exploding. Or imploding. She’s not sure which. All she knows is that she doesn’t want to take the chance either way for she realizes that path leads inevitably to certain brightly-lit rooms with solid yet springy white foam on the walls – or at least on those portions of the walls that time and motion studies have shown could be reached by an enthusiastically flung and quite egg-shell head.    On the other hand, when we first meet Treacle, she might give her real name after all. But mixed in with a whole lot of other letter combinations. One of her favourites is “live”-“evil”-“veil”. It seems to have particular significance for her. Another is “male”-“lame”-“meal”-“leam”. Other times, when she wants to be understood more or less clearly, she’ll speak in sentences where most of the words simply can’t be jerked about – at least not in the English language.    O hell, she might say upon greeting us. My mane is Ace Trel. Who… how ear you? I ma fine.    Okay, so that’s a simple enough example, using mainly one-syllable words all the way and fairly easily unscrambled. However, it gets complicated exponentially as she moves on to multiple-syllable words. Take train speed, for instance. Or drip ten sea, eastern dip or paste in red. How quickly could the average reader turn that into the original Urword, as it were, in a sentence such as: The train speed fell in owls it moon? How long would it take for the reader to realize that pedestrian was meant? As in: The pedestrian fell in slow motion. So you can just imagine what someone in a dialogue would have to go through. Most often that person would still be scratching her head long after Treacle has offered her good-byes.    No biggie, then, that Treacle has had little opportunity for what we would label meaningful conversation, even if she lives in the bottom flat of one of those quaint overcrowded buildings known as triplexes, attached to one another and cheek by jowl from one block to the next. Or that the people in neighbouring flats, although otherwise very friendly and ready to lend a hand, tend to greet with a quick nod and pass on by. 140

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So we must assume that Treacle would have been surprised recently by the appearance at her door of a young man claiming to be her brother. And not just any brother, but her long-lost twin brother.    Rot Esse? She would have exclaimed. Tub, you era edda.    It appears not as he stands before her, hale and healthy, smiling with the most gleaming teeth imaginable against a deeply tanned face topped by a set of unruly blonde curls. He is beau-it-ful, Treacle thinks (unable to come up with a complete trans-lettered word or set of words as a replacement), while glancing at herself in the cracked full-length mirror to see a pasty-faced, dank lank-haired poor excuse for a wretch staring back. He is meal.     Well, are you going to invite me in or what? Esteros (for that, rather than Rot Esse, is his actual given name) says, sliding off his back pack and knocking the remaining dust from his frayed yet in-style shortshorts.    At first, Treacle would have hesitated, wondering if she could do a quick bit of clean-up (either to herself or the flat) before letting him enter. But then she would have realized it’s no use and swung open the door, revealing a narrow passageway through which one person can barely negotiate, stacked as it is on either side with bundled papers almost to the ceiling.    Ah, says her brother (or the one claiming to be her brother), reaching down to flip through one of the magazines, I see you like to read. That’s really rare these days. Twitter is more my speed.    Treacle would have looked at him for a moment, trying to determine if he is being sarcastic. She can’t stand sarcasm. She would have detected no sarcasm. Act The Second    Treacle’s hesitancy in accepting the fact her brother is still alive comes from a fairly legitimate source/cause: her own mother. Time and again, from the time that Treacle was capable of understanding to when she left the house for good, her mother had told her as much: Your brother didn’t make it out of the birth canal. You blocked his entrance into the world. And then, during the period she had lived with her aunt Cassie after her mother’s breakdown and before she was old enough to go out on her own, her aunt had said the same thing.     Why? Why lie?    I don’t know, her brother would say, shrugging. All I know is that I’ve lived on an island all my life. I don’t remember anything else. Fishing, tending sheep, working in the vineyards. Home schooling. Never liked that part of it. Anyway, I was ready to live on that island until I became part of it. Nice place, by the way. Safe. Warm. Protected. But then I was handed an airplane ticket, some money and a note with your address. 141

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So re he you era?     Yes, he would say, smiling in that dazzling way of his. In that explosion of dazzle way of his, making the rest of the world flash and disappear. So here I am.    Treacle had not lived on an island. She had not developed a dazzling smile. And, unlike Esteros, she remembered things. At the same time, she was not amazed that Esteros understood her immediately. In fact, this cemented her belief that he indeed was her twin brother. Who else would have been able to grasp what she was trying to say even when the words were mangled beyond recognition? It was as if he had a high speed computational machine that automatically translated her garble.    It was thus that Esteros had come to learn what had taken place [or related as having taken place] to trigger his mother’s breakdown and total collapse, and why Treacle had been spirited out of the family home and sent away to live with her aunt. It appears she was collateral damage (that was her word for it or rather “tell coral age mad”) following the tragi-comic death of Gamem Sauter, her mother’s first husband. Tragicomic? After having survived the killing fields of Afghanistan, including several close encounters with IEDs of various potencies and ranges and a suicide bomber who hugged him relentlessly but the detonator fizzled, Capt. Sauter finished his tour of duty, came home and proceeded to electrocute himself in the bath tub. Apparently while trying to catch up on his reading (a document in which his wife Estra served him notice of a pending divorce) and not bothering to check that the lamp wire was properly insulated. As there was no one else in the house at the time, the verdict came down to suicide or death by misadventure.    Despite admitting she no longer loved her husband and in fact had already started an affair with Augie, Gamem’s estranged cousin, Treacle’s mother freaked and blamed his death on the fact her husband had insisted on the removal at birth of Esteros, proclaiming far and wide that twins had always brought bad luck in his family and that together they formed a too powerful psychic entity that endangered more ordinary humans around them. There were also accusations on the part of Estra, already pregnant with the twins at the time, that Gamem had been in some way responsible for the death of their first-born daughter, killed at the age of three when she wandered off a used car lot and was hit by a speeding waste management truck. All Estra recalled clearly, she said, was the “Trojan” emblem-logo on the front of the truck. The rest was a blank, erased by the shock of it all.    My husband, she would say weepily after downing her third large gin of the day, was more interested in having fucking horns fitted on his fucking Cadillac than watching out for my poor little Gennie.   Thus Esteros learned of his past and his family’s past. Of the circumstances that had led to his being bundled off and later Treacle being sent to live with her Aunt Cassie. Who, Treacle then told him, was not really her aunt but a woman her father had brought back from Afghanistan. 142

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Not that it mattered much to Estra who, by that time, had already found a replacement in the shape of his estranged cousin.     Crazy, he said. Wild.    Readers may have picked up on the discrepancy between this information and the reason previously given for sending Treacle away (to wit: Estra’s shock at Gamem’s death). But it must be pointed out that (a) this was the sentiment Estra had expressed as she threw herself across her husband’s coffin; and (b) the maintaining of a lover, even if that lover happens to be the cousin of the cuckolded husband, does not necessarily negate or invalidate the explanation.    At any rate, enough of the past. Suffice it that Esteros moved in with Treacle and this has had a calming effect on her. For one thing, her language has become clearer and sharper. Less mangled. Although still with a tendency to fragment at the least sign of nervousness or stress. For another, she takes care of herself now: brushing her teeth, combing her hair, taking a bath. The one thing she won’t do is get rid of the newspapers, magazines and journals that continue to line the corridors and other empty spaces in her house. She is adamant about this and won’t hear of it. In fact, if Esteros so much as moves one of the bundles from one pile to another, she flies into hysterics, reverts to her old language tricks and flings herself at him with tooth and nail, as the old saying goes. Esteros is so very much stronger than her so she can’t do much damage but it is not a pretty sight.     They’re just old papers, Esteros says the first time this happens, holding her off at arms’ length as she tries to bite and claw him. What’s the big deal?     I’ll kill you, she screams, making sure none of the words can be transposed. I’ll rip your eyes out! I’ll chew your balls off! I’ll…     Okay, okay, Esteros says. I get the picture. No need to be such a graphic novel about it.    He releases her and she falls to the floor, pushed off balance by her own momentum.    Don’t you veer do that again, she says, replacing the bound stack of papers in its proper place. Don’t you veer!    Later, Esteros sneaks a peek at the papers. A combination of tabloids, star and sports revues, daily newspapers, foreign language journals, religious pamphlets, training manuals, technical schematics, porn magazines and so forth, he can find nothing in common among them. Nothing to explain the vehemence of her reaction, the frightful necessity in not wanting them moved, never mind misplaced or thrown away. Act The Third    To maintain the time-honoured balances and equilibriums, the mirror images so venerated by writers and audiences alike, this act at the centre of the action needs to start with another visit: that of the 143

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woman known as Aunt Cassie. Fortunately, it is also a good place to begin for the sake of the moving forward of the plot itself. Cassie, who runs a flower shop when she’s not attending esoteric fairs and other events that tend to have large Cyclopic eyes painted over oval-shaped entrances, has been a steady if infrequent visitor to Treacle’s flat ever since Treacle announced at 18 she was moving out to be on her own.    On fence of, tuna, she had declared at the time, tub I need my now paces.    Cassie had understood perfectly (she too always seemed to understand things perfectly) and ushered Treacle out with one admonition: Don’t let your mother know. Don’t let her know until you’re ready. Promise me.    As Treacle had not seen her mother since she’d moved in with Cassie, that wasn’t a difficult promise to make or keep. But she didn’t know what Cassie had meant by “until you’re ready”. She was planning on never being ready to make contact with her mother again. What would have been the point?    So this is Esteros, Cassie says, eying him openly up and down as he brings the food to the dinner table. Quite the hunk, isn’t he? She looks at Treacle seated across from her. Don’t look much like twins, do you?    Are we? Treacle asks. Are we really twins?    Your father said so. She reaches for some asparagus tips, dips them in melted butter and gulps them down. And he had no reason to lie.    You knew him? Esteros says, sitting down. You knew my father.    Certainly. Your father was a great man. He came to my country to try to save us. She laughs. From ourselves, I guess. From what he called religious fanaticism and a too great a reliance on prophecy. Which has a tendency to be self-fulfilling, he loved to say. But that’s neither here nor there. She tucks into the rabbit, raggedly chopped up and panfried peasant style, straight from Esteros’ island. Umm … She holds up a half-chewed piece of the thigh. This is simply delicious. You must give me the recipe. Esteros is about to speak, about to tell her it is a simple chopping up and frying of rabbit bits, mixed with salt, olive oil and some wine. But Cassie waves her fork. Now what was it I wanted to say before I rudely interrupted myself? Esteros and Treacle look at each other and shrug. Oh yes. Like all great men with great passions your father also had great faults. He could be cruel to anyone who got in his way. And he was ready to sacrifice everything and everyone to get what he wanted.    You mean like getting rid of me? Esteros says.    Yes… and no.    Yes and no? Esteros says. What is that supposed to mean?     Yes, he got rid of you, Cassie says. But not for the reason you think. Not because he believed in some silly superstition about twins. Cassie stands up and starts pacing. Esteros and Treacle watch her. She stops before them. Oh what’s the use? I need to tell you. I need to get it off my chest. It’s the reason I came here tonight. She throws her 144

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head back dramatically. He shipped you off because of Gennie.    Engine? Treacle says, reverting to scrambled words in her excitement. What do you mane… name… mean?    I don’t know… Maybe I shouldn’t be telling you this… She looks from one to the other. Maybe this isn’t a good idea. She stands up. Maybe I should leave. Maybe I should…    Cassie! Esteros says, sliding over to block her way. If you have something to tell us, do it. We’re not children any more.    Are you sure? Cassie says, looking from one to the other.     Yes, Treacle says, taking Esteros’ hand. We’re user… ruse… sure.    Gennie’s death wasn’t an accident. She sits down and covers her face. There I’ve said it. She sighs. Your father never forgave himself. Your father…    What do you mean it wasn’t an accident? Esteros said. She walked out in front of a garbage truck. Isn’t that what killed her?     Yes, yes, Cassie says. Of course. I’m talking about before that. Before she ran out onto the street.    You mean… Treacle says, trembling. He up shed her… he…     No, Cassie says. No one pushed her. Of course not. Just let go of her hand, that’s all.    Just let go… Esteros starts to say. How could he… just let go?    He? Cassie laughs in an unpleasant way. He wasn’t holding her hand.     If he wasn’t holding her hand, and someone let go of her hand, then… He stops. What!    Are you saying… my mother was holding her hand? Cassie nods. And she let go? Cassie nods again. On purpose?    Who knows? Your father says that one moment she was holding Gennie’s hand and the next…    So it could still have been an accident? Esteros says, clinging to a last hope.    I guess, Cassie says. Your father never said it wasn’t. But he blamed himself for not reacting fast enough. For just standing there until it was too late.    And me? Esteros asks.     Sent away for your own good, I should think.    And me? Treacle asks.     I don’t know, my dear. Your mother wanted you close, for some reason.    Treacle is about to point out the irony in the use of “close” for a relationship in which a civil nod stood for the height of communication. But she decides to keep it to herself, realizing that she will probably mangle the phrases even more than usual. She needs to keep her sentences simple right about now.     And my father told you all this? Esteros says.    We had no secrets, Cassie says, standing and heading towards the 145

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front door. Lovers shouldn’t have secrets. Brothers and sisters shouldn’t either.    Treacle and Esteros stand awkwardly to the side, pushed up against the dusty piles of papers as Cassie squeezes between them.     One last question before you go, Esteros says.     Ah, I thought you’d ever ask, Cassie says. You want to know why you’ve been brought here now. Why you were pulled out of paradise to reconnect with your very sensitive but ultimately damaged sister.    Well, I wouldn’t put it quite that way… but… yeah. That’s about the gist of it, I guess.     I think you know very well, she says, stepping through the front door and, as it has started to rain, flipping open her umbrella. Goodbye. I don’t believe you will be seeing me again.    She turns and heads out without looking back. Treacle shuts the door behind her and leans against it. She is crying silently. She is crying because she has no words. Esteros brushes the back of his hand against her cheeks, wiping the tears away. Treacle pulls away, walks down the corridor and plops herself onto the sofa.    Going to bed, Esteros says. Tomorrow, I have to think about going back to the island. Get my life moving again.     Go, Treacle says.    Esteros looks at her for a moment, expecting something more. Some sort of further explanation, perhaps. Or a pleading to stay. But none is forthcoming. He shrugs and heads to his bedroom. Act The Fourth    When he arises the following morning, he can feel the space around him. Almost agoraphobic. He is astounded by the sunlight that finally penetrates through the suddenly unblocked windows. He breathes in deeply at what must be refreshed air, swirling freely through the flat. He looks down the corridor. It is wide and unencumbered. Every single bundle of papers is gone.    Cool, he says, sitting down gently on the bare sofa so as not to disturb Treacle who is curled up, knees tucked to her chin.    And then he notices a pair of masks hanging above the sofa. A pair of identical papier mâché masks which he is certain were not there the night before. He lifts one and holds it in his hands, twirling it slowly front and back. It is made of newspapers and journals and some of the writing can still be seen on it: “Ah me… pure sunshine… foolish is the child… I have been searching…” It has two slots for eyes and one for the nose and mouth. He puts it on. It fits him perfectly. And it feels good on his face. Comfortable.    Cool, he says again, before replacing it for fear Treacle will throw another fit when she awakes.    A few minutes later, Treacle’s eyes snap open. She sits up, 146

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turns and hugs her brother fiercely. He feels odd because this is the first time she’s touched him, let alone shown any emotion towards him.    Rye ad? she asks, as she stands up.    Ready? he says. For what?     You’ve tog to do your duty, she says, handing him his back pack.    I do?     Yes, she says. I’ve node mine.   Oh you have, have you? And your duty was …?     The sapper, she says.    The papers? What about them?    She reaches up and gathers the two masks, fitting them into one another before placing them inside a plastic bag.    I see, he says. You spent the night making masks? She nods. And the rest of the papers? Where are the rest of the papers?     Your duty, she says.    Did you eat them? She shakes her head. Burn them?    Again, she shakes her head. Then points to one of the windows facing the backyard. The papers are stacked up outside. They take up almost the entire space, all except for a narrow strip of laneway leading to the back gate.    How the fuck did you do that? he asks, truly awed. That’s not possible. Man, you’re getting weird on me.    Your duty, she says. The on arse… are son… you were born. Taken… dip rites… away. Brought back.    The what? he says. The reason I was born? She nods. And what would that be? Why exactly was I brought back after being, as you put it, spirited away?    She doesn’t respond. He stops her as she’s about to exit the flat, then turns her around and holds her hands.    Look at me, he says. She hesitates, then looks him in the eyes. Now tell me what this is all about?    Your duty, she says, turning away. Only you wonk thaw that is.    That’s the second person who’s said something like that to me. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Don’t have the least fucking clue. He steps outside and throws the back pack over one shoulder. I’m leaving now. It’s been a slice. Come visit me sometime. We love visitors to our island. Especially if we can put them to work.    He waves nonchalantly, then puts on his MP3 earphones and starts to walk away, loping easily down the street.     Ort Sees! Treacle screams, chasing after him. Your sir set. Your raft he.     Esteros stops abruptly and slumps his shoulders, letting the back pack slide carelessly onto the street. Sister. Father. Those are the two words (made four by Treacle) he most dreads hearing. He now realizes he has no choice.

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Act The Fifth    Did Estra really let go of her own daughter’s hand so that she darted across the road and into the path of a waste management truck? If so, why? What did she hope to gain by such an act? How did she know that her letting go of her daughter’s hand would lead to such a catastrophe? Aren’t there easier, more certain, ways of doing away with someone? Of sacrificing someone to the whims of destiny or the threads of fate or whatever else we’d like to label it? It’s not logical; it doesn’t make much sense. But then again since when did logic and sense have much to do with the actions of humans, in particular when it comes to family and revenge? With that borderline area where emotion and rationality meet, clash, try to eliminate each other?    I don’t know. All I do know is that, urged on by Treacle, Esteros, mask firmly on, manages to sneak into his mother’s upscale townhouse by climbing up the vine-covered wall with blade between his teeth. Manages to plunge a knife down her throat before she can even cry out. Manages to stab her three times. He is not thinking about logic or sense at the moment she rises up out of her bed in a ghostly vision of white. And there is a gurgling and a blot of red seeps down the front of her nightgown, slowly eating its way through the pristine ivory of the delicate, almost-see-through fabric.    Would it have been as easy for Esteros to perform this act (pretty gross beyond a doubt) if he had spent his so-called formative years with her? Probably not. Blood doesn’t usually heat up that far. He would then have looked upon her as the mother who had suckled him. Who had nursed him through those inevitable childhood ills and ailments. Who had dressed him in dainty outfits for school. Who had been privy to his most intimate secrets and desires. A better question: Did the fact he had been told she had abandoned him as an infant add to the ability to plunge? Would the attack have been not as severe if she had been a complete stranger, someone he was only being paid to eliminate? Again, this is unknown territory, akin to roaming over some newly-discovered planet at the other end of the Milky Way.    And where is Treacle at this time? Where is she as her mother lies on the bed gurgling her last? Shuddering like a sacrificial animal before that involuntary emptying that comes at the end of it all? Why at the door of the bedroom, of course, also masked, leaning against the frame with her arms crossed. Looking on after having swiftly dispatched a snoring Augie in his own separate bedroom (passion having worn off long before, no doubt), both carotid arteries sliced by a box-cutter blade.    Oh yes. Perhaps this is a good time to mention that Treacle also means an antidote for poison or against wild animals.    We have avenged you and our sister, she says clearly and without fear of exploding brain as she steps forward towards where Esteros 148

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still kneels by the side of the bed, staring into his mother’s eyes. We have lifted the curse from the family.    Is that so? Estra says, sitting up.    Esteros jumps back; Treacle freezes in her tracks.    This childish act of revenge is going to lift the curse, is it? She shakes her head as if pitying them. Poor misguided children… listening to the words of a… a whoring bitch… war bootie… ah, poor…    No! Treacle screams and lunges forward towards her mother. You need to die! You’re dead!    But Esteros stops her from advancing. Pins her back.     Let me go! Let me finish the job.     Let me take a wild guess, Estra says, reaching towards the end table and getting a cigarette. She told you that I killed your sister. She lights her cigarette. That I got rid of my son. That I forced you, Treacle, out of the house out of jealousy and fear you’d try to get even for what I’d done. Isn’t that right?    You did! Treacle says, slumping to the ground. I know you did.     None of that is true, is it? Esteros says, removing his mask and tossing it aside.    Bingo! You win the prize.    Set Rose. She grips his arm. What ear you doing? Can’t you see she’s lying? Can’t you see that?     No, Esteros says, she’s not lying. He turns to his mother. You killed your husband… our father, didn’t you?     Yes, she says, blowing blue smoke into the air. And I would do it again.    Tub… tub… that’s ton…     He was responsible for Gennie’s death, Esteros says as he stands up and walks towards his mother. He pushed her, didn’t he? Estra nods, bloody tears streaming from her eyes. And you sent me away because you were afraid he would try to kill me, too?    She nods again.    I’m sorry, Estra says. I was hoping to protect you. He… he killed Gennie because he thought that would bring him good luck in Afghanistan. And then… and then I didn’t know what else he was capable of doing. I’m sorry.     But that’s not why you killed him, is it? Esteros says, standing over her. You killed him because of Treacle.    What? Treacle says. What era you talk gin about?    I’m sorry, Estra says again. I wanted to save you from him and I ended up driving you right into her arms. I’m…    Estra’s head tilts back. Esteros reaches down and takes the cigarette from between her fingers, then passes his hand across her eyes to shut them. He walks towards where Treacle is squatting and rocking slowly back and forth.     Come on, Treacle, he says, replacing his mask and lifting her from the ground. Time for one last visit. 149

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Visual Art|John Antoine Labadie

Beautiful Energy

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Latent Memories

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Rendezvous

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Poetry|Dipali S. Bhandari -1I did not pick a call today Wishing to talk to you while ignoring you Deliberately. My ears were screaming To listen to your voice My fingers itched To press the answering button on my phone. While my cruel eyes imagined Your smiling visage turning to a grimace And my foolish head tried To derive happiness by hurting you; My fond heart shattered into smithereens And each piece resonated in a million musical notes. Automatically Technology came to my rescue ‘Sorry, I’ll call you later’ Flashed on the screen My unthinking thumb hit the green button. -2Five hours into the cold darkness Something keeps me from sleep A chill grips me in icy fingers, Pierces my heart. Cold pink claws tear at my lungs I cannot breathe. Sleep evades my eyes And dreams pierce my lids I look into the mirror And with the softest muslin I can find Gently push you out of my filmy eyes, Still I cannot sleep. I can see you on my pillow Pale against the white cotton Yet you hurt inside The feel of your alien softness Still hurts the watering eyes. Of course I can’t sleep. 153

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Poetry|Alasdair MacAulay And Atlas, I And Atlas, I do hold the sky upon my bent bones, I hold it up with poems Try. To keep the crushing earth and massed heavens, apart with the creaking joints of art Here, where air and sea, are thicked from fog licked a breathing space. Held between two hands that clap and clasp in prayer the momentary glow of grace. It is the weight of the sky, endured but not carried that pushes us to our graves

Poetry|Laura Cleary Strandhill Atlantic Her shore is abrupt Sand rammed into cliffs Eaten back to drooping Orange peel arcs

Her pupilless eyes Break the waves early Arching them back Like screams. They fall

She waits atop Standing straight, facing North, her enemies Dare not descend.

Tearing to shore Blindly trampling Each other to ground— Scrambling in, petering out.

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Short Fiction|Nikesh Murali End of the Road

I

never liked Ravi. I still have nightmares about the things he did to me in the school toilets.    Then the fat bully from my school days became my brother-in-law.    The Ambassador car complained and roared like a beast in labour on the highway at night. Mohammad Rafi was singing about unrequited love on All India Radio.    Ravi chose to shout over the songs. He told me he hated music; he could never appreciate anything beautiful.    His darling wife, my sweet sister Sita would sit on the rocking chair in the veranda during her weekend visits and recount horrifying tales of abuse and reveal wounds and cry along with my parents till she went to sleep.    “What are you thinking about, you piece of shit?” Ravi interrupted my thoughts.    I did not respond, instead I turned my attention to the clumps of Khazi plant that announced their thorny presence on both sides of the road.    “Here is a Brother-in-Law who drives his sister’s husband to a brothel and even pays for it! Ha, Ha, Ha! What a lucky bastard I am!”    Ravi was straining to read my face in the darkness. The occasional goods truck blinded us with its high beam, briefly revealing my disgust and anger. He wanted to relish the pain and humiliation on my face.    “Tell you what? Your car…this bloody Ambassador looks like your sister. It’s white, all right…Ha, Ha, Ha and it has boobs. And look at its rear…your car’s rear is like your sister ass. And tell you what? I am going to a brothel in this very car. Don’t you think that’s amusing? With my brother-in-law driving me to a whore’s haven…I love it!”    I vented my anger on the gear box and pressed hard on the accelerator. Sugar cane appeared on both sides of the road like vast armies of grim reapers assembled to greet the apocalypse.    “One mile to go,” I calculated silently.    I have always wanted to kill Ravi, even when I was a ten year old weakling, panting and puffing my way to school, my heavy bag slung over my soft, bony shoulders. I wanted to kill the bully who ate my lunch, urinated in my water bottle and stabbed my palm with needles. I wanted to kill the monster that made my sister’s life hell.    And so I told him I would take him to a posh brothel in the city. He was thrilled at the prospect of spending the weekend in the company of wine and women. He promised he wouldn’t tell a soul and packed his bag without any hesitation.    I told my family I was going on a pilgrimage to a Hanuman temple 155

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to tonsure my head as an offering. I picked him up from a deserted part of town, making sure no one saw us leave together.    We were thirty miles from the city and the desolate spot I had selected for my kill was fast approaching.    “I have been nasty to you over the years, because you deserved it mind you. But you have chosen to do the right thing. It’s every brotherin-law’s responsibility to treat his sister’s husband like a God,” Ravi said, patting my shoulder with his chunky fingers.    I responded with a wry smile, “My pleasure!”    It was a small plot two minutes off the highway and in the middle of it sat an old banyan tree. Not a house or a streetlamp in sight for miles, and plenty of fallow land around where I could dig a deep grave to bury the bastard.    I parked near the tree and stepped out. I left the interior lights on and slammed the door hard and the pitch dark surroundings suddenly sprang to life with the sound of insects.    “What the fuck are you doing?” Ravi asked. “Where are we?”    “I have to take a shit,” I told him as I walked to the rear of the car, opened the boot and pulled out a thick iron rod. I then ducked from his view and crawled on all fours till I reached the tree and hid behind it.    “Okay. Don’t fart too loud. Ha, ha, ha.”    I listened to his laughter and gritted my teeth. I thought I would be nervous as hell, but the toxicity of my vengeance had overpowered my senses. I felt the weight of the weapon in my hand and murmured a silent prayer.    Then I shouted,“Hey Ravi! Help! Ravi help!”    “What the fuck? Where are you?” he casually jumped out of the car.    “Where are you, you idiot?” he walked towards the tree.    I kept screaming until he was close enough. Then I leapt from my hiding place and landed the rod hard on Ravi’s skull with a sickening sound.    I swung the rod for the second time, but I missed. The impact of the first blow had sent him sprawling to the ground.    He started crawling towards the car, a trail of blood following him to his destination.    I stood over him and kicked his groin. He screamed in agony and turned to face me.    Ravi was a very strong man; this was going to take a few tries. I raised the rod again.   Suddenly Ravi tossed a handful of mud into my eyes. I was blinded for a few seconds and swung the rod aimlessly. Then I felt Ravi’s hard fist smashing into my jaw and the bar slipped from my grasp.    My legs turned to jelly as something hard forced its way into my belly. I fell backwards and hit my head on a large rock.    Ravi stood over me, bloody and smiling, the iron rod dangling from 156

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his right hand. Then I lost consciousness.    When I came to, I was tied to the tree with a rope which Ravi must have found in my boot. I couldn’t move my limbs and pain tore through my whole body. I slowly opened my eyes and stared at a pair of very bright lights.    It took me a few seconds to realise that I was gazing at the headlights of my car.    A cruel laughter rang from within as Ravi started the engine. Somewhere in the upper reaches of the banyan tree, a bat flapped its wings. And I could imagine it smile at the thought of having a new companion. According to Hindu mythology, the sinful soul transformed itself into a bat and was fated to hang from trees for all eternity.    The last thing I heard was, “I am going to fuck a whore tonight and it’s not your sister. Ha, Ha, Ha.”

Poetry|Pete Cantelon Piecemakers we are uncoverers of thoughtful thoughtless things pointed revealers of light and dark and everythings gatherers, piecemakers and pilers-on of words and glowing ideas stilted collectors of rain-washed truth left sodden by the road tinkerers with the bits of brokenness felled by our hammer what new life has left the lips of these and theirs each step forward is a fitting stumble up a fitting stairs we do not create but rather take the monstrous mess string it all together claiming the status of protagonist while tripping on our ingenue skirts frantic for praise will a masterpiece arise from our hackneyed ham-hands a work that welded, shattered, still can onlooker entrance what end to the efforts of a blind mob building a mountain that they might climb to the unseen sights of brighter places eternal places that do not make the life run ragged down so will mercy rain rich upon our self-seeking glory-monging head or will fire fall and finish the frenzied God-born and Godless instead

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Poetry|Arthur Heifetz Circus of the Indigent The circus of the indigent is gathering its troupe in shantytowns of plastic, tin and cardboard, leaning this way and that with each caprice of the wind.

And when the show is done, the evening’s take divided, they sit in their cramped houses, rocking back and forth on their blistered heels, waiting for tomorrow.

They haunt your dreams on restless winter nights, the legless beggars on skateboards who tug at your trousers for a bit of spare change, the invalids with mouths agape sprawled in wheelchairs made from old bicycle parts and guided by small, sad boys. Street acrobats do handsprings on the hood of your car, jugglers suck on their cigarettes as they struggle to keep the silver balls afloat. Gap-toothed troubadours with out-of-tune guitars sing of a love they’ve never known. Countless purveyors of chiclets, nuts and roses, tilt forward with the weight of their enormous trays, bands of children, spray bottles cocked and ready, await you at each crossing, ready to clean your windshield or cover it with soap if you refuse to pay.

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Visual Art|Kevin Cadwallender

Oscar

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Clown 160

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Short Fiction|Valerie Sirr Film Stars

H

elen is stalled, gears stuck fast. She parks the car, releases her seat belt and shivers slightly. A draught is coming in through the open window along with the smell of the sea and the sound of piped organ music from the arcade nearby. Across the way, parked in the old lot, trucks and trailers are loaded with carriage boxes, steel tracks, and hoardings emblazoned with lurid designs waiting to take their place in the fairground’s reconstruction.    Against one trailer two kids shivering in thin jackets stuff their mouths with chips and coke, stopping now and then to have a belching competition. Two sharp beaked crows compete for discarded chips. Helen’s eyes focus as if through a viewfinder. She turns to locate her tote bag, fingers searching for the camera inside.    A sudden rap on the glass brings her head back sharply to the window. Her chosen view is now obscured by her sister’s face at the glass, gaunt features against a black coat, the tight mouth smiling that vague smile that never quite reaches her eyes. The same smile as their mother had.    Helen steps out. They exchange greetings and a slight squeeze, Helen matching Vicky’s smile.    They step into the revolving doors of the Coastguard Restaurant, Helen in front, Vicky pushing from behind. Helen chooses a place among the clusters of iron legged tables. She sits under a streak of early afternoon sun narrowing its way through the domed window above and idly watches its beam inching across the patterns in the mock marble table.    Vicky’s voice at the counter is accusing: ‘This place is freezing.’ ‘My drink is lukewarm.’ ‘My sister’s –’ Her voice is drowned by the whine of the coffee machine.    ‘My sister’s what?’ Helen wonders what Vicky is saying. ‘My sister’s drink is lukewarm?’ ‘My sister is freezing?’ ‘My sister is difficult?’ ‘My sister is the bane of my life?’    Vicky approaches, sets the now scalding coffee on the table and sits heavily into her chair. Helen takes a spoonful of froth from her cup. ‘They’ve changed the place.’    Vicky nods and they both look around the coffee shop, airy and bright and always bustling. Its newly decorated surfaces of mosaic tiles and blue-white walls remind Helen of the work to be done on her apartment nearby.    ‘It’s a bit clinical,’ Vicky says. ‘It’s a long time since my place has been this clean.’    She goes on to recount an episode that morning at home, the 161

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kids acting up as usual. She touches on a row with her husband, one of many lately. Helen listens, taking in the way Vicky is strangling the brass ring on the table napkin. She doesn’t have to look to see if this agitation registers on Vicky’s features. She has observed her sister all her life. She has observed her sister’s marriage for years and other marriages too. She has been the third party in two of them already. She believes that Vicky will see sense some day: that marriage is a mistake, that the rows and petulance over children and nuisance will become rows and petulance over just about everything, that a tide of resentment will drown all admiration - and love?    Helen sinks into her chair. ‘I don’t envy you the hassle - sometimes I envy the distraction of it.’ She watches Vicky’s token gesture of interest - flicking through the sketchpad that is poking out from Helen’s tote bag on the table. ‘Still at the sketching then?’ Vicky’s voice has that slightly straying quality.    ‘Makes a change from wedding and baby photos.’    A few sketches now upside-down move under Vicky’s tense fingers as if jumping to life by magic: a rollercoaster, on its downward plunge, grimacing terror on small kids’ faces - later, it will be screaming red; a tightrope walker balancing on a rope above the hushed crowd; there is no safety net but she will never fall - later, she will have a blue leotard and pink dancing shoes; a woman diving into a dry swimming pool.    Helen puts her hand on Vicky’s. Vicky looks up, surprised.    ‘She’s left the board,’ Helen says. ‘But I’ve caught her in mid-air’    ‘She won’t get very far then, will she?’    Helen gives a half-hearted laugh.    They are quiet for several moments. Helen looks through the window beside her. She sees her forlorn beige Micra parked outside Fun Palace Amusements. Her eyes are drawn to the sloping corrugated roof of a cottage converted now to a chipper: TAKE AWAY painted in huge white letters across it. For a second she pictures herself standing on this roof signalling wildly to some hovering craft, lit by its streaming lights - a helicopter, a low flying plane, a space ship maybe. She registers it mentally for a sketch.    ‘Beam me up,’ she says. ‘Isn’t that what we used to say?’    ‘Mmmn,’ Vicky says. ‘So – let’s talk about Dad’s 70th. I’ve had an idea. Remember the broken film reel he was upset about on Christmas Day?’    Helen nods remembering the last annual gathering: Dad with his new partner – trying too hard as usual. Helen and Vicky, captive audience to strained re-runs of Dad’s old films. And now his 70th - yet another episode of Family Fun from the series of their life on film.    ‘It was the Ferris wheel film, Helen.’ She holds up her palms. ‘Look, I know you’re not crazy about that film-’    Helen raises an eyebrow. ‘That film? I’m not crazy about any of his films.’ 162

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Vicky continues, placating. ‘Don’t you remember how he adored you? At least you were Audrey Hepburn. I was Shirley bloody Temple.’    Helen stops listening. Films are spooling in her mind’s eye: the two of them, twinkles in his camera eye, projected later on dust mote swirls to a plastic screen lit with their smiles. Frantic funny faces. Exaggerated poses: jerking and jostling into their roles. Handstands from Vicky; dizzy; pirouettes from Helen, wobbling. Criss-crossed ribbons, satin pink on criss-crossed legs, chubby and skinny. Bright blue hairbands on bright pink faces mouthing ‘demi plié’, ‘demi plié’; vying with each other for his remote focus. The missing soundtrack is provided by memory. I can do anything you can do, better...I can do anything better than you...    ‘Not even a “get well” card,’ she says. ‘Wouldn’t have killed him.’    Vicky sighs. ‘Well you’re better now. Aren’t you?’    Helen traces her finger in a spill of coffee across the mosaic of the table’s surface. The rotating fan overhead casts shadows on her design. ‘Tell you what. I’ll get the old reel chopped up. Get the good bits transferred to DVD.’    Vicky shakes her head. ‘I’m sure he’d prefer the real version.’    Helen gives a snort. ‘The real version? We were the real version, Vicky.’    Vicky pushes her chair back from the table. ‘Must get back to my lot now.’ Her forehead creases with worry. ‘They’ll have the place wrecked. The reel’s in my car. Will you fix it?’    ‘I’ll try.’ *    They make their way towards Vicky’s car at the other end of the strand following the chain-linked walkway along the pier. Vicky looks out to sea, Helen to the grassy side where clusters of families gather in summer. A dribbling toddler sits on one of the chains, swings then topples, falling backwards into his father’s arms. Helen pauses to remove a fish and chip wrapper from her shoe. Nearby four day-trippers dressed in shorts and sweatshirts stand shivering by the low pier wall.    One of the women thrusts her camera into Vicky’s reluctant hands. ‘Take our picture?’    Helen looks on, amused as Vicky mutters, ‘You’re the photographer, not me.’    Helen stands by.    The day-trippers group for their pose, pulling each other into place, pant legs fluttering; sweatshirts billowing in the wind. One of them steps away. The others call her, gesturing for her to join the group. She retreats, smiling, shaking her head.    They shrug and huddle into their chosen positions, their skin goosepimpled by the biting breeze. Vicky focuses, looks for the red button, and presses. Just then another shutter clicks.    Turning, Helen sees the fourth day-tripper, the youngest one, 163

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capturing Vicky capturing the group.    ‘Another, another,’ they chorus, shifting position again.    Helen steps back a few paces and takes a picture, posers and snap takers included. She imagines another figure capturing her in all of this, she can almost feel a presence, and another figure, and another, until the picture gets too big to contemplate. There are three audible clicks.    Vicky spins, surprised. There is laughter and thanks from the posers.    Helen grins. *    Helen waits while Vicky scrabbles through the mound of comics and kids’ toys in the back of her car. She watches a man out on the sand tracing huge letters with a stick: I WANT... Vicky glances up, follows Helen’s gaze, ‘What does he want?’ she says, then ducks back into the car.    Helen waits, watching, reading aloud for Vicky...THE...WORLD...    ‘Careful of the world!’ Vicky’s voice from the back of the car is highpitched, childish.    Helen smiles at the shared memory...TO...KNOW... she reads, remembering the green glass buoy in the sanctuary of the garden shed, on the shelf beside Dad’s fishing rods; dusting it with her sleeve every day; cradling it carefully, used to its weight; lifting it one day, her finger pads finding the dent for grip; passing it into Vicky’s trembling hands, ‘Careful! It’s the world!’ then both of them jolting when it shattered on the garage floor.    Helen continues reading...I...LOVE ...JUL...IE... Bet that’s the wife, she thinks looking at the woman standing by the buggy nearby ...AND... JACK... the baby, she guesses...AND... JESSIE... God, even the dog. She watches the puppy straining at its leash tied to the woman’s wrist. ‘Who’s he trying to convince? Himself or them?’    ‘Cynic.’ Vicky emerges with the reel.    Helen stuffs it into her bag and they lean against the car for a few moments. In the distance near the coffee shop the Ferris wheel is almost assembled.    ‘It’s like being in one of those Crimewatch programmes,’ Helen says. ‘A reconstruction. You and me in the starring roles. I’m half expecting some director to get us up on that wheel. And some actor dressed in Vneck and drainpipes to play the part of the indifferent bastard with the ancient camera.’    ‘Dad’s hardly a criminal, Helen.’    Helen is silent for a while.    ‘How did it go on Sunday?’ she asks.    ‘I knew you’d ask. You should have come. I brought the kids over. Just Sunday dinner, no big deal. He always asks for you, you know. It’ll be great to have you with us on his 70th.’    ‘He never calls. I gave up calling him.’ 164

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Vicky’s car door thumps shut. She lowers her window. ‘You do realise it’s this Saturday coming?’ She starts up the engine. ‘He’s getting on, Helen. We need to look after him a bit.’    I need to look after myself, Helen thinks. ‘You’re right,’ she says. *   Back in her apartment Helen takes out the old reel. She tears away the cracked and broken pieces. The rest is intact. She sets up the projector and stands back watching the spooling images: fragmented, grainy.    She flinches. There she is, with Vicky. She sees herself frantically waving. They are both laughing. Their fingers dig into the sunburnt flesh of each other’s arms. They are lurching through the air in the swaying box of a Ferris wheel.    Helen moves to straighten the screen. She is caught in the projector’s beam. She loses her breath as the wheel picks up speed.    Suddenly it grinds to a halt.    They are stuck at the top.    Screaming kids jerk forward in their boxes. Helen and Vicky clutch at each other, each steadying the other. ‘STAY STILL!’ they are screaming. ‘STAY STILL!’ Vicky’s face is white as they pitch forwards across the safety bar. Helen feels its cold steel against her ribs.    She catches sight of her father, below.    She screams for him.    The camera in his hand obscures his face.    Blood pounds in her ears and rivers of sweat soak her new pink blouse. The box swings backwards again.    The film flickers, then stops.    Helen sits back, exhausted. She remembers the screech of fire engines, somebody lifting them out, hoisting them unto a platform, lowering them to the ground. The two of them shaking, holding each other up. Then in the back seat of the Escort, a more familiar scene: her parents’ voices, angry, the building rage in the small car inescapable, film unravelling in her mother’s hands, snapping, tearing apart, Vicky’s face, averted, humming to herself.    She sits hypnotised by the turning wheels of the projector. The disconnected end waves at her as the spool rotates, over, and over again. She gets up and stands in the middle of the room as if she is looking for something but has forgotten what it is. She sees the shadow of herself frozen on the screen.    Her sudden movement as she picks up the phone causes the scar on her breast to tug her back into her body.    She turns away from the screen as she waits for Vicky to answer.    Vicky answers, barely audible amid the din of kids in the background.    ‘It’s me,’ Helen says. ‘About Saturday – I’m not coming. I won’t be there.’

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Poetry|Anna Sujatha Mathai Chagall’s Lovers Once in a while, As you skip along, Once in a while As you meander along A song comes and hits you, Knocks down your defences, So you can see with a new vision. The law of gravity is challenged, So you’re floating upside down Or in the air, like Chagall’s lovers, High above Vilnius. Ethereal lovers, floating like air balloons, Candles yearning towards their radiance. Ballerinas bound for the stars, Mystic white flowers bloom around them. The church spires and buildings below them, Dream of reaching them, Aspire to become them, Souls bound together, Human, yet pure spirits. The air is filled with the chimes Of all the church bells in the village All is floating and drifting In a metaphysical world.

Poetry|Tadas Žvirinskis Metamorphosis When I was a small boy I thought that the humpbacks are Disguised angels Hiding poorly their wings. When I was a small boy I molded a snow-woman, Such a beautiful, Even made me to experience the love of Pygmalion. 166

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When I was a small boy I naively trusted the World. That is why it didn’t scare me Neither with darkness nor uncertainty. When I was a small boy I didn’t believe in God. And now I don’t know anymore Whether I grew up or became a believer?

Poetry|Murray Alfredson Cheating age Some said your secret lay in scrubbing up; and certainly with rollers, rouge, lipand eyeliner you made effective effort. ‘For by their fruits,’ one said long, long ago and your fruits caught the eye and quickened pulses; but all the many faces you achieved were drawn upon a sound foundation. You feared old age, that creeping loss of form, the sags, the grey, the cobwebbed face and neck, feared these as much indeed as aches of wearing cartilage and bones eroded in their inner web-work, easy to crush and break, as much as brain-loss gnawing mind away. I’m sure though when it happened you did not rejoice at cheating age. Who would? Alarm came with that flash, those strange brain symptoms, your stagger from your car, your waving through blurry sight, alarm for you, for children.               Nor would I think you felt much happiness at leaving cold and comfortless a lovely corpse presented well for viewing, nor felt delight to sense your four-years daughter screw down the coffin lid.

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Short Fiction|Alan McCormick A Town Called Fakfax

I

f there is a little magic involved in his entrance to the mini-conference suite of Ipswich’s Thistle Hotel then it is more than likely intentional; Marcus Palmer is, if nothing else (he is of course a lot else), a wonderful planner of an occasion, surprising and maverick enough to keep any audience spellbound and on the edge of their seats. The red velvet curtains at the front of the small stage sweep aside, and the triumphant brass recording comes to a stop to reveal a small, be-suited, middleaged man standing behind a tall, silver, state-of-the-art lectern. The autocue is on, reflecting a blue wash of black capitals over his features. He looks serious, his eyes slowly surveying the audience, giving each and everyone present the feeling that, even for a small moment, his attention is solely focused on them. He leans carefully forward to speak into the microphone.    ‘Hello, I’m Marcus Palmer, and, if you let me, I’d like to change your life.’    It is break time, autumn, 1973, and there is something of the prodigal Roman Senator (the Julius Caesar fringe) in thirteen-year-old Marcus’s bedroom-perfected haircut. He is sitting on the teacher’s desk in 3B, a brown stuffy classroom at the top of Tennyson Block. Seated on various desks are the other members of the Second Year Christian Debating Society. Marcus is in his element, little blue eyes blazing as he argues that he is a Christian who doesn’t believe in God, or in the existence of Jesus as anything more than a misinterpreted shaman. He clearly empathises but won’t have him labelled a prophet.    ‘You can’t be a Christian if you don’t believe in God,’ points out his future wife, Melanie McMasters.    ‘Don’t be so dogmatic,’ chides Marcus. ‘God is a manifestation of the power that lies within all of us, even you Melanie.’    ‘Meaning?’    ‘Meaning don’t be afraid of rules or scriptures. Religion isn’t a straight-jacket, and if it is, it needs to be torn away.’    Though it’s clear Marcus is evoking Houdini, as much as Jesus, Melanie is strictly down the line when it comes to the Gospels. ‘It’s not about what you think, Marcus, religion is about belief; belief, pure and simple.’    ‘Believe in yourself and the rest will follow,’ snorts Marcus. There’s an audible chuckle from somewhere in the room, but there’s also a gratifying murmur of approval. Even at thirteen Marcus is dangerous.    During his conference lectures Marcus likes to use photos and 168

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images to get his message across. Cue a photo of a devout Hindu with a long grey beard, and bloody knees, drinking a cupped handful of Ganges water.    ‘This man has crossed a continent on his knees to reach his goal, to find his God. It wasn’t about getting there: God was within him all the time. It was about the journey, and today, I’m giving each one of you the opportunity to join me on a journey, a journey into your own mind potential, a potential, like the journey itself, that’s never ending.’    Marcus points to a young man in the second row.    ‘You, sir, I would like you to tell me seventy-five facts about yourself: two audibly, and the rest on paper. I would like you to write them down now and hand me them when you’ve finished. At the end of the session, having memorised them, I will repeat them back to you, and if you’ve been brave enough to be honest – and I compel you to be so – I will present you with twenty-five further facts about yourself that will enable you to live a more intelligent and fulfilled life. Look upon it as my gift to you; inspiration is priceless, only self-deception comes at a cost. And now, if you please, your first two facts for all to hear; all I ask is that you speak clearly.’    The tall young man in a tight black suit rises shakily out of his chair. ‘I am David Smith and I am twenty-seven years old.’    ‘Thank you, David Smith.’    Marcus claps and the audience follows. David Smith drops to his seat and starts scribbling.    A picture of Nelson Mandela replaces the Indian mystic on the screen.    ‘An amazing man, yes, but more importantly an amazing soul. I met him in Pretoria in 1996 −.’    Throughout Marcus’s teenage years it would be fair to say that he was troubled by his lack of height. The minimum target of five foot was only reached at sixteen; the final inch eked out, through long extension exercises in his parents’ garage, over the following two years. A bitterness grew inside him, but he turned it into something constructive: in opposition to the limitations of his physique he devoted himself to furthering his mental powers, both intellectual and spiritual, and embarked on a series of masochistic body building exercises to test and strengthen his internal will.    He took up high combat karate and was made a black belt within eighteen months (and as he pointed out in his, as yet unpublished, autobiography, ‘More than a Man’, this constituted an official West Sussex record). He learned through perseverance and technique how to control his breathing, to block out extreme pain – his one thousand press-ups on red, scarred fists apparently becoming folklore at his karate school.    He took an eclectic interest in the esoteric, in spiritual matters not covered or promoted by simple religions. He attended séances, 169

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learned magic tricks, and became in thrall to the TV spellbinder, and spoon bender, Uri Gellar. He wrote him a letter beginning with the line, ‘From one magic manifester to another, I salute you’; Uri responding with a signed photo and a message, ‘Keep bending reality, Mark. Love and healing, Uri.’    The mistake with his name was seemingly forgiven, but not forgotten, as Marcus delved further into the world of mind manipulation by learning the basics of hypnotism. He started with the principle of ‘the unbreakable arm’, and moved onto practicing more complex techniques with the unconscious help of his elder, less intelligent brother, Magnus. Magnus would be regularly sleepwalked, naked from his bed, through the local streets, until the night a police car gave chase and Marcus abandoned him on the middle of the road, and into the arms of the Sussex Constabulary.    Marcus learned to bend spoons, produce marked cards from his jacket top pocket, and turn soft conkers into hard ones within a roll of his hand. But as soon as he achieved a level of mastery he became disenchanted.    ‘Magic is by its nature fake. In that, it is not unlike religion. They are manipulations; I am only interested in truth, in seeing and doing everything that is real.’    This formative mini-manifesto was delivered half way through his magic act at the end of school talent show. Geography teacher, bornagain Christian, and talent show judge, Mister Knowles (who had him marked as second behind Melanie McMasters’ spirited rendition of ‘One Enchanted Evening’), reacted promptly by joining Marcus on stage to bring his act to a premature end:    ‘Thank you, Marcus, but I’m sure neither Archbishop Runcie nor Paul Daniels would entirely agree with your views. Next up is a pop combo formed of pupils in Mr Harris’s Biology A’ Level class. I give you The Pump Fillers and their song Come and Feel the Meat.’    At the Ipswich Thistle, Marcus is speaking in front of a projected slide of a purple two-seater helicopter. ‘I always wanted to fly.’    A click and a slightly different image: Marcus smiling in the cockpit of the same helicopter. ‘At twenty-two I learned how.’    A photo of Marcus standing beside the same helicopter, now painted red, with his name in gold letters on its side. ‘At twenty-four I bought one for myself.’    An aerial shot of the helicopter flying over an African savannah with a village in the distance. ‘I flew it to many wonderful places.’    A close-up shot of a Masai herdsman in the cockpit, an ornamental spear held out of the window. ‘And then gave it away.’    An overhead of the following epigraph (also found in his, as yet unpublished, autobiography): You build, you learn, you grow,                and then learn to give back what you owe. 170

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‘I wrote that when I was ten, and my teacher, Mister Agius, didn’t understand what I meant. No matter, I’m sure he knows better now.’    Marcus is about to continue when he is distracted by a noise in the room. A woman in the front row is trying to open a crisp packet.    ‘Miss, I’d like you to leave. Embarrassing, I know, but an important lesson in life nonetheless. Please go quickly and take your crisp packet with you. You will be fully reimbursed in reception.’    She stares at him open-mouthed. ‘You’re joking, right?’    The lecture continues without any need for a reply. There follows a little rustling and disturbance: the small matter of returning the halfopened crisp packet into the handbag, some sighing as she collects her papers and coat from the floor, and the scraping of a seat leg as she gets up and makes her way out of the room.    On reaching the exit she shouts: ‘You’re a wanker, Palmer!’    But Marcus is in full flow beneath a picture of Jeffrey Archer and himself, both smiling and kitted out for the start of a marathon race.    ‘A remarkable man in many ways, and I’m not embarrassed to say, once my friend, but one who never learned not to put self-congratulation and self-gratification before selflessness and self-growth. I’m sure he would have done things differently if he had been wise enough to listen to the advice he was offered.’    A new photo: Sir Steven Redgrave in shorts, with five gold medals around his neck, receiving a giant cheque, of many noughts, from a suited Marcus on the towpath at Henley-on-Thames.    ‘Here is a lesson of the rewards available to all of us from honest endeavour, supreme skill, and sheer bloody-mindedness. One that poses a question for us all to ponder: exactly how many A-Levels did our recordbreaking Olympian, Sir Steve, achieve?’    Like Sir Redgrave, Marcus Palmer did not gain the necessary A-Level grades to take him to university – this was, as he later argued in his, as yet unpublished, autobiography ‘More than a Man’, intentional on his part. Academia’s loss was his and the world’s gain. To prove a point he appeared on a1981 episode of Mastermind. After telling Mister Magnusson that he shared a Christian name with his brother, he went on to answer questions on the radical political philosopher, Herbert Marcuse (chosen because the subject’s name was one ‘e’ from his own). He scored ten points, and twenty points overall, coming a close second to a retired podiatrist from Skegness: specialist subject, ‘Doctor Scholl, a life in feet’.    Marcus’s autobiography becomes sketchy over the next few years but it appears he married and fathered twins, Marcus junior and Melanie junior. His wife and children are not mentioned beyond this point, apart from to describe how three-month-old Marcus junior showed a keen interest in his Pythagoras mobile when lying in a cot (‘More than a Man’, Para. three, p.587). 171

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The mid-eighties found young Marcus in California. He foresaw the technology boom, played the stock exchange, and invested his winnings in small computer companies. ‘I first met Bill Gates at an Austin caravan park in 1972. By the time I met him in San Diego in 1984, he had driven himself many virtual miles away and was well on his way to becoming a billionaire.’ (p.776). Marcus made a few millions himself and promptly lost them again a few years later (chapter eleven, ‘Laughing all the way to the bank – the infinite healing powers of a financial setback.’ pp., 822-929).    In the States, the San Francisco Chronicle dubbed him ‘Palmer the Charmer’, a nickname that stuck for a few years despite his claims that it was superficial and erroneous. The papers in England were less forgiving – the Daily Mail running a story entitled ‘Palmer’s Palm Offs’, about the life of a millionaire’s spurned wife and children, forced to live on State handouts in a council flat in Ealing.    In the nineties Marcus rose, Phoenix-like, from the flames. Though he didn’t qualify for the inaugural event in Sun City in 1993, he went on to become ‘Wal-Mart World Memory Champion’ at The Kuala Lumpur Hilton in 1994, memorising 7200 names from the Kuala Lumpur phone book in less than two hours.    Back in Ipswich, Marcus is about to pull a masterstroke.    ‘I don’t believe in government, nationality, borders, or any divine power from above. I don’t believe in rules, only conventions. I believe in myself, and I believe, if you’ll let me, in you here today. By using your brains to their full capacity you can climb the Everest of your potential, you can reach its peak to look down on the world, but then take time to look upward and shout, ‘I got here but the sky is not my limit; I can go further and I will!’    Marcus walks to the back of the stage and returns with a small metal trolley. He stands behind it and announces theatrically, ‘I’d like you to meet Gelda,’ whilst sweeping a gold silk cloth off a tall Perspex tubular container. He reaches inside with his right hand and pulls out a small mass of bloody matter.    ‘This is one quarter,’ he proclaims.    With his left hand he pulls off a black cloth with a large ‘?’ on its front to reveal another identical container. He delves inside, pulling out a bigger mass.    He holds up his left hand. ‘This is three quarters.’    He looks at the audience, and is satisfied by the correct amount of bemusement.    ‘We use approximately one quarter of our brain potential. If only we could use the other three quarters.’ At this point he brings the two bloody masses slowly together.    ‘Three quarters meets one quarter, and we have a whole. Now meet Gelda in person. Roll the film!’ 172

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The room darkens and a film begins.    An authentic American documentary voice speaks: ‘Meet Gelda, the cleverest chimpanzee in all the world.’    A chimpanzee in a dinner jacket, frilly shirt, and bow tie, is led by a human hand (the rest of the human is unseen) into a sparsely furnished white room. We see the human legs leave and hear a door close.    The commentary continues. ‘To prove the scientific authenticity of what you are about to see, Gelda is left alone in the room. The feats she is about to perform are all her own.’    Gelda sits on a stool at a long, short legged, table. Her furry digits press on a series of plastic buttons. As each one is pressed the buttons flip over to reveal a set of familiar images and faces: a grey mac, Columbo; a red lollypop, Kojak; a Magnum gun, Clint Eastwood.’ After the latter face, Gelda holds up her arms at full stretch, bares her teeth, and makes a number of authentic chimpanzee noises to the camera.    Gelda flips the seventh larger button over to reveal a small portion of banana. She eats it and continues pressing, and a photo of her own face is revealed.    ‘It’s true that every so often a little inducement is necessary but Gelda’s will is her own. She has just spent two days with the world famous mind expert, Doctor Marcus Palmer. Doctor Palmer has helped Gelda memorise an exact sequence of one hundred images and faces. It would be true to say that not only is this one clever ape, but what you are seeing here today, under close scientific scrutiny, is an experiment with major implications for ape-kind and mankind.’    The film is paused on a shot of Gelda staring at an image of Starsky and Hutch’s red sports car, and the lights come on in the room.    Marcus addresses the audience: ‘A video of that film is available for a small fee in the interval, should you wish to purchase it, but more importantly, the learning secrets that I passed on to Gelda will be revealed to you in the afternoon session. Please don’t drink tea or coffee, or eat anything with sugar, you will need your wits and stamina for what you are about to hear. I thank you.’    Marcus bows and a ripple of applause follows. David Smith comes to the stage to hand over his sheet of facts, and tries by an exaggerated lowering of his head to make it clear that he realises the applause is not meant for him. Marcus takes the sheet and smiles, first at him, and then beatifically at the audience.    Marcus retires to a small dressing room behind the stage. As usual he takes off his clothes in order to create a boundary between expressive performance and mental preparation. He feels tired, and his face looks grey and lined under the harsh fluorescent light above the dressing table mirror. He tapes David Smith’s fact sheet to the mirror and starts reading: ‘I am a Taurus, I am six feet tall, I have four A-levels; three of them ‘A’ grade.’ Marcus is instantly disenchanted and 173

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stops reading.    In fact, the mundane nature of the list was symptomatic of a wider sense of disenchantment that had invaded Marcus’s psyche of late. The current tour (‘The Great Eastern Mind Promise’) through hotels and conference centres in Humberside, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex was becoming a chore. Only years before, Marcus had spoken to thousands at a time in exotic locations like America (North and South), Switzerland, South Africa, and Jersey. There had even been talk of a booking on the David Copperfield bill in Las Vegas – ‘England’s famous Mind Bender, Professor Marcus Falmer’ (there was another mind bender called Palmer working in Nevada at the time).    Now audiences were small but he had to keep going; his two spells in hospital in the late nineties (‘nervous exhaustion, and not personality disorder as Doctor Payne had diagnosed’. See Chapter fourteen, ‘Mad medics and how best to cure the pain within’, pp. 1003-1077) had taught him that it was best not to dwell too long on things: onward and upward was his motto. As a little reminder, Marcus places one of his morale-boosting stickers on the mirror beside David Smith’s list of facts, repeating the words out loud: ‘Spread the message, spread the word – be understood and always be heard.’ As he chants out his mantra Marcus is distracted by the tenth of David Smith’s facts – ‘I have a birthmark on my left thigh in the shape of New Guinea’.    There is little mention of his childhood at home in Marcus Palmer’s (as yet unpublished) autobiography, but it finds a space to describe one event with his mother:    Marcus is six years old, sitting at the large desk in his father’s study. Perched on a cushion on a small chair, he is looking at an atlas, open on a multi-coloured map of Australasia. He runs his right index finger over the coastal outline of New Guinea, calling out the names of the seaside towns: ‘Sarmi, Jayapura, Wewak, Madang.’    His mother enters the room with a glass of milk and a selection of plain biscuits on a tray. She stands behind him and watches as he continues: ‘Lae, Morobe, Mondetta.’    ‘One more and, perhaps, you can take a break,’ she says.    ‘Aotau,’ he says, and closes the atlas.    She places the tray on the desk. ‘Food for the brain,’ she says.    Marcus looks up at her and smiles.    ‘So little Marcus, what would you like to be when you’ve grown up?’ she asks.    ‘I would like to grow up, mother, and, grown up, whether I like it or not, is what I will eventually be,’ he replies.    Her tight features break into a smile and she hands him his milk.    ‘No more than two hours,’ she says and leaves the room.    Marcus sips from the glass and re-opens the atlas. His finger 174

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finds the southern shoreline of New Guinea. As he calls out the names of the towns a milky moustache settles above his top lip: ‘Samarai, Kupiano, Port Moresby …’    When Marcus opens his eyes again, he sees he’s fingered an outline of New Guinea on the dressing-room mirror. He rubs the line quickly away with his hand and starts his routine of knuckle press-ups on the dressing room floor, each breath out and rise of his body invoking a different character from his brain: Dustin Hoffman, Paul Daniels, Al Pacino, Michael J Fox, the little Mitchell from East Enders with a squeaky voice (‘damn it, what was his name?’), Little Richard, Ghandi, William Hague, Mickey Rooney, the Emperor Haile Selassie, Nobby Stiles, Columbo, (‘Yes, Phil Mitchell!’), Norman Wisdom. As his knuckles begin to hurt, he compiles another list to strengthen his will – all the people who doubted and criticised, who got in the way – and these he shouts out loud:    ‘Mister Knowles; The Christian Debating Society in 3B; Magnus and Melanie; Uri Gellar; everyone at the Inland Revenue; David fake Copperfield; Jeffrey bloody Archer, who never mentioned me in his lying autobiography; Doctor Payne, who was madder than I’ll ever be; David Smith, whose list is the stupidest I’ve ever read; my fucking parents, who never listened −.’    The press-ups are becoming more vigorous and tears are streaming down his face. As he’s shouting, he doesn’t hear the knocking on his door.    ‘Mister Palmer, your audience are ready.’    He hurriedly pulls on his pants, opens the door, and peeps round it to address the hotel’s young assistant manager:    ‘Please be a good fellow, and tell the audience I will be with them in two minutes.’    The young assistant manager is a little startled by Marcus’s red face and manic stare.    ‘Run along, there’s a good chap,’ says Marcus, and the young man runs away down the corridoor, just as he was told. As he resumes his place behind the lectern for the afternoon session the screen behind presents a collage of four familiar faces, one in each corner: Jack Nicholson, Mother Theresa, King George V, and Donald Trump.    Marcus looks at his audience, noticing that it is, perhaps, a quarter less full than before. He addresses the remaining:    ‘A little mind-tease for you all to ponder: which one is the odd one out?’    A dull murmur fills the room.    ‘No? Anyone got an idea? Well, I’ll tell you: Mother Theresa, whom I met in 1990, is the odd one out; the rest all have names that are cards, or are associated with cards. I don’t believe she ever played cards or at least not for money.’ 175

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This doesn’t get the laugh he was expecting, and so he falls back on a trusted tactic:    ‘Before I unveil my memory exercises, I will invite a female member of the audience to join me on stage as I perform my famous heart at rest technique. I will ask her to attach an amplified stethoscope to my bare chest, and you will listen as I use only mind control to bring my heart rate down to zero. Before commencing with this feat, let me assure you that I haven’t forgotten you, Mister David Smith, twenty-seven years old, parents Arnold and Brenda, born Felixstowe May 5th 1977, passer of four A-Levels, three of them ‘A’s’, a degree in Sociology at East Anglia, a fiancée called Robyn…with a birthmark on your left thigh the shape of New Guinea . . .’ Marcus momentarily falters; his tone becomes increasingly cold and sarcastic when he continues: ‘a job in a Ford Parts call centre near Chelmsford, a flat in Ipswich.’    He pauses to stare at David Smith. ‘So, what went wrong, David?’    David Smith moves uncomfortably in his seat.    ‘I know this is a digression, so forgive me, but that’s a poor job with a long commute, isn’t it? Let me put it more succinctly for you: have your four A-Levels and Sociology Degree really constituted a mind worth knowing? And plainer still: has all of your towering six feet presented you with a life worth living?’    David Smith is not sure what to do, but stands up anyway. ‘I don’t know. Not necessarily, I suppose.’    ‘I dunno, not necessarily, I suppose. Clearly, ladies and gentlemen, we are not in the presence of someone with an opinion. Mister Smith, you may sit back down, and I will deal with you and your facts later.’    David Smith stays standing.    Marcus Palmer addresses the audience: ‘My heart at rest technique is an improvement on a feat first performed in this country by the late great Harold Houdini. He was able to slow his heart down to six beats per minute. I will slow mine to zero.’    Marcus Palmer loosens his tie and unbuttons his shirt and jacket so that his honed torso is revealed in one theatrical flourish.    ‘I will need the assistance of a lady; preferably attractive, though not overly so as I don’t want my heart racing before I have to slow it down.’    No reaction from the audience, and Marcus Palmer looks agitated. He re-directs his attention back to David Smith:    ‘Sit down, Mister Smith. There is no need for a standing ovation just yet.’    ‘I’d prefer to stand.’    ‘It’s a free country, so I’m told, so do as you will. Now, a lady, please!’    The woman ordered to leave for opening a crisp packet walks towards the stage.    ‘No, no, not you, you’ve been barred,’ commands Marcus Palmer. 176

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‘It’s a free country, you said so yourself. I paid for a ticket and I’m entitled to get my money’s worth,’ she replies.    ‘No you are not. This is my show and you are an uninvited guest. You must leave now.’    He points dramatically towards the rear exit sign, and a few people at the back take this as a cue to leave.    ‘What did you mean, “I don’t have an opinion”?’ asks David Smith.    ‘Not now, Mister Smith. Wait your turn.’    The woman steps up onto the stage and picks up the stethoscope. ‘Now, where shall I put this?’ she asks the audience with pantomime suggestiveness.    ‘Young woman, be warned. Do not venture any closer.’    She advances with the stethoscope snaking out towards his chest: ‘Time for the man with no heart to bring it down to zero.’    ‘I am adept in martial arts of a mortal kind,’ counsels Marcus.    ‘Don’t threaten her!’ shouts David Smith.    ‘Now is not the time for mediocrity to voice its opinion,’ replies Marcus.    ‘So I do have an opinion then?’    ‘Not one worth hearing.’    The woman grapples with Marcus in an attempt to place the stethoscope onto his chest.    ‘Oh, your heart’s going like the clappers,’ she declares.    Marcus pushes her away and she falls, sprawling face first onto the stage floor.    The audience stir uneasily; things are not how they should be. A seismic shift moves through the room as David Smith, minus jacket and tie, strides purposefully towards the stage. Marcus is waiting, with eyes closed, crouching in a defensive Karate pose close to the ground, his lips mouthing the names of further towns on the New Guinea coastline:    ‘Merauke, Kokonau, Fakfax …’    ‘Fuck facts, fuck facts,’ screams David Smith.    ‘Fakfax,’ corrects Marcus with a violent yank of David Smith’s trousers.    After the trousers’ descent, Marcus is taken abruptly above David Smith’s head. He can just make out the passing outline of the New Guinea coast beyond Fakfax on David Smith’s left thigh as he plummets towards the floor.    ‘More milk, Mother,’ Marcus whispers before his heart drops into a perfect Houdini-like stillness.

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Visual Art|Sheri L. Wright

No View

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Poetry|Simon Williams The Sound Of Ice Cracking On Sardine Lake When we arrived, the occasional pine was waiting – had been since the early Carboniferous. Small and larger birds hopped and waded in various depths of water. Expanding ripples in the lake showed it was populated. We collected limbs, snapped them, built a campfire. One of our number, skilled with a pole, caught fish, though not sardines. We skewered them, picked out the bones, ate the flesh, drank beer from bottles, needed no coolbag in late March. At 2:16 and 37 seconds, we heard it through the hydrophone – the sun stressed the iceplates just enough, established faults. We listened as it groaned like a Szechuan slide guitar, ranked it high on our cowboy scale of cyclic change. Others include: the smell of cooling lava as it flows on ice, the taste of the tsunami when the glacier breaks.

Poetry|Noel Dufy Night Watch There was a man who went out into his garden each evening and stared up at the night sky for hours. To his neighbours it must have seemed as though he had lost his sense, each night, warm or cold, in the garden looking upwards. After three years of these long, nightly vigils, this man knew the place of every fixed star in the firmament. He would study the sky closely to see if there were any wanderers, points of light that suddenly appeared and moved among the others. Most nights there weren’t. But still he watched and one day in a hundred he spotted one and phoned the observatory at the university and told them. This man stood in his garden for over thirty years and found more unfixed stars than any other. 180

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Short Fiction|Amanda Oosthuizen A Pylon, a Dress and the Rattle of Reeds

B

ollom’s is below me, underneath a cloud of chemical steam, somewhere between the funeral parlour and Martine’s. I take a gulp of air, hold it and dive. The wind rushes over my face, into my ears, pinning back my eyelids. I try a swooping manoeuvre between the multi-storey car park and the funeral parlour. My cheeks quiver in the down-draught and as I swerve past the top of the multi-storey, my glasses almost fall off. I hover for a moment on the ledge and slip them in my breast pocket. I beat my wings, feel for the edge with my feet and lean forwards. The top level is empty, it’s Friday and everyone has left the office early. It’s not long since I did exactly the same.    Below me a mother pushes a baby in a stroller. From here I can make out a muddle of white blankets and a spongy pink fist clutching at air, perhaps he’s waving. I wave back to the baby, all milky and warm, until my gut aches with need.    When the pushchair turns a corner, I swing down to level two, decelerate and prepare to land on the roof of Bollom’s but as I’m floating above the lamp-post, a hearse pulls out. I whip over it, twisting upwards in a pirouette that sends me skimming into third dimension, adrift in the semi-darkness and tepid warmth of the Milky Way, which always makes me want to urinate. And then I’m back here in the water meadows, listening to the humming pylon and the swish and rattle of reeds, sitting cross-legged in a clump of bulrushes.    Eloise will be furious. She needs the dress, the pink ruched taffeta, for Glyndebourne and Bollom’s closes at 5.30. Eloise will be furious all evening. If it wasn’t for the guilt, I wouldn’t put myself through all this. I’m not proud of becoming her gofer. I’m not proud of my deception.    I feel around for the satin rosebud. It’s in my breast pocket, still warm from the flight. I also find an elastic band and fasten my glasses back in place. I pull myself together and take off.    Upriver, I pass a heron standing knee-deep in weed. He gives me a filthy look because my slipstream has panicked the fish. I circle in order to locate Martine’s. It’s where first I saw Eloise dancing in spindly high heels with three other girls in short dresses. I liked her. She had kind eyes. I bought her a Bacardi and she stroked my hand with her tiny fingers as I rested it on the bench between us. Martine’s is derelict now, although its bins remain full.    I hover. Bollom’s chemical cloud has dispersed. A dog is peeing against a clump of dandelions growing in a crack in the concrete. When it’s gone, I try a controlled descent, feet first, hovering, dropping a few metres then hovering again. The dog sniffs behind the wall that separates Bollom’s and the funeral parlour. It’s an old Airedale with a 181

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grin on its face. I drop to the other side of the funeral parlour to within six metres of Bollom’s. As I descend, the dog growls, charging round the wall snapping, barking, slathering, revealing raw red gums and a set of broken, brown teeth. It jumps, almost nipping my foot as I use a reverse thrust technique I learned as a skateboarder, shooting upwards, arms straight to my sides, toes pointed, swerving between office blocks, dodging the microwave dishes on top of the Odeon and an aerial on the Travel Inn before diving into the cover of a vast cumulonimbus.    For a while, I float with my fingers adrift in the wispy current. I visualise Eloise amongst puffy, white cumulus. She’s sitting in a panelled hall at the end of a table, filling an enormous throne, like a gargantuan princess, with her golden curls and big pink dress frothing around her. One swollen, creamy breast is revealed and in her lap, amongst the folds of her dress, is a wriggling baby, sucking hungrily at her nipple, clutching at the bloated breast. Eloise seems unaware. Her fingers are spread on the table and a bowl of peonies and dahlias obscure her face, but I know she’s smiling, waiting for me, trusting me, knowing I will do anything for her. Her index finger taps the table, perhaps a little impatiently, and in the polished slab of walnut I see reflected, my bald, round head and the great gargoyle grimace on my mouth, smiling at my suckling babe.    When the dog has gone, I try again; third time lucky. This time I make a trouble-free landing on the roof but I’m late. The Bollom’s staff are always out on the dot of closing time so there’s no chance of an emergency rosebud repair. I break in through the roof vent.    It’s not hard to find the dress, it’s big enough and pink enough, but it’s going to be a problem getting it back home. The first time I tried flying whilst carrying something I ended up head-first in one of the Slough reservoirs and I was only holding a portion of egg fried rice and a bag of prawn balls. The dress is almost as big as I am, weighs about eight kilos and is constructed over an inflexible wire cage. I put it on. No one ever looks up.    For a moment, I hover like a louche Mary Poppins, trying to restrain the billowing dress while the dog jumps about snapping its teeth. The wind gusts and I’m upended and take a dive. I swoop across the tarmac and rocket upwards. It’s not easy to steer, the dress balloons out in the wind and I twirl like an inflatable candyfloss. Once I’ve gained some control I flit across the sea, and just for fun, tour around the Isle of Wight, pausing on the Needles. When I was granted the wish I didn’t think twice about asking for the power of flight. It’s what I’d dreamed of ever since watching the seagulls soar and the terns dive into the Solent as a small boy.    When I arrive home, I see through the window that Eloise is studying the fluctuations of the FT index on TV. She’s fingering a yellow cupcake and I realise I’ve forgotten to buy the dinner. I land in the back garden, slip off the dress and hang it on the telephone cable until 182

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I return.    Eloise didn’t always stay indoors. We used to walk under the enormous, humming pylons and take picnics in the water meadows. We’d dip our toes into the rippling water and watch sticklebacks swim around our ankles. Eloise would wrinkle her nose and squealed if one touched her.    “No more, no more!” She’d wriggle her shoulders, keeping her feet as still as possible so as not to frighten the fish.    “Come here, you.” I wrapped her in my arms and kissed her neck, ears and breasts and we forgot about the fish. The reeds rattled and swished over us as I squeezed her springy, pink skin. We made love and the bulrushes covered us in fluff. It was much wetter than it looked and our clothes were smeared with black mud and as we squelched home, two people stopped to ask us if we we’d had an accident, but Eloise never used to complain.    “How are we doing?” I ask, packing three drawers of chicken tikka dinners and one of tiramisu into the freezer.    “Up two points.” Eloise thought she would push her luck and ask for a combo wish: untold wealth, great beauty and everlasting life. It was straightforward enough, simplicity itself. No surprises there, she always was shallow and I always found that a loveable trait.    At first I thought the whole ‘three wishes special offer’ was nonsense like those Euromillions lottery scams but I downloaded the form, filled it in, and emailed it back to egod.com. No strings attached, they said, except that we had to stay put at this address and they emailed back explaining that Eloise would have to restrict her wish to just one since hers was a proxy wish and that the third wish had to be mine. So Eloise got her untold wealth and I got the power of flight. As for the third wish, I’ve been wondering about a baby. I haven’t told Eloise yet that her other wishes were void. I should tell her but she wouldn’t understand. She used to talk about starting a family but not anymore but it tears at me.    “You managed to pick up the dress?” She takes a mouthful of cupcake without taking her eyes off the TV.    “Hang on a minute.” I dash outside and, with one upward lurch, pick the dress off the telephone line, which irritates the starlings who were also sitting up there. I leap back into the kitchen almost before my wings have folded.    “Of course.” I flop the dress next to her and lean over the sofa to give her a kiss under her earlobe but she dodges out the way and changes channels to a pre-recorded episode of the OC.    “Did you go to Iceland to get the curry?” She pops the last morsel of cupcake into her mouth.    “It’s all right. I’ll cook something different.”    She claps her hands together, brushes crumbs from her lap onto 183

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the carpet and licks her fingers. “You didn’t go? I asked you particularly.”    “I didn’t say that.”    She sighs and twists around so she can adjust her hair. “You’re a difficult man to live with, Henri.” The French names started a couple of months ago. I have no idea where she’s going with that.    Eloise has had the walls covered with gilt-framed mirrors which, she says, have been imported from Marie Antoinette’s hunting lodge. She has had an extension built that takes up almost the whole of the back garden and includes her bedroom, dressing-room and bathroom. The sofas were specially made in pink and gold leather. I perch on an arm.    “You’re in the way.” Eloise pushes me off with her elbow. “I think I’ll get Normy over to put in a weave before tomorrow.”    “Is it chicken tikka massala, you want?” I head into the kitchen. No need to wait for the answer. At first I thought she was pregnant, strange eating habits, growing bigger, often tearful. I got excited, looked up bassinets on the Internet and ordered a book on baby names. I even signed us up for evening classes. But no, it was all crossed-wires. I’ve decided to save the third wish though, just in case.    “And some of that tiramisu?” she calls. Like I said, always the same.    That night, when she’s gone to bed I sew the satin rosebud to the décolletage and when I’m hanging up the dress ready for the morning, I notice the light on in her bathroom. She’s sprawled on the floor with an empty bottle of downers.    “Oh Eloise.” I stroke her forehead and touch her neck until I find a pulse. This is why I gave up work. It wasn’t the untold wealth. Since she’s considered herself immortal, I’ve had to take care of her. I want her well, back to how things used to be. I want her baby. All soft and pink and grumpy, just like Eloise.    I make a call and within minutes her Dr Laryo, with his floppy quiff and nip-waisted jacket, has rolled her over and she’s vomiting tikka and tiramisu dotted with red and yellow capsules. It takes the two of us fifteen minutes to get her on the bed where she moans and retches.    “It’s not going to do you any good all this, is it, Eloise?” Dr Laryo speaks in a loud high-pitched monotone as if he’s talking to a madwoman.    “Just write the prescription, Luigi. I’ve told you, I can take it. I’m not like your other patients.”    Dr Laryo tosses his hair out of his eyes and pulls out an iphone. He looks at me. I don’t fuss. What’s the point?    The following day, Eloise is up early preparing for Glyndebourne. She’s bought the tickets on eBay for five hundred pounds each. Norm has made her hair six inches longer and turned it into a glorious torrent of golden helter-skelters. By ten o’clock she’s installed in the pink ruched concoction and is pacing in front of the window. 184

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“Where is it? You did order it, didn’t you? If this day goes wrong, it’ll be all your fault; you know that, don’t you?” She doesn’t look at me.    “Yes, I ordered it.” I try not to sound fed up because that will only make matters worse. “I don’t know why you don’t let me fly you there. I’d love to do that for you.”    She pauses for a second and it’s as if a light’s been switched on inside her head.    “Oh come here my sweet.” She holds out her podgy, pink arms. She presses me into her great rolls of flesh. I kiss her lovely, pink, strawberry milkshake lips, smell the salty dampness of the satin rosebud in her cleavage and feel the beating of her great blancmange breasts.    “Let’s make a baby.” I breathe the words softly into her skin. “I’ll cancel the limo.” As I stretch my hands downwards, my dickey bow catches on her earring. She yelps.    “Oh, my God. That’s done it.”    She takes out the earring. I put my hands on her breasts.    “Stop it.” She flaps her hands in front of her face. “And no, you’re not flying. You’re coming with me in the limo. What an idiot!”    She’s right of course.    A horn beeps on the street.    She heaves herself outside, breathes in a moment of fresh air and squirms into the limo.    Once we’re moving, she pours me a glass of Moët. We stare out of the window. I think of asking, why the sudden interest in opera? But I know the answer; it’s the glamour and show.    Outside, the sun is golden, the sky a misty pale blue, a breeze is tipping the bright green leaves on the topmost branches of the silver birches and high up, the cirrocumulus scatter the sky like the footprints of snowmen. I imagine swooping across the South Downs or maybe along the coast amongst the windy cirrus, dipping my fingers in the waves, clutching at white horses. Maybe on the way back, I’ll see what the wind’s like.    By the time we get to Portsmouth, the Moët is finished and Eloise is opening a second bottle. The driver draws into a petrol station, removes his hat and gets out. He starts filling up.    “Don’t you want that?” She points at my glass.    “It’s ten in the morning.”    “Your loss.” She downs it, refills her own and giggles falsely. “Oh, dear, dear, bubbly always makes me so giddy, darling.”    The driver goes into the shop to pay.    “Wait here, my sweet. Won’t be a sec.” Eloise giggles again, opens the door and unbelievably quickly, she has flopped into the driver’s seat, put on his hat and started the engine.    “Chocks away!” We lurch onto the road, accelerating fiercely in first gear. Eloise has never learnt to drive a manual gearbox. My instinct is to yell but I know that won’t work. 185

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“You’ll get us both killed.” I make my voice slow and low.    Eloise laughs. “What do you mean?”    “The engine will blow, you’ll lose control.”    “I’ll make sure you’re all right, sweetie.” She swerves past three articulated trucks and a Saab convertible.    “That’s not the point.” Black smoke is billowing from the exhaust.    “Don’t you worry,” she says.    The noise is deafening and there’s an additional clunk. “Did you hear that? It’s probably a broken piston.”    She sniffs. “Since when did you know so much about cars?” Something rattles behind us and I watch a piece of bumper jump along the road onto the hard shoulder.    “See. What did I say?” I grip the seat. We seem to be heading into the stream of cars coming the other way. They slip past us blowing their horns. “If you’re not worried about us, think of the innocent people who will be killed if you carry on like this.”    I undo my seat belt, but Eloise looks in the mirror and catches me. She presses a button on the dashboard and the glass panel begins to slide shut. After opening three windows, I find the button that opens the panel and crawl over the seats into the front.    “What do you think you’re doing now?” She elbows me in the ribs.    “Eloise, please pull over.” Still diving head first, I make a grab for the handbrake. “You’ll get us both killed.”    “Don’t be ridiculous.”    I’m a coward. It would be simple enough to tell her I’ve cancelled her wishes because I want our baby, but instead I pull the wheel. She tries to shove me off but the limo is slowing down, the engine stalls and we freewheel onto the hard shoulder. Perhaps now, amid all this panic, I’ll catch her off guard.    “Let’s fly,” I say. “I’ve something I want to ask you.”    “In your dreams.”    “Oh come on. It’ll be fun. You’ll love it.”    “You’d better get into the back and stay there.” She turns on the engine, revs up and swerves back onto the road. Within an hour Eloise has got us to Glyndebourne.    The opera hall is huge, probably the biggest indoor space I have ever been in, except the Tesco Superstore. Our box is on the second tier, hundreds of lights are glowing like pale yellow ammonites, everyone is talking in hushed, yet excited, voices as if they’re about to meet up with God. The great dome towers over us, peaking in a bright nipple. Our programme says we are about to see: ‘Of Love and Demons’. The musicians warm up. The excitement grows. The conductor appears and as he stabs the air with his baton, strange haunting noises hit our ears, unsettling sounds like broken machinery.    The curtain goes up. A girl with bright red hair writhes about 186

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on stage and sings in the most piercing voice, higher than a robin, more searing than a gull.    For half an hour, Eloise seems to be enjoying it, but then I notice that she has slipped off her shoes. Within seconds she has stood up, climbed on her seat and stepped onto the balustrade that prevents us from slipping into the darkness below. She balances on the rail in her great dress like a ballerina in first position, her tiny fingers flex, then so gracefully, her hands float to her sides. She’s too far from the stage to be noticed by the performers, but there’s a flurry in the nearby boxes and people begin to whisper and point. She places her hands together as if in prayer and lifts them above her head. For a moment she rocks back and forth on her toes and heels, then onto tiptoe and jumps.    It’s as if she’s dropping in slow motion. I barely take a breath before unfolding my wings, all twenty foot wingspan of magnificent orange, red and turquoise flight feathers. I swoop and duck under her. It takes all my strength to break her fall. I cradle her in my arms and slowly my wings beat the air. It’s the hardest work ever. The painful contractions wrench from shoulders and neck to groin and waist and every muscle in between.    Inch by inch, we climb above the auditorium. The music stops. Every face is turned upwards; the place is thick with quietness. Eloise rests her head against my shoulder, holds me like I’m all she’s ever wanted. And I’m gripped by my own cruelty and need. Then we’re at the dome caught in the heat of the lights, my wings beat clouds of dust. I can smell my feathers singeing. It becomes stronger. Eloise clasps me tighter. There’s no way out, so I wish my final wish, the one Eloise believes she has already made, the one I’d been saving for our baby, our birthday gift. The dome opens like the petals of a great tulip and we’re out into the sky.    As we shoot from the dome, an aeroplane crosses my path giving me such a shock, and in the downdraft, I lose control and drop. I flounder and I’m tumbling towards the water meadows when my wing catches on the tip of a pylon, there’s nothing I can do because I’m plummeting. Eloise falls from my arms and catches between the great cat’s cradle cables. There she is, strung up in the pink dress, and the last I see of her face with the great helter-skelter of golden curls is the enormous grin, because she didn’t know the half of it. The reeds rattle and swish beneath her as the sparks and current catch the wire cage of the dress and she’s alight and laughing.    I picked up the pink satin rosebud as it drifted amongst the bulrushes, put it in my pocket and went home. That night I ate my chicken tikka, tiramisu diluted with tears, a homage to Eloise. I switched off the television, fingered the pink satin rosebud and dwelt on the image in my memory of Eloise’s grin as she frazzled, the should have beens and should have saids nailed permanently to my skull. 187

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When I collected the dinner jacket from Bollom’s, the pink satin rosebud had gone. I even rummaged through the bins outside Martine’s and peered into the pushchair of the spongy baby, but the brown Airedale had got there before me. I saw him wearing it on his collar.

Poetry|Meg Tuite Separate Tongues, Twin Scars Sister, do you think of me, remember me, in all the years you’ve lived in India, so far away from the desert I graze in? Here in the depths of New Mexico, I’m frightened by your diagnosis, not the rattlesnakes that sun themselves in my path each morning I run and hurdle over. The doctor says you have what mom died from twenty years ago and you say NO to surgery. “I want you so badly to want the you I need you to be, yet don’t know if I would say yes to the knife if my flesh bore the same canvas. One day disguises itself from any other when you decide to have the hysterectomy. You send me a before photo of you, radiant as broken shards that trace endless buried cities you have upended by the toss of the die, aware that either result is a win, and the after photo of your uterus and two ovaries engorged on a green cloth. Every part of you that has been extracted is bleeding rust, recorded on film. When they give you the anesthesia do you have visions of me and younger sister running through the same streets a thousand times trying to beat each other when you always win? You always win. We always know you will win, with that bravado of your essence that encapsulates everyone around you in the dust of a spectator. We watch a magic carpet fly against the debris of the prosaic. Sister? I remember you, think of you, search for the skid marks of you. You wear saris now and walk with a softer tread in sandals. You don’t play football or baseball anymore, but I hear you in the winds of the desert. A coyote sits and listens when I talk. I tell her she is a hustler, a troublemaker, a blaze drowning in a star-filled sky. She is a torrent of exaggeration and soft traps. You think I have forgotten you out here surrounded by juniper and cacti. Don’t you recall that the sky is as large, inescapable as our internal organs? There are no clouds to hide our beauty and our gutters from each other now. 188

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Visual Art|Margie Beth Labadie

Daves World #10

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Daves World #6

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Poetry|Pradeep Dharmapalan Portrait one reaches for a book a paint brush, a pen and then, mixing, adding, subtracting starts all over again walking through the crowded house stepping into each of its many rooms making a mark, then leaving with the windows shut, the door ajar one does what the germinated seed also, as effectively, does without ceremony or fanfare lust for life is what one would call it since we cannot but help label and define a wish to have more lives than one all at once in the same lifetime

Poetry|Ankita Anand Self-Study I read you over and over As if reading poetry Not the kind I don’t get But the kind that gets me And I go over it carefully Amazed, to find out what exactly it was And why so important to me Discovering, or not discovering, the answer to that I go on, read further Hoping I’ll find more such Wanting to die trying 191

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To understand the poet Who understood me so perfectly To listen with complete attention To one who spoke only to me

Short Fiction|Amber Lee Dodd The Dancers

M

arie lay stiff in panic, her pale eyes blind in the darkness. She had woken up not knowing what day it is. Without the day she doesnt know the schedule. Heat rises through her body. Beside her she feels Alex pull his long limbs from the covers. She watches him dress and pack his squash bag. It must be Tuesday. The day Alex plays squash, she does the shopping and wears the back polo neck. The alarm neither of them like rings. Alex, unaware Marie is awake, longs to escape unnoticed and clicks the door behind him quietly. Marie lays listing to the groan of Alex’s car starting and the sound of Joshua stirring followed by the rattle of his wheelchair. Waiting for the world to steady itself, she stares down at her feet.    On this Tuesday, June, a retired teacher with fast fading faculties, attempts her own shopping trip. June feels her focus begin to ebb away as she stares at the array of ready made sandwiches. She rubs her eyes, the after image of white strip lighting lingering. What she has to do next has quite escaped her. Her mind caught in a race of thought. Her feet glued to the slick laminate flooring. The cold wraps itself around her, sinking into her cheap rayon shirt. A crowd begins to form, their throbbing imapatience growing as her mind searches for the function it needs to perform. The long roll of pointed arms and angry voices confuse her. And then a long loud whinnying noise erupts from somewhere inside June.    Marie’s shopping list had turned to paste in her pocket and working without it worried her. It worried her more than she cared to admit. She worries also about Joshua, knowing he has the teaching assistant that writes sharp sentences about his ‘focus’ in his help book. Pushing her self though the crowded sandwich display she forces a long loud whinny from the old lady in front. “Excuse me.” She says a little take aback. She tries to go around but the old womens cart blocks the shelf. People rubbed the wrong way by a week not even half over push past the old women. Eager hands and elbows jabbing hard into her as their owners reach for tuna wraps and bacon rolls. The old women’s fingers curl into white fists. She rocks gently, her wide stair glares up into the strip lighting. Marie looks over at the security guard who stares impassively at 192

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the situation. Marie watches June’s hands ball in and out of fists. She has the sudden urge to reach out and warm her pale fingers. But she doesn’t. “Are you ok?” she says simply. June’s long stare meets Marie’s pinched face. There is a long pause between the two of them.    “Is there someone I should call?” Marie asks putting a tentative hand on the old lady’s shoulder.    “I don’t know which one to pick.” The old lady finally replies, pointing to the sandwiches.    Marie recognizes this voice. The voice of uncertainty and fear. She shakes the thought away and drops an egg mayo roll into her cart.    “Thank you.” June sighs and her body becoming aware of itself again pulls her feet from the floor. Marie watches the old lady recede into the mass of people emerging on the checkouts, before her thoughts turn back to Joshua.    Marie watches Joshua’s face contort into a strange mix of agony and relief as he began to pee. So caught up in the drama of the event is she, the hot flush of urine that hits the bottle catches her like an electric shock. Her hand springs open. The bottle slips and like a slug Joshua’s penis flops out. She noticed, for the first time it seemed, that it was big. No longer that of a boy’s, but a man’s. It lay like an intruder on the lap of her twelve year old son. Joshua, all white rounded joints and big brown eyes. Joshua wriggles in his wheelchair.    “Sorry, sorry,” he speaks in an aggravated stutter, cupping himself defensively.    “Not your fault.” she says with a little impatience.    Joshua unconvinced begins tugging at his collar. “No, no, wasn’t my fault was it?”    “That’s right, just one of those things that happen,” she dabs at the wet patch on his pyjama bottoms absently.    “But why is it just one of those things that happen?”    Straightening up she sighs, “I don’t know”.    Not considering this an answer he rubs his face, digging the ball of his palm into the soft of his cheek.    “Good to go,” she says opening the bathroom door.    “Yes, yes, good to go,” Joshua says whilst wheeling himself out and down the corridor. She lingers a moment waiting to hear Alex’s voice or his key in the lock.    “Don’t over think it” Ailsa says as the ball bounces back hard from the wall and slaps Alex across the knuckles.    “Jesus Christ! I thought this was meant to be therapeutic?” Alex grunts whilst rubbing the palm of his hand over his sore knuckles. She bends over grabbing her ankles, panting. He notices the smooth curvature of her spine through her damp tee-shirt.    “It is. You just have to let yourself go, stop trying to think 193

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where the ball’s going to be, just react.”    She straightens and throws the ball to him. “Let’s try it again”.    He turns the squash racket in his hand, the leather sticking to his palms and serves the ball. The ball shudders back after hitting two of the walls and this time he manages to hit it.    “Good” Ailsa calls, replying to the next rebound, her trainers squeaking obligingly with her every move. And then he’s lost, the next few minutes spent in response to the ball and the sound of Ailsa’s breathing. He is caught up in the rhythm of the game. The quiet movement of their bodies. There’s an unfamilair freedom to it and deep down a ferocity that comes from somewhere lost in him. He watches Ailsa body twist and is suddenly right back at the London flat. Watching Marie as she spins, her head thrown back, her hair flying out, her mouth caught wide with a laugh. He could see it now the flat that was always half painted, one month yellow, the next month blue. Marie dancing among the dust covers. Her hips pulsing to the Latin guitar music they played so loudly the teenage neighbours had complained. Sometimes he would catch her arms and together they would spin round the room, neither knowing who was leading who. Marie’s head bent into his own. The heat of her breath as she whispered “Don’t look down “as their paint covered converse spun round and round. Alex notices his own trainer clad feet moving, drawing him suddenly and sickeningly back to the present. In the corner of the court, Ailsa lies, her breath coming in short ragged bouts, her ribcage withering with the effort. Eyes closed she clutches at her breast.    Joshua sleeps like little boys do. The soft rise and fall of his body and slight parting of his cherry lips make him look blissful. Marie watches, hoping for him to stir awake. It’s been a long time since she’s had someone to talk to. She wonders where Alex is and worries if he will come back. The house lies in silence apart from the far off swish of cars on the motorway. She waits a moment, the silence filling her up before pushing the door behind her hard. The resounding shudder of the door startles Joshua awake, his sleepy face flickers with confusion. “Shall I get dressed?” he yawns.    “No, it’s still dark.”    Joshua rubs his eyes “Why is it still dark?”    “Because its still night-time, the sun won’t be up till 6.”    “But why does it come up at 6?”    Marie sighs, instantly regretting waking him. “You should go back to sleep Joshua.”    “I don’t think I’m tired now.” He says, yawning.    Marie despite being exhausted knows she won’t be able to sleep. She pulls her nightie over her knees, bending down to the books in Joshua’s bedside table.    “What do you want me to read?” 194

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“I don’t know” Joshua says staring blankly at her.    “What do you like best, The Twits or Fantastic Mr. Fox?” Marie continues knowing she doesn’t need him to decide. It’s a Tuesday, Tuesday’s Fantastic Mr. Fox day. Joshua looks at the books and back at his mum. He is unsettled by this change in routine.    “I don’t know really.” He says automatically.    Something inside Marie twitches with dull recognition. She remembers the old lady stuck by indecision staring into the over lit sandwich shelf. Joshua wonders if the sun will come up at exactly six. He is troubled by the fact no one knows the exact answer to things.    “Fantastic Mr. Fox it is.” Marie announces.    She reads aloud long after Joshua falls asleep.    Are you family? The nurse repeats in her clipped tones. It takes a few moments for Alex to realise someone is talking to him.    The nurse glances at the wedding band, “Husband? Well you’ll have to be brief.” Alex follows the nurse to Ailsa’s bed. He watches the watch clipped above her breast knock against her in tune to her stride. He didn’t realise they still wore those.    “Just a few moments,” the nurse finishes, turning off at Ailsa’s bed.    Ailsa looks worn, her hard face done few favours by the dark rings forming under her eyes. “Take a seat Alex, you look tired”.    “How you feeling?” Alex asks weakly.    “I’ve been better.”    Alex nods solemnly, his discomfort palpable.    “Alex you don’t have to be with me just because I asked.”    “I wanted to make sure you were ok.”    “I don’t mean with me in this hospital room.” Ailsa interrupts.    Alex is unable to find the right emotion, so he sits quietly, waiting for Ailsa to come to a decision. He realises he is still holding the squash racket. He stairs at the floor through the strings, the solid green broken into squares. Like the pattern on Marie’s dress the last time they were here. The day Joshua was born. He remembers feeling her grip on his hand. The grip that stayed even when he broke away to look. To watch a foot emerge instead of a head. He rings the racket’s handle in remembrance of the fear. At his despair as he had dipped his head to hers. “Don’t look down,” Marie had whispered.    Marie watches Alex making breakfast, not a word has passed between them this morning. She wonders how long they can go on like this. She wonders how many more nights he will disappear for. Joshua chats to his dad earnestly about sunrises. Marie bubbles with anger.    “What do you want for breakfast Joshua?” she asks.    “Its Wednesday, I made eggs” Alex replies flipping the omelette. Marie ignores him. 195

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“What do you want for breakfast?”    Joshua looks at her perplexed. “I don’t know”.    “Well what do you like best?”    Joshua looks up into his mother’s watery eyes. “I don’t know really” he replies breathlessly.    “Would you like toast Josh?” Alex asks gently.    “Yes thank you.” Joshua answers quickly.   “Or would you like some cereal?” Marie snaps back.    “Yes, yes, yes thank you” Joshua stutters anxiously. Alex passes the cereal over the counter.    “No, he’s got to make a decision! Cereal or toast Joshua!?” Joshua pulls his shirt up over his chin and starts to whine. Alex slips round from the counter and puts an arm round his son defensively.    “Enough” he says to Marie forcefully.    “He’s not a child anymore, he has to make choices.” Marie utters brokenly before storming of to their bedroom. The eggs begin to burn as Joshua clings to his father, holding onto his anchor to the world.    The paint splattered converse lay in a wardrobe of grey. They catch in Marie’s mind, forcing memories like waves to crash through her. She is 24 and spinning, spinning like nothing mattered, holding onto Alex. Daring not to look down and check their steps. Knowing if their feet faltered they would be sent flying. She is struggling to give birth to her son. Urgent mutterings of doctors. The grip of Alex’s hand, safe and warm. Knowing he didn’t need to break from her. To look down, to check, because beyond the blood, the veins, the flesh, was life. Twisting inside her was life. She’s flying over Portsmouth. Rising from the ground below is the Spinnaker Tower. She wants Joshua to see. But he’s afraid, like his father and they spend the flight staring at their feet till they land. The shirt labelled Wednesday falls from her gasp and Marie collapses into the wardrobe. She doesn’t recognize that woman anymore. She felt more kinship to the old women in the supermarket, baffled by life.    Alex lifts Marie from the back of the wardrobe. He looks at his wife, pale opal eyes shining out of a white disk of face. Her hands still small and delicate but also wrinkled and worn. He wonders where the time has gone. He wants to tell her it will be ok. But he doesn’t. Instead he lets her fall against him and he holds her until slowly, slowly they begin to move. Neither of them leading the other. Shadows drifting over them in the darkened room.    As they turn together, she dares him not to look down.

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Visual Art|Mario Angel Quintero

Beast

Oil and thinner on paper, 30.5” x 22”

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Mandible Fragment Moment 1

Oil and turpentine on canvas, 39.5” x 59.5”

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Short Fiction|Andrew J Keir The Camel Jockey

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del hears the low rumble of the approaching truck, seconds before light leaches into the darkness through cracks in the corrugated roof. Despite his fatigue he’s been awake all night: it’s been too hot to sleep. The noisy air conditioning unit packed up the previous evening, along with the electric light and Jamil’s radio. Master Rashid has forgotten the oil for the generator again.    The soft breaths of Jamil and the five other boys accelerate a little, and Adel knows they are awake too, but the relentless heat and humidity have sucked out any desire they have to speak or move. The boys will move when Master Rashid makes them ... until then their eyes stare at the grimy walls, while their thoughts focus on partially remembered faces and places.    Sometimes Adel tries to fill his mind with nothing but complete darkness. He believes all memories are painful, but he understands that the past is a more desirable place than the present for boys like him. As for the future ... Adel knows better than to think about such things.    The air inside the hut is cloyingly sweet, a funk of fermenting sweat, over-ripe mangos and fetid camel dung. Overnight, Adel hasn’t been able to ignore the stink, and this has impeded his attempts to escape reality. He hopes the AC will work again soon and allow the boys a few hours of sleep and freedom.    A key rattles in the padlock outside and the plywood door is thrown open. Truck headlights glare into the room and a round silhouette fills the doorway. Adel and Jamil, lying towards the rear of the hut, prop themselves up on their elbows, wincing against the light. Master Rashid is wearing a grubby dishdasha and carrying a large bottle of water. He throws this into the middle of the room, where little Muhklesur pounces on it.    ‘Get up!’ shouts Master Rashid. ‘It’s race day!’ He prods the boy nearest him with a thin bamboo cane. ‘Yala, Yala – come on. We need to get moving.’    ‘Have you no biscuits for us today Master?’ asks Adel, the ache in his stomach stronger than his fear of the stick.    Master Rashid stares at the boy for a moment. ‘No! No biscuits on race day,’ he says. ‘You will eat after the contest ... and if you win you will eat well.’    Jamil passes Adel the bottle; he swigs greedily from it.    ‘Enough time wasting. Let’s go.’ Master Rashid kicks Muhklesur’s feet and swipes another boy across the shoulders. Adel rises and pulls Jamil after him. He doesn’t want to feel the sting of the cane.    Outside they climb onto the flatbed of the truck with the 199

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other boys. ‘There will be chores until six,’ says Master Rashid. ‘Afterwards we will travel to the track.’    The morning drive to the animal pens is a bumpy five-minute affair. Free from the stench of the hut, Adel stares into the darkness and remembers how it was the day he was taken: how the world shook as the man ran through the dark back streets with Adel’s skinny body tucked under his arm; how dogs barked and people looked the other way; how no-one came when he cried.    ‘No-one cares.’ The man had said, his face lit by the fire from a brazier. ‘No-one wants to hear you.’    Adel pushes the demon from his mind and replaces it with a blurred image of a lady. She’s wearing a green sari and kneeling in front of an open fire. She smiles with her mouth and eyes. Adel is sure this is his mother, and he knows he will never see her again.    The camels are still in their barasti pens when the boys jump down from the pickup. The sun is beginning to appear on the horizon and the cream coloured sand is already warm underfoot. Cooing endearments, the children pull open the stable doors and lead their charges into the open.    Because today is race day the camels are not to be fed or watered. Their dates, honey and alfalfa shall keep until tonight, when the boys will feed them shortly before their own meal of biscuits and water. The animals stamp and groan when they realise their troughs are empty, and drool cascades from protruding lips as they are led to the corral where, for a while, they will be free to wander.    Jamil secures the gate and he and the other boys make their way back to the stables, to begin clearing out shit and used straw with their hands. While they do this Master Rashid watches from the truck. He sips coffee from a vacuum flask and listens to the radio.    Just before six the camel transporters arrive. Four skinny South Asian men in dirty blue overalls jump down from the trucks and begin the slow task of rounding up the animals. Master Rashid leaves the men to their work and herds the boys towards the pickup. ‘Race day!’ he says, rubbing his hands together. ‘Race day!’    The journey to Al Rowayyah Racetrack takes around forty minutes, but to Adel it seems far longer: the truck bed offers no protection against the pounding sun, and his emaciated body bounces and rattles over every pothole. Another bottle of tepid water is passed around, but offers little relief. Outside, the dunes vary in colour from light grey to cream, and somewhere in the middle distance they merge into the glaring white sky. Adel wonders if he will ever see anything beyond this sea of sand. He tries to remember the city he came from, the place where he lived with his mother, but all he can recall is the reek of old rubbish 200

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and the clatter of too many people.    Finally the journey ends; the truck passes through the gates of the stadium and makes its way to the car park set aside for the racing teams. A Lexus SUV is waiting, and as the truck pulls up, the SUV’s driver climbs from his vehicle and waves. The man is wearing a pristine white dishdasha and a red and white ghutra is wrapped around his head. His eyes are hidden by a pair of dark sunglasses.    Suddenly animated, Master Rashid waves back while clumsily applying the parking brake. He throws open his door and shuffles across the sand lot with his palm extended. ‘A salaam walaycum,’ he says.    ‘Walaycum salam, my friend,’ says Lexus man, shaking Master Rashid’s hand. The two men pat each other on the back and brush noses before strolling over to the boys, who sit in silence in the back of the truck.    ‘Boys,’ says Master Rashid, a wide smile fixed to his face. ‘This is Mister Ibrahim, the owner of our camel farm.’    ‘Salam,’ says Mister Ibrahim.    ‘Salam,’ the boys chant in unison.    ‘Mister Ibrahim is a very important and busy man,’ continues Master Rashid. ‘But he would like to take time to speak to you.’ Rashid glances anxiously at his boss, before turning his attention back to the boys. ‘So be quiet and listen.’    Mister Ibrahim flashes a grin at the dirty faces looking up at him. Adel doesn’t think he has ever seen such straight white teeth in all his life.    ‘Boys!’ says Mister Ibrahim, his face now serious. ‘Today is a very important day. Today is the first day of the Al Rowayyah Festival.’ He pauses. ‘This festival is very significant for me, and for my family.’ Master Rashid nods solemnly in agreement. ‘For as long as anyone can recall,’ the owner continues. ‘The Al Muumtakhs have raced their camels at this festival and produced many winners.’    ‘Yes, yes – many winners,’ mumbles Master Rashid, still nodding.    Mister Ibrahim ignores his employee. ‘Today I will represent my family and race my camels, and I too will have winners.’ He lets his words linger for a moment, removes his sunglasses and moves his dark eyes over each child. Adel and a few of the others can’t help but look down at their feet. ‘Do you understand?’ Mister Ibrahim asks. The boys nod silently. ‘Good,’ he says, replacing his glasses and flashing another smile. ‘I’m glad.’ He pats Master Rashid on the back and begins to walk away. He pauses. ‘Oh ...’ he says, turning back to face the boys. ‘And remember, you must respect the animals. They are very valuable: one animal is worth far more than all of you added together. You must treat them well, like they are your family – then you may win.’ When the transporters arrive the boys instinctively make their way to the back of the trucks, but Master Rashid shoos them away. ‘You 201

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are not needed for now,’ he says. ‘The men and I will prepare the camels.’    The children are told to stay close and they will be called when it is time. They sit in the shadow cast by the stadium and watch its edge creep towards them as the sun rises slowly in the sky. Adel’s stomach groans and he whispers a prayer for the time to pass quickly.    Muhklesur, who has never been to a race day before, asks in a small voice, ‘What is it like – the racing? Is it exciting?’    Adel looks to the sky before answering. ‘Yes ... I suppose so. But it is also very scary. You must be brave and hold tight.’    ‘Adel is right little one,’ says Jamil. ‘Whatever happens, you must never let go. They will tie you on but it is not enough.’    Muhklesur nods, fear in his eyes.    Race-goers begin to arrive: mostly local men in regulation national dress, and a smattering of women who are covered from head to toe in black nylon. Adel feels sorry for how uncomfortable they must feel in the desert sun.    Jamil nudges him and gestures towards the entrance. Adel stares in disbelief and a low murmur rises from the others. A lady with dark lustrous hair and golden skin passes through the gate holding the hand of a small pale faced boy. The subtle bounce of her breasts and curve of her bottom are clearly visible through a tight blue top and sand coloured pants. Someone whistles, but the song is lost in the crowd. ‘She must be an English,’ Jamil informs the others. ‘Sent by the devil!’    The morning passes slowly. Muhklesur is taken first: dragged away, tripping and stumbling after Master Rashid. A long time later, when he slumps back against the wall, his hands are shaking and he is quiet. Adel thanks God for returning him.    Two of the younger boys are taken for the second race, but they haven’t returned by the time Master Rashid finally comes for Adel and Jamil. Jamil squeezes Adel’s arm. ‘Don’t worry,’ he says. ‘They will be here when we get back.’ Adel nods, unconvinced.    They follow Master Rashid to a grubby whitewashed changing room with cracked brown tiles on the floor. Luxurious cold air blasts from a noisy air conditioning unit, and when they are told to strip they gladly do so. Rashid hands the boys their faux silk costumes. Jamil’s is scarlet, Adel’s jet black. As they dress, boys from other stables are brought to the room, but they keep their eyes low and exchange no greetings.    Helmets secure, the boys take turns to step on a pair of bathroom scales where their weights are taken by a fat little man in a charcoal thobe. The man scribbles the details in an exercise book and grunts at Master Rashid to take the boys outside.    They pass through a swing door to a wide corridor where the camels, already saddled, are waiting. Both animals are light in colour, 202

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almost white. Adel recognises them as Hisham and Adnan, the young males that Master Rashid has high hopes for.    ‘Jamil, you will ride Hisham today,’ says Master Rashid. ‘Adel, you take the other.’    The Grooms tap the animals with sticks and pull on their reins, forcing them to the ground to allow the riders to climb on. Ropes are passed around the boys’ waists and tied tightly to the saddle horns. The boys are handed riding crops and the animals are nudged and goaded until they clamber back to their feet. The grooms lead the competitors down the corridor, and out into the light and noise of the paddock.    It is Adel’s second season of racing, and the Al Rowayyah meeting is his eighth this year, but he’s still unused to the chaos that surrounds the build up to a race: the swathes of spectators that crowd and press in on the competitors; the pointing and yabbering; the laughing and cheering. Some men clap the camels on their rumps, while others tug on the legs of the jockeys. A few shout insults, but most wish only good luck. Adel tries not to look down at the melee. He keeps his head up and stares out towards the horizon. His belly rumbles and he thinks how wonderful it will be if he wins this race, how Master Rashid will feed him harees and rice and give him camel milk to drink. Please God, he thinks, let me win, just this one time.    After the parade the camels and jockeys are led into a holding area by their grooms who jostle for position near the exit gate on the far side of the pen. As the animals and humans press together, a cloud of sand rises up and the heat becomes unbearable. Grooms lash out with their sticks to fend off kicks and crushes. Adel’s heart bangs in his chest and he grasps the pommel as tight as he can, his riding crop dangling from his wrist.    There is a loud CLUNK somewhere up ahead, and behind him the crowds roar. The camels surge forward as the exit gate flies open and the grooms sprint for cover.    The competitors crash into the mesh of a new barrier, and Adel feels his stomach lurch and his bones jar as he is thrown around on the back of his mount. For a moment he loses his grip, but somehow manages to grab the hair on the nape of the animal’s neck and shuffle his hands back to the saddle horn. There is a twang of vibrating metal and the starting gate shoots skywards. The animals and their riders burst onto the empty track, some stumbling, some already galloping, but all flying on adrenalin.    Deep in the centre of the main pack, Adel grasps the pommel with both hands, he knows his most immediate task is to hang on, but he also knows that he must use the crop if he is to stand any chance of winning.    Adel fights to slow his breathing, and as the race settles he and Adnan find their rhythm. Holding the horn with only his left hand, he releases his right and grabs for the dangling whip, wrapping his 203

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fingers around it first time. He flicks Adnan on the shoulder and over the drum of the hooves he shouts, ‘That’s it habibi, that’s it boy!’ Immediately the animal responds. Through the saddle Adel feels the roll of Adnan’s hips and shoulders accelerate. The boy lowers his head and arches his back. This time he flicks the camel on the rump. ‘Run Adnan, run!’    Between the first and second bend Adel and Adnan edge their way towards the front of the pack. Ahead, Adel can see Jamil’s red silks just behind the blue of the leader.    As the riders come out of the second bend, Adel and Jamil are shoulder to shoulder. Adel glances to his left and grins at his friend, who nods back. He thinks of the training runs back at the farm that Jamil usually wins. ‘Please God,’ he whispers. ‘Let me win today.’    The Jockeys bow their heads and release a flurry of raps with their crops. The race leader’s advantage is quickly eroded and by the time they round the third bend all three riders are level. One hundred metres more and Adel and Jamil pull ahead.    ‘Come on Adnan!’ Adel bangs his heels into the camel’s sides. ‘Come on!’    Jamil leans further forward, lashing out at Hisham’s shoulder, but as he does so his saddle slips a few centimetres to the right. His guts jump to his throat, but fighting his fear he grasps the pommel with both hands. Seconds later, the loosened saddle slips again, causing Jamil to list to the side and his mount to stumble, further weakening the bindings. The saddle drops again and panic grips the boy. Every jar and rattle is sliding him closer to the thundering hooves. His tears and screams cannot be heard above the din.    As the riders round the final bend Adel and Adnan storm ahead, urged on by the clamouring crowd in the grandstand. Adel, oblivious to Jamil’s difficulties, glances left and right, and realises that no-one is near him. Excitement fills his belly. ‘Humdililah!’ he says, looking to the sky.    He is vaguely aware of a gasp from the crowd and a brief moment of quiet, but this is quickly forgotten as the roar builds again. Whoops and cheers carry him across the line. He promises himself that tonight he will share the victory meal with Jamil and the other boys.    It takes a while for the competitors to slow, and Adel is relieved when his stern faced groom finally grabs Adnan’s reins and brings the camel to a halt. ‘We won!’ shouts Adel, beaming.    ‘Yes,’ replies the groom, refusing to meet the jockey’s eyes. ‘You won.’    ‘What’s wrong?’ asks Adel, looking around for Jamil’s scarlet top. ‘Where’s Jamil?’    The man begins to answer, but falls silent when he sees Master Rashid waddling towards them, arms in the air, grin pasted across his face. Adel swivels in his saddle and looks back down the track. In 204

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the distance he sees a group of men huddled around a dusty red heap, and his belly feels empty again.    Adel turns to face his master, hoping tonight the darkness will come easily.

Note: ‘The Camel Jockey’ is taken from ‘Bloody Flies’. Refer to the website www.andrewjkeir.net

Poetry|Abraham Varghese Journey to a Funeral The train is painted with the grief, of departure and separation the rails, the tyres all shriek! Reflecting the mourning the basic feature in this trip. Even the scenery, So lush and green appeared to be grey they too left bereft, Nature mourns every departed soul! The very palour of the scene made me wonder and dwell upon the mystery of decease. Death being a train journey in a dark tunnel , with no light. The time to light is in our hands every wrong lengthens the tunnel. The darkness, the price to pay for every sin and evil thought. As I hear the whistle blow, I recognise the wake up call, beckoning me to change my ways and shorten the tunnel....

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Short Fiction|Elizabeth MacDonald New Year’s Resolutions

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here was something odd about the light, something she couldn’t put her finger on. She pulled up in front of her villetta and peered out through the windscreen. Some unnatural brightness hovered in the air that hadn’t been there a quarter of an hour ago. But fleeting light patterns were something you learned to live with in the little town of San Giuliano Terme, tucked into a crevice where the Monte Pisano rose up sheerly out of the surrounding plain. For the inhabitants of the town, the mountain was a filter between time and space, daily casting a creeping net of shadow over the underlying buildings, and daily hauling a catch of light back up its scree-strewn sides.    She got out of the car and cricked her neck to look up. And then she saw it. Like a pristine volcanic eruption, coil after coil of brilliantly white cloud had mushroomed to an immense height above the mountain top. Where had it come from? How had something that colossal appeared so suddenly? There had been no sign of it in the sky when she set off from the airport in Pisa with her special guests; and all the way out to San Giuliano, along the winding Via del Brennero, the mountaintop glimpsed fitfully between the bare branches of the giant plane trees, the March air shimmering with expectancy, everything in a ferment – even then there had been no sign of it.    The thing was – would it bring rain? Jack was here only for a week and she hoped it wouldn’t be ruined by bad weather, as she wanted to be able to show Tuscany off at its best. Rattled, she took a deep breath and turned round to the boot, but Jack was already taking the cases out.    “So,” he said heartily, “this is your home, this is where you live.”    Something a little forced in his tone niggled; she shot him an assessing glance while extracting the handle of one of the cases. Maybe it was just part of his mania-for-politeness thing. But for her it amounted to giving nearly every exchange the smarmy ring of insincerity and made reading him that bit more difficult. What was the proverb she had grown up hearing? Piemontesi – falsi ma cortesi. It was like dealing with a courteous but fake Piedmontese. Probably the further north you went, the more this would be true. She nodded. “Yes, it is, I show you in.” Too late, she remembered that she should have used the future tense in English. Jack was walking past her up the drive when an aggrieved voice called out, “Paola, we could do with a hand here.”    She turned back to see Lucy, head on one side, jaw well forward, indicating two of the cases. “I can look after myself of course, but Conor needs to be helped,” came the prim remand.    Conor, a wiry ten-year-old, promptly abandoned his case and 206

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followed his elder sister up the drive with alacrity. She watched their retreating forms and shrugged. Jack hadn’t heard; he was surveying an array of flowerpots at the front door, the withered contents of which had clearly disconcerted him.    The trick was not to let minor irritants get blown out of proportion. If she played her cards right, this could be a life-changing week, and she’d never be without Jack again. *    Jack swirled the red wine around in his glass and held it up to the candle on the table. “Nice drop, all right.” The contents of the wine glass glittered darkly in the flame. “There’s a lovely finish to it.” He took another mouthful. “Good body, but not too tannic.”    Paola smiled. “Do you think it’s something that – mmmh, how can I say – will be attractive for the Irish palate?”    “Well, in so far as I’m typical of the Irish palate, I’d say yes,” replied Jack.    “Another discovery for my export list, then. I had a feeling you like it. Have a look at the label.”    Jack reached across the table and picked up the bottle. He held it at arm’s length, squinting at it, but then shook his head. A pair of reading glasses was fished out of his shirt pocket and he peered again at the label. “Bolgheri,” he said softly, a smile spreading over his face. He reached out to clasp her hand. “Great memories.”    Paola suddenly became aware of two pairs of watchful eyes. She felt inhibited in her response to Jack, and then irritated with herself.    “I can’t eat this,” Lucy replaced her fork in her dish. “I don’t know what it is.”    Conor, who had been making great inroads into his own portion, narrowed his eyes now in suspicion and put down his fork.    “But it’s Parmigiana!” exclaimed Paola, “One of the most famous dishes in Italy.”    “Well, it just looks like a dark mush to me,” replied Lucy.    “Lucy,” chided Jack absent-mindedly, “that’s not very polite. What’s the grape? Is it a native strain?” He screwed up his eyes, trying to decipher the small print in Italian.    Paola was about to respond when Lucy pushed her dish away. “So much for Italian cuisine…” she muttered, glancing with complicit belligerence at Conor.    “I made that specially for you,” Paola said brightly, “so that you discover things about Italy.”    “Oh dear,” Jack’s head disappeared down under the table, “there goes my napkin—”    “First of all,” said Lucy rapidly and quietly, “you didn’t ask us if we liked it, and second of all, thanks to you we’ve discovered a little more about Italy than we needed to.”    Paola froze. She gazed at the small pinched face across the 207

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table, the freckles standing out against its paleness. The hostility was unmistakeable.    “Got it,” said Jack, regaining an upright position, his face red from the exertion.    Paola schooled her face to impassiveness. “I’ll make sure to ask if you like something the next time.”    Lucy’s jaw inched forward and she looked away.    “I must say,” said Jack, “it’s very kind of you to put us all up like this. I realise we’re crowding you out.”    “Not at all,” replied Paola. “I’m delighted to have guests in my home. If you don’t mind being a little cramped for a few days…”    “Absolutely not!” said Jack.    That note of fake bonhomie again. Not quite sure why, she began to feel defensive. “I know it’s not a five-star hotel, but it’s my home and I love it.”    Jack just smiled that quizzical smile of his.    “Were you expecting something different?” she pursued, biting her lip.    “No, no,” said Jack, just a shade too emphatically, she thought. “It’s just that— ”    “It’s just that…” she prompted.    “It’s just that, when you’ve grown up on picture-postcard Tuscany, and then that first trip we had visiting all those farmhouses and villas, well…” His voice petered out. He smiled sheepishly. “My mistake, my mistake.”    “Well, if you look around you, you’ll see that most people in Tuscany live in precisely this kind of little house, or apartments. This is where I pay my bills and taxes - this is real life.” She took a quick breath in an attempt to remove the sharp note that had crept into her voice. “Anyway, not all Irish people live in either a cottage or a castle.”    “Touché,” replied Jack.    Was this the snag where it would all unravel? Real Life was something that Jack had no desire to be confronted with; why then go out of her way to rub his nose in the shortfall between life and his dream life? She knew all too well that the dream was what he was hankering after. But, in actual fact, it was kind of late in the day for Jack to be visiting her home for the first time. He’d never really shown any inclination to come before now, and she hadn’t wanted to push him. And then he had come up with the idea of bringing the kids over with him and availing of the school holidays to spend some time together. A family trip before the family split up, really. She still wasn’t sure it was the wisest thing to have done, but she understood his need to make this whole transition as painless for them as possible. Make them feel they were still a part of his life, even if he was going to be living in a foreign country. 208

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There was no point in her feeling bad about it; that wasn’t going to help Jack. Her job was to get through this week with as much grace as possible - after all, school would be starting again and then she’d have him all to herself.    So, on with the action-packed activities. First stop, the Campo Santo: the Tower, the Baptistry, and then the Duomo. Not alone was it Easter week, but there was a colourful ceremony scheduled for later that morning. “You see,” she explained to a bored Lucy and a recalcitrant Conor as they queued up outside the door of the Duomo, “the Pisan new year starts on the 25th March. This tradition goes back about a millennium.”    “Dad,” snapped Lucy, “I can’t see why you won’t let me go shopping. What’s with the sightseeing and the churches? It’s just not fair. I never get to do what I want to do.”    “Look,” replied Jack, “let’s do a little of everything. That way we’re all happy.” Lucy snorted. “Yeah, I can see that happening…”    Jack sighed exasperatedly. “Don’t ruin everything, okay?”    Lucy glowered and pushed her way inside. “I’ll check out the crumbly bits and pieces on my own, thanks.” *    It was almost midday. The ceremony would be starting in a couple of minutes. Across the central nave, she could see Lucy leaning against a church pew, a frown of concentration adding to the air of antagonism as she busily texted some far-away friend. Momentarily she paused to wonder how she was coming off in all this. She pursed her mouth. Probably like a cross between the stepmothers in Snow White and Hansel and Gretel. She sighed. It struck her for the first time, and forcibly, just how difficult it would be taking on a teenage girl. And she really hadn’t had that much contact with them so far. Every time she’d gone over to visit Jack in Dublin – it had always been easier for her to get away – the kids had been with their mother and she and Jack had spent a glorious few days of uninterrupted bliss together.    Jack was explaining something to Conor about the Pantokrator mosaic in the cupola over the altar. He gestured sweepingly and then bent down to finish what he was saying. Conor was listening to him intently, taking in every word, the concentration evident in the determined line of his mouth undermined by eyes that flickered in disorientation. Jack finished his explanation and ruffled the boy’s hair.    Paola had to avert her eyes. Jack had assured her that his marriage had been over long before he met her. So at least she had not been the cause of the family breaking up; somehow she could not have lived with that. And their meeting had been such a case of serendipity. She had had no intention of going to the retrospective on the Macchiaioli in Bolgheri, but because the Tourist Board was going to be there, and 209

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she needed to keep a high profile with them, she had decided to put in an appearance. And then she had seen him, tall, sandy-haired, speaking English with the other travel journalists brought in by the Board. She waited until he was standing on his own in front of one of the paintings and then moved over beside him.    “Llewelyn Lloyd,” she had said, gazing at the painting, “He was Welsh, maybe like you?”    Jack had turned to her, his eyebrows arched, and then replied gamely, “Well no, actually, I’m Irish.” Silence fell, and he broke it by saying, “I didn’t know that the Macchiaioli were international.”    “They weren’t. Lloyd’s parents moved to Livorno, where there was a quite big English community. He was born there – so actually he is Livornese.”    “Ah – Anglo-Italian. Best of both worlds, and all that. I just love what I’ve seen already of Tuscany.    They had wandered out of the building housing the retrospective, over to a dry-stone wall, which they leaned against and looked out over the rolling countryside. Under the warm May sunshine, the olive groves stretched away in ridge after gentle ridge. “Beyond that last hill,” she said, “there’s the sea.”    Jack had skipped what remained of the Tourist Board jaunt, spending the rest of the week with her as they travelled all over Tuscany, stopping off at agriturismi, farmhouses and villas. He had asked to be taken to places off the beaten track and she had basked in his obvious delight at what she’d shown him. Late spring in Tuscany, and new love. Something tugged at the pit of her stomach as she thought of that perfect time; but what if those few snatched days of unadulterated happiness had been her apportioned lot.    His marriage was over, he’d told her. Had been for ages. He felt worn down by a routine that allowed him no scope for making something of himself. Jack had taken her hands and, clasping them tightly, said, “I’ve got a book inside me. I’ve got a contribution to make. I have to find a way of getting it out there and making a name for myself before it’s too late.”    The next step had seemed logical to them. He would tie up loose ends in Dublin and move to Pisa. They would live and work together, helping each other, bringing the best out of each other.    “Surrounded by so much beauty,” Jack had said, “how could you not be inspired?”    And if she felt that there was just a little too much emphasis on work, there would be plenty of time to think about a family. Well, maybe not plenty; she had her own pressures to contend with. She’d never been married. When she looked around at the shambles that most couples’ marriages were in, she sometimes felt relieved. But to have never been asked… 210

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How could Carlo have gone out with her for all those years and never wanted to commit? Thirteen years of her life swallowed up by some black hole of listless indecision. Jack was a new start, the chance to make it all come right.    A bell rang, cutting through the clamour of voices. Into the echoing silence fell a priest’s voice, inviting the congregation to prayer. Pisa’s patron saint, San Ranieri, must be looking out for them, he said, because at the last moment the clouds had parted and the sun would now be able to shine in through the rose window and illuminate the stone egg perched on its niche high up on the wall of the nave. It was an auspicious start to the new year.    Time to make her way back over to Jack and Conor. She caught a glimpse of them a little way off and stopped in her tracks. Jack was obviously explaining what was about to happen, his hand resting on the boy’s slender shoulder. The young head was nodding. Suddenly she felt at a great remove from them. And into this gulf silence drifted once again like a mist, stilling the noise and tilting heads upwards. The ray of light shimmered through the central nave, dust motes dancing in its beam, and came to rest on the stone egg on its niche. A sigh went through the crowd like the wash in the wake of a boat. Paola stole a glance at father and son. Jack’s head was upturned like the rest, but the boy was looking down, his hand clasping Jack’s. And then he blessed himself and closed his eyes tightly.    Outside it had rained. Momentarily she felt blinded in the dazzling light that had come after a March shower. The rainwater had given the white marble of the piazza a translucent glaze, while overhead clouds scudded by. In this wide piazza there were no sheltering trees, no sheltering leaves; everywhere this blinding brightness that came rushing at her on the wind: wet green grass, glistening stone and the sky a welter of blue and white.    “Where did you get to?” From behind Jack placed a hand on her shoulder. “I was looking out for you in the Duomo, but you’d disappeared into thin air.    Slowly she turned around. “Too many people, too little air. I had to get out.”    “Bit of a nip now, after that squall,” said Jack. He looked up at the sky and then added with slow deliberation, ‘It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.’”    She frowned. “What is that?”    “It’s Dickens, from Great Expectations.”    “Ah.”    “Can’t say that March in Italy is any different to the March I’m familiar with.” He stretched and yawned. “Keep your eye open for Lucy, we don’t want to miss her.” He turned to Conor. “And what about you, 211

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young man – did you make any Pisan new year resolutions?”

Poetry|Jude Gerald Lopez I’m no longer the same Every day is like the day before Only the air changes, the rest remains. From birth to death everything’s the same, In perpetual haste they all forget to change. But I begged to differ My clothes change, and my hair, but not my name. But all whom I asked said ‘You’re the same’ I’m the same I thought The boy with just one name I need to find a melting pot I thought To transform and evolve into something un-named Lucky Samsa, my envy spoke to me A giant grotesque bug he became. So grand suffering can be, everyone explained “You’re no longer the same” And so I-overcome with pain Take to paper and pour out in vain     Everyday is like the day before     Only the air changes, the rest remains... And once it was done I forgot to read it again Till yesterday, yes yesterday, the day I read it again, Not knowing whose the name is, Signed at the corner of the page It was you, the pages said, that signed the same But that’s not mine...I don’t recognize...I say again It’s changed, they echoed, the sign and the name May be it has and always has. “I’m no longer the same”

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Visual Art|Steve Babbitt

Cafe 213

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SF Ghosts

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SF Street

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Short Fiction|Manorama Mathai Returned Daughter

I

have returned to the ancestral house as so many others have done before me. Widowed, abandoned, the old house was the only refuge for a woman alone. Nowadays, nobody says widows are inauspicious; heads are not shaved, silk saris are not removed, bangles are unbroken, but you became an asexual creature, denied your essential being. I have come back a divorced woman and that is almost worse. Married to a foreigner, I shocked them then and now there is an unspoken ‘I told you so’ on the old aunts’ lips.    I have brought my grief and desolation to bury within these familiar walls. Returned to the scenes of my childhood, in my mind’s eye I see people long departed: grandparents, grandfather frock coated & mustachioed, my kakima, oiled hair flowing down her back, the keys of the household jangling at the end of her sari; my grandmother, filling the paandaans with betel nut, supari, lime; my pishimas, laying baris out in the sun, with sliced mango and lime for pickles.    Now, as I pace the corridors, avoiding the compassion and curiosity that I see in my relatives’ faces, inhabiting that bleak land on the other side of remembered happiness, I feel like a sea creature stranded far from its element. When occasionally the tide of grief recedes it leaves in its wake remembered things, as the sea retreating, uncovers shells, driftwood and debris sticking out of the sand and it is then that I remember Shona.    Shona pishi we children called her, golden aunt. Everyone else called her ‘Returned Daughter’, a sort of annotated sub-text of her history.    Shona was my father’s cousin. In the manner of joint families, my father inherited her as his father had inherited Shona’s mother when she returned as a widow with three daughters.    Grandfather had arranged marriages for the daughters and they had gone to their respective houses while their mother stayed in ours, one of its many dependants. When Shona was ‘returned’ after her marriage, it was to us she came back, the only home she had ever known.    In whispers that reverberated around the old house (as they do now that I too am returned), they said she was returned because she was not quite right in the head, never had been, the old aunts whispered. Others said that it was because she could not produce a baby, a miracle taken for granted, a commonplace. Some of the aunts murmured behind their hands that there had been some entanglement, something disgraceful, sexual, that had caused her to be returned.    Ours is a typical Bengali joint family, every room in the house occupied, sections of the sprawling old mansion with its courtyards and corridors assigned to different branches of the family. There was 216

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no individuality (although, sometimes, a younger daughter-in-law or junior sister-in-law grumbled or jostled for more power) but there was an attempt at separateness through which we children streaked like multi coloured fish against the currents. Shona did not stay long with her husband before she was so unceremoniously returned, hardly any time at all. Was it her mind or her body that was found wanting? But is the human mind so easily plumbed? Did she transgress the rules of marriage? Now, many years later, I would like to believe that she rebelled against her humdrum marriage and took a lover, took her revenge on an uncaring husband. I have little or no memory of Shona’s bridegroom so I could not, even if I wanted to, compare him to my husband. I imagine Shona’s husband was what they called a Bengali babu, a sort of clerk. My husband is English, a high ranking UN officer, with what is known as an English sense of humour and we laughed together often. Then he changed, wanted more than I could give and he turned to others to find what he wanted. That we had no children served to loosen the bonds between us.    The family called Shona Returned Daughter, but to us children she was Shonapishi, who told stories, tales of derring-do, faraway myths. Shona wove her stories as others in the household knitted and sewed and her tapestry was a delight of colour, sound, song and magic. She was a child, cast out from a child’s magical world into a cold adult realm of practicality, (what we call the real world) in which she could not sustain herself.    Shona died a long time ago. Now, exiled from happiness, returned like Shona, my thoughts turn frequently to her and I see her and all the others who formed the kaleidoscope we call family, differently.    When Shona returned from her brief sojourn into matrimony, it was as if she had never been away at all. If there was grief, it was (like mine now) a subterranean thing running through caverns measureless to man. That is the way with women’s grief and female sexuality, it must not be allowed to brim over into madness. It must not be seen.    The only thing she brought back with her was a parrot named Mithoo to whom she spoke in soft tones, feeding him green chilis and fruit. Looking back, I think I remember her saying “you in your cage, I in mine” but I am not certain of that memory.    The family found good use for Returned Daughter, or perhaps she assumed it because everyone needs a reason for living. Shona made the tea, did the laundry, took it to the wash place where for hours she banged, lathered and squeezed, then hung them to dry in squadrons where they flapped on the line like family ghosts. In between she told us stories as we squatted around her, giggling as she banged the clothes against a huge stone and watched the rainbow drops of soapy water.    Oh yes, Returned Daughter made herself useful, but every day at 4.30 precisely, neither later nor earlier, dressed in a clean crisp sari, Shona went to the park near the house. She never ever asked 217

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anyone, child or adult, to accompany her. She sat on a bench, watching the world go by. Elderly people sat and gossiped, children played, all escaping from the small noisy flats that fringed the park.    Shona sat there for one hour precisely and then before dusk fell, she walked back home. This happened every day, as the seasons came and went: the burgeoning bougainvillea, the pale petunia, the resurgent rose, the colours and scents of a Calcutta winter superseded by the heat and humidity of summer, the thunder and lightning of the monsoon.    Now, I sit on that same bench, looking back across the years, surrounded by happy families, children, joggers, and as the scent of winter flowers assail my senses, I wonder what my golden aunt, Returned Daughter, the unlikely Scheherazade of a thousand and one nights, had thought about as she sat there day after day.    Sitting in her place, looking at the people as they walk and jog past me, or sit in vacant dreamlessness on the benches opposite, I wonder what sadness, what privation, lies behind their eyes. Perhaps Shona, too, had wondered, had questioned whether sadness and longing, loneliness and the despair of empty years ahead were her portion alone.    Ours, as I have said, was a joint family in that we all lived together huddled under the same roof, sharing our rice, pooling our income, but what had anyone known of the others? None of us knew what had taken place when Shona went to her brief marriage. It was enough for most of the family that she knew her place, carried out her duties. Her time in the park was her own, something she carved out of her day. If she had secret longings, and are there not sections in every human mind that remain like locked rooms to which no one has the key, they died with her and no one in the family seems to remember. Her story is lost, just another female tragedy, a little brown mouse caught in a trap.    In the park, Ayahs still walk by with babies, children play among the flower beds. But I know something now. Sitting on the bench where she once sat, I know that her calm acceptance will not be mine. I shall not stay within the sheltering walls of the old house. I shall return to the world I fled from where I know there are choices yet to be made. I have lost my way but I must find another path, maybe blaze a trail. I shall look for love but I know that one cannot and must not depend entirely on another’s love, we have to live our own lives. I am no longer a Returned Daughter.

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Poetry|Bhanusree S Kumar The Revival She walked slow and uneasy From the wakeful state To the illusory world Of Morpheus’ reign. All contours of sense Had blurred, There ensued a struggle, Then a dream. A tired figure Frail and fraught, (A wraith-like form Of the writer’s self). She stood before Mara-the sentry, Vile and fiery, Who let her in Sparing no second thought. The sky so sullenA stygian grey, And trees castrated Of luster and leaves, Stood morose witnesses To danger foreseen. Beneath each stele lay Undecayed remnants Of glories unsung, Mundane dreams, Yearnings so on Left to dispose, Never gratified, That brought tears to her eyes. A sudden glare of light Tore her gloom to shreds. Words sacrosanct boomed From Prabuddha reverred. That cloaked her mind From the flares of want. She returned from delusion Energized and clear Free from the tight Clutches of desire. 219

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Short Fiction|Nabina Das Stoical Life Of Gurudas Roychoudhury

G

urudas glanced at his watch. Now he had one. He always looked at the time. Every hour. Every minute. Ever since he had been bedridden. To keep track of time, how time flies, until death comes. He said so. Gurudas was all done with life. He said that too. Now he wanted death. He said he’d die with his watch on.    Seeing him again in the November of 2005 in his doddering Calcutta home, I didn’t think much. He always used to appear pissed off. As though he was born with the umbilical cord around his neck. But honestly, he was a man of integrity, and strangely in our times, pretty stoical. Lead a simple life. Didn’t steal candies from kids, cheat old ladies or take protection from the mafia. People do such stuff. I know it. I’ve been out in the big bad world. Ran my business, dined with money launderers, took bribes. Gurudas was different. His kind of ideals were not seen on the TV, the Internet or the goddamned free market. I missed him sometimes. Although he was a Red.    “Guru-baboo lives alone, a nurse looks after him. The Party sends him some money. Do you want to visit?” That Gurudas was alive but ill, I learned from a former ‘political acquaintance’ inside a hotel conference room.    Nitish, once in charge of campus recruitment of young activists, now – surprise, surprise – worked with a firm selling air conditioners. He had forgotten that Gurudas hated being called ‘baboo’ (“that bloody bourgeois term!”). Gurudas, simply Gurudas.    “He’s become weird,” Nitish whispered.    He always was. “What, still tries to shove the Manifesto down your throat?”    “Uh, he says crazy things. It’s age. You’ll know when you see his eyes.”    After my divorce two years ago, I had no societal or domestic pressures. Gin-and-soda afternoons weren’t bubbling up my life a lot. I said yes to Nitish, the seller of air conditioners to the nouveau riche of Calcutta, and on a balmy early winter evening found myself climbing the rickety steps of an old two-storied house in a decrepit neighborhood. The leader of the masses, a phantom, lived upstairs in a hovel of a room, I found out.    A stiff “Ah, Nitish was telling me!” fell flat on my face. “How old are you Mainak? Forty, huh? Don’t look so!” Gurudas smirked from the crumpled bed, raising his nose like an old dog. “Is that a Rolex watch? The perfume’s different. No more Cartier, eh? But you haven’t changed dandy boy, still a rich brat!”    “You’ve changed,” I said, looking around the grubby setup, and 220

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noticing Gurudas’ watch, a rather fancy white-orbed wristwatch. “And you know the brands!”    “Come on, I fought those kulaks all my life,” he said, rounding his eyes.    I noticed those strange eyes, very bright. Marsh lights set in a gaunt face resembling an old bog contained on top by wisps of silvery streaks of hair. The gray-black irises floated in a cautious rocking motion on dull white orbs, pure methane. He seemed very attached to his watch, in a funny way. I knew several of Gurudas’ comrades – yes, even the Reds – had gone on to become rich. Watches like this are nothing. But that’s okay. That’s what politics does to people. But here was Gurudas, flaunting a simple watch! I was touched.    “Got family Mainak? Did you marry?”    I told about the divorce. About my father’s death in Germany.    “Tell me, are the Germans today ashamed of what Hitler did?” Not waiting for my reply, he continued, “That was when we were watching our great leaders fight the British not only with bombs and guns, but also with knowledge and learning … and who’d imagine those cowards were burning people in the ovens, …” he sighed.    Gurudas still liked being heard. He had been a widower since long. But I think he secretly missed his older son who did swank advertising jobs in Bombay or Bangalore.    “How’s he? You must be really proud. Heard his ad got a French nomination?”    “Bah! Those cities must be rotten to accommodate such scum,” he ranted.    A vacant look overshadowed his sarcasm. I knew from Nitish that his younger son looked after his wife’s father’s business – a garment shop.    “That one’s always been an opportunist,” he summed up.    In staccato outpourings he started telling me how he used to thrash his boys to make them join the Party or at least believe in its overall powers. He had tried every means to turn their minds to conform to his supreme ideology. The boys continued watching television soaps and patronizing popular cinema and culture. Later they tried their hands at setting up free enterprises and even voted for rival political parties.    “Renegades in my own house Mainak! What more can I say?”    I was a renegade too in his terms, once upon a time. Did he forget that?    “And then you came along to make my life worse,” he said grimacing. So he hadn’t forgotten! “Look at you now! I take back what I said. You have changed!”    “What’s wrong with me now?” I said, no longer intimidated by the frail Gurudas.    “Eh, you look like the men from those American magazine ads – ”    “Gurudas! You finally acknowledge I’m good looking, right?” I 221

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said, hand-combing my sparse but silky long hair over my scalp, enjoying the scrap with Gurudas.    “Yes, right. They should’ve had you in Hollywood, next to Ronald Reagan! What’d I tell people – this is the type I hobnob with? I know what’s wrong – you, you have this … this awful American need to feel and remain happy. You’ve changed.”    American need! When I told him he had this awful un-human need to experience death or pain being thrust upon him, he dismissed me that evening. Well, no one else hobnobbed with Gurudas nowadays. Even Nitish, his once faithful ‘Man Friday’, didn’t come much. No longer the firebrand revolutionary, he mostly read The Statesman (“must keep track of class enemies”) in bed, painstakingly underlining paragraphs and lines in red pencil. The only break was when the nurse gave him food and medicine. That’s when I visited and he chatted. Also, he wallowed in his death wish. He seemed keen to die. *    Repeatedly checking the time by his watch seemed to be a new fad. Before beginning anything special or specific, which anyway didn’t involve much because he was ill and bedridden, he watched his watch. Examined food on the plate for a long time before he grudgingly swallowed a morsel at the strike of the watch hand. I tried to humor his obsession. Watching his life and politics closely for several years, I’d seen how Gurudas gradually became obsessed with failure. Past seventy, the muscles of his voice box rung like rusty mandolin strings. His tone jumped from low to high octave in the manner of those Indian classical singers’ voices frolicking – sa re ga re sa, pa ma ga ma pa – across the scales. Only, it sounded labored and strange, that octave-hopping tone. And his eyes too, I remember he once told me something about them. Shooting stars. “What you don’t know Mainak, is that my eyes,” Gurudas Roychaudhuri had said at a rare moment of self-exacting weakness when I knew him as a leader, “are meteors that foresee befalling doom.” I suspected that he suspected – he’d never say this aloud – his politics, dreams, hopes, and together with it the humanity around him, was meant to be one grand failure. Typically taking a certain pride in his imagined downslide. All the while scrutinizing and analyzing others more and more, fastidious, screaming:     “No, not a roller pen, pass me my fountain pen!”     “C cap for Comrades, I repeat, C capital!”     “Always end letters with ‘Revolutionary greetings’, always, do you hear!”    Though that was some twenty-odd years ago, can’t forget it. With each passing day Gurudas turned a fastidious Brahmin priest. A stickler for outmoded norms. Up early morning everyday to read his latest edition of the fortnightly Peoples’ Power with its bold red forty-points masthead; after a frugal breakfast dash to the Party office on time; conduct endless meetings as well as daily study groups to enlighten us 222

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dullards, and plan for union lockouts or rallies in and around Calcutta. In that anthill of a city in eastern India, he used to be a very busy ant, a big Red one. But an honest, good one, I thought at times. A bit weird, but steadfast. Obsessive no doubt, but never dodgy. *    “Why did you come back to me, eh?” Gurudas’s bag of sarcasm was still full.    It’s not because opposites attract. Twenty-odd years at least taught me that!    “You’d prefer being alone? Come on, I’m the only one paying you attention! Where’s your ruthless omnipotent Party, and your comrades?” I mocked. “Nitish said the top brass is always traveling. London, New York, foreign trips, good life, eh?”    “Buggers, bloody buggers!” Gurudas sneered at the invisible top brass but his voice broke. “But I’ve failed my own cause Mainak. I’m a failure.”    He looked so frail and whiney at this point that I felt sorry for him, this old man with no friends or followers. His bog-like face turned darker than the soot on the ceiling. Come on, I told myself, Gurudas Roychaudhuri did try to better some things, the stoical and once charismatic leader of the masses. Too bad he sought the unconventional. Didn’t he himself quite often say: “History wasn’t ready yet for a changeover”? I understood a bit of that now. Understood the rambling, his flaming eyes, his fragility that endeared him to me. If I had no wife or father, he didn’t have anyone. We had each other. Funny.    “Hey Gurudas, think positive. You’ve made me come back to you, see.” I said with enthusiasm, more for myself. “Cheer up!” He grunted.    I thought perhaps, on hindsight, my divorce propelled me to seek this new ‘relationship’. Maybe I was searching for my dead father in Gurudas, also a stickler for norms though of separate kinds. My business was slow too, the stocks dwindling fast ever since this new economy crap happened. All this because India was flirting with American-style market economy. Call centers beat the shit out of my recruiting agency. Whatever it was, we got along better. We had each other.    Fridays were special. Old Gurudas spoke little these days. Although his voice was strong in spurts, exhaustion caused frequent slurring. I read to him from a glass-shuttered wooden cupboard in his dreary room. Afternoons glided this way. I read to him poem after poem, plays, essays and political treatises – mostly of my own choice. That brought back memories of my “Party” days. Bad memories.    “Remember Gurudas, you once thought my diction was dreadful, my knowledge spurious …”    “Uh-huh, knowledge is never spurious. I must have said something else.”    “Well, and, my choice of reading material quite mediocre? I’m quoting you!” 223

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“Not mediocre Mainak, I said ‘reactionary,”. Gurudas groaned.    He hated mediocrity. While Gurudas of the past had possibly assumed that his dream of an absolutely equal world might fail surely, I knew he blamed me for it, or rather, ‘mediocre’ people like me. I tried hard to be above mediocrity so he’d like me.    “Is it true your family has a palatial house in the city and another in the country side?” That’s a question he had asked before, twenty-odd years ago.    “Had. A four-storied semi-Victorian in part marble in New Alipore,” I said. He knew all that. “My brother and I just sold the house last August after our father died.”    Back then, I remembered, he had hurled jibes at me when I told him that our family possessed several acres of paddy fields and a farm house near the Sundarban delta, wrested from my father’s uncle, a pathological gambler. Gurudas was quiet now. He pondered. He knew our dad used to be a successful lawyer. Our family had a couple of chauffeur-driven cars, not a sign of very high wealth given the standard of the “Indian bourgeoisie”, the little nawobs, as Gurudas liked to mock. My brother dealt in precious stones and my sister was married to a film distributor. I was of course the spoilt adventurer, unserious about anything. Gurudas knew it all. But I decided to remind him.    “Be honest Gurudas, didn’t you say once we were a family of capitalists?”    Gurudas squinted. “Did I? It’s better than being kulaks.”    “How’d you feel if I tell you today my impressions about you?” I tested him.    He raised his oblong head and sniffed the air as if something was burning nearby. But this was my chance, again, playfully this time. I did it once in anger, way back.    “You know, you used to be like a Chinese Mandarin, ordering folks around you!”    He made a throaty noise, disagreeing.    “You treated us younger recruits like we were in your fiefdom!”    “I don’t care a bit what you think Mainak,” he said hoarsely. “Don’t malign me!”    I still told him, like I had told him long ago enraging him, that he used power with flourish: “Comrade Maharajah Gurudas! A prince. Sure you don’t have such legacy?” *    “Hey, what do you know about Mount Mainak?” He asked one weekend, munching spiced puffed rice. I spent more time with him on the weekends and he looked more relaxed then. The puffed white grains spilled from his mouth as he spoke.    “What’s that?” Mainak was my name. That’s all I knew.    “Okay, what was Queen Gandhari’s curse on Lord Krishna and his Yadu clan after the great battle of Mahabharata was over?” 224

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Wasn’t sure. Is this quiz time or what? I was more interested in spicy puffed rice.    “Haven’t you read your Ramayana or Mahabharata?” Clearly, he was irritated.    I mulled this sudden change. Gurudas questioning me about Indian mythology and epics was totally new. I gathered courage from my surprise.    “So you did read your Ramayana after all? About ogres and gods?”    He scoffed and then started telling me about his grandmother who apparently knew the epics by heart. “Hah, gone are those days. Now you have that idiot box dishing out absolute junk. Pay money, will preach, that’s it, that’s what they believe in.”    “That’s how the world is Gurudas.” I quickly tried to pontificate over my munching. “Economics is the driver. Hey, as a Marxist you should know that!”    “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” he murmured in reply.    “Now what’s that?” It seemed riddle to me. I reached out for more snack.    “Matthew 16:26. Really, when’ll you learn pretty boy?” His oblong head shook.    Wasn’t sure again. But as much as I admired him, I didn’t want to be called ‘pretty boy’ or ‘rich brat’. Even ‘kulak’. Not after I came back. For a non-believer who starts believing, it isn’t nice to be reminded of his sins. It was the same way for me.    “Ah well! There’s a Corbières on the counter Mainak, I’ll drink it with you.”    He told me he was allowed to drink in small quantities. But I thought I didn’t ever see Gurudas drinking during our earlier interactions. Oh well, those were interactions within the tight rigors of the Party. And we weren’t friends then. Now we are.    “Where do you get this from?” Gurudas and Corbières seemed incompatible.    He drank only special wines he said – French, Spanish, Italian. I poured him a glass. Drinking with him felt special. I was finally in his league. While he didn’t say how he got the wine, he looked livelier with each sip. Right then it also occurred to me death wasn’t ever on his mind before. Medium-built and severe-looking, he ordered around and lived with gumption. Especially, I was never allowed to argue. He openly used to scorn me, barking at me every now and then, “If you aren’t the agent of change, you’re dead.” Now I wanted to show him I was gone far in life, in riches and stature. That’s change.    See Gurudas, Mainak’s your friend? He cares. The wine made me softer to him.    “You’re a stinking entrepreneur!” He didn’t hesitate to say, 225

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quickly getting drunk.    I laughed. After all, his spirit still flickered because of me, my presence. He meant well, mostly. Or was it that I was somewhat mellowed down to think that way? Besides, the wine was good. No, I wasn’t being manipulated, as my old friends would have liked to say. How could an old Gurudas with his silly fancy watch manipulate a forty-year old?    “The watch, let’s see that watch of yours… where did you get it?” I laughed tipsily.    He said the watch was a parting gift when the Party retired him with little else. And looked deep into its dial.    “What? You look as if death’ll come creeping out of the watch itself, huh? Like an infernal worm, to strangle or gobble you?” I acted this part out, arms twisting.    He laughed that dry laugh, shook his oblong head and subjected me to a fairytale about a sleeping princess, in his slurring hoarse voice.     Every night, a hundred-headed snake came out of her nostrils and breathed its poison on her beautiful face, so she never woke up. She remained in a coma for years until a prince came by and chopped off the snake’s heads and revived her.    “That’s the world, with a snake hiding in its nostrils. Who can kill it? I tried. But I was no prince, nothing but failure!” Failure, the mantra, was stuck on his lips like old gum. He was so drunk.    We drank now and then. Especially when the nurse was on her evening breaks. *    My job on late Sunday mornings was to read out aloud the news paper. While I rattled off the day’s headlines he fidgeted on the bed. Something troubled him.    Train mishap at Bandel, twenty dead… (Gurudas gave a sigh)    Makaibari tea hits record price at China auction… (A shrug)    Man kills daughter, surrenders with bloodied knife… (Clicking of the tongue; I imagine he thought ‘bah, cheap sensation’)    BBC commentator says cricket can learn from rugby… (A snort; I almost heard him saying ‘those colonial bastards’ although he never cared for cricket)    Agriculture Ministry lauds bumper grape harvest…    From the corner of my eyes I noticed Gurudas glancing prominently at his watch. Once. Twice. Then gesturing me to stop, he asked the nurse for pen and paper. An attentive twenty minute-long scribble over, he waved the sheet at my nose.    “Read,” he commanded.    It was a long list of names of various wines and liquors – about a hundred of them. He “hm hm hm”-ed mysteriously at me and pointed at a large flat book in his bookcase: Wines and Liquors – A Guide to Homebrewed Good Living. I flipped through the pages, admired the colorful photos and skimmed over the instructions for making “world-class 226

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wines and spirits” at home. Gurudas’ name was on the inside cover. Gurudas with a winemaking guide? I didn’t know Indian Marxists had such hobbies. While putting the book back, I saw there was a mini closet behind a faux partition in the bookcase. Probing, my hands touched several glass bottles. He wasn’t looking, so I looked carefully again. A Burgogne. More Corbières Cognac in a fancy wavy bottle. Who gave him money for these? I was tempted to smuggle out the Bourgogne. I was sure I’d appreciate foreign wine more than the revolutionary Gurudas would. But I let it be. *    Within a couple of days his condition plummeted. Weak and temporarily voiceless, he lay like a sting-less jellyfish on his sandpaperish bed, not moving a bit. No aggression in his eyes. Instead they shone on seeing me, marsh lights in an old gassy bog. The winemaking guide was next to him. The nurse said he wouldn’t put it away. Rejuvenated after a meal of rice porridge and chicken broth, he managed to croak.    “Did you get it for me Mainak?”    I had no clue to what he wanted.    “One of those Côte de Nuits I told you?”    “What are you talking about Gurudas? I don’t know ...”    Suddenly Gurudas’ voice gained unusual strength and sarcasm. “Oh how’ll you know? Petty landowners with blood money that’s what you are!” His outburst continued.    The nurse looked worried.    “Do you know, do you know? My grandfather, a prince from North Bengal, had taste that would stump even the haughtiest of the well heeled. His collection of mirrors, lamps and fine wines was well known. After his travels, his entourage would have to unload boxes full of antiques. My, my … father was an astronomer and built his own telescope. Do you know who I am? Do you?” Of course, he didn’t expect a reply.“You! Bring out the glasses I showed you!” he hollered at the nurse who looked ready to flee.    Sitting up on the bed and waving his long frail arms Gurudas continued speaking in a comic-serious tone that broke every now and then, looking like an ancient bird left alone on a mountaintop, struggling to fly. “Like old Sampaati!” I’d have showed off my knowledge of the epics, were it another time. “You’re like Sampaati the old talking bird who had collapsed after meeting Prince Ram of Ayodhya.” But I didn’t want to mess with him. His eyes, unusually bright, and cheeks sunken to such depths that banished all familiar humanness from his face, showed Gurudas in a rage. He began to cry. And spoke about how he used to spend hours with his grandfather learning to make wine, a hobby no one cared about those days. The old man spent hours in his ‘laboratory’ mixing concoctions. “Gurubhai,” he used to fondly address Gurudas. “You’re my faith brother – ‘gurubhai’ – so I’m going to pass on this skill to you, my little grandson.” As Gurudas went to college, his doting granddad 227

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bought him a Swiss watch. One spring, while visiting a village on his father’s behest to find out if the peasants were harvesting and preparing tax payments without any hitch, Gurudas’ life took a radical turn. He stumbled upon a peasants’ meeting and awoke to their causes.    “I camped in the village with them, ate their humble food, slept on wet hay and refused to return home.”    Again, this wasn’t the moment to remind him that I’d already suspected he had upper-class background. I told him so twenty-odd years ago. A maharajah.    “I sold my grandpa’s gift, the Swiss watch. Never wore a watch since then!”    “Gurudas calm down now. Don’t feel guilty.” Should I tell him how I had spent my father’s resources for less inspiring causes like women and drinking binges?    Gurudas said he even sold his college textbooks. The Roychaudhuri household was in shock. No one had heard or seen an act of such scandalous proportions in living memory – a prince renouncing his property, wealth and comfort for the sake of peasants. But there was no turning back for Gurudas. The absurdity of relationship between the ruler and the ruled and peasants and princes had no place in the twentieth century, he maintained. That’s how the Party became everything for him. He married a woman from an ordinary middle-class background who shared his conviction. They met at a cadre workshop where she dazzled him with her slogan writing and pamphleteering skills.    “That’s the skill she passed on to our older son,” he said, referring to the crackbrained advertising geek who deserted the waning Gurudas for American-contracted assignments in Bombay or Bangalore.    Weary at last, he admitted: “Mainak, I hated all that I didn’t get. I hated your looks, your rich family, your expensive clothes and the pleasures that I never allowed myself. And I haven’t changed.” I know, I know. And he wasn’t in an apologizing mood.    “Yet it’s you who I longed to see before I died,” he whispered.    “Don’t talk about dying, okay? No dying. Just talk to me Gurudas, talk,” I muttered.    “Enough talk! Let’s drink before time runs out.”    He insisted. Time running out was a serious crisis for him. After a few large gulps, Gurudas hummed slowly, studied the dark wooden beam-lined ceiling. Gradually, slipped under the sheets.    “I have a confession, Mainak.”    A swallow was seen through the window, swinging on the eaves. The afternoon sun was about to roll off into a pool of unlightedness. Sparrows complained about lengthening shadows and the whirr of leaves outside in the wind alerted me. What now?    “I lied about my watch being a gift.” He held out his thin wrist. “I betrayed the revolution. Ordered it from a Swiss company. Read about it in a magazine. Very expensive.” He devoured each word with a 228

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gulp of fresh air he noisily inhaled.    “Come now, Gurudas. All of us do stuff for things we want. I swear to God even I did,” I said gingerly. Everyone does. Marxists must too. Not just ‘coupon clippers’ like me. The watch was costly, but then the old man must have paid for it, somehow.    “Ever since I did that, I know the time of my death will show up one day in the watch … or maybe it’ll chime suddenly to warn me.” Gurudas’ eyes seemed infused with an otherworldly fear. He positively looked crazy now. And drunk.    He clutched my shirt as if sensing I’d run away. I must tell him not to drink again.    “Do you realize how time can come creeping on to you, do you? When Queen Kaikeyi deferred asking her boon from King Dasharatha, the old king later paid dearly for the time he granted that bitch. It’s the length of time that the valiant Karna took to pull out his chariot wheel from the damp soil that proved fatal for him. Oh pity!”    I shook his hand. “Stop talking that way Gurudas. You’ve gone mad!” I too was feeling mad and drunk. He wouldn’t let go of my expensive shirt, the old fool.    “Mad? Did you say I am mad, Mainak?”    “I said you are mad, or drunk!” I repeated. “How come you’ve forgotten your Engels and Marx or, or…” I thought fast, desperately, “…even Hegel and Heidegger?”    “But this is mine, Ramayana and Mahabharata, a world of kings and queens, and ogres and spirits.” He looked numb. “They are my fate. And Mainak, yours too.”    That’s it. A blabbering Gurudas yelling behind, I hurled myself down the rickety stairs. I stopped only once to puke by the street below.    Later in the night – I was still sozzled – I got a phone call from Nitish. Emergency call. I just remember Nitish and I took the unconscious Gurudas to a nursing home. Waking up right before being wheeled into the intensive care unit and much to the consternation of the doctors, he asked to speak to me privately. He babbled fast and I don’t remember my reaction. Gurudas said something like he had embezzled neat amounts of Party money and used it to pump himself up now and then with fine drinks, books and other fancy stuff. Yes, he stole funds. Even in his solitary one-room tenement he maintained a mini bar. It wasn’t easy forgetting the taste and smell of wines he had learned from his grandfather. The stylish watch shipped from Geneva was only a small stolen pleasure he allowed himself among so many distinguished others. The swindle ran into a several-digit sum, if calculated carefully, most of it being funds for training young cadres. But I should understand all that. I alone cared for Gurudas. I had come back to him. My head ached like hell from drinking earlier in the evening. I nodded.    “Listen Mainak, behind the books there’s another small closet. Take out the Bourgogne from there. I kept it for you. Others won’t 229

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understand the stuff. And oh, these louts are taking my watch off the wrist, please hold it till I come back.” Gurudas was being wheeled in rapidly. “Someone must toast the revolution yet. Lal Salaam comrade!” I sat in the waiting room. Gurudas’ words buzzed loud in my head.    “Another old radical, huh? This city still has too many.” An off-duty doctor came out with an unlit cigarette between his lips. “And the way they say the red salute!”    I tried putting on a wry smile. I remembered Gurudas threw a fuss if young cadres did not respond to his mandatory “Lal Salaam”. I never did earlier. Didn’t now.    Gurudas died of pulmonary failure the next morning. The Bourgogne was undrinkable. Somewhat bitter. But I needed a drink. So I sat at a bar later and drank alone. Evening arrived with pomp. Giant neon signs marketing dreams and deliriums lit up the nimbus Calcutta skyline. My cell phone flickered. Nitish on the line: “Mainak … The Party’s honoring him tomorrow. Some old cadres will be there, you know, close associates. You coming?”    “I already celebrated. While he was here.” I switched off my phone.

Poetry|Namitha Sebastian Teutonic Twilight dripping blood, Piercing into the dew, Home; cream walls; mother; darkness, My scream - gliding on my smile - I can hear that, But none else around me heard, Sword of morbidity, numb when I saw the dew, I learnt; a single stare melts fires, An eyelash chasing a wounded hound, A small finger clutching, Rag to stop the blood, The essence of humankind, You are very much like the truth, No one wants to see, but when seen, Two meanings emerge Life or Death. Tinkles of glass, pouring red wine through veins, 230

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Assuring; will never reflect what is seen, For her own mother, fire , had taught her silence, A cut out quarter finger, Had hauled my destiny along, Time; chose you - the drop from the ocean, Years of wisdom - You the innate blaze, Curare of arrows - teaching who you are, Still a smile for me after, Jeopardizing the inexorable? Natural exuberance; your self seen in me, Like the ethnology of voice, Living inside those rocks made of water, Which I tried to hear, With my closed eyes...

Short Fiction|Natasha D. Lane Standing in No Man’s Land “Amon, wake up! Mom’s calling you.” Abdel shook me awake. I opened my eyes and starred at him, still asleep. “Come on, Oreo.” He pulled my hair and I wrestled away from his grasp. He smiled down at me, his white teeth in sharp shining contrast to his black skin. “I don’t want to come in here again,” he said and left the room, slamming the door behind him. He always hated waking me up for school, but Mom made him.    I stumbled out of bed and found my way to the light switch. The room became illuminated and I could see the small space I shared with my older brother. Mom had told us we wouldn’t be here long; that Daddy was going to come back for us and we could live with him. She said he was lost. He had not found his way back yet.    I pulled my stepping stool from behind the door and placed it in front of the dresser. I reached into the top drawer and pulled out my school clothes. I had seen my brother wear these clothes so many times when he was in middle school, but then he grew too big and had to get new clothes. Mom wasn’t happy about that, but she passed them down to me so it saved us a little money.    “Amon, baby, are you awake?” I could hear her began to lightly pit patter across the apartment.    “I’m awake,” I called and put my clothes on before brushing my teeth. The buttons always slowed me down. I would always end up 231

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with one side of the shirt being longer than the other.    I sat down for breakfast. Abdel had already left. I turned to my mother, “Is he not walking me to school, again?”    She patted my head and placed a small piece of chocolate beside my cereal bowl. She put both hands on my face and smiled. “Do not worry about that grouch. You are a big boy. You don’t need him. And so handsome, my precious baby with such curly hair and pretty eyes.” I tried to smile. My mother would give me the same speech every day. Abdel hated it. I think he would always leave early just to avoid hearing her. What neither he nor my mother realized was that I didn’t want to be special. My curly fro was like a sore thumb on the playground. It stuck out.    “When will I be old enough to get a haircut like Abdel, Mom?” She shook her head and went into the kitchen. “Why would you need a haircut? You do not have nappy hair like your brother.”    “But all the older boys get haircuts?” I pleaded.    “And none of the older boys are like you. You don’t need it, Amon. Now eat your breakfast before you’re late for school.” I could hear the faucet turn on and the chemical smell of cheap dish soap filled our apartment. My mother worked as a maid, but even when she was home she looked like a maid. She never dressed up in any flower dresses, wore make up or put on those colorful hats like the other neighborhood ladies did on Sundays. But I still loved her. She told me I was what made her beautiful.    My palms were sweaty and my stomach was tight as I walked to school. I watched as the city came to life. People opened up their shops, scurried to work and the smell of breakfast was everywhere. I inhaled. Bacon and eggs. The thought made my mouth water and my stomach suddenly felt empty. Fruit loops couldn’t hit the spot the way bacon and eggs did.    “Hey, how ya doin there, poof ball?” Toni, the owner of the neighborhood deli, rubbed my hair as I walked by. I smiled and waved, but inside I grimaced. I hated that name. Poof ball. What was that supposed to mean anyway? No one called Abdel “poofball.”    I felt my hair. It was silky like a white person’s. I guess that would make me white, but my Mom was black so how could I be white? Abdel was my brother and he was black, so I had to be black, too, right? I mean my hair was curly and black people had curly hair. So, I was black...maybe.    The sun had just peaked, but already the school yard was full of children. I stepped into the concrete jungle, kept my head low and hurried over to the last bench down the court yard, but there was still too much time until the bell would ring.    “Hey, halfie.” Brandon approached me. He was a fat white boy with blonde hair and blue eyes. His clothes were too tight for him and 232

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always had food stains on them, but somehow he managed to have a following at school. “What did you pack for lunch today?” he asked me. I ignored him. He shrugged and snatched my book bag off of my back. I grabbed for my bag but he was a grade older than me and much taller.    “Let’s see here,” he dumped my items onto the ground but managed to find the brown paper bag in the mass of sheets. He examined my lunch and scoffed, “I hate peanut butter and jelly. What else you got?” I momentarily diverted my eyes and looked past him to my brother who was hanging on the other side of the yard. Brandon stepped into my line of vision.    “Those niggers aren’t going to help you,” he said. “You’re not black enough for them.”    I tried to look past him and for a moment I made eye contact with Abdel. He looked away. A knot formed in my throat. It hadn’t always been like that.    “You listening, halfie?” Brandon was still towering over me like some giant snowman.    I tried to gather my things, but he pushed me to the ground and stood over me. “You’re a dirty mud boy like my Daddy says. That’s why you wear old clothes.”    The bell rang and children begin to stampede into the building. Brandon gave me one last look before storming off. I watched as my brother and his friends headed into the building as well. They would never play with me.    Brandon was right about one thing. I wasn’t black enough for my brother and his friends, but I wasn’t white enough for Brandon either. Not that I cared about what Brandon thought. I didn’t want to be friends with a pudge boy like him anyway. Plus, I was white enough for Toni and he was my friend.    I gathered my things into my book bag and ran for the school doors. My day had officially begun.    “In the South, the rule was that if you had one drop of black blood in you, you were considered black.”    The bell rang interrupting Mrs. Lola’s speech. I jumped from my seat with my things before anyone else could even stand. The halls had begun to fill. I ducked under and squeezed between the giants of the school avoiding loose hanging book bags on the way. I burst through the school doors. The sidewalk was only a few yards away.    “Hey, yo!” Someone grabbed me by the back of my shirt and held me in the air. I struggled in their grasp, but they didn’t let go.    “Whatsup, Skunk. You was tryna get out before I could say goodbye,” said Tyrone, his voice too familiar to my ears.    “I gotta go home,” I said trying to think of a better excuse for him to leave me alone.    “Okay,” he dropped me to the ground. “I’ll let you go, but you 233

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have to answer a question for me and my friends before you leave?” He turned to the gang of boys behind him and smiled. They all smiled down at me, but I could not smile back.    “What are you?” Tyrone stepped towards me and I scooted back. “You damn sure ain’t black, but you ain’t light enough to be a white boy either.”    My knees were shaking. I didn’t know the answer. I wasn’t sure I would. “I don’t know,” I said.    One of Tyrone’s friends laughed and stepped forward. “How you not know what you are? I’m a nigger and I know that. Ain’t ya Mama ever tell you?”    I shook my head. A shadow appeared over me. I looked up and saw Abdel standing by my side. For a moment I was hopeful.    “He’s a halfie.” His voice was full of contempt and anger. He loomed over me and a shadow crossed his face making him look like a monster. “That’s all he’s ever going to be.”    “Halfie, halfie, halfie,” they all begin to chant. I covered my ears not wanting to hear the word, not wanting to accept that I did not belong. They circled around me and that circle became tighter. I ran for it, still trying to drown out the sound of their voices calling after me. They followed not too far behind me. My short legs could not make wide enough strides to keep ahead of them long. I felt a rock hit my head and I knew they were too close for comfort.    I turned the corner and ran into the first building I saw. I could hear the other children behind me, but they grew silent at the doors. I hid under a long bench until their voices faded. My heart was still racing. I jumped as I heard a loud booming sound echo throughout the building. I covered my ears and peeked from under the bench. A woman looked down at me, but she did not smile. I crawled from under the bench.    Above me I could see nothing but darkness. Columns on the side of the building stacked up, but disappeared into this darkness as if there was no ceiling. The woman remained motionless and continued to stare at me. I touched her. Her skin was cold and smooth and as I looked into her eyes I realized she was not alive.    Around me there were many more like her. All still and silent in the shadows. I backed away from these figures as they grew closer to me. There was a patch of light at the far end of the building, away from the doors I had come through. I continued backed away from the figures until I stood under the light. They stopped their march towards me. I felt immensely better.    Behind me were two planks of wood placed over one another, one plank hung long ways and the other came across. I wondered who lived in this place or was it home to the motionless figures only.    “What are you doing in here, young man?” I spun around. A tall old man with black skin approached me. He wore a long robe with a white collar and a golden necklace. It looked just like the planks of wood 234

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on the wall.    “Are you deaf, son?” he asked. “I said ‘what are you doing here?’” I looked past him to the door. They had to be gone by now. “I was running.”    “From what?” he asked me, crossing his hands behind his back.    “Kids at my school. They were chasing me. I didn’t know this was your house.”    “I see,” said the old man. “Well, this is everyone’s home so you are welcomed here anytime, my son. Why were these children chasing you?”    I looked down at my shoes. “They were mad at me,” I mumbled. The man chuckled, “Now, what could a little fellow like you do to make a group so mad?”    “I couldn’t answer a question, so they chased me.”    “What did they ask you?”    “They asked me what I was.”    “What you are?” He raised a brow. “I’m not sure what you mean.”    “Like if I was black or white, but I don’t know. My brother is black, but he’s only my half-brother so…I don’t know what I am. My Mom’s black, too, but my skin doesn’t look like hers.” I looked up at the old man. Maybe it had taken a while for his eyes to adjust, but now I was sure he could see me well enough. The recognition set in on his face. He knew I was a halfie.    He walked closer to me. I covered my head, but he did not touch me. I removed my arms and looked around to realize he had actually walked past me.    “Come here, son,” he said. “I want to show you something.” I followed him. He pulled on a long cloth that came falling to the floor. Behind it was a picture of a man with bronze eyes and brown skin.    “Do you know who this is?” he asked me.    I squinted my eyes. “My Mom used to have a picture of him hanging on our kitchen wall, but she said it wasn’t brining her any luck so she took it down. She called him Jesus.”    The old man nodded, “Yes and do you know who Jesus is?” I shook my head. “He is our lord and savior. Our God. He died so that we all could live.”    I looked from the priest to the picture. “So, I guess he’s important, then?”    The old man laughed, placed his hands behind his back and shook his head as he walked across the room. He pulled down another cloth and it was the same picture, but this time the man was white with blue eyes. I didn’t understand.    “So, Jesus, is white?” I asked. He shook his head. “He is black?” He shook his head. “Then, what is he? Is he a halfie like me?”    “My son,” the old man said clasping his hands together, “he is both black and white, but he is also not black or white. You see young 235

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boy, it does not matter what color he is because he is still Jesus despite. What people see during the day is just an outer layer of color our savior has placed on us, but this color does not change who we are.”    “Don’t you have to be one or the other?” I asked.    “Before you are anything you must be yourself,” he said. “What is your name?”    “Amon.”    He placed a hand on my shoulder and starred into my eyes. “So, you are…” He starred at me.    “Amon?” I said. unsure if this was the right answer.    “Yes,” the old man squeezed my shoulder, “You are not black. You are not white. You are…” He eyed me again.    “I am,” I looked up from the floor into his eyes, “Amon.”    A bell rung and the loud ring echoed through the building, but I was not afraid.    “What does that bell mean?” I asked.    The old man patted my shoulder. “It means it is time for young boys to go home. I am sure your mother is worried about you. Come on, now.”    He placed his hand on my back and guided me to the doors. I waved goodbye and begin to walk home. The sun had begun to set and my shadow appeared in the slithers of light left. I starred at my shadow. It stretched all the way down the sidewalk like a giant and yet I was no more than four feet tall. My shadow was dark, but my skin was still light. So, I was black and I was white. Like the old man said this color I wore was only what people saw during the day. But now that the sun had begun to sink another color of me was showing. Another side of me was stepping out to say hello. My shadow.    Jesus must have had a shadow, too. So, he could be both black and white. Hide one side while showing the other.    This thought stayed planted in my mind. I picked at the mac and cheese with bacon bits my mother had served me. The bacon bits were mixed all up in the mac and cheese. Maybe, I wasn’t like Jesus. Maybe, I didn’t have his power to be both while at the same time being neither. Maybe, I was just like the bacon bits and mac and cheese. All mixed up into a mushy mess.    “Honey,” my mother brushed my hair down with her hands. “You, okay? I made your favorite and you ain’t even touched it yet.”    I shook my head. “I’m just not hungry, Mom.”    She frowned. “Try the fired chicken or collard greens. Maybe, you’ll like those. Handsome boys like you gotta eat.”    I shook my head again. “I can’t. I have things on my mind.”    The lines stretched from my mother’s mouth and disappeared into her cheeks. She threw her head back and laughed. I had never seen her laugh like that. It was pure, made of nothing, but sheer joy. I couldn’t help, but smile a little myself. I liked seeing her happy. 236

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She patted the table and took in a deep breath as her laughter died down. Her eyes were full of happy tears. “You got things on your mind?” She repeated my words. “Not even twelve and you already got things on your mind. A typical man, aren’t you? Tell, Mama what things you got on your mind.”    Abdel was frozen at the end of the table. He had cleared his plate, but had stayed to watch me and Mom. I could see the lines form on his forehead. He didn’t want me to ask her, but she was the only one who could tell me. Daddy was still lost. I needed someone to let me know. If I knew what I was the kids at school would leave me alone, I could make friends and Abdel would want to hang out with me after everyone else accepted me. I didn’t blame him for not wanting to be seen with a halfie. He could be my brother again and things would be like they use to be.    “What am I, Mom?”    She frowned. “You’re a little boy, Amon.”    I scratched my head, hating the silky feeling of my curls. “But, I don’t look like you and Abdel.”    She stopped eating. “What are you saying, Amon?”    “I just…I’m not black like you and Abdel, but I’m not white either. So, I don’t know what I am. I need to know, Mom.”    She looked around the table and took a deep breath before meeting my eyes. “Look, honey. Your Daddy was white and I’m black. So, you’re mixed.”    “But I don’t want to be mixed like the mac and cheese and bacon bits,” I shouted. “I want to be black like you and Abdel.”    She clasped my face in her hands and shook her head. “No, you don’t. Look, you’re special, baby. You got the best of both races. That puts you a leg up over everyone else.”    Abdel’s plate crashed to the floor. He stormed from the kitchen into our bedroom and slammed the door behind him. Mom watched him leave. She whispered, “Boy, can’t accept the truth.”    “What’s the truth?” I asked.    “Shh,” she placed a finger over my mouth. “No more talk about race, okay? You’re my little boy and that’s all that matters. You don’t know how special you are. Now go watch a little tv.”    I knew our conversation was over with. Anytime my mother wanted to distract me, she would tell me to go watch tv I sat on the couch and pretended to watch Spongebob, but all my eyes could focus on was the door Abdel has disappeared behind.     “That puts you a leg up over everyone else.”    So, did that mean I was better than my brother? Just because he wasn’t mixed. But he was better at so many things than me. He was the best basketball player in the neighborhood and could shoot mid court. He was good at math, video games and everyone at school loved him. He was everything I wasn’t, so, how could I be better than him?    It didn’t make sense and I fell asleep frustrated. This wasn’t how 237

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the world was supposed to work. I thought everyone was equal.    “Hey, Amon. Do you want to walk to school with me?” I scarfed down my Cheerios, grabbed my book bag and ran out the door beside my big brother. He had invited me to walk to school with him. I couldn’t believe it and refused to miss the chance.    As we were walking to school a man lay on the ground at our street crossing. He was mumbling to himself and his eyes kept looking around him. He had a strong smell that reminded me of the bottles in Mom’s locked cabinet. I pressed up against Abdel, trying to stay as far away from the man as possible.    My brother wrapped his arm around my shoulders. I looked up at him. “I got you, Little Bro.” Abdel smiled and place me on his other side, away from the crazy talking man. He clasped my hand in his. I held on tightly.    When we got to school he patted my head and left to sit with his friends. I took my usual spot at the last bench alone. It didn’t even matter that he hadn’t invited me to sit with the others. He was talking to me again and he walked me to school. Maybe he had changed his mind about me, maybe we could be friends again.    School blew by me. I spent all my time thinking about what I was going to do with Abdel afterwards. We could play basketball, the video game or maybe he’d walk me to the park to get on the swings.    When the last bell rung I waited for Abdel at the school gate just like we used to when I was in elementary, but he never showed up. The school yard was deserted. I walked back into the building thinking he had stayed late for coach class. Where ever I looked I could not find him and soon I had searched the whole building. I left through the back exit and begin to walk around to the front when someone grabbed me. I didn’t have a chance to see who threw the first blow because one came right after the other.    I covered my head and tried to protect my face, so they started kicking my sides. I could now see that I was surrounded by the black kids at school. The older kids, Abdel’s friends, stood back and ordered their younger siblings to beat me.    “He thinks he’s better than us just because he’s light skin.”    I didn’t think that at all. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be black.    “Beat his ass! Harder!”    It was an order that couldn’t be refused. Younger kids always admire their big brothers and sisters just like I did Abdel. If he had told me to beat someone up, I probably wouldn’t have refused, but I didn’t know why his friends wanted to hurt me. It had never gone this far before. Just some name calling and chasing but they had never jumped me.    I saw Abdel walking up behind the school. My heart leapt 238

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and I smiled as I thought of what he was going to do to these kids for touching me; his little brother. As he got closer, the crowd began to split. I took my arms away from my head, smiled and looked up at him. He had come to save me. They were all going to pay now.    He was a few feet away from me. I reached my arms up waiting for him to help me to my feet. “Mama’s boy!” he spat the words. His fist crashed against my face and everything went black.    Everything hurt as I walked home. It was dark out. Mom was going to be mad but I couldn’t walk any faster. The last thing I remember was Abdel’s face standing over me, but he didn’t look like himself. Everything on his face was tight and strained. He wasn’t the big brother who had walked me to school; no he was something full of hate. The thing was I didn’t know what I did to make him hate me so much. I didn’t know what I did to make him ask everyone to beat me up. I didn’t know.    I was a few blocks away from my home when I passed the deli. Toni waved at me.    “Amon!” He patted my head, “what are you doing out so late? Your Mama’s going to have ya head if you don’t get home.” He ruffled my hair.    I remained silent and lowered my head. He grabbed me by my chin and forced my face up into the street light. I couldn’t read the expression on his face, but strangely he smiled.    “What? You getting bullied, Little Amon? Yeah, it used to happen to me too when I was a kid until my Dad taught me to box. You need me to teach you some boxing moves? Come on, let me teach you.” He kneeled down in front of me and held up his fists. He tossed them out, hitting the air on the side of my face.    “Jab, jab, cross. You see? Hit them with a combo like that and those bullies will leave you alone. They didn’t hurt you too bad, did they?” I lied and shook my head, but he still grabbed my chin turning my face from side to side. He patted my cheek when he was satisfied.    “Thanks, Toni.”    He waved his hand. “Don’t worry about it. You know we’re pals, little man. So you going to tell me why those kids were messing with you?”    “Because I don’t know what I am. I’m not black, but I’m not white either.” I closed my eyes and held them tight. “They called me a skunk.” The tears ran hot and fast down my face. Toni opened his arms and I fell into them. He patted my head as I soaked his shirt with my tears.    “Come on, now. Come on, now, little guy. Don’t cry. Here, come into the deli and I’ll make you a Reuben and coke, huh?” I nodded my head into his shoulder. Toni took my hand and led me into the deli where I sat at a small table. He disappeared behind the counter and returned a few minutes later with my food. I bit into the corn beef and swiss on rye, not even caring that the crust was still on.    Toni took the seat across from me. He smiled, “You must have 239

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been hungry, kid! You’re chowing down better than me.” He patted his stomach.    “I didn’t have lunch.” I took a swig of Coke.    “You good?” he asked. I nodded.    “Alright,” he scooted his chair beside mine. “Now listen, kid, I’m going to have a few late nighters coming in. A little bit of a rush. I think I may need some help…” He smiled at me.    “But I still don’t know what I am, Toni.” I placed my face in my hands. “Am I black or white?”    “You’re Amon. Toni’s little buddy. Next time those kids bother you, tell them that and if they got a problem they can come talk to me. I’ll throw a few combos their way and let’s see what they say then.” He winked and I smiled. “Now, let me fix you up. Don’t want you scaring the customers.”    I nodded vigorously. “Well, you gotta finish eating first, man.” He gestured towards my plate. I looked at the sandwich. In one swallow I had scarfed the Reuben down. In the next, the coke was gone. I turned to Toni. “I’m ready,” I said with swollen cheeks. He laughed. It was the same laugh my Mom had had the other night at dinner. Pure, nothing but sheer joy.    “Order up!” I rang the bell on the deli counter and waited for the customer to get his meal. An Asian man stood and approached me.    “When did Toni get a little helper?” he asked with a smile.    “I’m not his helper,” I said.    “You his son?” His eye brows were raised in question and surprise.    I wished. “No.”    The man continued to smile, “Then, what are you?”    I froze. My mouth wanted to form the words “I am Amon,” but somehow that still didn’t seem right. I looked around, but Toni was taking care of another customer.    “Well,” my voice was shaky, “my Mom says I’m mixed?”    He raised his eyebrows even further and shook his head, “No, I didn’t mean-“    “Hey, Leo!” Toni appeared beside me and handed the man his plate. “This here is Amon.” He slapped a name tag on my shirt. “He’s my buddy. Helping me out tonight.”    “Thanks, Toni.” The man nodded and waved goodbye to us.    “You keep that, okay?” Toni pointed to the name tag he had placed on me. I nodded. “You ready to go home? Your Mom is going to kill me, but seems like we won’t be having anymore late nighters.”    “Okay, don’t worry though. I’ll make sure she doesn’t kill you,” I smiled.    I grabbed my coat and book bag. Toni swopped me into his arms and carried me home. He had walked less than a block when I started to fall asleep. My eyes were heavy and I could feel my breathing 240

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slow down. I nestled my face into his neck.    “Dad, when are going to be home?” I asked half asleep.    He rubbed my back, “Soon, we’re almost there little man. You go to sleep, okay?”    I drifted off without even realizing.    Mom tucked me in and kissed my cheek. “Don’t do that again, Amon. You nearly scared the life out of me. If you’re going to go over to Toni’s then, come home and tell me first, okay? And that bruise on your face, you need to be careful on the playground. Don’t want your nice skin getting scars.”    I nodded. My eyes were heavy with sleep. She smiled at me, “I can be happy knowing I have a beautiful son like you. You make me beautiful, Amon.” She got up to leave. I grabbed her hand.    “Mommy, I think you’re beautiful. You’re a good person.”    She laughed, “A dark skin girl like myself-“    “I like your skin, Mommy.” I rubbed her cheek. “It’s smooth and pretty. You’re already beautiful.”    She placed her hand over my own. It was shaking. She had closed her eyes and smiled, but it was a sad one. “Goodnight, baby.” She kissed my forehead and left the room. The door closed behind her.    “Half-breed,” Abdel whispered in the darkness.    I walked alone to school again. As I passed Toni’s deli I could taste the Reuben and Coke in my mouth. I would have rather spent the day with him than at school.    The yard was full again. I took my usual seat. Abdel and his friends watched me closely, smiling while they did so. I looked away from them. They weren’t good people. They were mean and no matter how hard I tried they still rejected me. And now they had beaten me up. I didn’t want to be one of them anymore. I didn’t care about Abdel. He was just another black bully in the yard. I looked down at the name tag Toni had given me.    I was Amon.    Brandon waddled toward me from across the yard. He had a wide grin on his face and his fists were balled so tight his hands were pink. I watched him, knowing what he was going to do. He was going to push me around, call me a few names and tell me I could never be white. I wasn’t good enough to be white according to him, but who was he to say what I was or who I wasn’t? What I could be and what I couldn’t be? Who was anyone to judge me? I was the only one who could judge me.    I had my name tag, the Jesus man, Toni and Mom. Brandon was just a red faced fat ass. Abdel was a traitor.    I stood and walked toward the back of the school, away from Brandon. Of course, he followed after me, his stomach jiggling the 241

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whole way. I wasn’t going to be anyone’s victim anymore.    Usually, only the janitors used the back entrance and in the morning they would leave a broom outside to do the back sweeping. I grabbed the broom and smacked it against the brick wall. The brussel head fell off. I turned around and thrust the stick forward. Brandon stumbled backward. I slammed the stick on the ground and roared.    “Ha!” I shouted.    “What are you doing, mud boy?” Brandon glared at me. Kids begin to appear behind the school from the playground.    “Oreo,” Tyrone sneered from the front of the crowd.    I slammed the stick on the ground and barred my teeth. “I am not a mud boy. I am not an Oreo.”    “He’s mad because he doesn’t know what he is,” someone giggled in the crowd.    I screamed, “I don’t care anymore. I don’t want to be white or black. You all hate me! Brandon beats me up because I’m too black. Tyrone hates me because I’m too white. Ha!” I swung the stick at Brandon as he tried to step forward. He fell to the ground and the stick hit air.    “But I have a white friend and he likes me. I have a black friend, too and he doesn’t care that I’m a little white.”    Brandon scoffed, “Any good white man wouldn’t be friends with you.”    “Yes, he is,” I shouted. “His name is Toni and if you have a problem with it go talk to him and he’ll knock you out!”    Everyone was silent. They watched me and I watched them. Then, they all burst into laughter.    “You still don’t know what you are, halfie.”    “Skunk!”    I raised the stick in the air and slammed it into the crowd. “I am Amon!” I shouted. “Amon, Amon!” I continued to slam the stick into the crowd and children begin to run. I followed, swinging at their legs.    “My mother named me Amon. I am not a skunk. I am not a halfie or oreo. I am Amon. Look at my name tag!” I hit Brandon on his stomach, he stumbled over. I tripped Tryone and he fell to the ground as well, but I was angry with them all and so I followed behind the others and hit any exposed flesh.    The school bell rang and everyone ran inside the brick building. I stood outside just as the sun spread completely across the yard.    I opened the apartment door. Abdel sat up from the couch as he heard me come in. He starred at me. I dragged the broom stick in my left hand. He sat back down and turned back to the television. My mother came out of her bed room and into the kitchen. She smiled at me.    “Now, what did my little one learn today?” she asked.    “That I am Amon,” I responded.    She raised her brow as she took off her work shoes. “Well,” she said, “that is an important lesson to be learned.” 242

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Visual Art|Tripti Singh

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Interview|Mamta Madhavan A tete-a-tete with Anita Nair In a one hour interview, Anita Nair discusses about the Hay festival, its influence on the literary audience, creativity and herself.    “It’s a nice venue to meet writers because normally you know about them through the picture painted by the media where most of them would be reserved and guarded in their conversations. And here you get to see them in a space where they are less guarded, informal and notso-cautious when they interact with other. It gives you a greater insight to what they write. I am not that keen on meeting any particular writer/ poet because when I meet them the aura drops off and often, it demystifies their writing. It’s like meeting your favorite star and you don’t feel the same again. This is also a fine opportunity to advance the developed literary senses of the reader to a high. It’s also an amalgamation of all types of writing. This festival is an eye opener to the reader where they are exposed to various writers from other countries so that their literary sensibility matures and expands. There are going to be writers from other languages all over the world for the Hay Festival, English will be the common platform.    I have translated the Malayalam novel ‘Chemmeen’ written by Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai into English. Translating another writer’s work is a great methodical exercise. Recreating someone else’s work is an added responsibility and the fact that the author is no more increases the responsibility because there is no one to check and let me know what is right and what is not right. I enjoy translation but I shall not take it up unless I am seriously moved by the subject or it’s a huge challenge. I can do Hindi and Tamil translation too but I am comfortable with Malayalam because that is what I speak at home and I have an instinctive understanding with the language. Translation is too docile a word – I would term it as Trans-creation. The idea is to decipher the metaphor – that is, if it’s a rustic poem; it should have the same rustic metaphor that is equivalent to it. It should capture all levels of the person’s vision without losing the essence of the theme and story and the language should not be jarring.    I have been fortunate in having publishers who have given me the freedom to choose what I want to write and they publish it for me. The title of a book is very important. It captures the essence of the story, it’s crucial for me. That is what attracts a reader to buy a book.    All my novels are removed from reality. I lead a normal life. And all the experiences or most of them are drawn from my imagination and supported by research. I speak to the people who can give me a 246

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realistic picture and write accordingly. My poetry is always personal. I am not a regular poet. I am not one of those people who write poetry daily or once a week, I write it only when I am deeply moved by something – an event, a happening or something that has left a lasting impression in my mind.    I write mostly for myself. I have written for myself. But there is no point in writing for an esoteric group or an esoteric fiction where it does not reach out to people. I would like my work to be read by a wider audience. Though my books have been translated into other languages, I don’t know how to evaluate them. The only way I can gauge, is by the way the translators question me.    A novel for me takes anything from 18 months to one year to write. The fastest novel I have written is the one I am currently writing and Ladies Coupe. It’s not so difficult to get published nowadays. Publishers are always looking for new voices to keep the publishing industry fresh. So if they see any distinct form of writing they are keen to back that person. Poetry is different. It’s a niche market so there won’t be many takers to publish a poetry book. I have seen Harper Collins publish poetry of fresh writers. But then many of them remain on the shelf of the book shop where it is neither read nor do they get reviewed. I do see waves of brilliant, mediocre and bad writing. The market has opened up for commercial fiction now. And it’s like, at some point they might be glutted by reading that and they might be tempted to attempt reading literary writing. Those who have no penchant for reading and read only magazines might start with commercial fiction and later on move to better books.    Criticism does not bother me as long as it’s impartial and not biased. There are people who read about me on the web and form an opinion and based on that they review my book which is annoying. I do book reviews and I have written bad reviews on books but they have been terrible work. But then it’s solely based on the book and had nothing to do with the writer. But yes, good reviews or bad reviews make the book more noticeable than the mediocre reviews it can get.”

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Short Fiction|Neil Campbell Pheasants

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eorge sits on the quad bike by the fence, collapsed shotgun at his side. Midges and flies swirl in the half light heat. The sun sets beyond Oaky Knowe. The branches of the overhanging ash trees absorb their own shadows, become heavier, darker, don’t move. Pheasants in the fields around Flush Burn gurgle and bubble and chase madly through the dusk. The smoke from George’s roll up briefly dissuades the blood sucking midges that move to cows and sheep in adjoining fields. The A69 is suddenly silent, and that silence foregrounds oystercatchers calling by the river; the noises of distant cows and sheep; and curlews, and lapwings higher still on Ridley Common. The branches of the elms vibrate to the fly past of spiralling bats. George points at the fading pheasants. Then his squinting eyes close. He lolls across the wheel of the quad bike and is woken almost immediately by the headlights of a passing car glinting on his gun.    He parks the quad bike and makes his way to the Bowes Hotel. Doreen is working behind the bar. Asa sits there with his notebook, and Derek sits with a pint. They all smile briefly as he shuffles past the pool table to his stool at the bar.    ‘Pattinson around?’ asks Doreen.    ‘Na.’    ‘Well if he is you’ll see him.’    ‘Aye. If I stays awake.’    She puts his pint of Guinness on the bar. He thinks of something, realizes it is about himself, says nothing, and half turns as someone on the television says, ‘chives are the gladiators of the herb world’. ‘Turn it over,’ he tells Doreen. The others look up at the TV, to where a reporter tells of another British fatality in Helmand Province.    The opened window brings the distant sounds of curlews and oystercatchers and sheep and cows, and the occasional logging truck going past behind the Bowes on the A69. George blows smoke towards the window. The front door locks. The light from the bar disappears from the road outside. Doreen comes up the stairs, undresses in the dark. Finally gets into bed. Thinks she’s too tired then submits, and they sleep entwined in a mixture of bar room and moorland scents.    In the morning he joins her in the bathroom before leaving for the moorland. He kisses her neck, smells her hair, checks his watch, kisses her lips and then says goodbye. She hears him leave as she applies eye liner. The lad from Allendale bangs on the front door. She makes her way down to the cellar, reaches up, opens the cellar doors and brings in the summer light in an expanding rectangle across the stone floor, a million motes blowing up to where the lad stands; his crotch at her eye 248

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level. He smiles, and leans on the first of the silver barrels.    In the fields below Shaws there’s a trail of sheep wool in the grass. The barbed wire fences surrounding the field are covered in sheep wool too. Sheep scratch themselves on the wires and George has to untangle one that becomes enmeshed. As soon as they see him on the quad bike they rush over, surrounding him, crowding him as he gets off, brushing and banging on his legs as he fills the feeders.    Black clouds lower. The first heavy drops come. In the field the sheep stand in the rain. George stands in the shed, his face surrounded by the smoke from his roll up. The rain lashes the road, the drops bouncing up and down. The rain stops and the sun re-emerges. There is steam rising from the road. The fields and the sheep glisten as sunlight shines on the fallen rain.    A fighter jet from RAF Spadeadam tears through the clouds, appearing in the blue sky and disappearing as quickly again into grey. The wet sheep remain still save their jaws chewing on the wet grass in the glistening fields below Shaws. A navy blue line comes moving through the trees. Northern passes across the scene below faces in rain.    George fills the blue buckets then gets back on the quad bike, rolling up and down over the drying moorland. There’s a buzzard crying over Shaws. A curlew strides through the field at Partridge Nest. In the fields below Broad Wood, the grey beaks of rooks peck the dark green grass besides jackdaws and the red beaks and legs of oystercatchers. On the river bank below the council houses at Broad Acres, near where the ford used to be, a grey heron skulks with feathers folded, eyes locked on to the river.    Dusk. George stands on the riverbank behind the trees as Pattinson spreads feed out on his side of the river to attract pheasants across. The water brushes slowly past overhanging branches. In the nearby nature reserve at Beltingham a dog snuffles through plant life, drags a stick through sand. Pheasants rise in crashes from the undergrowth all around George on the south side of the river. Cocks and hens cross the water in frequent rushes of vibrating wing.    George straightens the shotgun, points it at Pattinson and sits there in the dusk surrounded by midges and flies. The sky sucks in the daylight. Doreen appears. There’s a plop in the water and a ripple expanding in circles through the darkness.

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Visual Art|Turlach O Broin

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Short Fiction|Paul GnanaSelvam Komalam and the Market Women

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even ATMs, four cash and two cheque depositors, I count. And every one of them is occupied by customers, awaiting their turns with a perfected tinge of patience and eagerness. As if there were anymore standing space, more people continue to pour in until all visibility to the entrance is lost. No! You listen to me, I tell the cash deposit machine as I force-feed it the last fifty- ringgit note to end my transaction, even tempted to give it a kick. With the long queue heaving and sighing about, the machine- an onslaught of auto-programming that had not considered flexibility- refuses to accept any new notes, causing much delay. Each time it rejects the transaction, I push in the new, smooth note as I do not want to make another trip to the bank.     “Technology nowadays,” I begin to complain to the person standing behind me. I can sense his warm breath over my shoulders. Perhaps he is peering to see what is taking me so long.    In the midst of the overcrowding mayhem, I notice two hands extending from the sides of the bank’s huge glass doors, palms mechanically opening themselves each time somebody walks in or out of the doors. The pair of long and wrinkled hands are brushed away by clumsy thighs and knees or pushed aside by other weary hands and they remain empty.    I am not all that perturbed by beggars as they have become a common sight at banks, SPORTS TOTO and Da Ma Cai outlets that I frequent. But my heart does pity the relentless hands that seem to have unearthed the secret to perpetual optimism.    I let out a heavy breath and remember that I have to buy dinner for the family later as it is pay- day. The banking chore is the most prominent of all other features of pay-day, when the loans and bills are to be settled. But, it is also a day when the family gets a treat for dinner- either an outing or a take away.    The beeping sound from the teller signals that my transaction has been accepted and it takes a few seconds for the receipt to come out. I pull it out and turn to walk towards the door. Outside it is already dark and the road is teeming with cars and motorcycles. As I near the door, the pair of hands shoots out almost immediately and this time I can see its owner.   It belongs to an old woman. She could be in her early sixties with fair complexion. Her closely cropped hair suggests that she could have just fulfilled a vow. She does not have anything about her except for the three glass bangles shimming quaintly on her twiggy arms. She looks up from where she sits, smiles and says “aiya” as she stretches out 253

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her hands towards me. The pleated skirt of her sari gracefully cascades down the lower steps of the bank’s entrance like the fan-tails of a peacock in a courtship dance from where she sits. Her eyes, almond and hazy, complemented by a pair of high cheekbones are pretty and enchanting, I think, for a woman of her age.    A sudden thought crosses my mind and I actually recollect that I recognize this woman. Yes, I do know her, not personally, but from my childhood days when I used to walk to the market. She had a name. I pondered for a while. Komalam, yes, she was known as Komalam by the market women- the vegetable vendors, municipality workers and shoppers alike. Yes, of course, I emphasize again, she is Komalam- who had remained a permanent silhouette that had crossed my paths throughout my growing years.    “Aiya,” Komalam calls again, her nose stud shimmering brightly. I decide I could spare her some loose change. I pause and stand to open my wallet, only to find more and more fifty and one hundred- ringgit notes in it. She extends her hands, this time lifting her head up, her eyebrows raised in question. I run my fingers into my jeans and shirt pockets to look for smaller denominations, ten- ringgit, or five-ringgit bills, a smaller denomination that is worth parting with. But they too are not available. Not knowing what to do, I walk away quickly, without throwing another glance in her direction.    The restaurant is located at the end of the same block from the bank. I make my orders and sit down, with my heart pounding with guilt. I am still transfixed by those droopy pair of eyes and the sarcastic grin Komalam gave me. How could I? I think. I shouldn’t have stood there and opened my wallet and changed my mind. Poor Komalam, she must be terribly disappointed. God is watching me, isn’t He? I have tricked an old vagrant, whose name I exactly knew! *    As I attended the afternoon session at school, I was berated with the marketing chore- something that I had hated as a young boy but cherished later on. As usual, I left with the shopping list that my mother gave me each morning after breakfast at nine. To reach the market, I had to cross a river and walk almost ten-minutes on a road that glided upwards. Once the river was crossed, the two- lane road revealed an entire population that was either going or returning from the market. There was a village that ran along the main road that sprouted into many smaller roads from its sides that were pocketed with homes, vegetable patches and a noodle confectionary. The end of the main road then branched out into a cross junction at the top of the hill and the market was on the immediate left turning.    That was when I would see Komalam, cycling past me on an old CHOPPER, laboring, as she went up the hill. She was almost always dressed in a sari, one of those thin, soft and bright colored nylex saris that were popular at that time. If I were late, I would see her 254

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swooshing freely down-hill with her goods hanging from either side of the handle bars, swiftly but assuredly, always looking up and proud, with the pleated mid- part of her sari tucked tightly between her legs. I admired her for her agility on the bicycle, her confidence and her eversmiling face. I didn’t exactly know where she lived, but she would slow down and vanish into one of the smaller lanes along the main road just before reaching the bridge. Sometimes I waited to pick brinjals and tomatoes side by side with her at the market stalls. I was enchanted at the subtleness with which she picked at the vegetables. The time that she took to smell them and the way she tested on their textures with her long fingers. There was such prudence and grace as she pressed the onion knobs or pricked the top ends of ladies fingers and scratched on the water gourds.    The market women did not talk to her though they had tried to befriend her once. “What is your name?” they had asked. Komalam did not answer. Then they wanted to know where she lived. Still, Komalam was bent on concentrating on picking the fresh red and green chilies. The market women stopped smiling. This time, with a forced intonation, they asked where her husband worked. Komalam dropped what she was doing for an instant, looked up at them, looked at me and laughed with her mouth closed. She laughed abruptly and uncontrollably with only her chin tightening under her mouth like a tight pouch. Then, she handed the chilies she had gathered to the woman behind the counter, paid for it and left. The bewildered women gaped as they waited for an answer. Whenever she approached their stalls thereon, their talkativeness almost subdued into silence and they communicated to each other from the corners of their eyes. They spoke only after she had left.    I couldn’t care less. Neither did Komalam. She always appeared to be surrounded by a non-decipherable aura about her, just like the patterns that adorned her nylex saris. Her favorites were saris that had gigantic black coils that brought dizziness to a staring eye. If it was not these mosquito coils, she had savanna grass or ferns and leaves prints. On rainy days, it was a sky blue sari with candy-floss clouds streaked across it. On sunny days, it was bright saris with cherry polka dots or giraffe patches or simply zany lines of different contours and colors. On two occasions, she flamboyantly walked into the market looking like a zebra and a tigress.    Unlike Komalam, the market women did almost everything loudly from their respective counters. From there they made all kinds of loud noises, be it talking, bullying, laughing, quarreling or even farting. They wore sarongs and blouses on whose sleeves you can see traces of their breakfasts. Their allies were the municipality workers who wore bright orange t-shirts for uniforms. In unison, they all consumed betel leaves and tobacco, chewing and spitting at the exact spots they cleaned and washed. Together, they shared a penchant for foul jokes and ambiguous language. They ruled the market with a gutsy arm. 255

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Komalam came and left as daintily as a doe. Sometimes I saw her talking to people at the market. Most of the time, she walked alone but benignly throughout the different sections of the market. By the time I had finished buying what was enlisted, just when I turned into the street that took me downhill towards the bridge that connected me to my house, Komalam too would zoom downhill with her merchandise. However, while the red, yellow, blue or orange plastic bags that held the market products jiggled on the handles of her bicycle, she sometimes also left the market with strangers, different men on different days. They were the men I saw at the coffee shop behind the market who idled with glasses of coffee or those who unloaded goods at the stalls. Some of them wore the bright orange t-shirts that the municipality women wore. If she was not alone, she did not pedal. The men took over the cycling chore and they went in different directions with Komalam and her goods. She, on the other hand, would sit sideways on her bicycle carrier and fold her legs on top of one another, while holding the seat with one hand. She would maintain her balance perfectly, head still held high and the perpetual smile painted gracefully across her face.    When I was twelve, I started cycling to the market and the everyday market people soon became a fuzzy image. They did not matter much as I cycled past those people; I was too fast to notice them anymore. That’s when I noticed that Komalam wasn’t cycling to the market, but I would see her walking. This time, she had a little girl by her side.    “She found her,” reported the municipality women. “Starving and abandoned by the rubbish bin. The red ants had already swarmed into the eyes of the girl, she is blind in one eye now,” they muttered to each other.    One day, when I was depressing my finger nails into bitter gourds, I got near enough to see the girl. She was about eight, and had a black strap of leather covering one of her eyes. She was neat and ready for school. Her pinafore was pressed, her hair plaited and her forehead sported a black pottu. She carried a school bag and a water bottle. One of the market women handed out a piece from a Tamil newspaper to her and asked her to read. They were amazed at the clear and fluid incantation that flowed.    They told Komalam to make her a teacher. Komalam’s cheek-bones rose and she shook her head. The market women gave her two carrots for free and told the little girl to be kind and gentle with Komalam when she grew up. Of course, all this talk was absurd to an eight year old.    I hardly saw Komalam thereafter. If she was not walking with the girl, she was seen talking to the scruffy looking men, either near the coffee shop, the corner of the street that took everyone downhill to the bridge or at the turning of the street before the bridge where she usually vanished.    Years had gone by when my mother decided that a big man like me shouldn’t be going to the market on a bicycle anymore. I was given 256

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given a motorcycle on the day I turned seventeen. The market people whom I grew up seeing almost every day vanished and the number of marketing days too dwindled with the major exams that were oncoming. I got busy.    I still saw Komalam every now and then, and when I came back from University one day, I noticed that Komalam was now walking with a grown up woman. She looked like a typical teacher, with an umbrella in hand, a lunch box and a leather bag. The girl did not have a leather strap across her eyes. Probably she had consulted an ocularist. I smiled for Komalam. I bet the market women were not making eyes at her now or dropping free capsicums and green peas into her shopping bag anymore.    I spent almost five years away at the University and work took me to a different state. Whenever I came back for the holidays I shopped hand in hand with a proud mother and the trips to the market were becoming an exotic getaway from the rumbles of city life.    The road that led to the market had been widened and it was now infested with lorries, town- buses, cars and motorcycles. No more pedestrians and cyclists. I did not see people anymore. The market women, on the other hand, had aged and most of the stalls had changed hands. The market people were gone and so was Komalam. Familiarity had faded. *    The orders arrive, piping hot in plastic bags.    I change a fifty- ringgit note. I have a balance of eighteen- ringgit. I should go and give it to her, I tell myself. But what is eighteen- ringgit? Would that suffice?    But I keep wondering. What really happened to Komalam? What had her pushed into the streets? I deliberate on these with a kind of pain that is unexplainable. Where are the men she left the market with? And what happened to the one-eyed- girl who read so well and grew up to become a teacher? Wasn’t she to take care of Komalam?    Would I only give her a ten-ringgit? Five or three? I wonder.    I walk up to where Komalam is sitting. This time I can see her completely. She has really aged. Her cheeks are shrunken and her eyes hollow. She is resting her head. Why is she not putting her hand out, I wonder. She is kneading thoughtfully at the edges of her sari and her lips are closely pursed together. Her petticoat has patches under its sleeves and the sides are worn out. Her sari is almost a bleached blue. She just sits there and looks up at the people walking in and out of the bank and along the corridor.    I know that I can’t do much for Komalam. I’d like to sit and talk with her- like an old friend but we are not friends. She wouldn’t understand if I told her that I had always seen her on my way to the market all my years of growing up. And what difference would it make? I wish the market women were here to help her or tell me what happened. I 257

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wish that the little girl would have helped her too. But that was Komalam’s world. I don’t know how it looks from the inside but definitely it isn’t the same as mine.    As I approach, Komalam looks up to me and gives a desolate sigh and turns away. The least I can do is keep her from begging for the next few days. Yes, I can do that. Keep her off the street. I won’t give her an 18, 10, 5 or 3. So, I take out a hundred- ringgit note, purple and flashy like the brinjals we picked at the market and shove it towards her.    She looks at my hand and gives a keen and furtive glance. At once, Komalam’s eyes brighten up, she smiles shyly and her cheekbones rise coyly from the edge of her curvy lips. I almost expect her to clap her hands. She doesn’t. She receives the money and chuckles out an immoderately measured laughter and touches the tips of my fingers. Then she drags both money and my hands and presses them ceremoniously against her left eye and then the right eye.    With clasped hands, she prayerfully utters her gratitude and says that my kindness will be returned by God.    I turn and leave Komalam without a word.

Interview|Andy Hedgecock A Tangled Ball of Wool Novelist and critic Nina Allan talks about chess, cities, chronophobia and making connections. “I write to connect to people, to convey to them my reality and hope they might find something within it that echoes their own. I see the writers who’ve gone before me as close companions, as beaconcarriers. All we can do in this life is speak what we have discovered and pass it on. If I can speak to one person sufficiently to change their outlook, or to fire their ambition, or to comfort them when they feel alone – either during my own lifetime or beyond – then I’ll have done my job.” Nina Allan. “Only Connect!” was the passionate plea of Margaret Schlegel, heroine of E.M. Forster’s 1910 novel Howard’s End. Uncovering links, associations and correspondences is a fundamental pleasure of reading and writing and – it could be argued – an increasingly important ability for those determined to understand the complexities of human experience. For example, in The Hidden Connections, a systems-science critique of globalisation and the power of money published in 2002, 258

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Fritjof Capra highlighted the occult intricacies of economies, societies, ecosystems and the human brain.    Nina Allan, a storyteller and critic based on the south coast of England, is accompanied in her exploration of the theme of connection by a growing and increasingly enthusiastic audience, enthralled by her fervour, ingenuity and linguistic dexterity. If Allan is adept at making connections, many of her characters are emotionally isolated obsessives, struggling to cope in adverse environments and engaged in doomed and quixotic quests for transcendence and understanding.    For example, her haunting story ‘Microcosmos1’ is a tale of fractured conversations and fragmented understanding, set against the backdrop of a near future eco-disaster. It’s a beautifully specific narrative with strange and occluded emotional tides and elliptical narrative threads. Like many of her stories it is imbued with a profound sense of melancholy and loss.    “I think this sense of melancholy, what some might call nostalgia, comes from my hypersensitivity to time’s passing,” says Allan. “It is something Nabokov called ‘chronophobia’. I have been aware of in myself from about the age of seven. As a writer, I feel a constant anxious need to capture moments in time, to illuminate them through particular details, to stop them being lost.    “Edward Thomas’s poem ‘Old Man’, in which the poet attempts to remember the bitter scent of a herb that used to grow beside his front door, evokes this perfectly. Many writers suffer from chronophobia to some degree. I am aware of it in my own work as a defining characteristic.”    This characteristic is at its most overt in The Silver Wind2 , a story cycle about time, fate, loss and inducing the miraculous. Emotionally uncompromising and philosophically challenging, these deftly rendered tales play complex and ambiguous games with identity, intersections of time and alternate universes. The atmosphere is realistic and oneiric by turns. The keynote is obsession. Allan acknowledges a deep seated fascination with obsession – her own and that of others.    In a piece for Writer’s Hub3 Allan confesses to being a non-paying chess fanatic. Perhaps the attraction of the game lies in its cognitive load and intricate layers of possibility: it could almost be a metaphor for her fiction. I ask if Allan she consciously flings down a gauntlet to her readers by demanding high levels of attention, perception and knowledge.    “The game of chess is the ultimate combination of intellect, memory and the competitive instinct, and what attracts me to it is the particular personality type of those who pursue it. Like many of my characters they’re monomaniacs, driven obsessives, and the desire to excel at chess – or anything – is not so very different from being driven to write. Any parallel with actual chess games in my work might come from my insistence on questioning everything. I’m sure this can sometimes 259

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be annoying for those close to me, but from a young age I’ve always felt the need to get to the heart of a thing, to discover the truth of it.    “I like searching for hidden connections, for threads that run beneath the surface, for actual as opposed to accepted realities. My stories could be seen as an attempt to clarify rather than complicate. I approach the idea of a narrative as a tangled ball of wool that needs unpicking.”    Spin, Allan’s new novella published by TTA Press4, is a remix of the Arachne myth set in a future, and alternate, Greece. Layla, a gifted weaver of tapestries with a troubled history travels from a seaside village to ply her trade in the city, where she meets a woman who believes her to have hidden healing skills. It’s a tale of transformation, inner turmoil and the creative impulse. It is a blend of fantasy, sf and mythology. Layla’s proficiency in weaving is mirrored by Allan’s skill in spinning a complex, ambiguous and enchanting narrative. The story is extraordinarily vivid and there’s a compelling sense of place. I ask Allan why landscape and built environment are such vital ingredients in her storytelling brew.    “I love cities because they’re the most concrete human expression of the desire to endure,” she says, “and I love houses because they present a perfect microcosm of the idea of the city – infinite possibilities for narrative within a finite space. I respond to landscapes because I respond to detail – that constant urge to capture the entire sense of something on just a few square inches of paper. There’s a chapter in Sam Thompson’s recent novel Communion Town that describes the creation of a ‘memory palace’ and for me that sums it up, precisely. On a much simpler level, landscapes are my favourite things, pretty much. I just love looking at stuff, seeing what’s there – in cities especially. It’s strange, because natural history has always been a huge passion of mine but, in recent years, I’ve come to realise I’m very much an urban person.”    Allan recently moved from London to Hastings on the East Sussex coast. Has the move had a discernable impact on her work?    “For many people,” says Allan, “big cities are cold, impersonal places, but for me they have the feel of a protective carapace, or security blanket. I would find it very difficult to live in a small community because you can never escape the sense of being watched. London is the only place I’ve ever felt completely comfortable, and leaving felt like a bereavement. It has taken me two years to properly adjust, and that adjustment, like everything else, has taken place to a large extent through my writing.    “I knew I’d begun to embrace this new environment when I started getting itchy to write about it,” she continues. “There’s a vast amount of literary heritage in this part of East Sussex. Alan Turing spent his boyhood here, Rider Haggard had a house here, H. G. Wells was just along the coast in Folkestone, Henry James and Rumer Godden 260

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and John Christopher all lived at Rye. The famous Hastings Chess Club is situated on Cornwallis Terrace, just ten minutes’ walk from where I live. Aleister Crowley spent his final years in Hastings, and Doris Lessing visited him here! There’s enough to keep me fascinated forever. And I have always loved writing about aging Victorian seaside resorts; they’re another kind of obsession, an infinitely rich milieu. So I think you could safely say I’ve settled in.” *    Nina Allan’s stories cross genre boundaries with insouciance. They appear in sf, fantasy, horror and crime publications and meld genre tropes with the traditions of literary fiction. She writes with tremendous bravura in a range of styles and forms, but her commitment to fantasy and its subgenres is evident throughout her work as an author and critic. I was what drew her to the literature of the fantastic.    “A love of speculative fiction, speculative ideas, has always been so much a part of me that I could almost bring myself to believe I was born with it,” she says. “I honestly can’t imagine writing anything else. I started – as did so many of my generation – with Doctor Who. I soon moved on to reading writers like Philippa Pearce and E. Nesbit and then John Wyndham. I have come to believe the most exciting writing occurs precisely at the edge of genre, where the real world intersects and interacts with the fantastic, and that’s what I want to write about. To write something wholly realistic would feel wrong to me, a compromise, a wilful obscuring of the most important half of the truth, like living in a darkened room and never drawing the curtains.”    Many of Allan’s stories are set against a background of social, economic or environmental catastrophe. In her unsettling story ‘The Upstairs Window5’ characters inhabit a post-revolutionary theocratic dystopia, with brutal restrictions imposed on freedom of expression. An artist is so absorbed in his craft he loses all sense of the political upheavals around him. Allan is not disengaged from the world, but her work is dedicated to the exploration of personal psychologies rather than social issues. I ask if she feels there is an element of escapism in her strange and unsettling stories.    “I have always believed that the most effective way of exploring social, moral and even political issues is through the inner landscape, the personal response,” she says. “The personal, rather than the party political, response lies at the heart of what it is to live as a human being. People in abject social or political circumstances are driven to create a personal reality in which they can live and flourish. There’s no book better than Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, a rigorously argued novel set during the Stalinist purges, for demonstrating what happens when the socio-political space is given precedence over the personal. Using the literary arena as a political soapbox results in novels and stories that are disastrously hamstrung – I know writers whose work has been ruined by making it overtly partisan. The innerspaces of J. G. Ballard 261

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are more interesting, less patronizing, and more politically effective than the later social novels of HG Wells. I’m a fairly political animal but my terror of ‘soapboxing’ made me veer off from open exploration of social questions in the past. I am beginning to approach them a little more directly in the novel I’ve just finished writing, The Race, which has bioengineering and its use as a weapon of war as a foreground issue. It’s been a matter of learning my craft sufficiently, to feel confident that I can say what I want to in my fiction without that awful sense of shoving it down people’s throats.”    Allan attributes her development as a writer to facing up to literary challenges: “If there’s one piece of advice I would offer to any new writer it would be to read, read, read above your own level. It’s no good just reading your peers – the only way to raise your own game is to risk utter humiliation by the masters.”    And who are the masters that have inspired Nina Allan?    “Nabokov, certainly, he’s a genius. I love writers who run rings around me. I read Empty Space by M. John Harrison and can barely imagine what it must feel like to possess that level of linguistic dexterity, that terse iconoclasm, that imaginative reach. I know my partner Chris Priest’s work inside out and I’m still completely in awe of his narrative control. I read The Book and the Brotherhood or A Word Child by Iris Murdoch and I feel exhilarated by her ability to weave a tapestry that so artfully combines the strange, the heightened, the philosophical and the perfectly rendered quotidian. As a woman and a writer she was so far ahead of her time she did not so much disdain social convention as drive straight through it, and I love her for that, very much.”

Nina Allan ‘Microcosmos’, first published in Interzone #222 ed. Cox/Hedgecock 2009 reprinted in Microcosmos, NewCon Press 2013 2 http://www.ninaallan.co.uk/?page_id=819 3 http://www.writershub.co.uk/reviews-piece.php?pc=624 4 http://www.ninaallan.co.uk/?page_id=844 5 ‘The Upstairs Window’ first published in Interzone #230 ed. Cox/Hedgecock 2010 reprinted Paraxis #1ed. Hedgecock/Massey 2011 1

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Visual Art|Victor Abrao

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Short Fiction|Sharlene Teo Volunteers

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t was late at night and the internet was crawling. That autumn, a hurricane had blundered through and upset the weather and satellite connection. Earlier on the sky had spat rain in dull stanzas before erupting in snow and childish howls. By evening the wind had sulked itself speechless. Now the only sounds came from two noses, a keyboard and a radiator.    Margaret the cat was a gray dollop at the foot of the bed. Zora the human had her face cradled in her palm as she lay belly-down, browsing coats. The webpage loaded with excruciating slowness. A grid of smiling and unsmiling women formed itself, each beautiful woman wearing a different, unaffordable coat. Hands on hips, hand to heart, hands by the side, entreating the eye to a brown coat, a blue coat, a black coat.    She heard the low growl of an engine on the street, and got up to part the curtain by a fraction. A white minibus hovered by the curb. The door slid open. Out stepped Max’s tall, known shape in the half-dark. He was carrying a duffel bag and she thought she saw him limp toward the entrance of the building.    “I’m back,” he called out. Zora went downstairs. The key turned in the lock. The corridor light revealed Max. Up close his face was stricken, pallid.    “Hey, chicken,” Zora said, and kissed his mouth. “How was it?”    “It was fine,” he replied. “Well, I’m back in one piece, aren’t I? Just got a slight cold. They gave me a souvenir, ha ha.”    Max smiled. He was a man in possession of a preternaturally diplomatic smile, all deep dimples and tidy teeth. He held out his hands. Zora took them. They hugged. He felt heavier than before, like a pillar of rice.    For the two weeks Max had been away, Zora had tended to the flat alone. They had lived together and effectively been each other’s only friend for the past year and a half. After the first few days of his absence she had started to assume the languid relish that often arose from fixedterm solitude. The living room was redolent of cat food and the drooping, water-coloured hydrangeas that Zora had bought, reduced, from the nearby flower market.    Max sniffed. “Babe, it smells like cat food,” he said. “I kept those takeaway containers so we can put Margaret’s sachets in them, so it doesn’t smell.”    “Oh! I’ve been using them for leftovers.”    He sighed.    “Never mind. How’s work?”    “Okay, same old. Angie’s still a bitch. I don’t think she likes 265

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me. Actually, she definitely doesn’t like me…”    Max sighed.    “You shouldn’t let her get to you,” he said. He placed his hands over her back and kneaded her shoulders as they went upstairs. *    “I missed you,” Max said.    “I missed you too,” Zora replied in a wry, candied voice. In the corner of the room the cat blinked very slowly, uncurled herself, and backed out of the door.    Max hovered over Zora and his mouth landed on her collarbone, searching, avid and gentle. He kissed her neck and she nipped at his ear. She tugged at his belt and he tugged at her t-shirt. He stopped to take off his socks. Shed clothing slid down the side of the bed. The lamp-lit air was charged, fluid. Their breathing was amplified as four familiar hands fumbled, and fingered, and felt. He pressed into her and she pressed into her laptop.    “I need to move my laptop,” laughed Zora.    Afterwards, they lay side-by-side, shifting and exhaling in languid measures, narrowly avoiding the wet patch that divided them. Zora stroked her stomach, and then reached out for Max’s arm. Their skin was warm and soft like fresh dough. A slice of streetlight came through the window. She counted the four moles on his right arm. Wrist, elbow, two on the forearm. Two round reddish marks had joined them. She looked up at his eyes to find them wide and shiny, fixed on her.    “Fidget, hey, fidget,” she whispered. Her own eyes felt heavy. “There are all these marks on your body. What happened?”    “It’s nothing.”    “They look funny.”    “You look funny. Hah, no you don’t. Sweetheart, stop worrying about nothing.”    “What did they make you do, in that trial? Did they rough you up?” she laughed nervously.    “No, don’t be silly. It was standard stuff. We can talk about it tomorrow,” said Max. “I’m tired.”    “Are you okay?”    “I’m okay. Just tired.”    Zora withdrew her hand and closed her eyes. *    A few days later, Zora and Max sat watching a documentary about the near-extinction of eaglefish. Eaglefish possessed the unfortunate dual characteristics of being both exceedingly tasty and extremely trusting of every other life form. They of the gormless, glassy eyes, the firm, shimmering flesh.    The footage showed eaglefish sashaying into a green net, idly tailing a shoal of piranhas, and suffocating politely on the wet deck of a boat. Various chefs sliced the eaglefish into different kinds of delicacies. 266

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Seared, grilled, fried, sauteed, braised, made into knife-keen sashimi, slow-boiled in soup, buried in earthen pots, tucked between layers of pasta.    “I’ve never tried any eaglefish,” said Max.    “Me neither, but all that food looks amazing.”    “You can’t even get any in the supermarket. Too expensive. Like scallops. Scallops are expensive. So is foie gras, however you pronounce it.”    “Fwa-gra. Fow-grah. Fwu gruh.”    “I don’t know. We need to ask a real French person.”    “Hah! Look at Margaret,”    Margaret was reclining, half-turned toward them, with one paw on her gray flank and the other raised at an awkward angle as she groomed herself.    “She looks silly,” Zora remarked. “Silly thing,”    “Silly sausage.”    Margaret stopped licking the pale underside of her paw, and fixed them with two bright, rueful green eyes. She opened her mouth and let out a small sound. “Raaaaao,”    “You’ve been all cagey about the trial,” Zora said, as she reached out to turn down the volume of the television. “You seem really reluctant to talk about it. I’m worried.”    “Oh- that,” Max replied. “It’s just boring, it’s just, there is nothing to talk about. Look, sorry if I seem a little off, I’m still a bit ill.” He slapped his hands on his knees and turned to her with an eager smile. “Okay. What do you want to know?”    “Oh, general details. How they went about it, how invasive the treatments were, that nothing too freaky happened, if they drugged you up and it was like a big rave.”    “I wish. The quarantine unit was in the basement of the university. Depressing looking place, as you’d expect. There were 20 of us, excluding the doctors and researchers. I shared a room with a dad called Klaus. He was a nice bloke. We got three meals a day. We shared a Playstation.”    “A Playstation!” Zora exclaimed. “Do they think you’re ten?”    “Oh, they gave us magazines to read as well. All kinds of magazines. Fitness magazines. Gardening magazines. Women’s magazines. Really stupid shit. I’ve unravelled the mystery of the female orgasm.”    “Haha.”    “We received injections or vaccines every other day,” Max continued. He scratched his head and glanced at Zora briefly, before lowering his gaze to the ground. “And every day we got our temperatures and blood pressure taken. Get this,” he laughed, “they even took pictures of our shit. I never thought, when I was a kid, that when I grew up I’d have people taking pictures of my shit. Imagine that as an ambition: shit model. Hah, maybe I’ll put that on my C.V.” 267

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“That’s funny,” Zora said, frowning. “What about-”    “I didn’t mind the nasal sprays,” Max interjected, with a broad shrug. “But I hated being on a drip.”    “And how were the other people?”    “Besides Klaus? I saw the most of Klaus. Everyone else was okay, inoffensive.”    “How old were they?”    “All ages. Our age, to a little younger, the oldest was a 64 year old. And no, they didn’t give us any fun drugs. Mostly these long vile pills, they made me choke.”    “So it was all okay? Nothing too terrible happened? It’s just that you seem a little shaken. Upset, even.”    “I’m probably still disorientated. I didn’t get much sunlight in there. And I have a flu hangover. On the plus side, I get the money at the end of the month. Let’s go out for dinner, somewhere nice. One of those Good Eats listed places. Hey, we can try some eaglefish.”    “You don’t have to do that. We need to save up. That’s the whole point of why you took part.”    Max bristled. “You don’t need to tell me, obviously I know. I wouldn’t spend two weeks in a cell, getting jabs until my arms are all numb, stuck playing fucking Little Big Planet with some middle-aged taxi driver, if I didn’t know.”    “Look, I’m sorry,” said Zora. “But there’s no need to be so defensive. I’m just worried about you, that’s all.”    “I know.” He leaned over and kissed her. Her arms stayed folded. “Look, I’m not being defensive. I only just got back, and I’ve only been gone for two weeks. I’m disorientated. Just relax.”    “Okay. But what about those marks on your chest and back?” “I told you, one of the side effects of the treatments was that you bruise easily. Thins out the skin, or the blood. I forget which. I must have fallen a couple of times.”    “You fell on your back?”    “At some point. Look, I’m fine.”    “You sure?”    “I’m sure,” Max replied, with a small, straight smile. *    On the train out to the city, Zora stood with her face mere inches away from a teenage girl who was listening to a podcast and biting her nails. The girl was tall and Indian, with perfect eyebrows and a faraway expression. Zora supposed almost everyone had a distracted expression when they weren’t aware of how they were holding their faces. Her own face felt tense and shifty, accidentally sustaining eye contact with everyone for just a fraction too long. Zora tried to make out exactly what the girl was listening to- definitely spoken word, some arch male whisper drowned out in turns by the everywhere. The faint muffle from the earphones competed with the rhythm of the train tracks, the rustling 268

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of plastic bags and keys in pockets, the chewing of cereal bars, and sleepy, desultory conversations.    Maybe the girl was interested in oceanography, or learning a foreign language. Maybe she was racing through a trilogy about punk elves, or chuckling inwardly at the hackneyed routines of some celebrity comedian.     “A priest, a politician and a bear walk into a bar…”     “’Hold me, Dylan. Tell me it will be okay,’ Alana whispered. She shivered and pressed tightly into Dylan’s leather jacket, the silhouettes of their pointed ears ridged in orange light as sunset descended over the fifth precinct of Nhrygyn Rarh...”     “My father was a patient man. In fact, you could say he was too patient…”     “The Andes Sea is home to over 220,000 different species of marine life forms…”    It could go on and on. Zora pictured the vast tiled spaces of the quarantine unit: spotless, subterranean. She had only passed by that particular university building once or twice, if it was even the right one she remembered. Faded brick monolith, nestled between a scruffy pink hotel and an office of blue glass. Zora’s own university years were receding from plain sight, melting inexorably into tipsy, nostalgic fairytales. Sometimes it was too easy to idealise the past, too difficult to discern the delicacy of the present.    Back then, Max had joked around and laughed with actual levity, and had been prone to less moods. In her own quiet way she had been happier too. Both of them had been soft, clueless, in possession of an unforced, unhurried optimism: a certain lightness. The teenage girl wore it like a badge; even with her furrowed brow she was lovely, and time-soaked, as she stood there chewing her nails off.    Zora’s brain felt laziest and most indulgent during these crushed commutes to work. A bus and then a train, and then eight hours at a desk alternating between being barked at by superiors or scrolling down a database making calls to irascible people. Occasionally she would leave the office with her team to attend starched-shirted events in stale conference halls.    Zora wanted to look forward, but every day she found herself slipping into the same membranous routines of dread and procrastination. Every morning she wanted to feel pearl-bright and beautiful. Instead she felt like a soggy banana, and her bag was too heavy on her left shoulder. All she wanted to do was go back to bed, hide from everyone, and sleep until the day gave out and softened at the edges.    She pictured Max crumpled in the striped red blanket, warm and bearlike. The image both softened her and caused a slight, involuntary shudder. It was worry, not fear, which moved her. She shut the eyes of the face she knew with subconscious precision, relaxed the increasingly grimacing mouth. She tried to decipher what he was dreaming of. 269

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Her thoughts shifted to what his room in the unit had looked like, which he had shared with a man whose name she had forgotten. She cast the roommate as a man of average height- balding, voiceless, with pasty skin and a forlorn expression. Together, Man and Max swilled down cocktails of medications, exchanged potted histories, never argued, and forced themselves to nap. Wherever he was, Man knew something she did not. He inhabited that locked, numbered room. Outside in the hallway, a pair of white-coated shadows lurked. One held a syringe, the other held a glass vial. *    It had been three and a half months since Max had been laid off from his last job. He decided he would like to change his career track, and pursue a career in wallpaper perforation. “I have always held an esteemed interest,” some of his application letters began. Unfortunately, he had to compete against several hundred or even thousand other candidates, recent graduates with nothing less than fully- accredited degrees in wallpaper perforation. Keep going, Zora said. Keep going, everyone said. The bruises on his back and chest had held fast.    “They’re really taking their time to heal,” Zora remarked.    Some of them had faded into ugly yellow coffee stains which still itched and ached in the morning or when Max moved his body in a certain way. He had acquired a new habit of sleep talking unintelligibly, shivering on occasion, flinging his arm across the pillow and half-waking Zora with a mild strike to the head. One night Max woke himself up with the dull thud of hand to forehead. He hoped he hadn’t woken her as he wiped the beads of perspiration from his top lip. As he drifted back to sleep he realised that his mouth was forming words: Sorryzorryzorrysorry. *    When Max received his payment he insisted on taking Zora out to a fancy restaurant. He wore a crisp, ironed shirt and his best trousers. She wore a bandage-tight, uncharacteristic burgundy dress that made it difficult to walk. She tottered in front of him self consciously, almost as if they were strangers. They used vouchers for a five-course taster menu. The front of house manager sniffed as he ticked Max’s name off.    The menu contained no eaglefish, as they were out of season, and the hurricane had swept them even further away from the broad tongue of the north coast. What the set did contain was slow-roasted buachelika and corn-fed venison, swimming in the same kind of heavy brown sauce.    “This is so nice, this is such a treat,” Zora said, and took a sip of her wine to dampen the saltiness. “Thank you.”    “To be honest, this wine seems pretty tart,” commented Max, as he swirled the glass. “Is it just me, or does it taste a little corked?”    “No, you’re right.” She sipped again, and lowering her voice, said: “It tastes funny. Can we send it back?” 270

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“Maybe, she’s looking over-”    “Um- oh, we’ve already had half a glass each.”    “You’re right. I really glugged the stuff. Sorry sweetheart. Doubt we can send it back.”    Zora shrugged and smiled slightly. “Live and learn.”    “Live and learn. Cheers.”    They clinked their glasses. Candle glow refracted off the large-paned windows. Four stuffed deer heads jutted forlornly from the walls. The tables in the restaurant were arranged too close together. A well-painted orange woman beside them let out a peal of laughter and her breasts jiggled and knocked against the edge of her plate as she reached out for her toothy companion. Their own table shook. Zora and Max both wondered inwardly if the orange woman and the horsey man came here every week. At the very least they were convincing in conveying the insouciance of regulars. They didn’t look that much older, perhaps by just a few, champagne-toasted years. Zora reckoned they were the type of people with platinum credit cards and immaculate, bespoke kitchens. She pictured an asymmetrical glass bowl filled with gleaming, genetically modified apples. Max’s thoughts had wandered elsewhere. He looked down at his right arm and pictured a thin needle sliding into the raised greenish vein under his sleeve.    Both of them were getting sleepy and too full, although they were only minimally drunk on the acrid, overpriced red wine. Outside, at some point in the evening it had started to snow- gentle flurries, god dandruff, and someone had switched off all the streetlights lining the road. *    In the three weeks since the trial, Zora assumed that Max had settled back into the ceaseless pattern of searching and applying for jobs. She knew it was a relatively brief, though laborious matter of time before he found one. Drowsing off at her desk, she filled her hours out of the house with the thought of Max proofreading covering letters until his vision blurred, accompanied by a sullen Margaret who stayed indoors all day, fidgeting under chairs. All three of them were more annoyed than afraid of the raucous thunderstorms that struck the neighbourhood with increasing regularity. Meteorologists on the news had insisted that these sequential thunderstorms were a good sign.    When Zora returned from work in the early evenings, enervated, with dark eye-bags and her ponytail in a mess, they would settle down to watch documentaries and reality television until the hours trickled into bedtime. So far, they were mid-way through Hands-On! Face-Off!, a series about aspiring shadow puppeteers, and they had also gone through several ponderous but ultimately upsetting features on the plights of the eaglefish, the soft-seal penguin, the tuber-faced toad, and the lairy borang.    “I want to own a lairy borang. Just look at that squashed, funny nose,” said Max, sadly. 271

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“Looks cute,” mumbled Zora, from somewhere between sleep and the fuzzy murmur of the television. *    On some mornings, after Zora rushed out and upset the ever-complaining front door, the stasis of the cramped and mouldy flat confounded Max to the point of exhaustion. As did the blinking cursor on a white field, and an infuriating stream of emails containing nothing of import but the odd cordial rejection. He would try and hold out for a couple of hours. But when he saw that daylight was folding over into afternoon and he knew that there was not much time left before Zora returned, Max would grab his coat and take the route X1 bus to the university building in the south of the city.    With bright, diluted pupils and a firm voice, he would sign in at the reception desk, get his temperature taken with an in-ear thermometer, and obtain a visitor pass. He would hand over his possessions in a sealed plastic bag, and descend the lift to -2 with its speckled linoleum floors and crisp, curious doctors. He would stay for one or two hours. Fortunately, the X1 bus ran perfectly on schedule, despite the erratic weather, and he was often home by four thirty, rattling Margaret’s small purple box of treat biscuits.    Sometimes Max had a sore throat for days, and he would wake up in the middle of the night gulping back tiny, jagged shots of pain. By morning he had them tamed, suppressed in conversation. It comforted him that Zora could not look through his neck or into his body, at least not without any devices.    When he returned one day with a shaved head, she was displeased although not incredibly bothered.    “It’ll grow out. It’s good you’re trying a new look, I suppose,” she smiled, tipping frozen vegetables into a frying pan. “And I think you’ve lost weight.”    “I’ve been going out for jogs, when it isn’t raining,” he said. *    By February the weather had finally stabilised and every day the sky was dry, bright, bloodless. The television meteorologists, overstretched, over-exposed, and a little aggrieved, took holidays in decisively hot places. Margaret resumed her outdoor perambulations, disappearing for days on end and returning with her gray fur tangled in twigs and chewing gum wrappers.    Over the course of a kind, unexpected week, Max successfully interviewed for and obtained an apprenticeship in wallpaper perforation. It did not pay very well, but it paid. Now they could fix the rude patch of mould exposing itself across the kitchen ceiling; they could stop biting their nails as they checked their bank balance. Max’s visits to the quarantine unit stopped, and Zora never had to know.    The perforation office was a squat hive in the north of the city, and every morning he and Zora could take the train in together. For the 272

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first few weeks they felt happy, buoyed by disbelief and gladness, and sometimes in the stale, jolting carriage she would lean into his coat and they would fall asleep standing up, like two horses. *    One Saturday, Zora’s entire body ached and her skin felt damp and hot.    “I have a headache,” she said. Max felt her forehead.    “You have a bit of a temperature,” he frowned. “You shouldn’t go out today.”    “Gordon and Angie will kill me. We have to attend that stupid expo. Of all days. I’m already late. I need to be there in less than an hour.”    “You can’t go in if you’re feeling unwell. We should go to the doctor.”    She swayed uncomfortably by the side of the bed, and started to pull on a pair of tights.    “I haven’t taken a sick day in years. I’m not even registered with the doctor,” Zora muttered. “It’s pay back, maybe, since we went through all that weird weather. I didn’t get sick then, not even once. I just need to sleep it off later.”    “That’s what people say, when it could be serious.”    “Don’t be so dramatic. You’re making me paranoid,” she exclaimed faintly. “Since when were you such a worrier? It might just be a hangover.”    “It can’t be a hangover, we didn’t even drink last night.”    “We had quite a lot of beer a few days ago. Sometimes, I get phantom hangovers. I feel bad.”    “I’m going to go out and get you some Oxsip, at least.”    Max persuaded Zora to take off her tights, call Angie, and stay in bed. He filled up a glass of water and left it by the lamp. And then he went downstairs, put on a jacket and left the flat.    The sky was a gray piece of paper behind the building. He walked briskly, zipping his windbreaker all the way up to the top, and kept to the side of the footpath, a large margin away from two joggers and an old man walking his pug.    Max got to the corner of the street before he took his phone out of his pocket. Something brushed his leg, and he saw that it was Margaret, pushing past him and into someone’s back garden. She didn’t even turn to look at him. He scrolled through to the unnamed entry in his address book. The dial tone fizzled and accelerated in his left ear. Three flat, clear rings before it connected.    “Hello? Are you there?” Max asked. His voice was urgent and broken by phlegm and hush. “It’s Max ___. I need to come in. I need to see you. It’s important.”    “…”, said his phone.    “…” * 273

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Fifty minutes later, Max let himself into the flat and shut the front door quietly behind him. The air indoors was stale and hushed. He put down his keys on the table by the umbrella stand. He took the white plastic bag out of his jacket pocket, and removed the unlabelled dropper bottle. He went into the kitchen and put on the kettle. He unscrewed the cap of the bottle and squeezed three drops out into a mug of steaming water; they vanished through the surface.    “How are you feeling, babe? I brought you some tea,” Max said, hovering by the doorway. The room was quiet, curtained. Zora was propped up in bed, looking at her laptop screen. Backlight illuminated a wistful, chalky face.    “Thank you,” Zora said, and took the mug. She sipped. “Thank you. I feel a bit better, I think, I had a nap. Ah, this is nice.” She took another sip, blew the surface, and set the mug on the bedside table.    “I had to go a bit further out to get the Oxsip, the pharmacy in Trentin Road was shut.” He took a shiny box of Oxsip out from his pocket.    “Thank you chicken.”    “Do you want it now?”    “Nah, I’ll take some after dinner.”    Max watched her for a moment. His eyes blurred and softened; two blots of brown ink- weary, illegible. He would have lingered a little further, if she hadn’t glanced up at him. He changed out of his clothes and climbed into bed.    “What are you looking at?” he asked.    “Ah, just browsing. I want to get a new coat. What do you think of this one?”    “Which one?”    “Look, this one.”    They considered a photo of a redheaded girl wearing a pea-green coat. She had an exceptionally small head and her lithe body was turned coyly toward the camera. The coat itself looked just like any boring old coat to Max- pockets, collar, big ugly buttons. Zora clicked on a tiny arrow to the right, and another photo of the girl appeared. This time she was facing the camera head on, a symmetrical shark with a glint in her eye- all straight white teeth and milky dimples.    “I like it,” Max said, and rested his head on Zora’s thin and clammy shoulder. “I think you should get it. I think you’ll look beautiful.”    “Really?” she asked. She felt faint and unsure.    “Really.”    “I don’t know if it’s worth it...” Zora wondered aloud.    “Life’s too short.”    Max moved his head back onto the musty pillow. He kept one hand on her hip and turned away so that she could not see that he was crying.

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Visual Art|Collins Justine Peter

Battlefield - A Necessity?

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Seen in the Dark

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Short Fiction|Stephen Graf Heisenberg’s microscope I believe that the existence of the classical “path” can be pregnantly formulated as follows: The “path” comes into existence only when we observe it. Werner Heisenberg (1927)

   It all started because of the birds. They’d built a nest on the light pole across from my second floor apartment and they put on a concert every night. All night. Incessantly. I couldn’t sleep and it was driving me crazy.    Finally, I went to a sporting goods store and bought a B.B. pistol that was powered by CO2 cartridges. Top of the line. When I got home that evening it was easy to make out the birds. They’d built their nest right on top of the streetlamp. Once the sun set and the light went on they were silhouetted perfectly. It took me a while to figure out the sights. The nest was dead-level with my bedroom window, about thirty feet away, but I still had to aim a bit high to account for drop. I’d never fired a real gun, so I was unprepared for the effect that gravity has on a projectile in flight. My only experience with guns was what I’d seen on screen. If the protagonist of a film pointed his weapon in the direction of his target, then it was sure to drop. Different rules applied to the bad guys, though. I suppose that should’ve been a tip-off that it’s a mistake to draw any conclusions regarding quantum mechanics from the movies.    I ran out of ammunition the first night without coming any closer than winging the nest once. The gun came with 30 pellets, which I thought would be plenty. The problem was that in the dark I was unable to see where I was missing therefore I was never sure what adjustments to make to my aim. So I went back to the sporting goods store the next day and purchased a little canister with 500 BBs. If I needed more than 500 shots to take down one bird (I think it was a mockingbird), then it deserved to live. That next night I nailed it—right in the breast. It clammed up immediately and toppled over, out of the nest and onto the street below. The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa. Werner Heisenberg    Unfortunately, killing that bird only made things worse. Apparently, it was a mother. Its chicks screamed for it morning, noon and night 277

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for a few days. But eventually they got quiet, too. Then the only noise at night was from the occasional passing vehicle. Yet I still couldn’t sleep. I decided it was the streetlamp—it lit up my bedroom like a floodlight. My room was literally brighter at midnight than it was at midday. So I shot that out, too. It was a little harder than the bird, because the bulb had a hard plastic protective covering. But my aim had improved; I pegged it with plenty of pellets to spare.    Things were grand for a few weeks till I started hearing the voices. They weren’t in my head—I wasn’t crazy—it was the hobos. I lived on the periphery of the downtown area, not too far from the river. It was well known that when they were finished for the day with their panhandling—or whatever it is they do—they would take their “earnings” and buy a bottle of fortified wine, or maybe a case of beer, and go drink along the river. Out of sight meant out of mind to our overworked police force, so the cops didn’t bother them down by the river. I’d basically felt the same way. Then they moved their party right outside my window. *    It had been a rough six months for me leading up to this. First, the plug got pulled on the project on which I’d been working thanks to the G-D economy, causing the university to can me. Then the wife left me. That had been a long time coming, I suppose. It wasn’t that we didn’t get along—there was no “we.” My getting laid off probably just provided her the impetus she needed to finally make the break. She took the house and most of “our” stuff; luckily there were no kids. That’s how I ended up in a furnished, one-bedroom apartment in one of the sketchier neighborhoods in the city.    I’d been subsisting on unemployment insurance and the bit of savings the wife’s—that is: the ex-wife’s—lawyer hadn’t taken. At this point, I had about five months of unemployment left and then, who knows? If the universities still weren’t hiring I’d be flipping burgers because there wasn’t much call for someone with a Ph.D. in quantum mechanics in this G-D economy. The problems of language here are really serious. We wish to speak in some way about the structure of the atoms … But we cannot speak about atoms in ordinary language. Werner Heisenberg I tried calling the police about the homeless problem, but they didn’t seem to care. As long as the bums weren’t killing anyone, or dealing drugs, the cops figured they had bigger fish to fry. At this point, I was really regretting shooting out that light. It was much less of a distraction than the hootenanny those hobos had going on just outside my window every night. I began to wonder if the spot had become a kind of homeless nightclub and half-expected a velvet rope to appear 278

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out there any night. To help me sleep I bought a white noise machine, but it couldn’t drown out their wine-soaked cackling and deranged guffaws. *    My wife—ex-wife—had always said that I could solve the most complicated problems with ease, just so long as those problems were theoretical in nature. When it came to the “real world” (so-called), she claimed that I was as helpless as a baby. It amazed her that I could find my way to work on my own (when I was working). That was an exaggeration, of course; the ex was quite given to hyperbole. When the university terminated my research position, she said that I was lost. But who isn’t lost, at least for a bit, when they get fired? Then she acted like she was doing me a big favor in leaving me—like she was giving me a chance to find myself. I was thirty-seven years old; what did she think I was going to find at that point? She was right about one thing, though: if it wasn’t a scientific problem, it was unlikely I’d ever find a solution. In the end, her leaving was like driving your pet dog out to the woods after tiring of him and saying: “Go ahead, boy, be free!” Free to do what? Die?    But I hadn’t died—quite the contrary. I was doing just fine. I even think she would’ve been proud of the way I’d solved my problem with the birds. Well, not so much with how I solved it—she was an animal lover. But the fact that I found a way to resolve a real-world predicament would’ve pleased her, I believe. However, the truth was I hadn’t solved the dilemma at all. I’d just created other, bigger problems. *    After several weeks and maybe a dozen fruitless phone calls to the authorities, the hobos still hadn’t moved their party—they hooted it up every night like it was Mardi Gras. Finally, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Early one evening, while it was still light out and before the main crowd appeared, I decided to go talk to a few of them and see if I couldn’t convince them to relocate. As I was leaving my apartment, I saw the pellet gun lying on a coffee table and decided to take it with me, just in case. I shoved it down the back of my pants as I’d seen it done in the cinema; then I put on a light windbreaker to cover it.    First I walked to the corner store and purchased a six-pack of the cheapest beer they had. I reasoned the men with whom I wanted to parlay were indigent, so anything would do. When I got back to the light pole, the sun was beginning to set. Three hobos were standing with their backs to the west, so the light from the setting sun streamed over their shoulders, partially obstructing my vision. I could make out their overall sizes and shapes just fine, but the blinding sunlight made specific features harder to distinguish. On my left was a tall, skinny man in his mid-to-late thirties who kind of reminded me of the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. In the center stood a short fat man in his forties, and on his other side was a decrepit-looking, bald fellow 279

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who had to be in his sixties. They were all dressed far too warmly for a summer evening, and judging from the state of their apparel, it may have been months since they’d changed clothes. I recognized the three—they were all regulars at the nightly revelries under the darkened lamppost.    “Excuse me, gentlemen,” I cleared my throat, approaching them. “I was wondering if I might have a word with you?”    “Why not, mister?” the old fellow responded. The other two just stood there eyeing me warily. “It’s a free country, ain’t it?”    “Right,” I came to a stop on the sidewalk about five feet away from them. Raising the six-pack I’d just purchased, I continued, “I was wondering if you gentlemen might like some refreshments?”    Glancing at the beer in my hand, the old fellow asked, “Say, you don’t have any High Life, by any chance?”    “Or malt liquor?” the fat man chimed in hopefully.    “What? No. This is all I have. Beg…” I caught myself in mid-word, but it was too late.    The Scarecrow jumped on it: “Beggars can’t be choosers?” he fairly spit out through uneven teeth stained a deep brown by cigarettes or possibly chewing tobacco. “Is that what you were going to say, mister?” He didn’t give me a chance to answer, almost snarling: “Nobody’s begging. Nobody asked you for anything, mister. We were just standing here minding our own business when you happened along.”    “I’m sorry,” I held up my hands in a placating fashion. “Forget about the beer,” I set the cans the sidewalk between us. “That wasn’t what I came to talk to you about.”    “Oh yeah,” the Scarecrow retorted, not appearing mollified in the least, “what exactly did you come to talk about? American foreign policy? The national debt?”    “We got off on the wrong foot. My name is Laskey. I live in the apartment house across the street,” I nodded vaguely at my building, being certain not to indicate which particular apartment so as to avoid having empty wine jugs hurled through my windows.    “Good for you, Mr. Laskey. What’s that got to do with us?”    “Actually, it’s Dr. Laskey,” I realized as soon as the words escaped my lips that they were a mistake. This was the wrong audience for those sorts of niceties, but it was a force of habit. I continued evenly: “What it has to do with you is the amount of noise being generated from this location every evening.”    “Again I ask, Dr. Laskey, what’s that got to do with us?” the Scarecrow was clearly the leader. He’d taken over the conversation completely. The other two just stood by, gawking.    “Well,” I was caught off-guard by his antagonism. I guess I hadn’t really thought the conversation through thoroughly enough in advance. I merely assumed they’d be happy to get a free six-pack so that everything after that would be easy. 280

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“The fact of the matter is, Mr.….” I left it open for him to fill in his name.    “Mr. None of Your Fucking Business, buddy.”    I’d never before been confronted by such outright hostility—not even as a schoolboy. But this was my neighborhood. I paid taxes—at least I used to, when I was working. I pushed on, determined not to allow some seedy vagrant to steamroll me the way my wife used to: “As I was saying, I’ve observed the three of you here in the evenings, making noise.”    “What of it?” the Scarecrow snapped. He took a step toward me and I got a better look at his face. He had a frightening scar running from the tip of his jaw to his right ear, and his pale blue eyes had an empty, faraway look. “As my compatriot pointed out, this is a free country.”    “I’m not asking you to stop, necessarily. I was just hoping I could convince you gentlemen to perhaps relocate your get-togethers. If you just moved a block up or down the street it would make all the difference to me. You see, I have trouble sleeping…”    “I don’t give a shit about your personal problems Mr.—Dr., Laskey. If you want us to move, we’ll move. Just pay us five thousand dollars.”    “Five thousand dollars?”    “That’s right. Each,” he smiled at me sinisterly. In the sharp formulation of the law of causality-- “if we know the present exactly, we can calculate the future”-it is not the conclusion that is wrong but the premise. Werner Heisenberg    I wrote my doctoral dissertation on a German theoretical physicist named Werner Heisenberg. While working on the mathematical foundations of quantum mechanics in Copenhagen, Heisenberg made a discovery that would change the field. Studying electrons, he came to the conclusion that the more precisely one property—such as position—is measured, the less precisely other properties—like momentum—can be determined or controlled. His finding came to be known as the Uncertainty Principle. In formulating the Uncertainty Principle, Heisenberg devised a “thought experiment” that illustrates the tradeoff between knowledge of an electron’s position and its momentum. Conceiving a theoretical microscope that could be employed to view an electron and measure its position, Heisenberg concluded that the electron’s position and momentum indeed obeyed the uncertainty relation he’d derived mathematically.    Aside from its immediate effect on quantum mechanics and physics, the uncertainty principle had broad philosophical implications that were only explored later. As a scientist, these implications were of 281

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little interest to me. But as an unemployed, divorced, displaced human being, they began to take on greater significance in my mind. The theories of previous thinkers like Descartes and Newton had led to a conception of the universe as deterministic, with everything moving forward like clockwork, and all of humanity progressing irrevocably towards some destiny, whatever it might be. The Uncertainty Principle suggests that one of the most fundamental and influential physical laws—the concept that physical phenomena are uniquely tied to actions by deterministic causal rules—is one of chance. Essentially, nothing is certain.    I didn’t appreciate the metaphysical elements of the Uncertainty Principle until my life started to fall apart. And it was only at this moment that the weight of that rule was about to hit home. *    People often come to the conclusion that the circumstances of their lives have backed them against a wall, when a logical examination of the facts reveals that not to be the case—not even close. Usually these people are operating under a misconception that their lives should be going a certain way—that there exists some sort of teleological path that they are meant to follow. Heisenberg proved that method of thinking to be fallacious. Yet there I stood, with a world of possibilities open to me, nonetheless feeling I’d been backed into the proverbial wall, with only one course of action left to me. I was mistaken—people usually are—but what did it matter at that moment? The wife said I couldn’t solve real-world dilemmas. I was going to prove her wrong. The world thus appears as a complicated tissue of events, in which connections of different kinds alternate or overlap or combine and thereby determine the texture of the whole. Werner Heisenberg (1963)    I pulled the pellet pistol out of my pants and leveled it at the three hobos. The old fellow and the fat man both cringed slightly, but the Scarecrow merely grinned. “Be careful with that B.B. gun, mister,” he laughed. “Didn’t your mother ever tell you that you could put someone’s eye out?”    “It’s not a B.B. gun. This is a nine-millimeter. A Glock.” Another film reference. I had no idea what a Glock actually looked like; I was hoping they didn’t either. “Now if you gentlemen don’t agree to move your party, someone is going to get hurt.”    The Scarecrow nodded to the fat one, who went to retrieve something from their heap of belongings. The Scarecrow took a step toward me and said: “I did two tours in Afghanistan, mister. That there is a pellet gun.” The fat one returned and handed him a two-by-four. Gripping it with one massive hand, he said, “You’re right about one thing, 282

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though. Somebody’s gonna get hurt.”    With a speed and dexterity I wouldn’t have thought him capable of, he brought the two-by-four down on my right hand, causing me to drop the gun and cry out in pain. Before I could react any more than to cradle my aching hand, he swept my feet out from beneath me. He stepped forward until he was looming over me. Raising the two-by-four over his head, he hissed: “Physician heal thyself.”    I wanted to tell him I wasn’t that kind of doctor. I wanted to ask him just to forget about everything. But the two-by-four was already in its downward arc. While Heisenberg proved it would be impossible to know future position based solely on momentum, I nevertheless was fairly certain where that two-by-four would come to a halt.    But who knows? Maybe Heisenberg was wrong…

Interview|Jaydeep Sarangi Jaydeep Sarangi in conversation with Rob Harle Hello! Would you please tell us about your childhood? Hello Jaydeep. I had a great childhood ‘till about 13 or 14, no major traumas - nice comfortable stable home and parents, uncles, two very indulgent aunts and so on. Three grand parents had died before I was born so only ever knew one grandma, as a child she taught to me listen to and appreciate bird song. per Shelley Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! Bird thou never wert, That from Heaven, or near it, Pourest they full heart In profuse strains of unpremeditated art. Adolescence was a turbulent time best described as an “agony and ecstasy” situation. Any mentor? I have no heroes but mentors would be (sculptors) Constantine Brancusi and Henry Moore, (writers) Leonard Cohen, Jean Paul Sartre, Charles Simic. (painters) Girgio de Chirico. When did you come Nimbin? I arrived in Nimbin 1989, so 24 years ago! 283

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I’ve never gone there but heard a lot about the town and its vibrancy. Please tell us about Nimbin..... Long story, but briefly Nimbin has a long colourful history. First as a farming and timber getting area, then a dairy farming area. The village was basically finished late 60’s but was recycled in 1973 with the Aquarius Festival – hippies, artists, alternative seeking pioneers changed Nimbin to the alternative capital of Australia. It’s very small only a couple of thousand people but has a powerful creative energy and many important “firsts” have come from Nimbin people. It is not at all like a normal Australian rural town – it’s vibrant, cosmopolitan, creative, cutting edge in many ways, and an important voice in environmental sustainability and community relationships. One friend said if Nimbin was in India it would designated a “sacred village”. Who are important Nimbin writers these days? There are many excellent writers but the most important ones specifically living in Nimbin I would say are: David Hallett, Nathalie Buckland, Tamaso Lonsdale, Christine Strelan and Barbara Taylor. Is there any written record of the history of Nimbin literature? Not specifically literature that I’m aware of. The history of Nimbin is recorded in quite a few studies, Margaret Olley a very famous Australian artist has roots and connections with Nimbin, Arthur Pike wrote some important stories about the place. Your formal academic studies comprise: Philosophy of Mind, Comparative Religion, Architecture and Psychotherapy. How did these subjects help you as an artist? Immensely! They gave me a broad and deep base from which to draw inspiration. These disciplines really do try to get to the “heart of the matter”, obviously from different perspectives. Artists and writers I believe need a broad education not a tunnel vision education such as a molecular biologist might have. Do you have any dilemma in expressing beauty and truth? This is a hard question to answer because I’m not sure what truth is! If we take truth to possibly mean honesty, or true to oneself, no, no dilemma at all. Despite the notion of post-modernism to the contrary I believe beauty is an intrinsic human quality like “common decency” and I have no problem expressing beauty even in the most bizarre of my techno-surrealist artworks and poems. How is beauty attached with truth in the expression of art? Again, if the work is coming from the heart it will have an honesty and a beauty that is discernible regardless of the subject matter.

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You are an artist, writer and researcher . You are a multifaceted and multidimensional man with diverse interests. How do you modulate your interests? With difficulty! I’ve worked very hard for many years - serving three mistresses is not easy. I’m now putting research very much on the “back burner” and I’m no longer creating artwork specifically for exhibition. My plan is to concentrate on poetry and review writing work. And to create artworks when the need compels me to do so. Your art practice includes: drawing, sculpture and recently, digital images - both for the web and print. How did you start all these rare forms of artwork? It is a bit of a mystery why I started making sculpture and drawings early on, there were no influences or encouragement from anyone at all in this regard, I made my first “sculpture” when I was 4 years old. Loved drawing, especially of a technical nature at school, worked in a drawing office after I left school then studied architecture. Too many bureaucratic rules and nonsense influenced me to leave architecture and to become a sculptor. I have serious spinal health problems so had to stop sculpture after twenty or so years. My digital images are a sort of combination of drawing and sculpture but with light (not paint or pencil) in fact I often have used scans of my sculptures in my digital artwork. Some of my images can only exist or be made with a computer, like fractals they only exist because of the digital computer. The impulse to create artwork and to write creatively must be a genetic thing, or a genetic memory. I’ve only recently found out that my great grandmother was a poet and painter, my great uncle was an amazing painter in the romantic style in the late 1800s. For P.B. Shelley, ‘poets...are not only the authors of language and of music, of the dance, and architecture, and statuary, and painting; they are the institutors of laws, and the founders of civil society...’...Do you that think this quote still holds truth in this age of cyber mania? Yes even more so, I’m not saying the job is easier and I’m not suggesting right at this moment that many are listening, but I believe we are entering the post-digital era. This is an era when we have all the wonderful, seductive digital/cyber “things” but these are beginning to be seen for what they are, useful tools and aids for humanity, not ends in themselves. Check out Mel Alexenberg’s wiki definition of the “postdigital”. Cyber mania is slowing and even the “dumbed down” masses are starting to realise human values, together with spiritual values (not religious dogma) are necessary for our survival. (per Shelley again) “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Nothing beside remains. Round the decay 285

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Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away. Can the age of facebook produce a poet like John Keats? Yes absolutely! Why do you write poems? It is an inner compulsion and a complete mystery to me. I love the constraint of only a few lines to convey what I want to say in the most powerful, mystical, painterly way. This is why haiku is so amazing, Basho can impart the meaning of life in 3 lines! I don’t write very much haiku but have read a great deal of Basho and the Japanese poets (in English). Love the French poets especially Baudelaire. And of course all the Surrealist poets, as my thesis concerned a Freudian analysis of Surrealist poetry comparing it to poetry which was written by a computer. What are your seminal volumes? Scratches and Deeper Wounds and very recently Mechanisms of Desire. I haven’t been as prolific poet as I would have liked, as I mentioned serving three mistresses takes a lot of effort. Scratches deals with two themes; firstly our apparent “aloneness” in the universe and secondly; the dangers of genetic engineering, coupled with the recent insidious, digital technological invasion into traditional human life. Mechanisms also has a couple of themes; one is the absurdity of our supermarket society and the greed that underpins it; secondly, the damage done to true spirituality by bureaucratic, authoritarian religions; and thirdly, as with Scratches, the digital/genetic engineering/technological control of life. Are you familiar with contemporary Indian poets in English? Yes some, not as many as I would like but that is changing rapidly. Indian contemporary poets I’m familiar with seem to have a softness, perhaps a mystical feel which I greatly admire, I can sense this influencing my future work to some extent. Do they write differently than an Australian? Yes! I find Australia a hard country, that is, the landscape (beautiful as it is) is unforgiving. We are still culturally the Wild West, there are minor exceptions of course, poets and artists are ignored or barely tolerated. So this effects the way Australian’s write most definitely, as I said above there is a gentleness about Indian poets even if they are describing scenes of abject poverty. Wonderful for me to understand and experience this! You coined the term technoMetamorphosis. What does it signify? 286

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The term means the changes that technology is bringing about are effecting what it means to be human. The more we advance technically the greater the possibilities and dangers of destroying or at best modifying things that we barely understand. It more refers to things like neural brain implants, genetic modification and augmentation than simple technical things like an advanced smart-phone for example. Your poems dazzle with metaphors of supermarket society and modern day syndromes. Why do you use them? Because I’m a contemporary poet living in this absurd (a la Camus) society we’ve created, I see it as a hideous bad joke, half the world is starving and we have a supermarket selling out-of-season mangoes for $4, together with 100 varieties of breakfast cereals, it’s obscene and disgusting. I don’t think poetry about the Outback or sheep or bloody kangaroos has any relevance at all anymore. What is the future of poetry in the world? I’m a poet not a clairvoyant but I hope it will be appreciated by more people as they realise we are in the post-digital era and we need to again live with a sense of wonder. That is, the new art and poetics in this post postmodern era must help restore our abandoned metaphysical and spiritual modes of being. This art, also now in the post-digital age must re-humanise the technology of the digital. We need to embrace sustainability and re-envisage the “mysterium, temendum et fascinans.” Do you write satires? How about and artist your fellow poets from NSW? Some of my poems are somewhat tongue-in-cheek, having a bit of fun within this absurdity, not exactly satirical but close enough I guess. Hallet, Strelan and Robin Archbold are very good at satirical pieces. Can writing poems be taught? Yes and No! If someone doesn’t have it in them to be a poet no amount of education and training will make them a good poet. Writing poetry is not like any other type of writing, for example anyone can be taught to write a newspaper article. But - most young poets can benefit from training, especially through constructive critique of their own work and exposure to quality poetry. The best book I ever read to nurture and hone a poet’s skills was The Poet and The Poem by Judson Jerome. Rob, would you share with us one of your recent poems? A pleasure. This one is very recent and unpublished: Ledgers of Creation Enter into this deep loathsome secret 287

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your anachronistic education cannot save you, my therapist collapsed into oblivion as I recited the formula for her, the equation for nano-genetic-conflation. The seeds are all in Patent Process animal DNA is following fast, precise catalogues of life Ledgers of Creation owned by the few. Bank vaults bulge with vulgar obscenity as plastic wads of worthless cash inflate, traded on the Stock Exchanges of insanity where piranhic feeding-frenzy riots daily, the blood wrested from the Everyman ‘till only a dry and empty bag of skin remains. Shylock reigns supreme in this deep secret with raw blood slopping down his chin as he devours his every “pound of flesh”. © Rob Harle 2013

Short Fiction|Susmita Bhattacharya The Luxury Of Quiet Contemplation

I

t is just a matter of wrong judgement, which foot should follow the other, that has her flat on the floor. Before she knows it, her perspective has changed and now she is looking at her kitchen from an ant’s point of view. At first, she doesn’t feel anything. Perhaps she can slowly ease herself up and continue towards her destination, which is the light switch on the opposite wall. But movement evades her. Her mind orders, but limbs refuse. Her cheek is pressed firmly to the floor and she feels its cool touch on her skin.   Moments of panic. Her eyes dart from here to there. The telephone, beyond her reach. The window, too high up. Her glasses, under the kitchen cabinet. Once the panic subsides, pain sets in. Her foot hurts where she has twisted it. Her face stings where she has made contact with the floor. She squeezes her eyes shut, and tears trickle out. Is this going to be her end? Alone in her flat, on the kitchen floor with life leaking out of her?    Her body sags as she let go. The coolness of the tiles comforts her. It is going to be a long night. If only she could have switched the

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light on before she fell – now she’d have to lay in the dark. As the evening deepens outside, the sounds of children playing and cars returning home subdue and die down. Smells of various dinners being cooked waft in, and she can hear the sizzle of the oil and the thunk of metal spatulas briskly stirring curries. White light from the compound’s street lamps bathes the kitchen. Her gaze remains fixed on the kitchen cupboard, and the crumbs underneath where the maid never cleans. Brisk movement makes her realise cockroaches are scuttling out for their dinner. At least, she is not alone. For once, she welcomes their presence.    She thinks of the night he passed away. Thank goodness he had gone in a dignified way. In his bed, in his sleep. When she had woken up in the morning, she hadn’t once thought of the awkward position he was lying in. She had rushed to open the door for the milkman and then to the kitchen to boil the milk. It was only after she had made tea and wondered why he was not up yet, gargling loudly into the sink that she made her back to the bedroom. But it was all finished by then. He had become a memory.    His son had rushed back immediately and taken her with him. To an alien land, so cold, so grey. When she wanted to be alone, cocooned in his memories, she found herself having to make an effort every day to be normal. To be civil, compliant in her son’s wife’s house. Her son’s wife. Why, she had made the choice, so she shouldn’t complain. She had sifted through hundreds of photos and proposals, complacent in the knowledge that she could have any one of them, or not. They all wanted her son, citizen of the West. And she chose her. For her dark hair and fair skin. Her classically trained voice. Her degree in business management. She would be worthy of her son.    But would she be a worthy daughter-in-law? It was difficult to comment. She hated her while she lived in her house. Was this the docile girl whose voice quivered when she met them for the first time? Now she laughed carelessly into the telephone and yelled at her son for spilling Cheerios on the floor. She never waited for her husband at mealtimes. There were no mealtimes, eat on the go, they kept telling her. While she waited and waited, hunger gnawing at her stomach, until they returned from work.    Her son doesn’t have any complaints about his wife. So maybe it is her problem after all. A problem that travels through every generation. She remembers the only woman she feared in her life: her own mother-in-law. That caustic tongue. That pointing finger. Nothing was good enough for her. She was reprimanded for being too modern, when all she had done was go to the cinema with her husband. Wear flowers in her hair, perfume on her blouse. She had cried her pillows wet, wallowing in self-pity, knowing her husband would calm her down with hungry kisses. He’d tell her to ignore his mother and to forgive her. She was just jealous. She was a widow, and would never enjoy the company of a man again. Leave her alone, he would say. Perhaps she too, in her 289

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day, had been too modern for her mother-in-law. Too forward and undaughter-in-law like.    Yes, leave her alone, she thinks. She misunderstood her son’s wife as well, she is sure of that now. There is also another side to the story. She works hard. She earns a lot of money. She makes her husband laugh. She is a good hostess to all his dinner parties. She’s not how she wants her daughter-in-law to be. Submissive. Eager to please. She should accept her the way she is because she is good for her son.    A dog howls in the distance. A series of loud barking follows. The sounds of the night which she had never paid attention to before. The watchman’s stick tap-tapping as he makes his rounds. A transistor somewhere with a Hindi song crackling into the air. The scurrying of the cockroaches as they criss-cross the floor. If she ever makes it through the night, she decides, she’s going to give the maid the sack.    But really, how can she blame that poor woman? She had come in the other day, one side of her face purple. Husband beat her, she had said, matter-of-factly. Because she didn’t have money for his drink. She had asked for a loan. She had wanted to refuse. But that would have meant more beatings for her maid. Now she owes her money but that hasn’t changed her slip shod cleaning methods.    Her feet have gone numb. There is a consistent throbbing, but no pain. She tries to move, but her body doesn’t respond. She’s beginning to get quite stiff, and she’s thirsty. The water filter just there, shining in the reflected light. She licks her lips and looks away. God is testing her for all her mean actions in life. Bad thoughts, bad actions, now is the time to pay up for them.    She remembers guiltily how she had not been happy when her son got his green card. It meant he would never return. Her husband had been more graceful. It was time the son went out to fend for himself. He couldn’t remain tied to her apron strings forever. She had been offended. What apron strings? She had never tied him down. There were so many good jobs in this city. What was wrong with the city of his birth? But he slipped from her fingers. He belonged to another city. Another country. Then he belonged to another woman. Another life. Without her.    She hears low voices outside. She wonders what the time is. Her body is cramped and cold. She still can’t move. Could she have suffered a stroke? She doesn’t know the signs. Her heart beats louder in this vacuum. Can she ever get up? Her work here is done; her grandson too far away for her to love. She doesn’t even understand his American drawl. He’s seen her only once, he doesn’t care for her presence. She should really go, she thinks. It’s best for everyone. Otherwise once more, she’ll be on a plane to that place. Fear grips her. That is the worst possible situation. Tears fall once more. She is no longer in a position to make her own decisions.    Birdsong. Pigeons hopping on the grilled window, gurgling and cooing. Sparrows chirping. What sweet sound. Golden fingers of sun 290

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creep along the kitchen ceiling. The cockroaches disappear into their dark world. The clanging of milk cans on the bicycle. Sweepers brushing leaves and rubbish, the soft sush-sushing of their wide brooms on the tarmac street. Sounds of morning. Sounds of life.    The telephone rings in the living room. Her son’s weekly call, early in the morning. America time. It stops. Then rings again. Silence. The milkman will be at the door any minute. The doorbell goes. The kachrawallah to collect the rubbish. The doorbell again. Then the door banging. She shuts her eyes, willing her mind to return to that quiet place, envelope her in that dark, invisible place. There is a frenzy of activity outside. She closes her eyes, and waits.

Book Review|Moa Lindunger In-between language and identity

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s there such a thing as an aesthetic suffering? Is pain less painful if beautifully pictured? The answer is yes if we read How to Fare Well and Stay Fair by Adnan Mahmutovic. He conducts a symphony of short stories which explore language in its literal, conceptual, cultural and mythological character, emphasizing the power it has over us while simultaneously proving himself its master. I can read and reread a sentence like “Sky-scraping cranes moved as if working on an invisible origami of air and sunshine” to exhaustion.    In the book we follow a few characters as they try to settle in northern Europe after leaving war-torn Bosnia. Even though the stories vary in geographical settings from the Balkans to Scandinavia and back again, they share a sense of being in-between places that transcends geography. Plunging into spatial in-betweenness seems to involve a suspension of time as well; the stories concern before and after rather than any specific moment in time.    In symphony the separate stories complete each other. Still, like the oboe and the viola, they are also autonomous constituents beautiful on their own. The only story that isn’t in tune with the others is “What We Talk About When We Talk About Suicide”. It pictures a shallow and impersonated conversation between fellow university students in a chat room and I can’t help wonder why it was included in this otherwise fantastic collection of stories.    The search for identity abounds in the book. It seems impossible not to get lost in the complex web of language and identity. Almasa, the leading character in most stories, is struggling with her identity as a refugee. What does it mean? On the one hand, she has miraculously survived and escaped a war and is now searching for a safe place. 291

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She is a member of “the race of refugees.” On the other hand, she fails to display the homesickness and nostalgia and is therefore often excluded from this race. She seems trapped in a semantic iron cage of attributes that impose their meaning on her identity, reducing her to a concept. If she conforms to the refugee identity she is reduced to a victim, which she furiously refuses. Still, the refutation is costly because there seems to be no alternative identity to adopt that contains her experiences and emotions. “I have the mind of winter, too,” she paraphrases Wallace Stevens.    The other character Fatima is lost in the web of language and identity too. The sunburnt cornfield of her childhood is long gone and for the last ten years Munich has been her asylum and brothels her theatrical stage. She has been acting the prostitute to the extent that it sometimes becomes her sole identity. She feels she cannot hide what she is; the concept ‘hooker’ is hovering above her, concealing every other layer of her identity. Even though Fatima’s profession concerns pretending and staging she never uses a fake name, “I want there to be a little piece of me in every pretending.” Though subtle, the meaning of her resistance is no less profound than Almasa’s. The realization that a name is what she has left is disheartening but Mahmutovic does not allow his readers to pity Fatima. Her fragile bravery is encouraging and hopeful, and the insignificance of her resistance only magnifies the power of human self-perseverance. It makes me think of a wonderful poem by Emily Dickinson that begins: I took my power in my hand. / And went against the world;
/ ‘T was not so much as David had, /
But I was twice as bold.    Mahmutovic, himself a refugee of the Balkan wars, gives voice to several characters as brave, beautiful and full of life as Almasa and Fatima. He exposes and challenges our propensity to resort to preconceptions, reminding us that the complexities of life cannot be comprehended in lexical definitions and that beauty can be found where least expected. For those who doubt the existence of the aesthetic suffering I recommend “The Lovers’ Discourse”, a two and a half pages long gem in this collection of fair (though never fairy-) tales. I read, “There is gentleness, Hava thought, in this suffering, this insipid tumult. I fall, flow, melt. I’m dissolved, engulfed, but not dismembered” and I too fall, flow, and melt.”

How to Fair Well and Stay Fair: Salt Publishing Publication Date: 02-Nov-12 | ISBN: 9781907773280 Extent: 160pp | Format: Paperback

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Poetry|Arun Prasad.R Question No.1.Define Communication Words convey meanings. So do they transport ideas from lips to ears. Strung in sentences, forming pearly forms that sink deep in ears, to be deciphered. ‘Words are important and so are dictionaries.’ ‘ The right word at the right moment,’ the high school language teacher mused. It’s not simply words that go in for the best communication skills. Well, here is a list. Body language, gestures, facial expressions... Having gulped down these from syllabus, why not, some communication theories, too. Just to polish up the communication skills, you see; and pass a theory paper on communication skills! Now rounds of all these jugglery over, can you communicate, neatly, you the graduate communicator? Its a world of communication gadgets; and yet no true communication ever done.

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Short Fiction|Oscar Windsor-Smith Charity Begins

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he old man is squatting at the trackside, one brown arthritic hand waving flies from his face. Something draws you to him. Odd. At home you’d avoid interacting with strangers, even those bright people in the street with clipboards, a friendly smile and an easy ‘Hello’, knowing they might coax from you commitment you’ll later regret.    But this is voluntary service and you’re here to help - yes?    No. Be honest with yourself. You came in order to enjoy your Western lifestyle with a clearer conscience. Anyway, how did you end up here? Ah, yes, it was one of those clipboard people – a blonde with great legs – in Euston Road. ‘Would you like to know more?’ she said. Of course you wanted more. You always do.    He coughs as you approach – a deep guttural hawk – and spits into the dust. Beside him lies a bundle wrapped in brown paper and tied with string. You set down your nylon backpack and rummage through your clean clothes for change.    ‘I don’t want your money,’ he says in cultured English, ‘but a mouthful of your water would oblige.’    You hand him one of your six plastic bottles. He drinks and attempts to hand the bottle back. You, of course, decline.    He nods. ‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be,’ he quotes, reaching for his bundle and tugging at the string. It proves to contain books. He tells you they belonged to his wife. You have questions that you cannot ask.    The old man removes a well-bound volume and kisses it. He reties the bundle and passes you the book. You demur but he insists and you are holding an English translation by Sarfaraz K Niazi of Mizra Ghalib’s ghazals. The title is Love Sonnets of Ghalib.    ‘Thank you,’ he says, his eyes possessing yours. ‘Please. I have no further use for this.’    He slowly stands, hoists the bundle to his back and shuffles on his way.

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Visual Art|Ammu Venugopal

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Short Fiction|Jude Gerald Lopez The Grief of Losing Oneself

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is commute home was indeed long. They empathized with him, on how many hours he had to sit like a grim statue in the bus, focused on the sequence of nothingness time ever so gratefully handed him, instead of doing something fruitful and imaginative. The door was already open when he got back, and seeing this, his panic rose and fell like the cardiac melodies of the dying. The intruder had gifted him a mirror instead of robbing him. A small hand-held mirror it was, placed gently on the table besides a few note-books and his deceased telephone.    His response was rather cold and indifferent. This was in no way to be considered an insult to the intruder. It was just indifference. What one should know about this fairly young specimen, mirror in hand, staring aimlessly at himself, was that he no longer ceased to feel emotion. Yes emotion, ladies and gentlemen, was considered to be the rough edges of character. He was a well polished rock, a pebble, we may call him henceforth.    Mr. Pebble stood examining the mirror, its plastic casing, the timid stand that made it lean against itself and remain upright, the bow that was attached by our generous intruder, the pattern that ran across the length of the mirror and so forth. What he failed to notice was that this mirror failed to reflect Mr. Pebble. It denied him access to caress that shiny surface with his image.    “What a piece of trash!” uttered our friend and put it back on the table. But something in him had now changed. He heard a terrible splash. In his room, a splash, how could it be, he thought. A greater splash and then he heard someone strike a watery surface. “Damn you!” cried this enraged stranger somewhere in the back of his apartment, somewhere in the back of his mind. He did not know where but he suddenly yearned to find out.       “Who are you?” our friend cried to the fiend.    No reply came and Mr. Pebble grew more anxious and more scared.    “Who’s there?” The intruder, impertinent as intruders , yelled out. “It’s my bloody apartment. You… who the hell are you? Answer me this instant!” Our friend spoke turning crimson.    But there came no reply. It was as if this voice existed in another dimension and then a lovely voice replied to the intruder, paying no attention to the vexed Mr. Pebble. “Who’s there?”    Those syllables soothed Mr. Pebble’s aggravated nerves, calmed his soul and he got to taste, for a brief moment I must add, what bliss tasted like. He sank into his chair and decided to dissolve into the dark fabric of his couch and of his mind. 297

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The strange voice in the other room announced “Narkissos! My love. My heavenly muse. Where art thee?”    “…Where art thee?” came the reply. Words sweet as honey, emotions rightly conveyed like no man or earthly being could, were the nature of these words. “Echo my gentle nymph. Grace these eyes that search only for myself, in reflections, in sky and sea. Let me see you and forget myself. For these waters have already forgotten me, my love these waters desert me and I strike her Echo, like a stubborn child I seek these waters’ love, I seek my own reflection.”    When no reply came to the intruder, who neither of us has seen, grew confused and Mr. Pebble grew anxious to know what was going to happen. The hurried footsteps of our unseen hero Narkissos as he called himself could be heard and felt and touched and smelled in the apartment. The sunken figure, Mr. Pebble got up and started to yell in a bitter frenzy. “Get out of my damn house Narkissos or whatever it is that you call yourself. Get out now or I’m calling the…” as he spoke that gentle voice once again spoke but thanks to his frenzy all he heard were just its ending words that fell on him and ravaged him like an exquisite Persian balm. “…I seek these waters’ love, I seek my reflection.”    Hearing this Narkissos began a litany of praises directed towards Echo. He began to sob and shudder, like an innocent babe “When a door closes another opens they said. How I mistrusted those words till now.”    From these vague utterances our companion Mr. Pebble pieced together an absurd ill fitting picture. Narkissos who ached to see his image once again on the silky surface of that stagnant elusive pool of tears took solace in the nymph’s voluptuous grace. A fairly happy ending it is, he thought. Lucky Narkissos. He had not yet realized it but he was still holding on to that impotent looking glass as he fell back into his chair. The remaining story, my friends, can be said to be a hazy recollection of things past and things conjured, but even un-real things have real consequences these days. The door opened as our protagonist lay on his couch and there came a young man who would pass off as any demigod. His hair flowing like the sun’s rays, his complexion as fair as the brightest of days, his shoulders drooping and falling helplessly like the gushing waters of a cliff, his back too slightly hunched and his eyes drooping always in search of something or someone. Pebble just kept staring back unable to comprehend what was going on or who was going in and out of his rooms as he lay powerless under some unknown spell.    “Who are you?” he asked, the only words he uttered all day once again repeated in vain.    The brazen young man Narkissos motioned with his slender fingers towards Pebble to follow him. Pebble rose and went after the other, scratching his scalp and almost ripping it apart with his finger nails. The room was no longer a room. The bed and his dirty socks and his alarm clock were nowhere to be seen. In its place there existed something 298

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close to the Garden of Eden. All it required was a nymph and it was paradise.    Echo appeared, her ample breasts uncovered, her hair flowing like a shiny veil but her face…oh her face was too bright to see. This saddened our friend and he blinked and blinked hoping to gaze upon something but all he could see now was a glistening light and he knew if he looked hard enough he could see his face on hers, for it was plain and lustrous, but for the time being he couldn’t.    Towards his left, where previously his bed was placed there appeared a pool. A perfect circle it formed, but the water looked saddened and angry. How does one know what water feels? Pebble tasted the water and its salty taste told him a feisty tale and during this little ordeal he cried along with the pool, whose liquid rose an inch and stopped out of fear of overflowing.    He knew not the facts but the emotions of the tale and so without cause he sobbed and felt a deep sense of anger; a new kind of anger that rose within his soul at the sight of the intruder, Narkissos.    The nymph came closer and Narkissos uttered desperately “Look at me my love. See the love that burns in my eyes for you.” But the nymph motioned towards Pebble in a hurried manner. Pebble who knew no emotion felt something stir within him and as he gazed upon Echo who kept uttering “Look at me my love. See the love that burns in my eyes for you.” Narkissos, whose face glowed like the sun at noon day, took on a rather different expression as Pebble stood enticed by the words of the nymph.    A demigod too is a man. A man with a deep sense of self, an earnest longing to be seen, to be heard and loved with one’s touches, whispers and reflections. Yes reflection-the confirmation of one’s existence, one’s place in the finite world that was what was taken away from Narkissos by his liquid love who failed to acknowledge his presence till the nymph’s shiny face redeemed him. But it was her curse to be a mere echo, to be Echo, to repeat one’s lust like a maddened fool, mindless and choiceless and this very same curse made her move a step closer to the emotionless, reflection-less fool Pebble, and this caused great grief in our young antagonist, ladies and gentlemen. This made him do the unthinkable.    The jealous lover Narkissos who couldn’t bear the thought of losing Echo and hence losing himself and his presence once again struck down the emotionless Pebble. Echo cried but her cries thanks to her curse transformed themselves into the moans of her Narkissos who was orgasmic and ecstatic as his slender finger gouged Pebble’s eye balls and pricked his brain and broke open his skull from the inside. And Mr. Pebble no longer a pebble felt emotion and fear and pain erupt in his body. And my impuissant friend who still clung on to that worthless looking glass finally let go of it.    And it rolled and rolled and rolled and rolled till it came near his bloody brow and multiplied his pain and gore into two. And thence came his reflection at last. 299

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Visual Art|Revathy Suresh

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Book Review|Mel Ulm Shauna Gilligan’s Happiness Comes From Nowhere (2012)

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appiness Comes From Nowhere (2012) by Shauna Gilligan is one of the very best debut novels I have read in many years. The prose is masterful and it takes us deeply into the characters, who we feel we know and care about in all their too human frailty. It is rooted in place, in contemporary Ireland with some side trips to Rome and elsewhere, but its themes are universal. It deals with the core issues of human existence.    Shauna Gilligan was an inaugural contributor to this journal. She is in the final stages of her PhD in creative writing and is a widely published writer. She is from Ireland.    The novel opens with us sitting in on the attempted suicide of Dirk, the main male character in Happiness Comes From Nowhere. The attempted suicide is very well depicted and felt very real, almost uncomfortably so. Of course I wanted to know what forces could have driven a young man in the prime of life to think that suicide was his best option. Gilligan is too sensitive an artist and too close a student of the human condition to try to directly answer this question for us in a linear fashion by simply narrating sad events in his life (we all have sad events). The rhetoric of fiction in this novel involves multiple view points, shifts in time and alteration of the prose style in order that the form of the work itself echo the narrative action.    I will try to explain a bit what I mean by this. I think that Gilligan is forcing us to work to put together a linear narrative so we can feel the discordant forces impacting on the mind of Dirk.    As I was reading Happiness Comes From Nowhere I somehow had a flashback to a class on early modern art that I took many years ago. One of the themes of Happiness Comes From Nowhere is the nature of knowledge, memory, and the construction of history. In a way, Gilligan is almost doing in a novel what the Cubists tried to do in their movement (time frame 1907 to 1921.) This quote from Wikipedia is very useful:    In cubist artworks, objects are broken up, analyzed, and re-assembled in an abstracted form—instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context. Often the surfaces intersect at seemingly random angles, removing a coherent sense of depth. The background and object planes interpenetrate one another to create the shallow ambiguous space, one of cubism’s distinct characteristics.    I see the among the ancestors of Happiness Comes from Nowhere, Ford Madox Ford’s great masterwork, Parade’s End and my favorite Virginia Woolf novel, The Waves.    Stepping back a bit, the relationship of Dirk and his mother is 302

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brilliantly developed. Shortly after the segment on the suicide attempt of Dirk we see how much his mother loved and cherished him in his very early ages when his mother goes through the agony of placing him in a school for the first time. The novel is also about the search for human happiness. We see characters try to find it or to void out their despair at their inability to do so through drugs, alcohol and casual sexual relations. There are a lot of quirky minors characters that sort of serve as mini commentaries on the search for happiness from an Aunt dedicated or emerging her self in the role of good auntie to a woman spying on others at a hotel. Sometimes if one cannot find happiness one can try to find solace in making ourselves appear morally superior to those who do. This is a serious novel but it is also fun to read as we witness Dirk’s various relationships with women. We also get a good look at the marriage of Dirk’s parents, Sepp and Mary.    I liked Happiness Comes From Nowhere so much and felt such depth of meaning in the pages of the book that I read it back to back twice in a row, something I have not done since I read Gravity’s Rainbow nearly four decades ago. It is also funny, very well plotted and the prose style is hauntingly beautiful. Happiness Comes From Nowhere:Ward Wood Publishing (June 25, 2012) Language:English ISBN-10:1908742038

Short Fiction|John Kurian The Black Hearted People

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t’s always hard in the beginning when a sudden shift of place occurs. And how worse can it get in a situation where a family of ‘blacks’ have to settle in the midst of a colony where the so called ‘white people’ reside. Little Tom, the dark Afro kid was unaware of his new surroundings. He liked the new neighbourhood, but soon he got disappointed. The attitude of other kids staying there was negative towards him.    They seemed to consider him as an alien because of his appearance. He was the only black child in the whole colony. Almost all the other children treated him badly and kept a distance from him. Tom wondered why he was treated in such a manner. He complained to his parents, 303

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but it was of no use, they were helpless. Even his parents were facing similar awkward situations. The traces of discrimination on the basis of colour still existed among those residents. Tom being a kid of five years found it hard to understand. He wasn’t able to make any friends. He was often found alone in the corner of the playground with a yo-yo in his hands. Even at the school he was treated badly. His classmates were unwilling to talk or sit near him.    Tom was gradually getting tired of being avoided. He had no one to share his feelings and complaints. Even his parents were so busy trying to earn a better fortune. As days went by there was no change in the attitude of the people around. He almost got fed up with his new surroundings. A month had passed by. One evening, when Tom was returning home after school, he saw his dad being arrested by the police and his mother was standing beside him weeping helplessly. He ran down to his father, not knowing what to do.    The policemen took his father away leaving behind Tom and his mother. Later they were informed that a case was charged against him for stealing an expensive piece of jewellery from a rich lady staying nearby. Nobody had a heart to help or console the helpless mother and child. All of them were busy discussing how to get rid of the black family from the colony. People kept on cursing them for their ill deed and treated them like thieves.    But soon the real culprit was caught. It was a teenager from the neighbourhood itself. He was caught while trying to sell the stolen jewellery. Tom’s father was set free and declared innocent. But even after this, people didn’t bother to apologize and never felt sorry for them; rather they treated them in the same old way. It was high time for the black family to realize that the people around them wont change and it would be better to shift from their current place. They thought that living peacefully without facing any discrimination, and being treated equally, was far more better than earning a good fortune and living in the midst of black hearted people.    Little Tom and his family moved on to a better place where they were all treated as equal rather than as Blacks and Whites.

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Visual Art|Nepa Noyal Tharappel

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Short Fiction|Mariam Henna Naushad The Wild Rose Today is the day it all began and ends.    The doorknob turned and the room was filled with the overpowering aroma of athar. Jiah knew she had no choice. He had come to satiate his appetite and she was forced to give herself to him. She was wellversed with the routine which has been happening from 24th May 2012, the day she turned sixteen. Since that day, headaches were a part and parcel of her life. *    The new looking kohl lined eyes visible through the veil of the shabby purdah sparked off rumours along the hallways.    “The usthad claims that the new girl with the bruises on her face is possessed by Jinn”, a shy boy seated at the back of the class whispered to his bench-mate.    “She does not even know who her father is. My ummi told me to keep away from her.”Another voiced her opinion to a gang of girls, which resembled a flock of sea-gulls waiting to swoop in on their attack to a possible prey.    “Hey girl, can you follow English?” Everyone at the lunch table had laughed at the comment. The girl with the pretty dimples continued, “Do you have a name on your school id card?” It was followed with rounds of laughter and sniggering.    “This girl is no good. She doesn’t communicate or interact with any of the children”, Mrs. Aaliya Usman (her class-teacher) had told ummi during the first parent-teacher visit. *    “Jiaaah. Don’t you ever speak about the reason of your bruises to anyone”, Ummi had warned. That was yesterday.    Her ummi was lying on the bathroom floor now. Jiah could hear her name being called out repeatedly. Was it ummi’s voice? She could hear time; the hands of the clock were moving with a violent whisper. Someone was calling out her name.    “Jiah..Jiah.”- It was abba. She could feel his breath on her face. It would take her a million years to get over her repulsion towards the smell of mint, athar, and ayurvedic soap. She focused her attention towards a diary that lay next to the broken lamp, trying to rid herself from the pain she felt. It was hard to stay conscious even as she heard his words echo through her ears. “Remember what I always tell you. You have been born out of sin. You are good for nothing but to service me.”, he kept chanting. 307

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Prior to one month of that dreadful Tuesday night (when abba first ‘visited’ her), he had enrolled her in ‘English High School’ after ummi threatened to expose new regarding his illegitimate girl to his beautiful wife who lived in the nicer parts uptown. “The least thing you can do for us is give her an education. If one day you stop supporting us, we need a way to survive”, she had argued. Although abba considered girls as commodities who were only required to bear children and look after the household, he was forced to consent to her wishes.    They lived in a shabby hovel which accommodated a cot and a broken night-lamp. Jiah was scared of darkness. She never spoke in Abba’s presence and always withdrew into the bathroom during his weekly visits. Through the walls of the bathroom, she could hear their screams and whispers. She did not understand why ummi put herself through so much pain. ‘Doesn’t anyone understand that pain provokes sanity?’, she thought. Humiliation rang a bell deep within her.    “Jiaah. What have you done?” were abbas last words. He was bleeding profusely, just like the way ummi did. He took his last breath and lay heavily on top of her. The episodic headaches had claimed her once again. She moved his body away and scrambled out of the cot. She was holding on to a blood-stained knife. A slight smile played across her face. The colour of blood excited her and the powerful smell awakened a sleeping beast within her. She became a wild rose with prickly thorns all over her body, ready to attack her foes.    Flies were swarming around ummi’s body. There was no family to offer them to God through the customary rites. Sitting on the bathroom floor beside her ummi, she scribbled her last words onto the unkempt diary (her only friend): “Dear Omnipresent God Residing in Universe – 786, The girl who said I cannot follow English, I burned her favourite books which she had kept in her bag. The watch that lies next to the bedside lamp belongs to that boy who always sits at the back of the class. I stole it when he had gone to play with his friends. I spat inside the lunch boxes of all those who mocked me. You might know this already, but I poisoned ummi’s food. She did not deserve to live after she gave me willingly for abba’s use just so that he would not leave us for another woman. She cried for help as she fell on the floor with white foam dripping from her mouth. No one was there to save her because no one hears our voices. We were and will be invisible forever. People jeer at me saying I am the girl with no identity. Only if they knew! Yes, Today is the day it all began and ends. We have finally become one. Angrily, Wild Rose Abal1” 308

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A slight breeze lingered within the shabby hovel as she fell into a sleep from which there will be no awakening. Abal is an Arabic name which means ‘wild rose’.

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Book Review|Shamenaz Shaikh Michelle Cohen Corasanti’s The Almond Tree “Humanity is greater than any religion in the world.” This is true in the context of Michelle Cohen Corasanti, who though being a Jewish has depicted the sufferings of Palestinians and the atrocities of the Jews in her novel, The Almond Tree.    Being a Jewish American, Michelle has BA from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a MA from Harvard University, both in Middle Eastern Studies. Gifted with intelligence, she also holds a law degree. She has lived in many countries like France, Spain, Egypt and England. She has spent seven years living in Israel, so she is a close witness of IsraelPalestinian issue. She herself has experienced the situation hence she is able to pen down it in a very realistic way. Currently she is living in New York with her family.    The protagonist of the novel, The Almond Tree is Ichmad Hamid and the story revolves around him and his family. Author has depicted his life, his struggle against a tyrannical rule, his patience, courage, determination, killing instinct and the ability to win against all odds and adverse situation in a very realistic way. His story is a source of inspiration for all those people who are let down by the problems and hardships of life.    The novel opens with a mischievous child playful act leading to her painful death which affects the whole family. In this way the beginning of the novel has a very painful and pathetic scene. Ichmad had a happy life with his parents, brothers and sisters till the age of seven. They owned a big house with a beautiful garden where his mother has planted colourful flowers whose smells surrounded the atmosphere when wind blew.    But one day more than dozen soldiers came and took away everything from them. They fenced their land and home with barbed wire and they were forced to leave their ancestral place. After the loss of their possession they started living in a mud-brick hut that was smaller than their chicken coop but it was their fate to live in there.    His father was once very rich and owned Oranges grove which was owned by his family from generations. He was able to sold his oranges in the entire Middle-East and Europe but after the invader came, he was not allowed to sell it outside the village and his market shrank to just 309

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some thousand villagers. From a young age, Ichmad was very diffirent from the other boys of his village. His brother Abbas was very social and had many friends but he was not like him. Abbas and other boys of the village idolised Jamal Abdul Nasser, Egyptian President, who stood openly against Israel and was championing Arab nationalism and Palestinian cause. He was a hero for them but for Ichmad, it was Albert Einstein, the great scientist. His brother, Abbas always played games and running outside with his friends all the day but he was a reader, a thinker and didn’t compete with the athleticism of his brother.    His father worked in construction, building houses for the Jewish settlers, which was not liked by the people of their village. Many of them refused to build houses for the Jews on the razed Palestinian villages and others because of Israeli policy of ‘Hebrew labour’: Jews only hired Jews. Many boys at school use to say bad things about his father working for the Jews.    It was his twelfth birthday which brought a great disaster and misfortune to the family. A day before his birthday, he heard some footsteps outside his house which he mistook that of thief. Getting worried about the stealing of food which his mother and sister, Nadia has worked hard to prepare and his father has saved all year to buy, he came out of the house to check it. But it was Ali, an extremist who wanted liberty from the Jewish rule by the help of gun. He terrified him and hid the weapons in the dirt and told him not to tell anybody, not even his father. Being scared about his family’s death, he did not tell his father but it was big mistake committed by him leading to the arrest of his father on ground of terrorism. Two weeks later, soldiers came again and pour tear into their house, killing his younger sister, Sara and their house was set on fire.    After his father was sent to prison, he had a very hard and rigorous life. Being the eldest son of the family it was his duty to work for their livelihood. His brother, Abbas also joined him in his hardship and they both worked very hard to survive. And this struggle of the protagonist and his brother, Abbas is depicted by the author in a very pathetic that anybody who reads the book will feel compassionate for them.    Though Abbas helped his brother in his struggle, but a time came when he left him, it was so because he decided to marry Nora, a Jew. Being a Jew she was fully concerned about the sufferings of the Palestinian people as she was true humanist. It was this quality of her that inspired Ichmad to marry her. She sacrificed her life in saving Ichmad’s house from being bulldozed by the Israeli army.    Although sufferings so much in the hands of Jews, still his father didn’t have a bad opinion about them and this was the foundation which made the character of Ichmad. He learned the lesson of peace, equality and humanity from his father which served to make him a good human being. And throughout his life, Ichmad worked together with his Jews friends and teacher irrespective of the conflict existing in his part of the world. And the result was that he won the Noble prize for Physics 310

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with his teacher Professor Sharon.    In Ichmad’s life, the role of Teacher Mohammad is that of a Godfather. It was he who convinced him to study after his work and gave him tuitions. He benefitted him by motivating him to pass scholarship examination and further it was he, who was responsible for his admission in the Hebrew University. He always inspired and counselled him whenever he needed his advice. And it was Ichmad’s father also who always guided his son on the right path of progress and development though his mother, Um Ichmad and his brother always protested against his decision. Later on, his mother realised that Ichmad was right in his way. Even at the end of the novel we see Abbas also praising his brother for his deeds. So it was the guidance both from his father and Teacher Mohammad that he brought pride to his family and people.    To give it a native touch and make it interesting the novelist has used many Arabic and Hebrew words viz, baklava (3), kaffiyah (7), moshav (13), charishma (19), paraffin, herbalist (21), funchsia (23), hummus, taboulie, Sheikh El Mahshi (31), pita, zatar, laban (39), Ilhamdillah (54), semolina (59), katayif (77), Allahu Akbar, falafel (78), baba ghanouj (125), kepah (129), kiriyah (144), loubia al zeit (150), kanafi (151), sahlab (198), kaftan (239), dabkeh (252) Pitzizah (255), Shalom Acshav (258), kallaj (295).    Through this novel Michelle has highlighted many problems of the Palestinian people as the people from Ichmad’s village were not allowed to dig deeper wells although they were the native people. And they complained that the new people diverted the water from their village by digging deeper wells. They had barely enough water to drink and the new people were swimming in it. There were lands filled with olive trees but they all have become barren because the Jews have planted landmines into them.    Michelle has adopted a humanistic approach to the Israeli-Palestinian problem as though being a Jew; she has depicted the sufferings of the Palestinian people and the atrocities committed by the Jews in the novel. This is what, Taslima Nasreen says: ‘let humanism be the other name of religion.’ This book is an eye-opener for those people who are not aware of the sufferings of the Palestinian people. But she has also given a message that Palestinian and Israeli can work together for the upliftment of humanity.    It is a very good and interesting novel which spellbound the reader whoever reads it. Anybody reading it will mesmerise by the quality of narration and depiction of each and every incident by the author which also reminds us of the great novel, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. It is a semihistoric novel and is recommendable for all the lover of English literature. Michelle Cohen Corasanti, The Almond Tree. UK: Garnet Publishing. 2012. ISBN: 9781859643297. Pages 348 311

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Visual Art|Agna Jain A Fernandez

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SPECIAL FEATURE haiku and related poetic forms

LAKEVIEW International Journal of Literature and Arts


Focus|haiku poetry This section also features tanka and haibun. Tanka are five line poems well-grounded in concrete images yet infused with lyric intensity, with an intimacy from direct expression of emotion tempered with implication. They contain ingredients of suggestion colored by shade and tone, setting off a nuance more potent than direct statement. Almost any subject, explicitly expressing your direct thoughts and feelings can be contained in this short form poetry. Haibun are prose pieces in numerous styles from journalistic writing, diary entries, prose poetry, long fiction through to flash fiction, that usually include one or more haiku within the body of prose or starting or concluding a body of prose. Haiku (plural and singular spelling) are the shortest of all short verses, with an intentional rearrangement of words from language, to elicit an emotional reaction in each reader far greater than the sum of its physical count of words. This is often obtained by making the haiku verse a two bipartite poem - concerning the text you can see - and where the breach or fissure forms part of the poem’s structure by creating a non-verbal bridge using white space/negative space. Alan Summers Descriptions from Decoding Tanka & Writing Poetry: the haiku way (books-in-progress) The hare kinetic: Catching haiku on the move In Japan, haiku came about in force around the late 19th century, more so in the beginning of the 20th century (the term haiku was coined by journalist Masaoka Shiki who died aged 35 in 1902). Haiku evolved from the past with a connection covering a thousand years, originating as a starting verse in a long poem where each verse was written by a different poet, resulting in a long poem called renga. Though haiku is modern it’s connected to the past just as music is, and it feels wrong to call haiku ancient as much as we wouldn’t call music, writing, eating, drinking, conversing, or sleeping as ancient pursuits. Can we write close to what a good Japanese haiku writer can, with just one language system, when the Japanese system of characters is 50,000 kanji characters, though 1000 to just under 2000 are mostly used by most people? Plus there is hiragana and katakana, each have 46 characters in modern Japanese (there used to be more): 315

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Where kanji represents ideas or objects, hiragana expresses the grammatical relationships between them. Katakana is used to write words which have been borrowed from other languages, including various foreign names and names of countries. The pool in total that many ordinary Japanese haiku poets might use is around 2040 characters or more, instead of the maximum of 26 letters that inform the single English-language alphabet that many of the rest of us use. Oh, and don’t forget that punctuation in Japanese is verbal, in words not symbols as we use in English, and they count as phrasal tone in the poem. A haiku is so brief that at least two haiku could easily be composed with a single tweet message with room to spare to say hello, or leave a website or blog address. But the techniques, approaches or choices, to make a good haiku could overwhelm a 16GB internal memory of a kindle device. So how do we read, and even write, something so short as haiku in English and still end up with a fully-fledged poem? As Japan borrowed art and writing techniques to incorporate into the modern haiku so we too borrow from them to do our haiku, with techniques taken from their use of a reference to a season or part of a season, and how to insert a type of pause between the two short parts of a haiku. An often common characteristic of a haiku is two images that work well together, sometimes disparate, sometimes just in enough opposition to each other to elicit a different overall poem outside those two parapoem sections: A juxtaposition to give it a another name. Those two images rub up against each other, charging up the reader to create their own vision of what the haiku has become as a poem in their eyes, not the original author. Concrete images work well, with a fine tightrope walk between objective and subjective perspectives. Haiku exudes immediacy and inclusiveness: A reader is never left out, and can be made to feel they have helped create the poem. The immediacy is a useful and sometimes dramatic choice to make in haiku. I recall an intense unsettling experience, yet exhilarating, when reading several verses by a woman who had written, from direct observation, the strafing attacks on the City of Hull during WWII. Nearly 70 years later, after reading these haikai verses, I was uncomfortable walking in broad daylight, down a wide open main street of Hull, looking for shelter from WWII fighter bombers. But it can also be good to write a haiku in the present tense so that a reader feels the incident has been so recent, they need only need make use of their peripheral vision to become a joint witness, even if the moment happened months or years previously. The secret of haiku is gently unearthing the reader’s creativity, 316

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reawakening or reigniting their wonder of day to day life, and dismissing our sometimes television, radio, and internet media jaundiced view of the world. Book Review by Alan Summers Tangled Shadows, Senryu & Haiku by Elliot Nicely

(Rosenberry Books, 2013) http://rosenberrybooks.com/hand-bound-editions/haiku/tangled-shadows/

All the haiku are printed on recycled paper with the Japanese stab binding technique, and spaced one to a page leaving space around each poem for the reader to fully appreciate the writing. There is a variety of both 3-line and 1-line haiku, of which these1-line haiku are fine examples: the last time we spoke tangled shadows of telephone wires summer solstice the distance to her lips I highly recommend the collection, and all Rosenberry Books as they create excellent hand-bound editions which have been selected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian, the Chicago Institute of Art, and the Washington National Cathedral, and Rosenberry Books are recognized by Design Observer of the Winterhouse Institute for their exciting book design. Alan Summers 317

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Haiku and Tanka Poems, plus Haibun prose 黒い産卵 Black Spawn 夏石番矢 Ban’ya Natsuishi 微細な無数の傷がFukushimaの青空 Countless minute wounds ― are the blue sky of Fukushima 地底からしっぽを枕へ突き出す黒蛇 From the depths of the earth a black snake sticks its tail out pointing towards a pillow 永遠に水病む国にて書物を閉じる In a country where water is eternally sick I closed a book 国土汚れ金属の羽音三重奏 Our land spoiled by pollution a trio of buzzing metal wings 腕時計の黒い産卵 男の独居 Black spawn of wristwatch ― a man’s solitary life 光の宴に光降れども蛇の声 Light pours down 318

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on the feast of light, and yet the voice of a snake English translations by Ban’ya Natsuishi & Eric Selland

a little curve when the buffalo bellow dying moon n.b. In honor of the many slaughtered buffalo in the past. The Omaha tribe’s July Moon is called: when the buffalo bellow

buttercup field within the eyes of a child the hare kinetic childhood loss in and out of the snowdrops a vortex leaves little white corner something quickly written on the ship in a bottle Cat moon my wife ill with posset at the restaurant indecisive rain the seven eyes of God rub against the quiet in-betweenness the grey heron seals the leaks of light Alan Summers

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Kesennuma ocean pulled back like a giant carpet beeping horns cars swept away... the egret’s cry clock stopped at 2:46-everything I wanted to become frozen Empty, wasted space-- hawks circle the town old black pine passed for years unnoticed, now the only thing I see cold night in the evacuation shelter- precious blanket 7.1 aftershock feels small and muted-- nothing left to ruin photos of my happy family snapped unthinkingly, sunken treasures I dream of cradling the earth, like my mom once rocked me morning sun-- waking up to the same nightmare History ends here, someone said-320

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yet the sun still rises Leza Lowitz 蝙蝠を包む指先薄暑かな koumori-o tsutsumu yubisaki hakusho kana fingertips wrapped ‘round the bat late spring heat 足跡を海に預ける彼岸かな ashiato-o umi-ni azukeru higan kana footprints given to the sea for safe keeping spring equinox カタカナのやうに起きたり寒の入り katakana-no you-no oki-tari kan-no iri waking up like katakana this midwinter morning 牡丹雪ぴくぴく動く猫の髭 botanyuki pikupiku ugoku neko-no hige huge flakes of snow twitching once, twice, thrice, the cat’s whiskers 残雪や誠に美しい骨だった zansetsu-ya makoto-ni utsukushii hone datta lingering snow... they really were so beautiful her bones

犬背負ひ深雪の径の大熊座

inu seoi miyuki-no michi-no ookumaza 321

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dog on shoulders ploughing thigh-deep through the snow Ursa Major

日々固くなりゆき墓の残り雪

hibi kataku nari yuki haka-no nokoriyuki day by day hardening, the snow upon her grave

鏡中の鏡中の鏡中に初笑ひ

kyouchuu-no kyouchuu-no kyouchuu-ni hatsuwarai in the mirror in the mirror in the mirror my first laugh of the year

翡翠や思春期の娘駆け出しぬ

kawasemi-ya shishunki-no musume kakedashinu an azure kingfisher my blossoming daughter speeds off Dhugal J. Lindsay difficult day the rice lid rocks from side to side preschooler… tracing letters on a street sign Death Row cleaners the waiting palm prints on the visitor partitions

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it’s christmas soon then I’ll know if someone loves me front & backpacks who will she be when she stops first chance to ask my mum properly about my sister a wedding dress in the kitchen the shop assistant too close and “Beautiful” the song she would have sung at my wedding my copy of Salad Anniversary the stain from your tea spill like a dedication Karen Hoy a sleeping snake curled between the eggs-layers of leaves ash-smeared sadhus wash off their sins in sangam-makar sankranti shadowy hope and disappearing hair-63rd summer

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potholes: spots of sunshine wobble Ram Krishna Singh a nail pops in the dark night loneliness dusk and the maple becomes all trees ninth wave the patience of the moon autumn dawn where the trout leapt light after all the bats the last bat evening heat there was a time she offered her golden fleece— rolling waves summer sickness the hundred little hooks of the wind shivering with ague in a minshuku far from home— wild sea cucumber Jim Kacian pregnant, once again I sense this inner space . . . dreamsicle in the damselfly’s pause my child wild bamboo . . . the multiple flutes I hear take me home 324

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Bamboo flute is still the only flute played by all our classical musicians, be it South Indian classical (Carnatic music) or North Indian Classical (Hindustani music)

falling leaves . . . if only sorrows could be contained in a palm Kala Ramesh ice floes tonight the moon is still matryoshka on the mantelshelf my mother’s picture display window her fingers trace the teardrop earrings morning tea smoke swirls in the milk pot icecap moon flowers in my garden dense fog a bullock cart rides into obscurity Mamta Madhavan out at sea the dawn wind touch of Kaddish matryoshka doll a tourist re-examines the pain(t) of history Otsenre Ogaitnas

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C T SCAN I struggle through the folds of the curtain in my underwear. ‘On the table, please. Up a bit, you’re quite tall.’ The operator - do I call her ‘nurse’? - bends close to my ear. ‘Nothing to worry about. Just going to pump some liquid in. Not coloured, but glows in the blood vessels and shows them up. Drink plenty afterwards and you’ll wash it all out. But you might feel a bit of pressure as it goes in, and you’ll have a hot flush.’

African violet the still living leaf her fingers pluck

Mumble to her I’m not scared at all. Not even of a menopause I didn’t know a man could have. After all - thought in my head - didn’t that Army dentist once pull out one of my molars with no anaesthetic? ‘Come on, pal, pull the other way, I need your help.’ Preoccupied, I hardly realise I’ve been in and out and the nurse is finished with me. pot plants she waters their roots with a topsy can David Cobb brain tumor— a bear breaking through the skylight sun caressing my face—my mother’s shadow, soto voce

my first date after being mugged I swallow my fear 326

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but can’t stop staring at your knife the transcriptionist strips off her headphones heads home wanting a different voice in her ear Lissa Kiernan fuzzy black caterpillar his car swerved not to miss komodo dragon the rat’s tail slurps in last after mascara and rouge she arms her cruise missile leaking organ music the church I left her soft enticing curves ones and zeroes everyone’s a liar I toss my scoop of dirt David G. Lanoue coming through the dreamcatcher call of a coyote unraveling one mystery I find another misty moon

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winter moon... and yet these magnolia blossoms after the funeral... colors of the rainbow muted by dusk All Saint’s Day wisps of fog among the tombs Rebecca Drouilhet dumped by text I storm home and become a mattress moonlit bats skim the water should I touch her outside the bus a missing chromosome walks All I ever hear my own voice bouncing off dandelions Left humanity went to the forest to have orgies with faeries Reiss McGuinness

apagsipnget... dagiti nakumikom a karnero prasko ti lulualo nightfall‌ a flock of sheep in a flask of prayers agiririawamartinez itiadayo napisi nga torre

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the distantscreamofcrows broken tower panagsikal agtalnakala koma’t bassit bulanko dawn spasms if you could but settle down my moon her gilded French knot the empty red lights dyed in moonlight

dust once Oh, the map I use? It’s uncharted and unnamed. It’s wild woods and volcanic rocks. There are lakes and rice field puddles but also marsh and hot spring pools, smoky from the depths. Unless ‘I find a flower I can name’, it’s hard even for me to find my way back. Birds sing and talk but mostly unseen except the owl. Sometimes, he reveals their name. I’ve taken notes but forget about them the moment I walk away. My map always seems new, uncharted and unnamed. I know it’s not good but maybe the owl will help someday somehow. dust once... somehow a chicken knows some stones Alegria Imperial

every year the clock on my desk runs faster in my email i wrote the word *i* twenty-five times

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leaving father for New York at three years old it’s a big step up to the train It was either Grand Central or Penn Station, and we were saying goodbye, since I was moving back to California after living in New York for two years. I tried to tell her I liked her, but since I was leaving, it didn’t quite make sense. I wasn’t sure of what I was saying or of how my words were being received. we sit on stairways at 45 degree angles speaking about love without using the word cold in the holy city in a bedroom the whispering of angels Bernard Goldberg thunderstorm under the laburnum widening pools of yellow in the attic photos of the previous house the call of doves more war news a drift of feathers from the homing geese missing his bark the walk home longer after the burial heat lightning 330

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at the crack of dawn the muzzein’s call airport lights fading fireflies in the late spring night under the basil bush a tiny oil lamp reflects the full moon brief rainstorma gulmohur petal rides a boy’s paper boat Angelee Deodhar fruit stand a blue eye stares back through the wormhole winter dusk dad asks the scarecrow for directions community centre a child shoots at me with his hand John McManus nimbostratus a fresh molehill through the snow the ache in my bladder finally we pass the carnage precisely laid the junk shop’s mismatched tea set inner city park 331

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the kid without an ice cream bites her nails shutting out the sun blind colour of the sky morning sun flowers left on a bad bend deep in the clothes peg the spider’s silk spooked the tree bursts into starlings protest march my daughters blow their whistles through all the speeches telling her “no” her shoulders listen to the reasons Dave Serjeant soft rain— the hitch hiker’s pink thumb fall leaves the new color of my bones corn husk the beggar’s thin life line wings rattling— I wake from another butterfly dream misty woods I walk through my daydream

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day moon ... just us misfits at the matinee Scott Abeles emerging from her wendy house she studies the snail The Angel of the North-he adjusts his wing mirror Eastertide no myth in the way the waves follow the moon Helen Buckingham starlit creek a tree frog sings to the galaxy fortune teller... the lights of a distant train shimmer on the rails miscarriage… the dark space between a crescent’s points morning creek the moon slips through my fingers unknown soldier… a firefly goes dark over his grave mirror creek an old, wooden bridge across the sky

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midnight tundra sunlight resting in the trees passing storm the moon caught in a spider’s web Chase Fire thunder without rain my life without you begins passing storm my dog steps on the moon the way you kissed me when I first met you falling leaves summer sun staring deep into his eyes Kelsey Murphy snow falling between words winter in the nose without a scent in traffic, wondering which cars are quiet inside sleep . . . sleep let the wheels roll off the road deep exhalations – the old year enters the new in a cloud of steam early spring balloons pummel 334

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the new cars railroad flat two cats racing the length of the hall John Stevenson fresh cut tulips— but she sees only her pills undecided i add your name to mine then cross it out long married he slowly stokes the fire and it catches long train ride his offhand comment about abandonment gluten-free café a smug smile recites today’s specials Roberta Beary water damage the parka with a concealed blade twisted poles the ant knows it too it isn’t light I’m feeling cold, the creak of my bedroom door Brendan Slater

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The man tugs on the dog’s leash at all of the most interesting trees. Scattering handfuls of sand the beach a little less a little more. Thinking of re-hab a coke bottle drifting some distance from the shore. Colin Stewart Jones broken tv outside the fence a wall of belly-buttons fiscal cliff by default the robin sounds like a robin 55° 43’ N 12° 34’ E I dig out the new moon from her mouth ghosts world somewhere in the blackbird a© electron-degenerate matter it cannot be my friend visiting fourth day of rain I sneeze alone old sandals I look for the blue grid above the world Johannes S H Bjerg

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Ravi Shankar news of your passing... without a thought I look to the sky Raga Bhimpalasi - other places have rush hours solstice evening my neighbour’s gold sari catches the light funeral pyre mountains and flies made of music rising from the dream a giggling flute Sa, Re, Ga the name of the loved one can only be sung Raga Bhimpalasi - a North Indian raga played in the late afternoon Sa, Re, Ga: Names of Indian musical notes

The Poet the poet brings an orb of mistletoe these many moons corrupted branches with Baldur the light dies* Le Sang d’Un Poete... in a clearing in the wood we pause for tea from the hollow oak a faint scent of gold and dogs mosquitos in amber 337

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jiggle from each ear market day Einstein sells shoots of Yggdrasil *Balder, Baldur, Baldr (the shining one, the brave of the gods): Norse god killed by arrows made from the mistletoe. The plant was forgotten when his mother made all things promise not to harm him thus ensuring his immortality.

Two rengay by Johannes S H Bjerg and Sheila Windsor auschwitz does the wind still howl auschwitz the ageing faces in snow Sheila Windsor heart-shaped leaves of the katsura tree standing near your dorm I wonder who is leaving whom my future husband’s fufu and evening news from the old couch his voice in layers trustardust double blink she tries a lie midnight’s little box of mexican matches her glance fallen fruit his stump speech on the sidewalk Anne Burgevin

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rejection slip– the daffodil leaf pierces the snow Debbie Gilbert counting raindrops one by one… the votes that denied your clemency Laurence Stacey attacks on the poor... a sparrow too, treading through cloud I return home without an arm, a leg... drifting clouds the rich getting rich off the blood of the poor... plum blossom wind war zone... a mouse giving birth, to stars Dick Whyte dark soil carried from an ant hole day of the eclipse dandelion wind an injunction filed by Icarus’s mother headwind a crow too just light from the sun 339

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autumn moon the realtor suggests staging Paul Miller

The LeRoy Gorman Interview by Pearl Pirie P: What’s your greatest pleasure in being the Honorary Curator of the American Haiku Review? What do you do in the role? LG: Not that I seek it, but the recognition for a dedication to haiku certainly feels good. When I first received the invitation, I couldn’t believe it. I thought the American Haiku Archives must have been hacked and I was being spammed. When I realized everything was for real, I then thought-- oh-no, I don’t need another job. But a few sentences in, it was clear that I would have no duties except to accept. So I did. P: You’ve written under pseudonyms. Does each pseudonym have a different character? Or for a different genre of writing? How do you decide or distinguish among them? LG: Generally, each represents a different character or voice, Many are one-offs in which I parody the work of another writer. In these cases, the pseudonyms are themselves parodies as well. There are, however, half dozen names (not for parodies) I keep coming back to when their voices call. P: You’ve got a writing CV of almost 40 years. Can you pick among your books of what is your favourite? LG: There’s no way I can pick one over the other. This may be because they often differ very much from each other. where sky meets sky, for example, is a series of ten language-centred haiku sequences; dandelions & dreams is a kid’s book, whose smile the ripple warps is made up of what Eric Amann called typestracts, heart’s garden and nothing personal are collections of what most readers would call normal haiku. parallel journey/voyage parallele, written with Andre Duhaime, is a collaborative renga. And on it goes. P: Do you find haiku spirit bleeds into other areas of aesthetics? Do you feel a minimalist influence in visual art? LG: For me, the brevity with maximum suggestiveness of haiku seems to have an overall influence on me. My visual poetry, whether haiku or not, tends to be minimalist, often centring on one word and, in some cases, a single letter or a few seemingly disjointed ones. P: What’s your editing process like? LG: I’m assuming you mean for Haiku Canada Review. I try to deal with things as soon as they come in. Some poems catch me on first 340

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reading and I accept them. Many of the ones that don’t, I let sit and revisit later. Though it may not always be apparent, I feel that I’m fairly open to various styles and approaches and seek to find something in each submission that is, in the least, encouraging if not quite right for acceptance. I am also very partial to writing that pushes definitions and like to select work that might not find a home in other haiku journals. P: How many things did you put out through your pawEpress? When and how did you know you’d been bitten by the publishing bug? LG: To date, there are 86 pawEprints as well as numerous poem cards (pawEposts). Most have featured haiku and other minimalist poems. Before venturing into publishing, I had long admired publications produced in minimalist formats. Postcards, leaflets, labels, and broadsides produced by such people as John M. Bennett, jw curry, and Dorothy Howard, to mention a few, played a part. The idea of publications that could be produced at little cost and sold for little or, in most cases, given away was inspired by Marco Fraticelli (King’s Road Press) and his Hexagram Series. Creating my own imprint also allowed me to publish work of my own in an immediate and less restrictive way than was otherwise possible. Also, I could publish work I admired by other poets. Many of the pawEprints introduced writers who were new to haiku. After all, others had introduced my work and this was a nice way to give something back. - end of interview Facts and figures still hot at five leaves of newspapers stumble down the road You call them ‘hurry cars’, galumphing people and dogs circle us in the suburbs. On the beach, a dead blue penguin is permanently marooned. A trawler seems to follow us along the shore. A man with a fancy camera takes photos of the waves crashing. Some of the writing in the sand seems like copper plate. A woman in full bridal regalia wades into the surf. At home, the familiar cows munch in the paddock next door. Sweetpeas grow up the trellis, you call them ‘peasweets’. After dusk, the moon wobble begins. A smell of gas; ash floating across the hedge. Owen Bullock 341

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i saved my mother’s prayer book the one with my childhood note consoling her morning fog through a poppy field scent of crimson on my hands as i pick summer first winter dream i float inside the heart of my mother’s womb evening snow blankets my innocent body Pamela A. Babusci mouse droppings in my old tweed coat pocket the day unravels in a blue bucket decorated with sea shells collecting sea shells clods crumble in the dark tilled soil dreaming deep

the rejection slip tossed in the fireplace final draft

Neal Whitman lavender baththe smell of jasmine in my cat’s fur for a moment… a hummingbird swings 342

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the broken dream cloudless skya butterfly surpasses the prisoner’s van Rita Odeh The moon disappears – singing the sun into being cardinal at dawn Priscilla Lignori

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising - Photo from Jürgen Stroop. Report to Heinrich Himmler from May 1943. The original German caption reads: “Forcibly pulled out of dugouts”. One of the most famous pictures of World War II. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Stroop_Report_-_Warsaw_Ghetto_ Uprising_06b.jpg

HOLOCAUST God bit his tongue off hoping if He could not answer we would not ask. Marya Berry 343

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my name in a stranger’s voice winter wind eightieth birthday my grandchild tells me to make a wish restless night the rain that stopped has started again winter stars we talk about our childhoods following me wherever I turn this nervous cat family album the lies we told the camera at the mall in search of discounts Martin Luther King Day

Exposition: It struck me as I was sitting at the mall this morning, after an hour of mall walking, part of my exercise regimen, that Martin Luther King was a prophetic voice whose message has, since the beginning, been discounted in many senses of the word: diluted, denatured, disregarded, disrespected, dismissed. What we do with our prophets. By the way, I did no shopping and was home before noon to watch the inauguration ceremonies. So there. But the poem is intended to leave open the possibility that the speaker is among those in search of discounts. Bill Kenney

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darkness falls later and slower, a black silk sheet unbound and drifting Last logs in the fire– underneath the old wood pile twigs, bark, baby mice Catskills in April sharp smell of freshly mown grass clouded by woodsmoke Keeping my mind still– even with this candle flame song sparrow takes flight Nancy Baker Rullo The blue dragonfly— a humming wire makes you see the air vibrating Red trilliums pulse when you slip your hand in mine in the drowsy woods March run-off arrives— city children overflow shops and cinemas The old man’s gaze reaches the hump-backed mountains resting in soft clouds A floppy mushroom sprouts alone between old cracks of a stone staircase Keith Garebian passing clouds

bomber’s cycle had white mudguard

Note: The latter part of the haiku I’d found in an old newspaper headline. And I instantly thought that it formed one of those classic imagist poems. 345

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windshield wiping crows in flight funeral cart stuck in mud gulmohar almost isn’t spring night the cicadas remain in the Photograph clover fields delaying the hard on Aditya Bahl warm breeze falling fibre wrapped in sunlight spring dream a fishing net settles into the dawn Ramesh Anand the cat’s teeth dribble oriole blood spring equinox beneath continents of slow moving algae my alcoholic father Mary Weiler hear poppies and shin bones are grown into each other Japanese blood grass: Kokoda winds fade to rust 346

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cuttlebone white wind culled vowels stretch from a thinning hull vowels of the Southern Ocean take it with him from a shell of iron Scott Terrill sad news-I miss the colors of a rainbow tribal dance-the moon steps with everyone sound of a beetle the window filters its anxiety displaced people the falling leaves trapped in a storm Pravat Kumar Padhy spring shower . . . gulag clouds darken my footprints blossom storm! what fetus fails to quicken? cherry blossoms — the runt of the litter flutters briefly blossom party . . . the seminal stains on her tutu Natasha Nikonova 347

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no user-serviceable parts she comes without a manual soft-boiled eggs my biological clock in the hot tub zazen the chickadees‌ the chickadees not thinking about it I just know... moonlight Christina Nguyen uniformed men bending their heads dandelions homeless shelterwe cross to the other side of the road Sanjuktaa Asopa

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List of Contributors Abraham Varghese See Editorial Board Aditya Bahl Aditya Bahl was born and brought up in the mountain state of Himachal Pradesh (India). Bits and pieces of his work have appeared or are forthcoming in places as diverse as Acorn, Bones, The Boston Literary Review Bottle Rockets, Counterexample Poetics, Lilliput Review, Modern Haiku, Otoliths and other magazines.

Afric McGlinchey The 2010 Hennessy Emerging Poetry Award winner, Afric McGlinchey grew up in Ireland and Africa. Her work has appeared in The SHOp, Southword, Moth, Poetry Ireland Review, Magma, Tears in the Fence, Acumen and numerous other journals. A Pushcart nominee, she was also highly commended in the Magma, Joy of Sex, North West Words and Dromineer poetry competitions in 2012. She won the Northern Liberties Poetry Prize (USA) in 2013. She is a workshop facilitator, freelance book editor and reviewer, and tutors poetry online at www.africmcglinchey.com. Her début collection, The lucky star of hidden things, was published in 2012 by Salmon. Afric lives in West Cork. Agna Fernandez Agna Jain Adrin Fernandez is a bachelor of arts student who is passionate about Photography.She believes in the simplicity and beauty of life in all its forms. She never wants to be someone who takes predictable, boring photographs. To combat this, she asks herself after every photo: is this good enough for a gallery, a museum, a photo book? If so, she is happy and is always in search of creating timeless images. She considers it fortunate to be able to spend a good amount of time on personal projects, traveling and collaborating with a team of people. Photography is her calling, her profession, and the thing that will undoubtedly drive her insane someday. She doesn’t photograph subjects. She photographs the way they make her feel. Alan McCormick After winning their inaugural story competition judged by Ruth Rendell, Alan McCormick became Writer In Residence with InterAct Reading Service in 2008, a charity offering personal story readings to stroke patients. He is currently Writer in Residence at Kingston University’s Writing School. His work has appeared widely in print in magazines and collections, including The Sunday Express, London Lies and Interactions, an anthology with writing by Seamus Heaney, Nell Dunn and Alan Ayckbourn. His stories have been placed and shortlisted in several international competitions including The Bridport Prize. 349

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His short stories, and his illustrated work with artist Jonny Voss, can be read online at 3:AM, Dead Drunk Dublin, Nthposition, and Scumsters. ‘Dogsbodies & Scumsters’, an anthology of Alan’s short fiction and Jonny’s illustrations, was published by Roast Books in 2011. Alasdair MacAulay Alasdair MacAulay, born 1953 is a Scottish poet. He lives in S.W. Germany where he works as a freelance translator and English Trainer. In his poems, MacAulay reflects the humanist, pragmatic and sceptical nature of the Scottish Enlightenment. As Hume said that, “Reason must be a slave of the passions” MacAulay’s response is that we, “feel first, and then ask questions”, and that, “emotional responses are always true, even if our love or anger is completely misplaced”. In his opinion, poetry fails in its first duty of integrity if it serves an ideology. Art that aims, “to make people think”, always fails as art because the purpose is to lead the viewer to a certain answer and not to a personal realisation. Influences are often antipodal, as with Robert Burns and William Blake, Allen Ginsberg and T.S. Eliot. He is aware of the categorization of Dionysian and Apollonian but prefers a pragmatic, take it as it comes attitude. He is working with the composer Steven Prabowo on a series of poems with piano accompaniment. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slkcYxVZ0fE Alegria Imperial My country, an archipelago of 7,100 islands, is said to be tips of volcanoes raging in their bellies. Our landscapes, flora and fauna, and even skies vary greatly because of our psyche, part native part Christian part Muslim and a vast underlay of different mountain and river-dwelling tribes. We speak 87 dialects four of them considered most spoken—Pilipino, our national language, is derived from Tagalog of the Central Luzon plains, which carries strains of Malay and Spanish words. My dialect is Iluko of the northernmost edge of Astro-Polynesian origin, the dialect I was born with but never spoke much less wrote with as an adult. One day, it just woke up in verses. Alicen Roshiny Jacob Asst. Prof at Aquinas College, Edacochin. A William Dalrymple enthusiast, she is interested in travel literature, fiction, drama and history.

Amanda Oosthuizen Amanda Oosthuizen is a writer, musician and teacher from Hampshire, UK. She has a degree in Music and English from the University of Wales and an MA with distinction in Creative Writing from the University of Chichester where she was joint winner of 2010 Kate Betts Prize. Her novel was highly commended in the 2012 Yeovil Literary Prize and work has won prizes in the 2012 Yellow Room, The Mail on Sunday Novel and NADFAS competitions; shortlisted for the 2012 Mslexia Prize and Asham Awards and longlisted in 2012 350

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Fish short story and memoir competitions. Her story, ‘The Glorious Dolores’, was performed in March 2013 by Liars’ League in London. Essays are online at Thresholds and stories at Cigale Literary Magazine, The Medulla Review, Female First, The Yellow Room, Liars’ League, Literary Mama, Barehands Poetry, Vine Leaves Journal and The Lampeter Review. Further information can be found at http://www.amandaoosthuizen.com Amber Lee Dodd Amber Lee Dodd studied writing and performance at the University of East Anglia. After graduating she was part funded by the university to showcase new writing at the Edinburgh Fringe. She returned to the Edinburgh Fringe the next year with her work being performed in the sell out show Body Gossip. Her writing has been selected and shortlisted for national competitions and readings in literary events. Recently she was the lead writer on a show produced by the New Theatre Royal and a playwright for the young playwrights programme at Chichester Festival Theatre. Her fiction is published in the short story collection ‘Bookfest 2012: Writers to Watch’ and showcased with Litro Magazine, RiverLit and Cleaver Magazine. Ammu Venugopal Ammu Venugopal is 19 year old, from Kochi, Kerala, currently pursuing her 2nd year of UG course in the Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, Pune. She is a Mass Communication student, planning to specialise in Audio-Visual Production in the final year. She has wide-ranging interests that includes dance, music, theatre, photography, cinematography and filmmaking. She has acted in a couple of malayalam feature films and has had her hands also at anchoring various shows in a popular television channel of South India for two years. In spite of her busy schedules in her degree course, she finds time in capturing eye-catching visuals. This includes working as the official photographer for the major events that have been organized in and out of the college in Pune. As part of her curriculum, she is presently on to her debut attempt at making a short film on society issues. Andrew J Keir Andrew J Keir was born in Glasgow. After University, he spent ten years in a number of jobs at various locations in Scotland and England. In 2001 he moved to Fujairah in the UAE and, whilst living there, decided to take his writing more seriously. Andrew did well in a couple of short story competitions and won a place on the University of Lancaster’s prestigious MA in Creative Writing. His first novel, Bloody Flies, is the direct result of his time at Lancaster. Andrew is currently working on an historical novel about the life of Cinaed mac Alpin (Arguably the first King of Scotland) and a PhD in Creative Writing with Edinburgh Napier University. A picture book for children, Colin Colour Fingers, is also in the pipeline. He divides his time between his homes in Abu Dhabi and Scotland, where he lives with his family. Andy Hedgecock Andy Hedgecock has been involved in small press publishing for more than a quarter of a century. He is co-editor (Fiction) of Interzone, one of the UK ’s 351

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longest running short story publications and its longest running sf and fantasy magazine, and editor, with Claire Massey and Cary Bray, of Paraxis, an online library of short stories and creative nonfiction. Andy’s reviews and features have appeared in The Oxford Companion to English Literature, The Spectator, Time Out / Penguin City Guides, the Breaking Windows Anthology (Prime Books), Zembla, The Third Alternative, The Edge, The Zone, Midnight Street, Freedom (the anarchist paper established by Peter Kropotkin in 1886), The Raven (anarchist review), Short Fiction in Theory and Practice and Foundation – the International Review of Science Fiction. Andy lives in rural Nottinghamshire, in England’s East Midlands, where he teaches Psychology and nonfiction writing and writes funding bids, manuals, reports, news releases and learning materials. Angelee Deodhar Angelee Deodhar is a haiku poet, translator and artist from Chandigarh, India. Born just before the partition of India and schooled in the best “English’ tradition, her home in the hills was filled with books and music and even during medical school she wrote short stories, articles and poems. It was not, however; until her repeated prolonged hospitalizations in 1990, that she developed a passion for haiku. Her haiku, haibun and haiga have been published internationally in various books, journals and on the Internet. She has translated six books about haiku from English into Hindi chief among them about Masaoka Shiki and Kobayashi Issa. Ankita Anand Ankita Anand has worked with the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information as its general secretary, with Penguin Books in an editorial capacity and has been associated with a human rights group named People’s Union for Democratic Rights. She has co-founded a theatre group called Aatish which picks up socio-political issues that often get marginalized in the mainstream media. At present, she is a freelancer who writes, edits and works as the member of a literary festival organizing committee. Apart from writing, her main interest is to work for the prevention of violence against women. Ankita has done her Master’s in English literature from Miranda House, Delhi University, and a film appreciation course from the Film and Television Institute, Pune. Her poetry has earlier been published in journals like The Indian Review of World Literature in English and Labyrinth. She lives in Delhi. Anna Sujatha Mathai Anna Sujatha Mathai has 4 Collections of Poetry in English. Several of her poems have been translated into European and 7 Indian languages, and she has read some of them in Sweden, Denmark, London, and many places in India. She has taught English Literature, besides having worked in the field of social work after a Degree in that subject from Edinburgh University. Her main passion has been theatre, as both actress and director. She can be reached at - sujatha.mathai@gmail.com

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Anne Burgevin Anne Burgevin lives in central Pennsylvania, USA amongst mountains and rivers. She is an elementary teacher, homeschooling parent and outdoor educator. Other then writing haiku, one of her greatest passions is spending time with children. She has two beautiful grown daughters, a fantastic husband, and an entertaining dog, Ruby. Anne tries to live simply and lightly on the earth and spends the spring and summer outdoors growing food and native plants. It is an honor for her to have her haiku appear in the Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts. Archana Mishra Archana Mishra is a well known Artist from Mumbai . She was born in 1976 at Varanasi. She did her P hD in Fine Arts ( Drawing &Painting) at Barkatullah University Bhopal, M.P. She was awarded, in 1999, the 13th All Indian Art contest “SCZCC” Nagpur; in 2000, M.P State Award; in 2001-2, Research Grant Lalit Kala Academi, New Delhi; in 2001, Lalit Kala Akademi Lucknow; in 2001-2003, National Scholarship; in 2003, M.P State Award. She was honoured “as a young talented artist at YUVA SARAJAN” by Kalavart Nyas (Ujjain). She always projects deep expressions in her creations and tries to paint in identified and unidentified images according to their characteristics is her all time furor. Contemplating and painting this vastness in a unique manner which thrills her. Turbulent emotions and calming her inconstancy of mind on plain canvas are reflected in her work. She tries to portray her very own talismanic world and to live in its celestial impact; bestow her a new persona. And that is the sole reason why she is forever ready to integrate this whole world in its new creation. Art Heifetz Art Heifetz teaches ESL to refugees in Richmond, Virgina. His work has been published extensively in the U.S., Canada, India, France, Argentina, Israel, Australia, and Spain in both online and print magazines. See polishedbrasspoems.com for a sampling.

Arun Prasad Arun Prasad is a poet and a painter, who crafts his art works around the intricacies and avenues thrown open in the process of life and lived experiences. Life is an interesting maze of jugglery involving puzzling situations, moments of contemplation, victorious satisfaction, intense emotional downfalls and so and so. It is these experiences both sensory and emotional that he tries to recreate in his works. Originally from Kollam , a sea-side town in Kerala, he now lives at Palakkad district, Kerala, where he teaches English at Sree Narayana College,Alathur. Ashley Stokes Ashley Stokes was born in Carshalton, Surrey in 1970 and educated at St Anne’s College, Oxford and the University of East Anglia. His fiction has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Warwick Review, Unthology, 353

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London Magazine and Fleeting. His first novel Touching the Starfish was published in 2010 and his first collection, The Syllabus of Errors was published in 2013 (both Unthank Books). He lives in Norwich.

Ban’ya Natsuishi Ban’ya Natsuishi, penname of Masayuki Inui, born Aioi City, Hyôgo Prefecture, Japan, in 1955 is an international promoter of haiku writing and translation, and appointed Professor at Meiji University (1992). In 1998 with Sayumi Kamakura, he founded international haiku quarterly “Ginyu”, became its Publisher and Editor-in-Chief. In 2000, after attendance to Global Haiku Festival in USA, he co-founded the World Haiku Association, in Slovenia, currently works as the association’s Director. Among his awards he was recommended as Poet of the Year by Haiku-hyôron (1980); and First Prize by haiku monthly Haiku-kenkyû (1981); the Shii-no-ki Prize 1984; the Modern Haiku Association Prize (1991); the Hekigodô Kawahigashi Prize of the 21st Century Ehime Haiku Prize (2002). Just three of his famous collections: A Future Waterfall Red Moon Press, USA, 1999 & 2004. Flying Pope 空飛ぶ法王 127 俳句, Cyberwit.net, India, 2008; and Turquoise Milk: Selected Haiku of Ban’ya Natsuishi / ターコイズ・ミルク 夏石番矢選句集, Red Moon Press, USA, 2011. Bernard Goldberg Bernard Goldberg teaches English at West Los Angeles College, where he directed the Summer Creative Writing Programs in Prague and Jerusalem. An interview with him appears on the DVD Elie Wiesel Goes Home. His prose poem “Two Brothers Fighting” is included in the book Eduardo Carrillo (published by Museo Eduardo Carrillo). He has written and directed two short films, “The Last Day” and “Cafe Morocco,” which is an official selection of the 2013 Buffalo Niagara Film Festival. Bethany W Pope Bethany W Pope is an award winning author of the LBA, and a finalist for the Faulkner-Wisdom Awards. Her work was listed for the Cinnamon Press Novel Competition. She received her PhD from Aberystwyth University’s Creative Writing program. Her first poetry collection, A Radiance was published by Cultured Llama Press in June. Her second collection, Persephone in the Underworld has been accepted by Rufus Books and shall be released in 2016. Her work has appeared in: Anon, Art Times, Ampersand, Blue Tattoo,The Galway Review, Sentinel Quarterly, The Delinquent, De/Tached (an anthology released by Parthian), The Writer’s Hub, New Welsh Review, Every Day Poems, And Other Poems , Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Magma, Words & Music, The Quarterly Conversation, Tears in the Fence, Ink, Sweat and Tears and Planet. Her work is due to appear in the next issues of Poetry Review Salzburg, Acumen, Pacific Poetry , Music& Literature, Anon, and The Screech Owl.

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Bhanusree S Kumar Currently pursuing 1st year BA English Copyediting, she finds music and literature as inseparable from her life as fingers from a palm. Her short story titled ‘The Secret of the Silver Casket’ has been published in the magazine ‘Children’s World’ brought out by the National Book Trust. She is passionate about poetry and hopes to be known as a poet one day. Bhaswati Ghosh Bhaswati Ghosh writes and translates fiction and non-fiction. Her first work of translation from Bengali into English–My Days with Ramkinkar Baij–has been published by Delhi-based Niyogi Books . This work also won her the Charles Wallace (India) Trust Fellowship for translation. Her stories have appeared in Letters to My Mother and My Teacher is My Hero – anthologies of true stories published by Adams Media. Bhaswati has a background in journalism and has contributed to several websites (including Humanities Underground, Global Graffiti, The Four Quarters Magazine, Parabaas, Asia Writes) and print magazines (Stealing Time, Teenage Buzz, ByLine, Cause and Effect). She has also written for major Indian dailies such as The Times of India, The Statesman and The Pioneer. Bhaswati currently lives in Ontario, Canada. Bill Kenney Bill Kenney, in 2004, a month before turning 72, told his wife, “I think I should write haiku,” although he knew very little about haiku, and most of what he did know was wrong. Anyway, he’s been trying ever since. His work has appeared in numerous print and online journals, and featured in A New Resonance 5: Emerging Voices in English Language Haiku (Red Moon Press, 2007), and has appeared repeatedly in the annual Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku. Branch Isole Writing as the Voyeuristic Poet, Branch Isole observes and comments on the motivations of our world both clothed and bare. Writing of issues and emotions often experienced but not always voiced, his storytelling style and presentation casts reflective identity against a backdrop of personal choice or avoidance. www.branchisole.com Brendan Slater Brendan Slater is a father and software engineer from Stoke-on-Trent, England. His poetry has been published widely in both online and print journals, and a number of anthologies. In 2012 he started Yet To Be Named Free Press, taking advantage of Print-on-Demand technology to publish experimental short-verse poetry. As well as publishing paperbacks, titles are also made available as ebooks and distributed freely. Brendan has authored the mixed genre collection In Bed With Kerouac and a collection of one-liners Rum, Sodomy & the Wash.

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Brian Kirk Brian Kirk is a poet, prose writer and playwright from Dublin. He was shortlisted for many awards including Hennessy New Irish Writer Awards for fiction in 2008 and 2011. He won the inaugural Writing Spirit Award in 2009 with his story Perpetuity. He was twice shortlisted for the PJ O’Connor Award for radio drama with RTE. He was highly commended in the iYeats Poetry Competition His work has appeared in the Sunday Tribune, Crannóg Magazine, The Stony Thursday Book, Revival, Abridged(NI), Southword, Burning Bush 2, WortMosaik(GER), Boyne Berries, Wordlegs, Long Story Short Literary Journal, Can Can, Shotglass Journal, Bare Hands Poetry, The First Cut and various anthologies. He has been selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series 2013. He blogs at: http://briankirkwriter.com/ Burritt E. Benson Burritt E. Benson III, aka Bucky, is a leap year baby, 1968. Spanked, raised and still living in the small Southeastern town of Lumberton, North Carolina. Burritt received his B.A. in Marketing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 1992. A year later he married his college princess, Sara Shatterly. He worked at his father’s successful construction company from 1992-2004, before attaining his father’s blessing to skedaddle off and pursue his art full time. Burritt has remained steadfast on progressing his art to new levels since stepping down as President of his father’s company. He’s definitely accomplishing what makes him happy, creating his art full time, putting his imagination to fantastic use each and everyday. Chase Fire Chase Fire is a student from the United States, currently working on earning his high school diploma. His haiku and tanka have appeared in multiple journals over the past year. He is also an active participant in The Haiku Foundation Forums, and regularly workshops his poems there. He is the editor and founder of Dark Pens, a journal that publishes short poetry about the moon. Christina Nguyen Christina Nguyen is a poet and writer living in Minnesota, USA. She plays with words on Twitter as @TinaNguyen and blogs Japanese short form poetry at “A wish for the sky…”. Her work has appeared in various anthologies and journals including Modern Haiku, Ribbons, GUSTS, red lights, American Tanka, Frogpond, Prune Juice, Moonbathing, and tinywords. In 2013, some of her poetry appeared in A New Resonance 8: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku from Red Moon Press. Colin Stewart Jones Colin Stewart Jones speaks English, studied Gaelic and writes Japanese short form poetry—he inhabits a strange place between three very different cultures. Colin is also editor of Notes from the Gean monthly haiku journal, as well as owner of Gean Tree Press: www.geantreepress.com 356

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Collins Justine Peter Collins Justine Peter had pursued his undergraduate program in English Copy Editing at Sacred Heart College, Thevara and is now working in an advertising firm. He has proven his calibre in fiction writing, photography and film-making. He profusely contributes his short fictions to college blog and has received awards in intercollegiate photography competitions. Clark Zlotchew Clark Zlotchew is presently Distinguished Teaching Professor of Spanish (language, literatures, linguistics) at SUNY Fredonia. He joined the US Naval Reserve at 17 and was honorably discharged as Chief Petty Officer at age 36. His experiences at sea and in various ports have left a deep impression that shows up in several of his short stories. He has traveled widely on 5 continents. All these experiences have influenced his writing. Zlotchew has had several careers: He has worked for the export department of a large liquor manufacturer, has been Coordinator for a N.Y. State agency supplying instruction to Hispanic seasonal workers in rural N.Y. State, taught Spanish in high school and in several universities. Zlotchew has had 17 books published, but only 3 of them are his own fiction. Two of these are novels (military/action and espionage/thriller) while the latest is a collection of his short stories. The most recent novel, The Caucasian Menace (2010), is an espionage/thriller. Zlotchew’s short story collection, Once Upon a Decade: Tales of the Fifties, was Finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, short story category, 2011. The short stories in this collection take place against the background of the 1950s, a very different civilization from that of the Twenty-First Century --on the surface-- yet humans have had the same instincts and needs since we were first human. category, 2011. Daniele Serafini Daniele Serafini, Italian, graduated from Bologna University in 1980. His poetry collections are: Paesaggio celtico, (1993), which was a finalist for the Diego Valeri Prize; Luce di confine, (1994); Eterno chiama il mare, (1997), which gained an honourable mention at the Eugenio Montale Internazional Prize; Dopo l’amore, (2004); and Quando eravamo re (2012). His short novel Café Hàwelka also appeared in 1995 from Mobydick, Faenza, which has published all his work. He has edited the poetry magazines Origini and Tratti and translated many poems from English and French. His own work has been translated into several European languages. He is the Head of the Museum Services in Lugo near Ravenna and Curator of the Francesco Baracca Museum of Aviation. David Cobb David Cobb is a globally respected haiku poet, and editor of haiku anthologies including The British Museum Haiku (ed.) ISBN 0 7141 2401 X British Museum Press, now in its seventh printing: “This book is a celebration of Japanese haiku and painting and modern book design, with the English text beautifully set in Centaur, calligraphy renderings of the Japanese texts, and glorious reproductions of Japanese woodblock prints, scroll and screen paintings, and graphics in other media. Cobb’s selection encompasses haiku of the pre-Basho 357

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poets through works of the modern masters arranged by season. The editor’s sensible introductory notes and biographical sketches are a bonus. This book is a delight from start to finish.” Charles Trumbull, Modern Haiku, USA, 2003. Website: www.davidcobb.co.uk David G. Lanoue David G. Lanoue is a professor of English at Xavier University of Louisiana. He is a co-founder of the New Orleans Haiku Society, an associate member of the Haiku Foundation, and the president of the Haiku Society of America. His books include Pure Land Haiku: The Art of Priest Issa, Haiku Guy, Laughing Buddha, Haiku Wars, Frog Poet and Issa’s Best: A Translator’s Selection of Master Haiku. He maintains The Haiku of Kobayashi Issa website, for which he has translated 10,000 of Issa’s haiku. Website: http://haikuguy.com David Serjeant David Serjeant lives in Derbyshire UK with his wife and daughters where he works as a local government officer. In the little spare time he has he enjoys photography, growing vegetables and watching world and art house cinema. His website is at http://distantlightning.blogspot.com

Debbie Gilbert Debbie Gilbert, since reviving her childhood passion for writing and focusing on poetry in August, 2011, BA chemistry, Wesleyan University, has enjoyed sharing her work with friends and fellow poets. Her poem, The Burren of County Clare, won the Farmington River Literary Arts Center’s Adult Poetry contest in the Summer of 2012. She resides in Connecticut, USA. Currently, she has been concentrating on writing Japanese poetic forms with The Rooster Moans online community. She is grateful for the encouragement she has received from family and readers and for all she has explored with colleagues and instructors. Debz Hobbs-Wyatt Debz Hobbs-Wyatt was born in Essex and now lives and works as a full time writer/editor from her home in the mountains of Snowdonia. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Bangor University and has had several short stories published. She has also been short listed in a number of writing competitions, including being nominated for the prestigious US Pushcart Prize 2013 and has made the short list of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2013 and won the Bath Short Story Award 2013. Her debut novel While No One Was Watching will be published by Parthian Books this October. She edits and critiques for publishers and writers and has a daily writing Blog. Website: www.debzhobbs-wyatt.co.uk Blog: http://wordznerd.wordpress.com/ Author Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/DebzHobbsWyattAuthor Twitter @DebzHobbsWyatt

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Dhugal J. Lindsay Dhugal J. Lindsay, an Australian scientist won the prestigious Nakaniida Grand Haiku Prize in 2002 for a collection of poetry written in Japanese. Awarded annually for the best debut work in Japanese by a haiku poet, the 300,000 yen prize went to the marine biologist from Queensland, Australia. Lindsay’s collection “Mutsugoro (The Mudskipper)” contains 290 haiku composed between 1991 and 2001. As an afterword, there is an eight-page essay in which Lindsay sets out his haiku philosophy and presents his thoughts on the future of the genre. “Mutsugoro” was selected from a field of more than 100 nominated works, and the foreword is by haiku master Kaneko Tohta. Tohta praises Lindsay’s poems as being “written in an easy and natural way, describing things from everyday life, but what he searches for in his haiku is profound and significant. He is never just an ordinary haiku poet.” Dick Whyte Dick Whyte is an artist from Wellington, New Zealand, who works in a wide range of media (video, music, poetry, visual art, sculpture). He has been writing haiku (and related forms) for the past 6 years, and is the co-editor of Haiku News, a poetry journal dedicated to haiku, tanka, senryu and kyoka that engages with sociopolitical issues and themes. Artist blog: www.wayfarergallery.net/artdick Music: dickwhyte.bandcamp.com: and video works: vimeo. com/dickwhyte. Haiku News link: www.wayfarergallery.net/haikunews Dipali S. Bhandari Dr. Dipali S. Bhandari; born 13 September,1973, is currently working as an Assistant Professor in English Literature at N.S.C.B.M.Govt College, Hamirpur( H.P.), India. She has obtained her Doctoral degree in Translation studies from H.N.B.Garhwal University (Srinagar, Garhwal). She has presented research papers at various national and international seminars. She has published three research papers so far and a few more are under publication. Dustin Hinson Dustin Hinson received his BA in Studio Art from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke in 2005 and his MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2007. He’s taught at Black Hills State University since 2009 and was recently hired as Assistant Professor in 2012. Dustin teaches courses in Graphic Design as well as Advertising Media and Web Publishing. He has exhibited work including drawing, sculpture, and digital media nationally and internationally. Eleanor Leonne Bennett Eleanor Leonne Bennett is an internationally award winning photographer and visual artist. She is the CIWEM Young Environmental Photographer of The Year 2013 and has also won first places with National Geographic,The World Photography Organisation, Nature’s Best Photography and The National Trust to name but a few. Eleanor’s photography has been published in the Telegraph, 359

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The Guardian, The British Journal of Psychiatry, Life Force Magazine, British Vogue and as the cover of books and magazines extensively throughout the world.

Elizabeth MacDonald Elizabeth MacDonald was born in Dublin, where she studied Italian and Music at UCD. She lives in Pisa with her husband and son and teaches on the post-graduate course in Translation at the University of Pisa. Her translation of the collected short stories of Liam O’Flaherty was the first in Italy. Her short stories, essays and translations have appeared in many journals and blogs, including Modern Poetry in Translation, Poetry Ireland Review, The Cork Literary Review, Soglie and The Reading Life. She completed the M.Phil in Creative Writing at Trinity College, Dublin in 2001, coming first in her class and gaining a Distinction. Her collection of short stories, A House of Cards, was published by Pillar Press in 2006 and was longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award . A second edition is coming out later this year with Portia Publishing. She has recently completed a novel set in 13th century Spain and Sicily, during the period of Convivencia among Christians, Jews and Muslims. Emma-Jane Hughes Emma-Jane Hughes was born in Middlesex in 1977 and raised between the sublime of a barge on the River Thames and the ridiculous of an all-girls boarding school. She now lives in Wittering with her husband and their two children and is currently running creative writing workshops whilst working on her PhD in contemporary confessional poetry. Her poem ‘My Camel’ achieved Highly Commended in the Bridport Prize 2012, and was published in The Winners Anthology 2012 . In the same year another poem, ‘An experiment to ascertain the heat source between two objects’ was the overall winning submission to The Modern Mind – A Creative Writing Anthology published by the University of Brighton. She is indebted to the lecturers of the English and Creative Writing department of the University of Chichester, and to her colleagues in the Something Literary writers’ group. Emma can be contacted via www.winkmedia.co.uk. Ernest Williamson Dr. Ernest Williamson III has published poetry and visual art in over 400 national and international online and print journals. .His poetry has been nominated three times for the Best of the Net Anthology (http://www.sundresspublications.com/). He holds the B.A. and the M.A. in English/ Creative Writing/Literature from the University of Memphis and the PhD in Higher Education Leadership from Seton Hall University. Francesca Biller Francesca Biller is an award-winning investigative journalist, writer, author and artist who passionately explores the realms and treasures of the arts, 360

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philosophy, politics, and the rich culture and history of her own multicultural East and West heritage of Japanese and Russian. Whether writing articles, essays, stories, prose or humor, Biller is intrigued by those subjects and people who most peak her interest in an unusual way. Published: The Japanese American National Museum, The Chicago Sun Times, The Huffington Post, OpenSalon, The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, Empowering Parents.com, Elephant Journal, The Wall Street Journal, Senses Magazine, and others. Geoffrey Heptonstall Geoffrey Heptonstall, who lives in Cambridge, is a poetry reviewer with The London Magazine. Recent creative work includes poetry for Dead Ink, The English Chicago Review, International Literary Quarterly, London Grip, Message in a Bottle, The Passionate Transitory, The Recusant and two anthologies, Connections and Underground. There is recent fiction for Open Wide, Vintage Script and Writers’ Hub. New essays for Cerise Press and New Linear Perspectives are published this year. Geoffrey’s recent theatre writing includes a play, Providence, and contributions to a masque designed by Clare Newton. Gina Gibson Gina Gibson, MFA is Assistant Professor of Digital Media at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, SD where she teaches Graphic Design. An internationally exhibiting artist and lecturer, her work has been seen at the Cynthia Broan Gallery in New York City, the National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei, Taiwan and The Siena Art Institute in Siena, Italy. She received her BA in studio art at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and her MFA in studio art from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Gopika Nath Gopika Nath is a Textile Artist and writer. A Fulbright Scholar, alumni of The Central School of Art and Design, London, U.K, she lives and works in Gurgaon. Her writings have been published in reputable magazines and journals including The Art India Magazine, India Habitat Centre Journal, Visual Arts Gallery quarterly magazine ‘I’; Life Positive magazine; Indian Design and Interiors; Swagat; Discover India; Embroidery Magazine [U.K] etc. Her poems have been published in: Life Positive Magazine, 2007. ‘So Many Voices’, an anthology by Delhi Poetree2007. ‘Here and There’, anthology by Delhi Poetree – 2008. A Secret Adobe of Fireflies [Youthreach] She has also participated in ‘Writing the Future - Celebrating New Writing from The Asia Pacific Region’ 2008, A collection of her poems formed part of the exhibition ‘Drawn with Thread’ at Seven Art Gallery, 2009. Poetry selected for Interliqt 2010/11, E-Criterion, on-line journal 2012. Brown Critique, 2012. Website: http://www.gopikanath.co.in/ Some articles: http://www.gopikanath.co.in/pblications.htm. html Blogs: http://gopikanathartviews.blogspot.com/ http://garammasalachai.blogspot,com Gopikrishnan Kottoor Gopikrishnan Kottoor has won may prizes for his poetry right from his 361

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school days, and he ended up winning 04 prizes in the AIPC poetry prizes. The All India Special Poetry Prize, Second Prize, and two commendations. Now he wonders if he is a poet at all. He has three novels, three plays, ten poetry books, two translations (Punthanam and kukoka- Holiness and sex) , has edited a book of younger Indian Poetry in English (Poetry chain-Writers workshop), published most of the younger poets in the poetry magazine he founded- Poetry Chain , had residencies and poetry studies in Europe and US, and poetry (Father, Wake Us In Passing)translated and published and read in Germany and neighbouring countries in Europe. Helen Buckingham Helen Buckingham lives in Bristol, England. She has been writing poetry since the early eighties, working increasingly these days within the Japanese short form tradition. Since the beginning of 2010 she has had several volumes of haiku, senryu and tanka published, both on her own and in collaboration with Canadian writer Angela Leuck. Her most recent work is a solo collection comprising a mix of Japanese and western forms, titled “Armadillo Basket” (Waterloo Press, UK, 2012). Jaydeep Sarangi Jaydeep Sarangi is an editor, reviewer and poet-academic anchored in Kolkata, India. Widely anthologised as a poet and critic , Sarangi has read his poems and delivered lectures in more than thirty universities / institutes/ centres in different continents. Dr. Jaydeep Sarangi is with the Deptt. Of English at Jogesh Chandra ChaudhuriCollege (Calcutta University), 30,Prince Anwar Shah Road,Kolkata-700033,WB, India. J. Desy Schoenewies J. Desy Schoenewies had pursued her Master of Fine Arts from Studio Art at the Fontbonne University in St. Louis. She is currently working as the Assistant Professor of Art at the Black Hills State University.

Jim Kacian Jim Kacian formed and created The Haiku Foundation in 2008, a non-profit organization which focuses on archiving English-language haiku’s first century while expanding its second, with an official start-date of January 6, 2009. In August 2013 his comprehensive anthology Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years will be published by W.W. Norton & Company. Kacian served as editor-in-chief for the decade-long project, with Allan Burns and Philip Rowland as associate editors, and with a general introduction by former poet laureate Billy Collins. The anthology tells the story of English-language haiku from its first recognized example —Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro”—to current practice, and offers selections from well over 200 poets in a chronological format. 362

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It also features Kacian’s 100-page overview of the genre. An extensive account of Jim Kacian is given here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Kacian Johannes Bjerg Johannes Bjerg: born in Copenhagen, Denmark, is a writer of haiku, tanka, gogyohki/gogyohka, haibun, haiga and micropoetry. He is a visual artist and Co-editor of “Bones - a journal for contemporary haiku”. Author of: “Støv”, haiku (Danish) 2010, Books On Demand, Denmark, “Penguins/Pingviner - 122 haiku” (English and Danish), Cyberwit (India) 2011, “Parallels” (English), yettobenamedfreepress, (England) 2013, “Thread / Tråde - bilingual ku /tosprogede ku”, 2013, self-published (Danish and English haiku), and is published in various journals.

John Antoine Labadie See Editorial Board. John J. Brugaletta John J. Brugaletta was editor of South Coast Poetry Journal for nine years. He has had two volumes of his poetry in print, The Tongue Angles and Tilling the Land, and has published in over 40 periodicals and collections. He and his wife live on the redwood coast of Northern California.

John Kurian John Kurian is currently pursuing his bachelor of arts in English Copy Editing. His intrests lie in writing, watching movies, and going for roadtrips.

John MacKenna John MacKenna is the author of sixteen books – novels; short-stories; memoir; biography and poetry. His latest novel Joseph will be published later this year and his novel Clare, based on the life of the poet John Clare, will be republished next year. He lives in Ireland.

John McManus John McManus is an award winning haiku poet. He lives with his wife and children in Carlisle, Cumbria, England and is a support worker for people with mental health problems. John was one of the poets featured in New Resonance 8, and is the former Expositions editor for the online haikai journal A Hundred Gourds.

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John Stevenson John Stevenson lives in a small town near Albany, New York. He is a former President of The Haiku Society of America, former editor of Frogpond and currently serves as the Managing Editor of The Heron’s Nest and a contributing editor for the Red Moon Anthology. His haiku collections are Something Unerasable (1994), Some of the Silence (1999), Quiet Enough (2004) and Live Again (2009); the first title a self-published chapbook and the last three from Red Moon Press. Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards’ first collection, My Family and Other Superheroes, will appear from Seren in 2014. In 2012, he won second place in The Cardiff International Poetry Competition and was commended in The Basil Bunting Award. His work has appeared in Magma, New Welsh Review, The North, Planet, Poetry Wales and The Rialto.

Jonathan Taylor Jonathan Taylor is author of the novel Entertaining Strangers (Salt, 2012), and the memoir Take Me Home (Granta, 2007). His poetry collection is Musicolepsy (Shoestring Press, 2013). He is editor of the anthology Overheard: Stories to Read Aloud (Salt, 2012). He is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at De Montfort University, and co-director of arts organisation and small publisher Crystal Clear Creators. His website is www.jonathanptaylor.co.uk Jose Varghese See Editorial Board. Jude Gerald Lopez Jude Gerald Lopez is an aspiring writer who has finished working on his novel When Lines Blur. His works of prose fiction, such as ‘The City of Lights’ and ‘A Drop of Liquid Hope’ won the first prize in the monthly international flash fiction contest conducted by Heart-bytes (Sacred Heart College Blog). His works have been published in Efiction India magazine and Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts. He also maintains two blogs: ‘Clocks and Crystals Balls’ and ‘Technicolour Tales’, the former for his writing and the latter for his photography. Kala Ramesh See Editorial Board. Karen Hoy Karen Hoy was born in Newport, Wales, and appears in My Mother Threw Knives (Second Light Publications 2006); and was Highly Commended in the BBC Wildlife Magazine’s Nature Writer of the Year competition (2009). In 2006 Karen founded the TV development company Gilded Lily. She has previously worked on documentaries and wildlife films for the BBC, National Geographic, the Discovery Channels and other leading broadcasters. Karen has been published in a 364

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number of haiku-based publications, including anthologies The Humours of Haiku, edited by David Cobb (Iron Press); and as one of Wales’s haiku pioneers in Another Country: Haiku Poetry from Wales (Gomer Press) edited by Nigel Jenkins, Ken Jones and Lynne Rees.

Kathryn A. Kopple Kathryn A. Kopple is a translator of Latin American poetry and prose. Her translations have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She has published original work in Danse Macabre, The Hummingbird Review, The Threepenny Review, and Philadelphia stories, among other publications. She has an essay forthcoming in an international anthology on law and literature edited by CIDE, DF titled “Disorder in the Court: Acting-Out Injustice in ‘Inherit the Wind’”. Kazi Anis Ahmad K. Anis Ahmed is the author of the collection of stories, “Good Night, Mr. Kissinger.” It is forthcoming as a paperback original from Ricochet in the US in November 2013. He is the publisher of Bengal Lights, a literary journal, and the Dhaka Tribune, a new national daily in Bangladesh. Ahmed is at work on a novel, “The World In My Hands.” Keith Garebian Keith Garebian, Mississauga, Canada, has published over 1200 reviews, interviews, and features in over 80 newspapers, journals, and magazines. He’s published 19 books, the latest being Moon on Wild Grasses (Guernica). He was longlisted for the Re-Lit Award for Frida: Paint Me As A Volcano (Buschek) and for the LAMDA Award for Poetry for Blue: The Derek Jarman Poems. Among many awards: Canadian Authors Association (Niagara Branch) Poetry Award (2009); the Naji Naaman Literary Honour Prize (Lebanon) (2009); the Mississauga Arts Award (2000 and 2008); and a Dan Sullivan Memorial Poetry Award (2006). A poem from Children of Ararat (Frontenac House) was selected Poem of the Month by the Parliamentary Poet Laureate in 2009. Nominated in the Established Literary category for a 2013 Mississauga Arts Award, he’s currently working on a poetry collection about Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz and a new biography of William Hutt. Website: www.stageandpage.com Kelsey Murphy Kelsey Murphy is a first soprano in her schools choral, and she often writes her own lyrics and makes her own songs. Her favorite poem is “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allen Poe. She loved the poem so much, that she put music to it and sang it! She started writing poetry when she was 16 years old, and doesn’t plan to stop any time soon. Kevin Cadwallender Kevin Cadwallender is a poet, publisher, composer, playwright, artist, 365

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novelist and radio programme and filmmaker. Red Squirrel Press’s Commissioning Editor (Scotland), Tenor Bull Press’ Creative Editor, Scottish Slam Champion 2012. His BBC Radio 4 Poetry programme ‘Voyages’ was shortlisted for a Sony Radio Award and the book of the same name shortlisted for a Raymond Williams Community Publishing Award. He has published 9 full collections of poetry including ‘Dances with Vowels : New and Selected Poems (Smokestack Books) and about 40 chapbooks in the last 40 years as well as editing countless more. He is the former Editor of Drey, Sand and Hybrid magazines and runs 10RED a monthly poetry venue in Edinburgh. He lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Sunderland and is Poet in Residence for St.Andrews Creative Places. Kujtim Morina Kujtim Morina was born on 1972 in Has district/Northern Albania. He was graduated from the University of Tirana/Albania for Mathematics (1994), from the University of Shkodra/Albania for Law (2004) and has a Master’s in European studies from the University of Graz/Austria (2008). From 1999 to 2009, he has worked with international organisations in Kukes region like UNHCR,CARE and OSCE. Now, he works in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and lives in Tirana. So far, he has published the poetry books: “Drunk under the fog”, 2007, and “Return of eyes”, 2010. His literary translations from English to Albanian includes “The Gulag Archipelago”, (Princi Publishings 2012), of the well-known Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and poems from Niels Hav (Denmark), Linda Hogan (USA) and Gabor Mandy (Hungary). He writes short stories as well. His works have been published continually in the literary press in Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia. Laura Cleary Laura Cleary is a 28-year-old poet living in Dublin. Her poetry has appeared in Ascent Aspirations magazine, wordlegs, barehandspoetry, The Poetry Bus and the recently launched Bare Hands Anthology as well as forthcoming editions of The Poetry Bus and can can. Her poem “Breaking Point” was shortlisted for the 2011 iYeats Emerging Talent Award, and she was a featured poet in the recent Ash Wednesday series in Ranelagh, Dublin. She currently lives in Dublin with her partner Colm and an extensive nail polish collection. Laurence Stacey Laurence Stacey works at Chinese Shaolin Center - Marietta, Kennesaw State University USA. Laurence is interested in promoting haiku as a teaching medium in grade schools and universities and is the co-editor of Haiku News, a poetry journal dedicated to haiku, tanka, senryu and kyoka that engages with sociopolitical issues and themes. The Haiku News link: www.wayfarergallery.net/ haikunews LeRoy Gorman LeRoy Gorman lives in Napanee, Ontario. His poetry, much of it visual (mostly minimalist and haiku, or haiku-like), has appeared in print since 1976 in 366

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various presentations worldwide, and garnered numerous awards, and been displayed in exhibitions, internationally. In addition to writing, he edits Haiku Canada publications, including Haiku Canada Newsletter from 1996 to 2006, followed by Haiku Canada Review, beginning in 2007, as well as various annual anthologies broadsides. Since 1998, he has also published poetry leaflets and postcards under his pawEpress imprint. In addition to writing under his own name, he has published under at least fifty pseudonyms. He is a member of the Writers’ Union of Canada, the Science Fiction Poetry Association, the Haiku Society of America, and is a life member of Haiku Canada. Gorman is the 2012–2013 honorary curator of the American Haiku Archives at the California State Library in Sacramento. www. americanhaikuarchives.org/curators/LeroyGorman.html Leza Lowitz Leza Lowitz was born in San Francisco and grew up in Berkeley, California. After attending NYU’s Dramatic Writing Program, she returned to California and received her B.A. in English Literature from U.C. Berkeley in 1984. In 1986 she received an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Lowitz first made her way to Tokyo in 1989, where she worked as a freelance writer/editor for the Japan Times and the Asahi Evening News, and as an art critic for Art in America. She wrote regular radio reviews for NHK Radio’s “Japan Diary” and NPR’s “Pacific Time Radio.” She was a lecturer in English and American Literature at Tokyo University and an editor at the University of Tokyo Press. After almost a decade in California, Lowitz relocated to Tokyo in 2003, where she opened Sun and Moon Yoga. Writer: www.lezalowitz.com Owner http://sunandmoon.jp Lissa Kiernan Lissa Kiernan is Director, Digital Media, of World Monuments Fund, and currently makes her home in Brooklyn, New York. She is a poet, essayist, and critic, and her work can be found or is forthcoming in numerous journals and anthologies including Podium Literary Journal, Terrain.org, unSplendid, Whale Sound, and The Yale Journal for the Humanities in Medicine. She holds an MFA from Stonecoast, and an MA from The New School. Lissa’s poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She is Founder of The Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative, a provider of online workshops, and editor emeritus for Arsenic Lobster Poetry Journal. Website: lissakiernan.com Madeleine D’Arcy Madeleine D’Arcy was born in Ireland. She moved to London in 1985 to work as a criminal law solicitor and, later, as a legal editor. She returned to Cork City in 1999 with her husband and son. She began to write short stories in 2005. In 2010 she won a Hennessy Literary Award in the First Fiction category for her first published short story, as well as the overall Award of Hennessy New Irish Writer. Her stories have been short-listed in many other competitions, including the Bridport Prize (UK). Her publishing credits include: Sharp Sticks, Driven Nails; Made in Heaven and Other Short Stories; Sunday Tribune; 367

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Irish Examiner; Necessary Fiction; Irish Independent; Irish Times; and The Reading Life. Her debut short story collection ‘Waiting for the Bullet’ will be published by Doire Press in 2014. She is currently pursuing an MA in Creative Writing at University College Cork. Mamta Madhavan Mamta Madhavan is a freelance writer. Her poems have been published in print and online anthologies, journals, literary journals and zines. She is also the author of children’s poetry and short stories. She is a curator on staff at gotpoetry.com.

Manorama Mathai Moss Manorama Mathai Moss writes under the name Manorama Mathai. She has published several novels and short stories. Her best known work is Mulligatawny Soup, published by Penguin I. Her latest novel is Love and Dr Aiyar. Manorama Mathai studied at the universities of Delhi and Oxford and has lived and worked in many countries. She has worked in advertising in India and New York, with NGOs and with UNICEF. Manorama Mathai now lives in London. Margie Beth Labadie Margie Beth Labadie currently has taught Digital Fine Art, Digital Photography, Communication Design and Digital Art Appreciation for the Art Department in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of North Carolina of Pembroke. In the past she had co-taught web-design classes with Computer Science, and co-taught Communication Design with the UNC Pembroke School of Business. Professor Labadie says this about her approach to teaching: “I seek out collaborations that give students real-world experiences.” Mariam Henna Naushad See Editorial Board. Mario Angelo Quintero (George Angel) George Angel was born in 1964 of Colombian parents in San Francisco, California, where he lived his first thirty years. He studied literature at the University of California and was later awarded a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Fiction from Stanford University. He has published fiction, poetry, and essays in English as George Angel in literary magazines, the chapbook Globo (1996, Will Hall), and received the Nilon Award from Fiction Collective 2 for his book The Fifth Season (FCII, 1996). Since 1995, he has lived in Medellin, Colombia, where as Mario Angel Quintero he has published the books of poetry in Spanish, Mapa de lo claro (Editorial Párpado, 1996), Muestra (Editorial Párpado,1998), Tentenelaire (Editorial Párpado,2006), and El desvanecimiento del alma en camino al limbo (Los Lares,2009) as well as a book of plays in Spanish, Cómo morir en un solar ajeno (Transeunte, 2009). His visual art has been shown and repeatedly used as book illustration. He has been the director and playwright of the theater company Párpado Teatro since 2003. He also makes music with the groups 368

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Underflavour and Sell the Elephant. Marya Berry Marya Berry: Poetry began to wake me from nightmares when I was nine. I have tried to follow its lead. A couple of years ago, I was invited by the Int’l School of Lyon (France) to read to students aged 11-17 & their teachers, something i have never permitted myself to do before. As it happened, i never felt more grounded in my life. After which, students & teachers alike, genuinely interested & delighted, asked for encores, along with a lot of intensely relevant if, at times, discomfiting questions. As to my poetical leanings, i was early on attracted to haiku, so i wrote hundreds of them, including haiku series (on Monet, seahorses, WW2). There is a Japanese corner inside me & in my living room. Poetry is my oxygen, my heartbeat, my Taj Mahal. Mary Squier Weiler Mary Squier Weiler lives in a small artist colony in Baja California Sur, Mexico. The rugged Sierra de la Laguna Mountains out her back door and the infinite Pacific Ocean a short walk from the front door. This fecund sub-tropical oasis in the middle of a desert provides an almost mythic panorama for collecting the mysteries in her poetry. Days are bright with sun and wet with sea water. Mary writes from this powerful landscape of wonder and often dangerous beauty.

Meg Tuite Meg Tuite’s writing has appeared in over 250 literary journals including Berkeley Fiction Review, MadHatter’s Review, Epiphany, JMWW, One, the Journal, Monkeybicycle and Boston Literary Magazine. She has been nominated seven times for the Pushcart Prize and has been a finalist twice in the Glimmer Train contests. She is fiction editor of Santa Fe Literary Review and Connotation Press, author of Domestic Apparition (2011) San Francisco Bay Press, Disparate Pathos (2012) Monkey Puzzle Press, Reverberations (2012) Deadly Chaps Press, Bound By Blue and other stories (2013) Sententia Books, Pushpin a Point on a Map Until a Family Cracks Through (2013) Red Bird Chapbooks, won the Twin Antlers Collaborative Poetry award from Artistically Declined Press for her poetry collection written with Heather Fowler and Michelle Reale, “Bare Bulbs Swinging, (2014). She teaches at the Santa Fe Community College. Her blog: http://megtuite. wordpress.com Mel Ulm See Editorial Board. Michael Mirolla Novelist, short story writer, poet and playwright, Michael Mirolla’s publications include a punk-inspired novella, The Ballad of Martin B.; two novels: Berlin (a Bressani Prize winner) and The Facility, which features among other things a string of cloned Mussolinis; three short story collections: The Formal Logic of Emotion (translated in Italian as La logica formale delle emozioni), Hothouse Loves & Other Tales and The Giulio Metaphysics III; and three 369

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collections of poetry: Light and Time, the English-Italian bilingual Interstellar Distances – Distanze Interstellari, and The House on 14th Avenue. Along with partner Connie McParland, Michael runs Guernica Editions, a Canadian literary press. Michael Pedersen Michael Pedersen (b. 1984) is a poet, playwright and animateur with an electric reputation on the performance circuit and a prolific precedent of collaborations, having teamed up with some of the UK’s top musicians, film-makers and artists. He is widely published in magazines, journals, anthologies and e-zines. His inaugural chapbook Part-Truths (Koo Press) was a Callum MacDonald Memorial Award finalist; its sequel The Basic Algebra of Buttering Bread (Windfall Books) received flocks of reviewer plaudits. His first full-length (part-illustrated) collection Play With Me was published by Polygon in July 2013. He is co-founder and circus master at Neu! Reekie! – now one of the country’s most formidable literary nights and DIY record labels – and a key creative within Dream Tower Productions. He’s also the lyricist for cult band Jesus, Baby! and has written short plays for various troupes including the National Theatre of Scotland. Moa Lindunger Moa Lindunger is 26 years old and currently a student at the Stockholm University School of Business. She is also a student at the University’s Department of English and considers the combination of business, economics and literature a perfect match. Works by Thornton Wilder, Emily Dickinson, Barry Lopez, Michail Bulgakov and Leo Tolstoy are on the bookshelf closest to her heart. Murali Sivaramakrisnan Murali Sivaramakrishnan has authored several books and articles which include four volumes of poetry. His work on environmental criticism and theory is widely recognized and his paintings have gone on display at several exhibitions in India and abroad.His poems have been noted for their genuineness of feeling and sensitivity to form and often singled out for their “sensitivity and deep thought, feeling for human relationships, closeness to nature, and striking imagery.” He is currently Professor and Head of the Department of English, Pondicherry Central University. He can be reached at s.murals@gmail.com Murray Alfredson Murray Alfredson is a former librarian, lecturer in librarianship and Buddhist Associate in the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy at Flinders University. He has published essays on Buddhist meditation and on inter-faith relations in Theravada, The middle way, In the round, and Eremos; and poems, poetry translations and essays on poetics in Awakenings review, Cadenza (UK), Dawn treader (UK), Eremos, Friendly Street Reader, 2009 & 2010, The independent weekly (Adelaide), Knots magazine (USA), Manifold (UK), Mediterranean poetry (Sweden), Melaleuca, NSW School magazine, Ocean (USA), Orbis (UK), Overland, PanGaia (USA), Platform, Poets ink review (USA), Recovering the self (USA), San Pedro River review, Shalla (USA), Studio, Touch, the journal of healing (USA), Touch poetry (USA), Umbrella(USA), Ygrdrasil (Canada) , in anthologies in 370

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Australia, the USA and the UK, and a short collection, ‘Nectar and light’, in Friendly Street new poets, 12, Adelaide: Friendly Street Poets and Wakefield Press, 2007. He has a second collection forthcoming: The gleaming clouds. Brisbane: Interactive Press, 2013. He has won a High Beam poetry award 2004, the Poetry Unhinged Multicultural Poetry Prize 2006, the Friendly Street Poets Political poetry prize 2009, and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2009 and again in 2012.. He lives on the Fleurieu Peninsula by Gulf St Vincent in South Australia. Nabina Das Nabina Das is the author of the debut novel Footprints in the Bajra (Cedar Books, New Delhi). Her book was longlisted in the prestigious “Vodafone Crossword Book Award 2011”. An MFA (Poetry) from Rutgers University, US, and an MA (Linguistics) from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, Nabina’s poetry collection Into the Migrant City , the product of an Associate Fellowship and residency with Sarai-CSDS (New Delhi) in 2010, is forthcoming from Writers Workshop. Another short poetry collection will be published by Zaporogue press, Denmark. Nabina’s poetry and prose have been published in several international journals and anthologies, the latest being The Yellow Nib: Modern English Poetry by Indians, Queen’s University, Belfast. Nabina is also a contributor to Prairie Schooner literary journal from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, US, and is in the peer review committee of The Four Quarters Magazine literary journal published from northeast India. Winner of several writing residencies and fellowships (2012 Charles Wallace Fellowship in Creative Writing, University of Stirling, UK, and 2012 Sangam House Lavanya Sankaran Fiction Fellowship being the latest ones), Nabina has won prizes in major poetry contests such as the 2009 Prakriti Foundation Open Contest, 2009-10 UNISUN Reliance Poetry Contest and 2008 Open Space-HarperCollins Poetry Contest. A 2007 Joan Jakobson fiction scholar (Wesleyan University, US) and 2007 Julio Lobo fiction scholar (Lesley University, US), she has worked in journalism and media for about 10 years (The Ithaca Journal, US; Tehelka news portal, Delhi). Trained in Indian classical music, she has performed in radio/TV programs and performed in street theater. Nabina blogs at http://nabinadas13.wordpress. com/ when not writing, teaches Creative Writing in classrooms and workshops and dabbles in writing about art in words. Namitha Sebastian Namitha Sebastian is currently pursuing Bachelor Degree in English Copy Editor. Her interests include reading novels, reading and writing poetry, listening to music and gardening. She is passionate about singing. She believes in the eternal significance of art. She enjoys the beauty, the mystery as well as the physiognomic expression of Nature in it. She is an ambivert. She opines that creativity takes you feel closer towards nature and helps in the liberation of soul. Nancy Rullo Nancy Rullo has taught English at SUNY Albany and SUNY Ulster, and taught creative writing privately, in colleges and at various workshops. She prefers to teach near beaches. She is a former member of the poetry performance 371

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groups “all right girls” with Susan Hoover and Janice King and The Bardettes with Janice King. She collaborated with Gay Leonhardt on the Odd God, a performance of photocopied art and poetry at the Center for Photography at Woodstock. One of her haiku was published last year in The Mainichi in Japan.

Natasha Lane Natasha Lane was born and raised in Baltimore City, Maryland ( home of the best crab cakes). She remembers writing her first poem at age eleven. She gradually advanced from poetry to short stories and then to her first novel (yet to be published). During her sophomore year in high school she was the ACT-SO (Afro-Academic Cultural Technological and Scientific Olympics) regional winner in the Short Essay category and went on to compete on a national level. After high school she was accepted as an undergraduate student at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. Currently, she is a junior at Juniata studying both entrepreneurship and professional writing. She hopes to one day become an investigative journalist and novelist while somehow simultaneously working in both the for profit and non-profit business sectors. Natasha Nikonova Natasha Nikonova originally comes from Samara, Russia, and now lives in Wellington, New Zealand and is a respected practitioner of haiku poetry. Neal Whitman Neal Whitman lives with his wife, Elaine, in Pacific Grove, California, and, in nearby Carmel, both are docents at poet Robinson Jeffers Tor House. Neal enjoys sharing his poetry along with Elaine’s Native American flute in public recital and combining his haiku with her photographs in haiga that have been published in several journals. He has won several awards for Western and Japanese forms and was chosen the 2013 K. Blaze Memorial Poet by The Oak Magazine. Neil Campbell Neil Campbell has two collections of short stories, Broken Doll, and Pictures from Hopper, published by Salt, and two poetry chapbooks, Birds, and Bugsworth Diary, published by Knives, Forks and Spoons. Recent stories in the anthology, Murmurations, and on Ink, Sweat and Tears. Also has three stories in Tears in the Fence, one in Short Fiction Journal and another in the Best British Short Stories 2012. Nepa Noyal Tharappel Nepa Noyal Tharappel is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in English Copy Editing at SH College, Thevara. Her interests are reading, writing poems, music and photography. Her creative skills has won her many prizes at the college level.

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Nikesh Murali Nikesh Murali’s work (which includes comics, poems and short stories) has appeared in more than 80 publications worldwide. His poems have been translated into Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and French. He won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for the Asian region in 2011. His poetry was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2007. He has completed his Masters in Journalism from Griffith University for which he was awarded the Griffith University Award for Academic Excellence in 2005, and his Masters in Teaching from James Cook University and a Bachelors degree in English Literature and World History from University of Kerala. He is working towards his Doctorate in Creative Writing. http://www. nikeshmurali.net/ Noel Dufy Noel Dufy was born in 1971 and studied Experimental Physics at Trinity College, Dublin. He co-edited (with Theo Dorgan) Watching the River Flow: A Century in Irish Poetry (Poetry Ireland, 1999), while his collection In the Library of Lost Objects (Ward Wood, 2011) was shortlisted for the 2012 Strong Award for Best First Collection by an Irish Poet. Noel Williams Noel Williams was educated at Kings College, Cambridge, where he took a 1st in English, and Sheffield University, where his PhD was on William Blake. He is widely published in anthologies and magazines in the UK, including Iota, Wasafiri, Envoi, The North, Cake and Other Poetry. He has won the Cinnamon Press, Wasafiri, New Writer, Sentinel Literary Quarterly and Speakeasy prizes, with three nominations for the Forward Prize and fifty other prizes or commendations. As Resident Poet at Bank Street Arts Centre in Sheffield, UK, he has created or collaborated in several exhibitions. He has an MA in creative writing from Sheffield Hallam University where he’s also professor. He’s co-editor of Antiphon magazine (antiphon.org.uk) and associate editor for Orbis, and also reviews for The North and Sphinx. His first collection, Out of Breath, will be published by Cinnamon Press in 2014. Website: http://noelwilliams.wordpress.com/ Oindrila Ghosh Oindrila Ghosh is Assistant Professor and Head of the Department of English at Naba Ballygunge Mahavidyalaya, Kolkata. She has a phd on the depiction of motherhood and the victimization of society in the short stories of Thomas Hardy from Jadavpur University, under Professor Shanta Dutta. She has published in national and international journals and presented papers at a number of National seminars. She had received the Charles Wallace India Trust Fund to source materials for research at The British Library, London and also received the Frank Pinion Award from The Thomas Hardy Society, Dorset, UK at their 2012 Conference. Oscar Windsor-Smith Oscar Windsor-Smith is presently living in rural Hertfordshire, UK. 373

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He has fiction, non-fiction and a smattering of poetry published in diverse places, in print and online. He was a finalist in the New York City Midnight Short Story Challenge 2012. uk.linkedin.com/in/oscarwindsorsmith/

Otsenre Ogaitnas Otsenre Ogaitnas is just a poetry enthusiast who loves and enjoys exploring the poetic myth of his senses. He thinks, “Poetry is a global temperature that will always surprise us.” His poetry has received many international poetry prizes from countries including Japan, Italy, Romania, Canada, and the United States. Owen Bullock Owen Bullock has been writing haiku since 1999. He is a former editor of Spin, Bravado, Kokako and Poetry NZ. Born and bred in Cornwall, he has been resident in New Zealand for over 20 years and lives near the Karangahake Gorge in the North Island. Owen has published a book of haiku, wild camomile (Post Pressed, Australia, 2009); the novella A Cornish Story (Palores, UK, 2010), and a number of chapbooks of poetry. His first full collection of longer poems, sometimes the sky isn’t big enough, was published by Steele Roberts in 2011. He has been editing a series of haiku chapbooks for Puriri Press of which his man and boy (2010) is one. In 2012, Owen published his second collection of haiku, breakfast with epiphanies (Oceanbooks, NZ). Webpage: www.poetrysociety.org.nz/ haikushowcase/owenbullock Pamela A. Babusci Pamela A. Babusci is an internationally award winning haiku, tanka poet and haiga artist. Some of her awards include: Museum of Haiku Literature Award, International Tanka Splendor Awards, First Place Yellow Moon Competition (Aust) tanka category, First Place Kokako Tanka Competition,(NZ) First Place Saigyo Tanka Awards (US), Basho Festival Haiku Contests (Japan). Pamela has illustrated several books, including: Full Moon Tide: The Best of Tanka Splendor Awards, Taboo Haiku, Chasing the Sun, Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, and A Thousand Reasons 2009. Pamela was the founder and now is the solo Editor of Moonbathing: a journal of women’s tanka; the first all women’s tanka journal in the U.S.A. Patrick Connors Patrick Connors was Lead Artist in Making a Living; Making Art, a pilot project of Cultural Pluralism in the Arts at the University of Toronto. He recently published in Barrie and Belgium. His first chapbook, Scarborough Songs, was released by LYRICALMYRICAL Press this Spring. He headlined an event of Sunday Poetry at Ellington’s called, “Artists as Activists”. He is a manager for the Toronto chapter of 100,000 Poets for Change. Paula Lietz Paula Lietz lives in Canada. Her award winning photography, art and writing 374

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have appeared in numerous publications such as, Sunrise From Blue Thunder, Naugatuck River Review, issues Summer 2011 & Winter 2013, MaINtENaNT: Journal of Contemporary DADA Writing and Art, 4, 5 and 6, Visions, Verses and Voices to name but a few. http:// www.pdlietzphotography.com/

Paul GnanaSelvam Paul GnanaSelvam has published short stories in e- Mags: AnakSatra and Dusun, Anthologies Write Out Loud, Urban Odysseys: KL Stories, Body2Body and ASIATIC - a Literary Journal. Apart from Creative Writing; his reading interests include works of writers from the Indian Diaspora and New Literatures in English. He is currently working on the publication of his first Anthology of short-stories due end of this year by MPH Books, Malaysia. He currently teaches Academic Writing at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman in Kampar, Perak. Paul M Paul M. is the penname of Paul Miller, an internationally awarded and anthologized poet. He is the editor of Modern Haiku, the longest running English-language haiku journal, and board member of Haiku Society of America and Haiku North America. His latest collection is available from redmoonpress.com

Pearl Pirie Pearl Pirie: Word by word, I write in faith that I am on a path to making the vital interconnections that translate knowledge into understanding, form, wisdom, community for myself and for others. Through art, craft, study, mentoring and practice, I hone my blade and whittle away at inarticulateness until I’m left with essential shapes of what it is to be humane and human, gentle and strong, humorous and celebratory. www.pagehalffull.com/bio.html (circa 2006) Website: www.pearlpirie.com/bio Pei Yeou Bradley Pei Yeou Bradley (aka Honey Khor) began life painting age 16, in a small village on the outskirts of Penang, Malaysia. Soon she attended the Malaysian Institute of Art (MIA) from where she graduated and began her life as a professional painter, trainer and charity volunteer with Colors of Cambodia, taking Art to impoverished Cambodia children. In 2011 Pei Yeou held her first solo exhibition in Kuala Lumpur “The Colors Of My Journey”, after taking part in many group exhibitions before and since. She has exhibited all over Malaysia and in Singapore, and later this year will be exhibiting in Spain near Salvador Dali’s museum in Figueres, Catalonia. Pei Yeou is as happy with watercolour as she is with oil paints, and makes ceramics when she has time. Her Art comes from a spiritual place within and is often reflective of her sentiments and sensitivities. She is a visual poet.

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Pete Cantelon Like many poets Pete Cantelon writes in the general obscurity of an everyday, administrative life. His inspiration is his Manitoba, Canada context and the mind through which everything is filtered and consumed. Cantelon is influenced by the older Romantic era poets (Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Browning and arguably Poe) as well as newer American and Canadian writers (Bukowski, Atwood, Layton, Cohen). Increasingly Cantelon has been influenced by global writers such as the Japanese poet Kenji Miyazawa, the ancient Greek poet Sappho, and most recently the brilliant Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad. Writing is like breathing to Cantelon, it is simply done because it has to be done to live, without regard for whether it is done well or not (although he hopes it is done well). Peter Daniels Peter Daniels published his first full collection Counting Eggs with Mulfran Press in 2012, following pamphlets including Mr Luczinski Makes a Move (HappenStance, 2011) and three with Smith Doorstop, twice as a winner of the Poetry Business competition. He has won first prize in a number of other competitions including the Ledbury (2002), Arvon (2008) and TLS (2010). During a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2009 he began translating the work of Vladislav Khodasevich (18861939) from Russian; a book of these translations will appear from Angel Classics in September 2013. In 2013 he has participated in the Modern Poets on Viking Poetry project based at Cambridge University, and collaborated with the artist Lulu Allison as part of the Pistols & Pollinators exhibition. He works as a freelance editor, and has MAs in Modern Literatures in English (Birkbeck) and in Creative Writing (Sheffield Hallam). Pradeep Dharmapalan Pradeep Dharmapalan was born Kerala in 1961 and spent the first twenty years of his life in New Delhi , Washington D.C., Islamabad, Dhaka and Lisbon, travelling with his itinerant father and family. After discovering that his undistinguished bachelor’s degree in Commerce made him ineligible for admission for a master’s degree in English, he spent three years in Calicut, before moving to the United Arab Emirates in 1985. He has lived there since and has put together a patchwork quilt of a career in the insurance industry. Along the way he has dabbled in a number of areas and, at various times, been a freelance journalist, radio newsreader, voiceover artist, copywriter, model, husband and father -- none of which proved particularly rewarding or long-lasting. In recent years he has developed an interest in photography and is continuing with sporadic efforts to complete a novel that he started writing in 1996. Pravat Kumar Padhy Pravat Kumar Padhy hails from Odisha, India. He holds a Masters in Science and a Ph.D from Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad. Padhy has published literary articles and poems in leading English newspapers, journals and anthologies. His Japanese short form poetry has appeared in World Haiku Review, Lynx, The Notes from the Gean, Ambrosia, Sketchbook, Atlas Poetica, Simply Haiku, Kokako, Red lights, The Mainichi Daily News, Haiku Reality, The Heron’s Nest, 376

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Asahi Haikuist Network, Chrysanthemum, A Hundred Gourds, Shamrock, Magnapoets, Bottle Rockets, Ribbons, Mu International, Frogpond, Kernels etc. His haiku were also displayed on the HSA “Haiku Wall”, Bend, Oregon, USA. He is a recipient of various Editor’s Choice awards, and Special and Honourable Mentions. “Songs of Love – A Celebration” is his third volume of verse published by Writers Workshop, Calcutta. Priscilla Lignori Priscilla Lignori was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Puerto Rico. She returned to the United States at age twelve. She is an amateur nature photographer, and the winner of international awards for haiku poetry. Priscilla is the founder and teacher of Hudson Valley Haiku-kai, a community dedicated to studying and living the Way of Haiku, her poems appear regularly in World Haiku Review and The Asahi Haikuist Network. Ramesh Anand Ramesh Anand authored Newborn Smiles, a book of haiku poetry published by Cyberwit.Net Press. His haiku has appeared in many publications, across 11 countries, including Bottle Rockets Press, Acorn, Magnapoets, The Heron’s Nest, Simply Haiku and Frogpond. His Haiku has been translated in German, Serbian, Japanese, Croatian and Tamil. His short verses have been honored by Muse India, Voicesnet and Boloji. He was nominated and shortlisted for Muse India’s young writer award 2012. He works for Philips, Bangalore as the test strategist. He blogs at http://ramesh-inflame.blogspot.com Ram Krishna Singh Ram Krishna Singh, born, brought up and educated in Varanasi, is a university professor. He has published 35 books including 13 collections of poems. The River Returns (2006) is his major book of haiku and tanka poems while Sense and Silence: Collected Poems (2010) incorporates all his published collections so far. Singh says: “I just practice haiku in different beats (3-5-3: 4-6-4: 5-7-5) or free- form haiku, and when possible expand its lyrical content to a tanka in five lines without restricting myself”. He is widely anthologised and translated into many languages, and chairs the Dept of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian School of Mines in Dhanbad. Blog: http://rksingh.blogspot.com Rebecca Drouilhet Rebecca Drouilhet is a 57-year-old retired registered nurse from Picayune, Mississippi who developed a love of haiku in grade school. She enjoys reading, playing word games and spending time with her large family. Reiss McGuinness Reiss McGuinness: Poetry is the main creative form I use, predominately narrative free and blank verse. However I also write performance and prose poetry, short stories and vignettes. When not writing I am usually reading or taking and editing surrealist and architectural photographs. My main influences for short story writing are Lovecraft, Marx, Poe, Carver and Joyce. For poetry my influences are Carrie Etter, W.H. Auden, Ginsberg, and most recently Ezra Pound and Alan Summers, who spawned the following haiku, and other short Imagist 377

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poems I am working on. Just when I thought I found my poetic style, I found haiku. Revathy Suresh Revathy suresh,is now doing her degree course in Sacred Heart College Thevara. She completed her primary and secondary studies in Cochin Refineries Ambalamugal.She is living with her parents in Ernakulam.She is interested in dancing and listening to music .Apart from this she like to spent her time with her parent by going for a small journey durning vacation with her camera beside. Revathy with her passion in photography and love for nature has explored the hidden caverns in Mother Earth.She now took this as her hobby and goes everywhere with it like Mary had her little lamb with her. Rita Odeh Rita Odeh is from Nazareth. She comes from a christian Palestinian family and has a B.A. in English and Comparative Literature from Haifa University. She has published six books of poetry, one book of short stories, three electronic novels, and one eBook of haiku. Her poetry has been published in several international publications: Simply Haiku, Mayfly, Heron’s Nest, Lynx, Paper Wasp, Daily Haiku, DailyHaiga, Haigaonline, Acorn, Modern Haiku, Tinywords, Chrysanthemum, Notes from the Gean, Lyrical Passion Poetry E-Zine, Other Voices, Haaretz Newspaper, Mainichi, Asahi, Helicon, Haiku News,Prune Juice, Roadrunner, and many others. Blog: http://rita-odeh.blogspot.com Rizio Yohannan Raj Rizio Yohannan Raj is a bi-lingual writer, translator and educationist. Her works include two collections of poetry in English (Eunuch, Naked by the Sabarmati and Other Guna Poems), and two novels in Malayalam (Avinasom, Yatrikom), the first of which is translated into English as A Tale of Things Timeless (Harper Collins 2012). She has translated and introduced major 20th century Malayalam writers into English. She shuttles between her other occupations as an academician, journalist, books editor and publisher. Her academic works include a pioneering volume on Comparative Literature, Quest of a Discipline: New Academic Directions for Comparative Literature. While she is on a sabbatical from her academic career, she heads the Publishing Division of Katha, New Delhi. She is also the founder-director of a trust dedicated to the cause of education and life appreciation, LILA FOUNDATION FOR TRANSLOCAL INITIATIVES. Roberta Beary Roberta Beary is the haibun editor of Modern Haiku. Her book of short poems, The Unworn Necklace (Snapshot Press, 1st hardcover ed. 2011), was named a Poetry Society of America award finalist and a Haiku Society of America Merit Book Award prize winner. She is on the editorial staff of the annual Red Moon Anthology and a longtime member of Towpath, the Washington, DC haiku group. She is married to the writer Frank Stella. www.robertabeary.com

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Rumjhum Biswas Rumjhum or RK Biswas as she is increasingly known these days, has been published all over the world. She won first prize in the Anam Cara Writer’s Retreat Short Story Competition 2012. Her poem “Cleavage” was longlisted in the Bridport Poetry Prize 2006 and is also a finalist in the 2010 Aesthetica Creative Arts Contest. Her story -”Ahalya’s Valhalla” - was among Story South’s Million Writers’ notable stories of 2007. Her poem “Bones” was nominated for a 2010 Pushcart by Cha: An Asian Literary Journal. She is one among ten Indian poets to feature in an exclusive forthcoming anthology edited by Jayant Mahapatra along with Yuyutsu RD Sharma. She blogs at: http://rumjhumkbiswas.wordpress.com/. A novel by her and a book of her short stories are forthcoming from Lifi Publications, India in 2013. Sanjuktaa Asopa Sanjuktaa Asopa discovered haiku (and related short-form poetry) only a few years ago and since then her poems have appeared in a number of online and print journals including Frogpond, The Herons Nest, Acorn, A Hundred Gourds and Moonbathing. She lives in India in the southern state of Karnataka with her husband . When not writing, you would probably find her on bird-watching treks or cheering for her favourite cricket team. Sanjuktaa blogs at: ssanjuktaa.blogspot.co.uk Scott Terrill A sometime actor, poet and amateur photographer, Scott Terrill was born near an air force base in Sale, Victoria. He spent some of his childhood in Samoa, where he learned that oranges aren’t always orange, and his later youth in a children’s home in NSW, where he also learned that a carton of custard could be worth much more than its weight in gold. He loves the taste and touch of mangoes, is fascinated by the surface of things and believes verandahs are a metaphor for life. Recently completing a Graduate Diploma in Archaeology, he currently resides in Melbourne Australia. Sébastien Doubinsky Sébastien Doubinsky was born in Paris in 1963. Having spent a part of his early childhood in America, he is completely bilingual and writes both in English and in French. An established writer in France, Sébastien Doubinsky has published a series of novels, covering different genres, from classical literature to crime fiction, as well as a few poetry collections. He currently lives in Århus, Denmark, with his wife and his two children. Shamenaz Shaikh Shamenaz has a professional experience of 10 years and presently teaching as Assistant Professor & Head, Department of Humanities, AIET, Allahabad. She has published 16 Book reviews in National/International journals & websites. She has received an award for ‘one of the best teacher of the city’ by ACTI Educational Society. She is a member of the editorial Board of the Journal- ‘Research Access.’ She is the Chief-Editor of the College Magazine, Chairperson of Women Cell and Chairperson of Cultural committee of her College. 379

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Sharlene Teo Sharlene Teo was born in Singapore in 1987. She read Law at Warwick University where she was chief editor of the campus arts publication, and worked in business and trade publishing before starting a Prose Fiction MA at the University of East Anglia. Sharlene is the recipient of the 2013/14 David TK Wong fellowship and the 2012/13 Booker Foundation Scholarship. Her writing has appeared in places such as Esquire, Broadcast: New Warwick Writing, New Writing Net, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore and Eunoia Review. Sheila Windsor Sheila Windsor has composed poetry since childhood and all forms of haikai for circa 20 years. Her works have been widely published internationally, in English and in translation in prominent mainstream and haikai publications. Sheila’s awards include: The James W Hackett; Kaji Aso Studio; Tanka Splendour; Shiki Commemorative Kukai; Yellow Moon (for linked verse); Herb Barrett (twice); Sakura - Haiku Invitational; Svetlana Marisova Memorial Kukai; along with too many runner-up positions and commendations to list. Sheri L. Wright Pushcart Prize and Kentucky Poet Laureate nominee, Sheri L. Wright is the author of six books of poetry, including the most recent, The Feast of Erasure. Wright’s visual work has appeared in numerous journals, including Blood Orange Review, The Single Hound , THIS Literary Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, Blood Lotus Journal and Subliminal Interiors. In 2012, Ms. Wright was a contributer to the the Sister Cities Project Lvlds: Creatively Linking Leeds and Louisville. Her photography has been shown across the Ohio Valley region and abroad. Simon Williams Simon Williams has written poetry for the last 40 years, starting when at university, studying engineering. A Place Where Odd Animals Stand (Oversteps Books, 2012) is his fourth independently published collection and He/ She (Itinerant Press, 2013) his fifth. He has co-led many poetry and creative writing workshops and classes, as well as a number of collaborative projects with other poets and musicians. He performs widely, from individual readings to performance poetry events. Simon makes a living as a factual writer. S.M. Abeles S.M. Abeles lives and writes in Washington, D.C. His work has appeared in many haiku and tanka journals and anthologies, including most recently in nothing in the window, The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2012. He posts at least one new poem daily on his website, The Empty Sky, at: www.emptyskypoetry.blogspot.com

Stephen Graf Stephen Graf is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He holds Masters 380

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Degrees from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and Trinity College, Dublin, a PhD in British Literature from the University of Newcastle in England, and currently teaches at Robert Morris University. Among other places, he has been published in: AIM Magazine, Cicada, The Southern Review, The Chrysalis Reader, Fiction, The Minnetonka Review, New Works Review, SNReview, Willow Review, The Wisconsin Review, and The Black Mountain Review in Ireland. His novella “The Secret Life of Seals” was a finalist in the Glimmer Train Fiction Open. His short-short story “Grandine is the Italian Word for Hail” was awarded an honorable mention in the Byline Flash Fiction contest. His short story “Hadamard’s Billiards” was awarded an Honorable Mention for the 2012 Pushcart Prize. He will have a story appearing in Birch Book Press’s Christmas in the Wild Anthology that will appear in the Fall of 2013. Steve Babbitt Steve Babbitt was born in Oakland, California in 1954 and moved to the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1992. He has been making photographs for the past 40 years. He received his BFA and MFA in photography from The San Francisco Art Institute. His photographs can be found in the collections of the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France; the Getty Museum Library, Malibu, California; the Dahl Fine Art Center, Rapid City, SD; the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography; the San Francisco Art Institute; the South Dakota Art Museum, Brookings, SD and the permanent collection of the State of South Dakota. Steve has been teaching photography for 22 years and is currently a professor of photography at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, SD. Steve lives in Rapid City, SD with his wife, Nancy and son, Stephen. Steve is represented by Herons Flight Gallery, Rapid City, SD; The Spearfish Art Center Gallery, Spearfish, SD and Getty Images. Susmita Bhattacharya Susmita Bhattacharya was born in Mumbai, India. She sailed around the world in an oil tanker for three years with her husband, recording her voyages through painting and writing journals and letters. She received an M.A. with distinction in Creative Writing from Cardiff University in 2006 and has had several short stories and poems published in Wasafiri, Roundyhouse, Litro, Planet- the Welsh Internationalist, Blue Tattoo, The View from Here, Commuterlit.com, the BBC website and a couple of anthologies among others. She lives in Plymouth with her husband, two daughters and the neighbour’s cat. She facilitates creative writing in the community and blogs at http:// susmita-bhattacharya.blogspot.co.uk. Her debut novel, Crossing Borders, will be published by Parthian Books in 2014. She tweets at @Susmitatweets Tadas Žvirinskis Tadas Žvirinskis was born 1969-05-22 in Vilnius, Lithuania (former Soviet Union). He is a poet, writer, translator and pharmacist, known better as a member of underground culture, a.k.a. reincarnation of Jim Morrison. He hates any type of associations, parties and political organizations, prefers sisters of mercy to brothers of metal. Issued two books of prose, four books of poetry and translated two books of American and Polish poetry to Lithuanian. 381

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Still believes that God has a faith in him. Tim Wells Tim Wells has cultivated a laugh that’s more like a caress. He walks properly. He does not slouch, shuffle or stumble about. He knows that wide, floating trousers are only good for wearing on a veranda with a cocktail in your hand. His latest collection, Rougher Yet, is published by Donut Press.‘London poetry landmark’ – TLS ‘suedehead bard of N16’ – the Grauniad Tripti Singh Tripti Singh is a researcher and an Associate Project Manager at IIT Kanpur. She took her PhD from Banasthali Vidyapith. Artist Statement: I think one’s ‘beliefs’ (ideals, visions) are powerful inspiration (instrument) both for self-realisation and for altruistic social objectives. But I do not think beliefs (ideas, visions, ideals such as afterlife or God); have to be “real” (physical facts) or scientifically valid. There is a borderline between “vision” (beliefs) and “reality” (physical facts). The thickness (or visibility) of this borderline depends upon the perception of the viewer shared by some others who have similar vision-view. Yet visions (ideas and beliefs) have an existence of their own independent of, or even interacting with, the physical reality. Turlach O Broin Turlach O Broin is a 26 year old Irish photographer, poet and PhD student of history. He has not won any prizes for poetry. He has been published three times in poetry journals, but he can’t remember their names. He lives in Dublin. The sea moves him more than most. It pervades his lines. He spends his mornings reading, afternoons writing and evenings photographing. Valerie Sirr Valerie Sirr has published short fiction and flash fiction in Ireland, UK, US, Australia and Asia. Publications include: The Wisconsin Review, The Irish Times, The Sunday Tribune, The New Writer, The Stinging Fly. Her poems are published in anthologies from Revival Press (Ireland), Poetry Lostock (UK) and in the Lampeter Review (UK). Awards include 2007 Hennessy New Irish Writer Award , two Arts Council of Ireland bursaries and other national and international literature prizes, most recently in 2013 when she was a prize winner in the Doolin/Irish Writers’ Centre Short Story Competition, in 2012 when her story received special mention in Ink Tears (UK) Flash Fiction Competition and in 2011 when she received a flash fiction award from The New Writer Magazine (UK), judged by British poet and writer Catherine Smith. She holds an M. Phil in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin, teaches creative writing and blogs on: www. valeriesirr.wordpress.com Vanessa Gebbie Vanessa Gebbie has won awards for her short fiction and her poetry. She is 382

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author of two collections of short fiction, Words from a Glass Bubble and Storm Warning (Salt Modern Fiction) and one novel, The Coward’s Tale (Bloomsbury). She is contributing editor of a text book, Short Circuit - Guide to the Art of the Short Story (Salt). Her poem Immensi tremor oceani was awarded the 2012 Troubadour International Poetry Prize and her poetry pamphlet The Half-life of Fathers is published later this year. She teaches widely. Victor Abrao Born on November 2nd 1991. He got the basics of drawing from his father George K.P. His Hobbies include pencil drawing, oil painting, cycling, and practicing judo. He did his schooling and higher secondary education from Sacred Heart Thevara. He graduated from Sacred Heart College Thevara.

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Editorial Board Chief Editor Jose Varghese Jose Varghese is Assistant Professor of English at Sacred Heart College in Kochi, India. His collection of poems ‘Silver Painted Gandhi and Other Poems’ was listed in Grace Cavalieri’s Best Reading for Fall 2009, in Montserrat Review. His stories are accepted for publication in The Salt Anthology of New Writing 2013, UK and Unthology, UK, and a poem by him is accepted for the Red Squirrel Anthology 10RED, UK. He has done a Faber Writing Course in London under Marcel Theroux and Hanif Kureishi and writes for Thresholds: Home of the International Short Story Forum, Chichester University, UK. He is invited for the 13 th International Conference on the Short Story in English to be held at Vienna in July 2014. He was the winner in River Muse 2013 Spring Poetry Contest, USA, and a runner up in the Salt Prize (UK) 2012. His forthcoming book Silent Woman and Other Stories is slated for publication in 2013.

Associate Editor Aravind R Nair Aravind R Nair teaches graduate and postgraduate classes in English Literature at Sacred Heart College, Thevara. He did his masters at the University of Hyderabad and has an M.Phil from The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. An odd assortment; he counts himself an avid fan of sf, anime, alt rock and Egyptology. He steers clear of ‘serious’ literature. However, he feels that the occasional classic is an occupational hazard!

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Advisory Board Alan Summers Alan Summers, a Japan Times award-winning writer based in Bradford on Avon, England, runs With Words, which provides literature, education and literacy projects, as well as online courses often based around the Japanese genres. He is a co-editor for Bones Journal (new and gendai haiku), and his latest collection Does Fish-God Know contains gendai haiku and short verse published by Yet To Be Named Free Press: There is also a forthcoming book titled Writing Poetry: the haiku way. Alan is also currently working on a children’s novel, an adult crime thriller, and the Kigo Lab Project. He blogs at Area 17, and is a featured haiku poet at Cornell University, Mann Library, as well as the World Monuments Fund haiku contest judge. Website: www.withwords.org.uk Blog: http://area17.blogspot.com Bill Ashcroft Bill Ashcroft is a renowned critic and theorist, founding exponent of post-colonial theory, co-author of The Empire Writes Back, the first text to examine systematically the field of post-colonial studies. He is author and co-author of sixteen books and over 160 articles and chapters, variously translated into six languages, including Post-Colonial Transformation and On Post-Colonial Futures and Caliban’s Voice. He holds an Australian Professorial Fellowship at the University of New South Wales, Australia, working on the project “Future Thinking: Utopianism in Postcolonial Literatures.” George Szirtes George Szirtes was born in Budapest in 1948 and came to England as a refugee in 1956. He was brought up in London and studied Fine Art in London and Leeds. His poems began appearing in national magazines in 1973 and his first book, The Slant Door, was published in 1979. It won the Faber Memorial prize the following year. By this time he was married with two children. After the publication of his second book, November and May, 1982, he was invited to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Since then he has published several books and won various other prizes including the T S Eliot Prize for Reel in 2005. Having returned to his birthplace, Budapest, for the first time in 1984, he has also worked extensively as a translator of poems, novels, plays and essays and has won various prizes and awards in this sphere. His own work has been translated into numerous languages. Beside his work in poetry and translation he has written Exercise of Power, a study of the artist Ana Maria Pacheco, and, together with Penelope Lively, edited New Writing 10 published by Picador in 2001. George Szirtes lives near Norwich with his wife, the painter Clarissa Upchurch to whose website this is linked. Together they ran The Starwheel Press. Corvina has recently produced Budapest: Image, Poem, Film, their collaboration in poetry and visual work. John Antoine Labadie John Antoine Labadie earned a bachelor’s degree in painting from the University of Dayton (1973), a Master’s, in perceptual psychology, from Wright State 385

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State University (1980) and an interdisciplinary Doctorate from the College of Design, Architecture Art & Planning at the University of Cincinnati (1993). Labadie was a 2005-2006 Fulbright Senior Scholar in digital art for the “Center for Creativity and Innovation Studies” at National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan; an International artist-in-residence at the Beijing Film Academy in Beijing, China; a 2007 Visiting Artist/ Scholar at the National Institute of Design in Ahmadabad India.

Kala Ramesh Kala Ramesh has long had a fascination for Indian classical music and has worked extensively on Pandit Kumar Gandharava’s gayaki and nirguni bhajans along with the paramparic bandishes of the Gwalior gharana, under the guidance of Vidushi Smt Shubhada Chirmulay, Pune. Kala has performed in major cities in India. Kala discovered haiku in 2005 and feels she’s addicted to this art form from day one! She also writes in related genres like, tanka (five line poem), haibun (tight prose embedded with haiku), senryu, and renku (collaborative linked verse). Her poems have appeared in anthologies, print and online journals. Her book titled “Haiku” brought out by Katha in December 2010 was awarded the Honourable Mention for Best Book for Children: The Haiku Society of America’s Mildred Kanterman Memorial Merit Book Awards. “The Blue Jacaranda” won the Genjuan International Haibun Contest 2012 (Japan). Her collection of tanka poems, “the unseen arc” won The Snapshot Press eChapbook Award 2012 (UK). Loree Westron Loree Westron is an American writer living in the UK. Her short stories and literary criticism have been published in journals and anthologies including London Magazine, Short Fiction in Theory and Practice and Western American Literature. In 2010, she helped set up the Thresholds International Short Story Forum, for which she served as Editor until 2013. She is currently finishing a PhD at the University of Chichester where she also teaches Creative Writing. Mel Ulm Mel Ulm is the editor and founder of The Reading Life, a premier Asian based literary book blog with over 100,000 visits a month. He is an internationally published philosopher. His posts on Indian literature have been recommended by The Economic Times of India and he will be a regular contributor to the Journal of the Katherine Mansfield Society. Rana Nayar Rana Nayar is Professor and Former Chairperson, Department of English & Cultural Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh. His main areas of interest are: World Drama/Theatre, Translation Studies, Literary Theory and Cultural Studies. A practicing translator of repute (Charles Wallace India Trust Fellow & Sahitya Akademi Prize winner), he has rendered around ten modern classics of 386

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Punjabi into English, ranging over novels, short stories and poetry. He was awarded First Prize, in an All India contest, organized by Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi for his translation of Baba Farid’s Shlokas into English. Among other works, his translations include those of Gurdial Singh, Mohan Bhandari, Raghbir Dhand and Beeba Balwant, published by Macmillan, National Book Trust, Sahitya Akademi, Sterling, Fiction House, Katha and Unistar et al. Apart from this, he has one collection of poems Breathing Spaces (Unistar, Chandigarh) and three critical books, i.e., Edward Albee: Towards a Typology of Relationships (Prestige, New Delhi, 2003) and Inter-sections: Essays on Indian Literatures, Translations and Popular Consciousness (Hyderabad: Orient BlackSwan, 2012), and Gurdial Singh: A Reader (Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 2012) to his credit. Moreover, he has directed over twenty major, full-length productions, and acted in almost as many. Sanjukta Dasgupta Dr.Sanjukta Dasgupta, Professor and Former Head, Dept of English and Former Dean, Faculty of Arts, Calcutta University, teaches English, American literature and New Literatures in English. Recipient of the Fulbright postdoctoral fellowship and several other awards and grants, she was also the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Writers Prize jury panel (2003-2005). Her published books are The Novels of Huxley and Hemingway: A Study in Two Planes of Reality, Responses : Selected Essays, Snapshots (poetry), Dilemma (poetry), First Language (poetry), More Light (poetry) Her Stories (translations), Manimahesh (translation), The Indian Family in Transition (co-edited SAGE), Media, Gender and Popular Culture in India: Tracking Change and Continuity (lead author, SAGE, 2011) Tagore: At Home in the World (co-edited 2012, SAGE). She is the Managing Editor of FAMILIES : A Journal of Representations Awaiting Publication in 2013: Radical Rabindranath: Nation, Family and Gender in Tagore’s Fiction and Fils.( lead author, Orient Blackswan) Editor:Golpo Sankalan (Contemporary translated Bengali Short Stories) ( Sahitya Akademi) Sudeep Sen Sudeep Sen [www.sudeepsen.net] is widely recognised as a major new generation voice in world literature and ‘one of the finest younger English-language poets in the international literary scene’ (BBC Radio). He is ‘fascinated not just by language but the possibilities of language’ (Scotland on Sunday). He read English Literature at the University of Delhi and as an Inlaks Scholar received an MS from the Journalism School at Columbia University (New York). His awards, fellowships & residencies include: Hawthornden Fellowship (UK), Pushcart Prize nomination (USA), BreadLoaf (USA), Pleiades (Macedonia), NLPVF Dutch Foundation for Literature (Amsterdam), Ledig House (New York), Sanskriti (New Delhi), Wolfsberg UBS Pro Helvetia (Switzerland), Tyrone Guthrie Centre (Ireland), and Shanghai Writers Programme (China). He was international writer-in-residence at the Scottish Poetry Library (Edinburgh) and visiting scholar at Harvard University. Sen’s critically-acclaimed books include The Lunar Visitations, New York Times, Dali’s Twisted Hands, Postmarked India: New & Selected Poems (HarperCollins), Distracted Geographies, Prayer Flag, Rain, Aria (A K Ramanujan Translation Award), Ladakh and Letters of Glass. 387

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Blue Nude: New & Selected Poems | Translations 1979-2014 (Jorge Zalamea International Poetry Prize) is forthcoming. He has also edited several important anthologies, including The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry, Poetry Foundation Indian Poetry Portfolio, Poetry Review Centrefold of Indian Poems, The Literary Review Indian Poetry, World Literature Today Writing from Modern India, The Yellow Nib Contemporary English Poetry by Indians, Midnight’s Grandchildren: Post-Independence English Poetry by Indians, Midnight’s Grandchildren: Post-Independence English Poetry from India, Wasafiri New Writing from India, South Asia & the Diaspora, and, Lines Review Twelve Modern Young Indian Poets. His poems, translated into twenty-five languages, have featured in international anthologies by Penguin, HarperCollins, Bloomsbury, Routledge, Norton, Knopf, Everyman, Random House, Macmillan, and Granta. His words have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, Newsweek, Guardian, Observer, Independent, Telegraph, Financial Times, Herald, London Magazine, Poetry Review, Literary Review, Harvard Review, Hindu, Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, Outlook, India Today, and broadcast on BBC, PBS, CNN IBN, NDTV, AIR & Doordarshan. Sen’s newer work appears in New Writing 15 (Granta), Language for a New Century (Norton), Leela: An Erotic Play of Verse and Art (Collins), Indian Love Poems (Knopf/Random House/Everyman), Out of Bounds (Bloodaxe), and Initiate: Oxford New Writing (Blackwell). He is the editorial director of AARK ARTS and the editor of Atlas. [www.atlasaarkarts.net]. In January 2013, Sudeep Sen was the first Asian to be honoured to deliver the Derek Walcott Lecture and read from his own work as part of the Nobel Laureate Week in Saint Lucia.

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Student Editors Abraham J Thayil Abraham J Thayil is a second year B.A English student at Sacred Heart College, Thevara. He writes short stories and essays. His favourite authors are Sidney Sheldon and Dan Brown. He is also a guitarist and loves watching movies. He is very much skilled in computer programs like Microsoft Publisher, Adobe Pagemaker and CorelDraw. He is fine speaker and has good presentation skills. Abraham Varghese Abraham Varghese is currently doing his Bsc Maths at Sacred Heart College. His poems and short essays revolve around the social issues that call for immediate attention. He is an avid reader of literatures from around the world.

Mariam Henna Mariam Henna, born in Ernakulam, is a passionate reader and an ardent creative writer. Her work ‘The Two Sisters’ has got published in the Children’s Magazine. She has won various prizes for creative writing at the school and college level. She is currently pursuing her degree in BA English Copy Editing. She loves to write poetry and short stories. She is currently working on her debut novel. Apart from reading and writing, she loves to do social service and is currently working as the Operations head of the cochin branch of Drikshya (NGO).

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LIJLA Vol. 1 No. 2 August 2013  

A journal that features creative work by internationally acclaimed and emerging writers/artists like Peter Daniels, Vanessa Gebbie, John Mac...

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