RIGGWELTER #4 DECEMBER 2017 ed. Amy Kinsman
The following works are copyrighted to their listed authors ÂŠ2017. Riggwelter Press is copyrighted to Amy Kinsman ÂŠ2017.
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Foreword Marginalia Enkindle Oxidised Poem for my bad ventriloquist Narratives So You’ve Accidentally Cryogenically Frozen Your Roommate’s Fish Untitled [lab report] Induction dreamclass dreamshelter Three The cows Her Hands bone because Pablo and I - the Embrace Lov…-e Motel Apparently the Only People for Me are the Dead Ones Indiana Points Failure Gropecunt Lane The sweep of the bay Melted Landscape Has Anyone Seen My Inheritance How to Wear a Bee Dress Bare feet Changing Bride Contributors
4 6 7 8 13 14 16 20 21 22 24 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 36 38 40 41 42 46 47 48 50 51 52 53
Thank God that the flaming wheelie-bin fire that is 2017 has almost reached its conclusion. December hasn’t come fast enough, in the minds of many of us. Let’s shut the book on a year of page to page mistakes, both big and small, too numerous to even begin to list here. Fuck you 2017, you’re 2016 without the element of surprise or any sense of originality. Fuck you very much. Quite by accident, this fourth issue of Riggwelter has been an issue all about accidents: there’s headaches; cracked eggs; bad dreams; cow piss; failed relationships; financial mistakes; breached laboratory conduct; shit jobs; shit hotels; poor performances; (mostly) dead fish and global warming. But in spite of all these things there’s hope – and loveliest of all, there’s art. It is in the face of culture’s biggest crises that its greatest art emerges and though that might be small consolation, at least it’s some. Here’s thirty pieces to get us through the last month of the year. Let’s laugh, cry and marvel our way out together. 2018, we’re coming in hot and you’ve a lot to answer for already. All you’ve got to do is strive for something more, like all of us. All you’ve got to do is keep us staggering on, as Riggwelter most certainly will do. Thank you very much to everyone who has contributed this year – all of you who have submitted, who have promoted, who have read – and congratulations to our six nominees for the Pushcart Prize, of which you can read Sarah Little’s piece
Oxidised in this issue. We’re truly astounded with the quality of all the work that we receive. Our inbox gets more crowded with every passing day, which only pushes us to be better. We must be on to something good.
On behalf of everyone involved with Riggwelter, I wish you all a happy and stress-free holiday season, whatever you celebrate or donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll see you all in 2018.
Amy Kinsman (Founding Editor)
Margins leave nothing without regret; Even planets, thistles, throats of hummingbirds do not abandon them without paragraph upon paragraph, tongue upon clavicle, sight against touch. Seeking the stars is the phenomenon of time and gravitational bending. Not being able to sleep is the feeling of not finding God. But whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s this? A pinecone rests on a rock, yet I have no pine trees. The offering of orchards carries the weight of aggregation, even with a marginal piece on the ground singing, as a poem, or stinging, also as a poem might do.
Enkindle Harshal Desai
At the seventeenth hour, I venture out from home. It’s warm, an unusually dry spring evening, and I pace rain-lit streets and gather solitude around me, clench it to me with fingers that will go numb from lack of movement in around twenty-six minutes. I’m jealous of it, hoarding it to me and eyeing people warily as if they will reach in, grab it from my pocket when I turn away to pay for my coffee. It looks like rain. I’m clasping the takeaway cup to myself, letting the scent of coffee seep in to my coat. Later, I’ll hang it in the bathroom to dry out, and the coffee will linger in the air for hours after. Later, my housemate will wonder at where the fragrance came from. I will know this without ever being asked, without ever being on the recipient end of a raised, questioning eyebrow – certainly, without the benefit of a verbal question. My coat tonight is a heavy cape that wards off all who would approach. I’d picked this one for function over form, preferring to be wrapped in it, to have it render me a shape without a definition. It's purely subliminal, of course, but it works. Here is what the cape tells people: she's fictional; her world is false and you are too real for her. The day is eighteen hours old and there’s a busker on the street, playing music to fit in with the rumble of buses trundling past, the odd rap of thunder in the sky above. I’m tempted to press record on my phone and hide, wait an hour and see what will come when I play it back. Instead, I loop my earphones through my sleeve and sit, listening. The home office in which I have spent the last five days and nights has good air-conditioning, but it’s hard to breathe. There’s no air there and now my circulation is
almost dizzyingly fast. When it got to the point of being stifling, and I realized I hadn’t been outside of the office in a hundred and five hours, I spent another eighty-one minutes preparing to venture out into the world. Sometimes, even going outside can feel like walking onto another planet. Out here, it seems that there’s some kind of epiphany to be had, some clever train of thought that I’m supposed to be generating while my thoughts churn, curled up on a rickety park bench and drinking cooling coffee. When I stretch out my fingers, my knuckles crack from the cold, and the woman beside me frowns disapprovingly. I haven’t felt my blood humming in my veins for days; it’s been even longer since I last
heard anyone. My housemate taught me that proximity is the key to managing this, the way to shut off the thoughts that creep in when people are around. Sitting like this, almost elbow-to-elbow, guarantees I’m not going to hear anything from the minds of the people around me. Out here, I can breathe. It’s a relief. The noise used to be background chatter, comforting in the way that noise can be when sitting in a café and there’s a quiet hum coming through noisecancelling headphones designed to blot out the majority of the world – now, it’s more like several people yelling across tables to each other. When it first began, I expected that proximity enabled the thoughts to come through, and sometimes it did. Other times I found that even in an elevator crowd, I could take quiet comfort in the fact that there was only the odd sentence filtering across my consciousness. And still more other times, I found that the sheer volume in my mind was deafening, that I could barely think straight for the amount of information being pulled
into my own thoughts. Tonight seemed like a good night to venture outside, to risk the mess of new data. It was a good decision, too. The rain has kept people indoors, not wanting to venture out and pay $4.50 for a latte that will soon be cold. There’s just enough going on to keep my mind occupied – white noise, this time around, not anything more substantial for me to focus on. Once, I used to be able to isolate one person’s thoughts and follow that track to its conclusion. A fine mist flicks water into my eyes, drops of water whispering down my eyelashes, into the contours under my eyes, and I’m not even sure where it came from. My bones stiffen from the cold and I imagine them rusting over, imagine my joints becoming creakier and harder to work as the evening grates on. There’s a low fog curling across the horizon, somewhere in the awkward dusk and making the city darker than it should look. I don’t have a timepiece anywhere on me – I could have been out here for five minutes or six hours. The air around me is cold and fresh, sou’wester whisking up off the ice and winding its way around me. Once, I used to be the sort of person to huddle into my coat, try to block out the wind – now, I sink back against the bench, sprawl out my body and let the cold brush over me, lean into it like it’s an embrace. The chill is something to focus on now, feeling it as it bites through my coat, nips at my neck and wrists, finds the patch in my boots where the lining and soles have begun to pull apart from wear. People around me ebb and flow, scattering through the park and hurrying through the shortest, best-lit paths they can find, eager to get out of the weather. Even without being able to hear thought, I can tell they’re hoping to defy space and time, hoping to cut through shortcuts and run through their immediate little worlds to get
dry. The swirl of people is a busy one, and I’m trying to keep my mind quiet long enough to be able to get home. They’re all hoping to challenge the rain, hoping to bend physics to their will – they’re not going to manage it, the storm is only a few minutes away, and there’s a Faraday cage waiting for me at home. The rain has soaked into my clothes by now, heavy coat made heavier with water, and my boots squeak with damp as I walk. It’s too gloomy now for me to be content walking around, and I’d curse myself for losing track of time but I don’t have the heart to do so. Fresh oxygen paces through my veins and I walk faster, until I’m almost jogging along the road, ignoring uneven bricks and slick paint-lines on the road. Instead, I pace home, fling damp articles of clothing everywhere. My housemate is elsewhere, and my fingers have begun to go numb with chill. Stray echoes of thought run through my head as I head upstairs, hook the coat over the shower rail and run the shower as hot as I can bear it. Warmth is slow to return to my bones, and as I run the water clear of soap and shampoo foam I can feel my blood picking up in my veins, running through my joints, lubricating them back into youth. There’s a prickling sensation as my blood warms, skin itching, and I close my eyes, visualize rust flakes falling away with a whisper of oil and the cloth in my hand. The condensation does nothing to speed the drying of my coat, and I crack the window as I leave the bathroom. My car is stifling when I get in, air trapped in a bubble and all but hitting me in the face, I can feel the echoes of thoughts from the last time I had a passenger. On the steering wheel, I’ve left imprints of my nails from where I gripped it too tight – there’s a tiny seam where I picked away the leather, scratched until crumbs fell to below the
pedals. It’s why I try to avoid driving with passengers – the afterthoughts that tend to happen aren’t worth the trouble. Later, when it’s dry, I check back on it. There’s no trace of the coffee I drank, no hint of the spill I left on the cuffed sleeve when hurrying to get inside. If anything, it smells cleaner, fresher than it has in weeks, and I hang it in the sunlight to get a thorough airing out. (Here is what the cloak tells her: you are not false; you are here, real, breathing.
Take in your oxygen; you have earned it.)
Poem for my bad ventriloquist
He’d like to say he’s fab, the best, a most magnificent poet but just can’t utter that without spilling the beans pours out he’s sad, the rest, a host convalescent know it. He stays with a slit in his face letter box mouthed avoiding the labial sounds where the lips meet copying my Rictus grin. No gesticulations to give help with his right-hand up my back just the left to fool the world with sinister intent. He Swivels my head opens these wooden jaws animated deceptive sentences. Puts words into my mouth, fills my head with nonsense while he looks like a dummy. I blink to his command my eyes roll to his pushing fingers. Neither lightning bolts nor static shocks breathe life into me. It’s words, words thrown my way before I’m folded double, hamstrung, packed into padded silence. Steve Harrison
Speak to me in sounds I like— tell me your childhood story because I can only hold a narrative if it’s threaded to others. I have a special place in my head for tales of ridiculous or obnoxious loss— think the time you lost your grandfather’s watch scuba diving in a bog with a homemade kit. Some people are sundog humans. It’s thought this can’t be cured only helped, as it’s a genetic predisposition or a trait like blue eyes or red hair or a prefrontal malfunction that makes some people fall neatly on the psychotic spectrum. There are many kinds of human a person can resemble. I spend my days flickering like translucent fireflies in a tangle of inexplicable neuron. At the meat, there is really only one kind of human with a singular need to exist in relation to some other forged consciousness and an insatiable need to retell memory and emotion and programmed biology through stories. I must force myself onto the pages of your narrative and let you
bleed for a contrived infinity into my own so that we may exist here, a temporary forever. Tamara L. Panici
So You’ve Accidentally Cryogenically Frozen Your Roommate’s Fish
So. I hear you’ve accidentally cryogenically frozen your roommate’s fish. It’s ok, it’s ok. There’s no need for hysterics. We’ve all been there. Well, I haven’t been there, but I, personally, know at least two people who’ve been there. So by the transitive property of accidental cryogenic fish-freezing, I feel I am permitted to speak with some authority on the matter. Please stop crying. That was supposed to make you feel better. You have to understand, this doesn’t make you a bad roommate. If I know you, I’m sure you never meant to accidentally cryogenically freeze your roommate’s fish. I’m sure you had the best of intentions. Sure, it backfired spectacularly, but what you need to explain to your roommate is that you didn’t plan for this or anything. There was no pre-meditation. This was just one of those things. Let me guess. Let me guess how it went down, and then I have some suggestions for how you can break the news to your roommate when she gets back from Christmas break that she’s now fishless, ok? I’m going to go out on a limb and say your friend bought a fish to get her over a breakup… Am I right, or am I right? I am right? Well, good. That’s certainly not because I’ve ever been in your position, though. This is just my best guess about how a fish ends up accidentally cryogenically frozen. Based on my extensive experience. As a viewer. Anyway.
So, your friend buys a fish to get over her ex-boyfriend, and probably gets super attached to it, yeah? Like, John Hinckley, Jr. - Jodie Foster obsessed? Yeah, I would have bet that was going to happen. What’s that? No, I already told you, this didn’t happen to me. I’m just
empathizing . So then, I’m guessing your roommate went home for Christmas and asked you to feed the fish, because you were staying on campus. And you were pretty confident you could do it, right? I mean… Fish food. It’s not quantum mechanics. I’m guessing you were pretty secure that this arrangement would NOT potentially endanger your relationship with your roommate and result in an accidentally cryogenically frozen fish. But, the best laid plans of mice and men, amirite? You probably should have been concerned when your roommate mentioned the fish was acting funny. When she said that he was swimming funny, that probably would have been a good time to abandon this whole roommate/fish situation and head for the hills. But you’re a good roommate, and a good friend, and… Let’s be honest… You weren’t that concerned about the fish, were you? Oh, please don’t start crying again. I’m not indicting you. If I ever found myself in that situation… Which I haven’t… I wouldn’t have been that concerned about the fish, either. ANYWAY, I’m going to guess that about an hour after she left, the fish started to go downhill. Long story short, I bet that fish started dying, and I bet you thought the
poor thing was suffering unimaginably. I bet it ripped you apart when it sunk down to the bottom of the bowl and just lay there, miserable and tormented. See? I recognize that your intentions were totally pure. This was a crisis, very nearly a humanitarian crisis, if the poor thing were only human, and I know that you just wanted its agony to end. But, if I’m guessing correctly, this next part is probably where you went wrong. Because if I was ever in that position… If… I suspect my brain would go right to the Ambien. Oh, dear, there you go again. Am I correct? Was there Ambien? There was? Yeah… I had a feeling. So, here’s the thing. Ambien is great. Ambien helps insomniacs drift off into a cloudy dream world of fantasy and sleep-driving. But there really haven’t been any peer-reviewed studies on the effects of sleeping pills on goldfish. The science just isn’t there yet. So grinding it up and letting it dissolve in the water, if that happens to be what you did, would have been the wrong move. I know, I know. You were thinking of death with dignity. You were thinking of a mercy killing. You were thinking of a painless euthanasia. And don’t get me wrong! I bet it did the job. So you totally deserve some accolades for that. And it’s what you did next. What you did next could very well be your saving grace. Although… You had no idea, did you? You just didn’t want the dead fish to continue floating face-up in the bowl for another night in a row. You were worried it was going to smell. So you did something very pragmatic. You put it in the freezer. How do I know all this? Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? It’s not like I’ve ever done exactly the same thing.
So, do you see?? The fish was ill, you put it to sleep, and then you put it in the freezer… Thus accidentally cryogenically freezing it! I know you know this already. But you don’t seem to see the silver lining. Don’t you know what that means?!?! It means, in a few years, when ichthyology has made some real progress and we have the technology, that fish can be BROUGHT BACK TO
LIFE! So, there you go!! What do you mean, that’s it? Yes, that’s why I think your roommate won’t be that mad at you. Just explain to her that, even though she doesn’t have a fish now, she might have an even better fish in the future. So, yes. That’s my suggestion. Godspeed, friend. Though… If I might offer one last piece of advice? If you don’t end up telling your roommate you accidentally cryogenically froze her fish… If you just tell her the fish died, but secretly keep it in the freezer, because now you’ve kind of warmed to the idea of bringing it back to life, and plan to bring it with you from apartment to apartment until fish medicine can cure him… It’s best not to store it in an empty cigarette pack. Because no one, apparently, is going to believe that keeping cigarettes in the freezer is what all smokers do to keep them fresh. And I guarantee it… Your roommate will find out. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience.
Shannon Frost Greenstein
Untitled Hailey Lamb
under consideration: gills tracheas s. freudâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s left molar whale droppings the answer is not: crab teeth owl pincers it does not include the universe the answer has the heart of a black hole leave it the fuck alone there will be: solitary confinement for the correct answer Erik Fuhrer
The company sales manual recommends new employees to develop passion for their products. I have developed passion for my products. My products, which I am presenting to a city centre hotel, include anti-bacterial cleaners for wood, stone, marble, and granite; floor cleaners and wall cleaners, bathroom cleaners, kitchen cleaners, fabric cleaners; furniture polishes, detergents and bleaches, disinfectants and a full range of ancillary cloths, wipes and paper products. I have arranged my aerosol and spray dispensers in a semi-circle in front of the housekeeping and kitchen staff. I have made sure the triggers point in the same direction. They look really nice. I describe each product, highlighting its anti-bacterial qualities, its safety, its greater coverage and economy. I spray each dispenser to demonstrate its pleasing scented aroma invoking, as I proceed, summer mornings, autumn evenings, river valleys and wooded glades. In one hand I raise before me a 99.9% anti-bacterial kitchen aerosol as though it was a sacred chalice and in my other hand samples of super absorbent jumbo size kitchen roll. "These products are conducive to a healthy environment and employee wellbeing," I say and then pause for dramatic effect. The company sales manual is big on dramatic effect. â&#x20AC;&#x153;These products offer hygiene and purity,â&#x20AC;? I smile, allowing the words to resonate. The sales manual is also big on smiles. I spray another dose of each liquid into the air to allow sweet scents of summer and mellow mists of autumn to permeate the room. The particles catch the sunlight streaming through the window and produce a vivid rainbow about my person. It is as
though I have an aura. I reckon I’ve found my calling. I reckon I’ve got a natural flair for sales. I smile as I leave my quotation and smile again as I shake hands and leave. Next morning, I find out the order has gone to my rivals at Squeeky Kleen Janitorial Supplies. The manual says that in failure it’s important to reflect upon performance. ‘Did you do everything you could to secure the order?’ it asks. ‘Look at your hair, your teeth, were your clothes neatly laundered. Did you commit the great mistake of appearing to be insincere; that you are a philistine worshipper at the altar of commerce who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing?’ Integrity, the manual advises, is everything. After a period of purifying self-flagellation, the next step is to avoid despondency and rekindle one’s determination to succeed. The manual recommends visualisation. I picture myself in my next presentation in a cool Italian suit. I ooze integrity, I am charismatic and charming. I am, admittedly, slightly down but definitely not despondent. The important thing is that I am rekindling my determination to succeed. I love my products. I love my job. The manual says that a good salesman always wants more. He never loses his hunger. That’s me, I’m hungry. I will never lose this hunger, never, ever.
Outside the state college of your dream, a version of you cracks open the lumber heart of Friday morning. Regardless of the WARNING and a paragraph of too-small text soaked into its grain, your fingers fissure through like phantoms. Inside are the empty tunnels of cardiovascular lore, onyx walls pulsing holographic purples, greens, yellows. If you were to walk one, with flashlight in hand and blood in head, where would it lead? You imagine it’s nowhere special—maybe a whirlpool capped with ice, maybe skins of every name you’ve left behind stored in a lightbulb—but that might be because you abandoned every plant you've ever buried. Regardless, let’s say you walk. The space seems to close in the farther you go, your breath coming in colored wisps. Every so often, you feel your best friend take your hand, squeeze, and disappear. The tunnel ends at a ball of twisted birch branches—another crystal ball. Inside, you're twelve. Eighth-grade year, desks rearranged and smiles disorganized. The girl you used to love. The boy you used to love. Their heads like sunrise and sunset. Yours in the middle, the arc of darkness bending inside that hour. Mrs. Doubtfire is chalking a list of your shame on the dry-erase board—1) bulimic and 2) sketching gore in class textbooks, afraid of 3) reflections in dark, floor-model TV screens—but now, your flexible personality disorder just sounds like a herring’s whisper. When you wake, you'll remember her as your grandmother, the only person you confided in. You look toward the window, chin cradled in palm, and watch bike spokes on the sidewalk mingle with sunrays, shaping a wedge aperture. The next destination. But you’re too tired to leave this place. It’s bright, the doors are melting
shut, and everything is. Can this be called utopia if you build a smile strong enough to hold it?
A list of items in the backyard bunker of your dream: •
yellow fever growing jungles from a corpse's forehead
parties of o
metallic hats ▪
stray jackets •
javelins and left crutches o
the alphabet unraveling from primordial tooth spools o
microwaved tongues drooling for something cool
venison stuck to the floor, so old o
that it’s becoming a skeleton, eye ▪
sockets threaded with throat flowers
attempting to join hands ▪
at the center of •
Three Alan Murphy
It rains like cows piss, the French say, and I can hear them now in Galicia, where the trees are soaked green and the sky is cold and white. And I remember the storms of Avignon, nights when I would huddle under some great soft pink udder heavy with cream and rough with wear and I didn't know there was a cow there, up in the heavens, keeping me warm. I am still under her, still sheltered. Her stream of water swirls around me, slides down the window whilst I huddle inside yet again, walls of gold brick like hay around me as she moos and snuffles me her scratchy love. I fold myself in, a cowardly calf, still waiting to see if I will be allowed to grow up. Elizabeth Gibson
Rough-knuckled, raw from hard labour, they slap, scrub, chop wood, wring sheets; these aren’t hands for bestowing love. In her left hand she’s holding an egg, in her right a wooden block the size of a boot brush, covered with fine sandpaper. The egg’s shell is a collage of chicken shit, birth blood, brood feathers. She strokes the sandpaper over the egg more tenderly than she handles her babies, cleaning off the shit and blood as she might polish field mud from her work-boots with a brush. Asked would she like to free the hens from their cages, bin the eggs and fly away to swim off Santorini she would have said in Santorini, though the hens run free,
they still have to pleasure the rooster. The cock is king. The cleaned eggs she lays gently in a straw-filled basket, the way a new mother might lay a milk-gorged infant to sleep. She’s allowed to keep any eggs she cracks. But she hates breaking eggs: the running snot of them, the unfulfilled ambition. Rachel Davies
bone there was a chicken bone among the dusters under the sink how old
and dry as the Atacama
silently desiccating no rustle of mice now perfectly smooth perfectly straight thrush-coloured, cool
Zauberflรถte for some Scottish Papageno shrilling for his lovebird
along the bore where a thin life coursed
clipped wings carve it, paint it, gild it, tune it make it
free-range finally in death flute for a passing sprite Mandy MacDonald
my heart; winding set margins of a route is building rhapsody: from your mouth (and drawing lines those cartographers smell a world) floating bells astir begin to fiercely, leaf by leaf flutter (the texture of your eyes has its own countries) on earth march melts summer, submerged in brightness. Upon an excerpt from the smallness of being (audacity of a diphthong) you travel luscious parenthesis of invisible senses enraptured. This perpetual globe of robust roundness is dingy entirely that your frame grows like clouds (for a sky is only vast) being in love, no sun or moon can ever hide long on higher fires, nowhere far. On placing and arranging worlds and celestial strange things (this rough smoothness of your skin carefully touches me) deeply together. since the syntax of borders gesture to caress weather (under mysterious forces) ascending and descending (silently uttering and blossoming) lurching hypnotic lattice charades eager of time and of place to climb hurled dreams (reckless winds are given precise) your fractions change in crinkling vagueness, my darling in firm oneness of love floating over rope like lands away. Sneha Subramanian Kanta
Pablo and I - the Embrace
(inspired by Francoise Gilot) He put me on paper, used fine pencil strokes to set my features, the heart-shape of my face; these were merely outline. A muse he could not capture, my eyes bear no likeness to the gaze he gave me, my body does not curve towards his form. I grew to refuse his canvas gifts. The brush of my tongue won’t paint the words he wants to hear. Our children, my tears, don’t bind me to him. As his shadow slinks off to hide in oils he tells me I’ll taste only ashes. But I have fire in my throat; crimson and canary flames sing in my mouth. I leave him, alone and ceramic in his self-pity. I’ve packed my own sketches mapping the horizon. Claire Walker
We hadn’t planned on staying long at the Budget Motor Inn—two days, three at the most. Mac had hunkered down there years ago after a devastatingly unlucky Vegas weekend, and he said it’d be a good in-between place for us to figure things out. Room 11 afforded us nothing but the essentials: lumpy bed with urine-stained mattress, battered night stand, rickety table and mismatched chairs. A vague vomit stench emanated from the carpet and stale cigarette smoke hung in the air like an opaque occupant, but the drab, heavy curtains provided maximum privacy. Neither of us wanted to be the one to decide where we were headed, so we simply stayed on. Day after day, we took turns fetching fast food from drive-ins on the highway; night after night, we succumbed to sleep amid the chatter of West Coast baseball broadcasters. Sometimes, when sleep eluded me, I’d push aside Mac’s coarse chest hair and study the snake tattoo that coiled around his torso. He’d told me he’d once owned seven Hypo Burmese pythons, though he’d never bothered to name them. When I said I’d be scared to share space with snakes, he told me it was no different from living with anything else: You never know what’s lurking. Eventually, Vegas beckoned to Mac again, and he begged me to accompany him, tempting me with the lure of luxury accommodations. I tried to imagine the glitter and glamour he described, but all I could see was a dead end. Unwilling to make him to choose between Vegas and me, I decided for both of us.
The Budget Motor Inn got bulldozed last month. Reduced to a pile of rubble, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s almost as if it never even existed. I think about that a lot, falling asleep to those latenight ballgames.
Apparently the Only People for Me are the Dead Ones
The Halloween party is three weeks away But me and Carly are getting ready now Putting fake cobwebs on all the art in the apartment Strangling door frames with Amityville-colored lights A family of dirt-poor skeletons is slumped against the record player They’re begging for some loose flesh to warm themselves up Me and Carly live pay check to pay check like every other American But love wasting our money on shopping sprees at Party City It’s important for us to throw parties because they make us feel alive Watching all our friends get drunk and sing into their cigarettes Like they’re haunted microphones and songs are smoke signals Our friends have beautiful voices but teeth like candy corn All of that doesn’t matter, because there's this one painting we have That’s hanging above our Raymour & Flanigan couch Looks like a bunch of zombie faces coming out of the canvas Phil Durgan painted it for me a few years ago We were doing this event together at Hardware Celebrating Jack Kerouac's birthday That night we were all exploding like spiders across the stars Phil was painting live as I drunkenly performed poetry Ian was there too, playing piano with his phantom limbs It was a lot of fun It’s kinda weird though, because as I'm putting fake cobwebs on Phil’s painting It dawns on me that Phil is dead I think it was an overdose or maybe a clawfoot bathtub swallowed him whole Phil loved giving tattoos to the ocean Now I feel like an idiot holding these fake cobwebs Why give the illusion of neglect when so many people are forgotten about? It dawns on me that Kerouac is dead too Ian might be dead too for all I know I throw the fake cobwebs across the room Carly asks if there’s anything wrong But I probably don’t say anything
he fled to Florida to kiss a hurricane
Because I’m that kind of person I go outside to get some fresh air In the distance, the city feels likes Frankenstein’s Monster And all the crack houses look like the electric bolts Sticking out of the Monster’s neck I would assume that the bolts Are used to conduct electricity from the lightning So everything isn’t super dark around here It dawns on me that we’re all parasites sucking on clouds Just how many ghosts are there in the world? There’s a family of spiders living under my fingernails Now I want to kiss Carly so bad that I’m shaking Justin Karcher
Threat of tornado, the long alarm. Worms crisscrossing sidewalks, bodies bloated, pushed from their private tunnels into the weep of the world—bright & sudden. Ditches flooded make swimming pools for children who don’t mind the muck; untrimmed grass transforms easily to reeds, my long, lithe body the body of an otter as my teeth sink into the flesh of a writhing fish. My little brother slipping in the slick mud, laughter hysterical, unprovoked by anything but the raw cord of joy we’ve managed to grasp onto. Never let it go, I whisper to that version of myself, to that version of my brother. * Fireflies in summer. The winding night drive from my grandparents’ house. Long sticky nights no fan could alleviate. Iced tea, smell of lemon. Family walks boxed in by corn. Rows & rows of it. You could never get free, no matter how far you walked. * I could go on & on about autumn; I was prone to romancing its warm hues, the cold crunch. I loved the ache of it & the ache grew. I grew older & poured the feeling into a boy. Nights we drove aimlessly, listening to Blonde on Blonde or Blood on the Tracks. Or we sat on the hood of his car, Miles Davis in the background, Neil Young, Willie Nelson— the music prompting our hands, our hands expanding our worlds. Stars lowering themselves into the field, & a feeling I prefer to suppress, but don’t. Tenderness welled up so strong I sang a song to him in the dark, despite shame for my voice. Sometimes still I catch myself singing it. And remember what it felt like to love him without all the residual anger—anger that is shame putting on a face for the person I was & what I let him do to me. And how the love was love but also desperation: eventually it lay wasted beneath weather:
dried up worm, stiff as leather. Darla Mottram
At the edgelands, where units of light industry scab vacantly, the train gives up, and I almost see a fox disappear through scrub hedge, a paintbrush drawn through a cleaning rag. How long is a glimpse? Measure it in white hair-tips. I am stuck here, years since we met and bonded at the brink of a party neither fitted. Peripherally I see the mizzle blunting corrugation in the yards of shipping containers. Today I turn forty-five. They apologize for the delay to this service, and you insist I look outside for beauty. Beauty, for you, hefts a moral weight, like truth. Truthfully, I know, as you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t, my journey often tenders embellishments of coney, curds of primroses, occasional blazon of hare, or tiny deer curled in nests of grass and sunspot. But thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s later. At this failed point, it offers chopshops, dereliction, penned-in salvage. I am done pulling joy out of my sleeve for you. There are no pretty birds in the sky. Kirsten Luckins
Gropecunt Lane The street name an advert, clear and unashamed, sanitised now to Grape Lane, these small entries and cul-de-sacs are tucked away, off main thoroughfares Here, a sailor offshore could slake his thirst before going home to wife and kids, could shake off the hungers of the sea with a willing woman, for pence; be lost in her warm solaces, in the salty dark of a trawling port, fishing for pleasure in her cotton drawers. The girls could wait there for ships to dock, chat in the dark awaiting business, a sisterhood of cunts, and no shame in the service. Bordhawelane and Puppekirty Lane changed too. these dark and narrow names are hidden now: cunt becomes a guttural insult in one syllable. Too rude to use, as though the nasty thing itself must not be spoken of unless in polite Latin and all those gropecunt lanes blind alleys. Angela Topping
The sweep of the bay
The gulls sitting on the freshly-painted blue railings flap into the morning sky as one before peeling off on their individual journeys across the bay, riding the thermals here, swooping down on abandoned chip papers there. On this day of midwinter-spring the bay is theirs, from the Lakeland Fells under their snow duvet, down past the statue of Eric Morecambe forever dancing and the white curve of the Midland Hotel, to the estuary which divides Lancashire from the country south. Towards which cars and trains trundle on the twins skeins of motorway and railway which lie on the land like wool on a giantâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s knitting needles. The gulls know their territory. They stay within the sweep of Morecambe Bay. Below them, land-bound, the lives of the people of the bay move, inter-twining now and then, into this new day, a day never before known and yet, for many, one which will follow well-worn, familiar patterns. Though not for all. Not for Ted Marshall, surprised by a sudden sharp pain which makes him double up before his shaving mirror, so that he is now in an ambulance speeding with sirens to hospital. Nor, in equal but different measure for Rene, Tedâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wife of thirty years, twisting a handkerchief as the ambulance carries Ted away from her, maybe for ever, leaving her at home alone regretting her harsh words of the morning and thinking Ted much too young to die. Rene does not know, how could she, that the road will be clear, the queue short and so the doctors will, on this occasion, save him. And that this will also save their marriage, giving them cause to take stock and start small moves back towards one another. And all the time, above the bay, the gulls make their laughing cries.
New-minted this day too for a young couple who watch the gulls take off from their blue line, a couple on their honeymoon. The magic of their relationship is as fresh and bright as the paint on the railings. Which they admire with their love-shiny eyes as they stand side by side looking out over the shine and the sweep of the bay. She takes a photograph of him standing next to a statue of a gull on a plinth, a gull so much larger than life-size. They laugh together about this and he pulls his new wife to him. “I’ll never take you for granted,” he says, gazing into her limpid eyes. It is a promise as solemn and important as their wedding vows so recently exchanged. They had walked up the daffodil path to the church separately and back down it together, and that yellow flower will always be especially theirs. That’s what she says to him now, with her diffident, ever-endearing laugh. The bus on which Rene is travelling north to be with Ted in hospital, and another on which the young couple are heading south to look at the Viking graves at Heysham, stop on opposite sides of the road at the same village bus-stop. For a moment out of time the young woman’s eyes meet Rene’s through the murky windows and there is a silent exchange. Neither of them could put into words what passes between them in that moment, but it stirs them both. The newly-married woman does not mention this to her husband, who is pulling at her sleeve pointing out a small object of delight. She makes a movement of her shoulders, not a shrug exactly, but a sloughing off of future grief, for that is what she has seen in Rene’s eyes. This, though, is a promise-of-spring day, and Ted is going to live. Rene has as much reason as the young woman to rejoice, did she but know this, but for now fear is fluttering at her back.
The young couple are amazed by the Viking graves, the hollowing-out of the solid stone, how did they do that they wonder. He takes her left hand, squeezes it, feels the finger on her finger and swells with pride. His wife. He has an impulse to rush her back to the flat they have rented for the week. But he resists it, thinking that there will be not just today, but all the days of their lives for shared passion. He does not know how it will really be, any more than Ted knew when he was twenty and married Rene. When he too thought they would have all the days of their lives. All through the slow greying of the afternoon Rene sits by Tedâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bedside in the hospital ward, as he dozes and the nurses to and fro. At evening the gulls return to their roosting places on the shore. Ted will stay in the hospital tonight. He tells Rene that he is tired. She, taking it as a dismissal, travels home on the bus, sitting on the upper deck so that she can look out across the now dark but still shining, calming sweep of the bay. When she gets back to the house where she has lived with her husband since the day they were married, Rene does not, for once, look at the shabby corners and sigh. She pulls open the wide drawer, the one that sticks, at the bottom of the sideboard and takes out the book of their wedding photographs. Her feelings are churning inside her and she wants, urgently, to see the expressions on their twenty-year old faces on that spring day. It is as she thought. They are veiled in shyness, but there is unquestionably the looking forward, side by side. It is what she saw from the bus in the face of the young woman, veiled by the dirt on the bus window, but unquashable. In their holiday flat the honeymoon couple lie entwined now listening to the sweet susurration of the sea. If she was to see her again, Rene would not go past without telling that young woman to treasure her marriage, to hold it always in her
hands as carefully as she would a fragile flower. As regrets swirl in her mind she thinks of Ted, lying alone in the hospital bed, and feels a long-closed door in her heart begin to creak open. Rene knows, with sudden and simple clarity, what to do. While the kettle is boiling for her tea she finds what she needs. Anyone passing the house on the evening of this day will, if they stop for a moment and listen, hear the urgent clack-clack of Reneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s knitting needles. She is knitting for Ted. The work will occupy her hands, and still the agitation of her mind, until weariness brings her the benediction of sleep. And all the while, up and down the lines of railway and motorway which weave and spool, as the wool does at Reneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s feet, the trains and cars travel on into the night.
Melted Landscape (Cover Image) Alan Murphy
Has Anyone Seen My Inheritance
My great grandmother used to tell me About the crops they planted Back in the Spring of 1923 Ha'pennies and farthings Pushed a finger's depth Under the wet sand at low tide Grew Over the Summer months Into enormous trees With spendable leaves They lived that Summer Like millionaires But As the days shortened And the rain began to fall The whole beach was washed away Into the ocean Never to be seen again I imagine it often That vast petrified forest Lost like Atlantis An occasional ten bob note Floating up to the surface Simon Read
How to Wear a Bee Dress
This will take practice. First, take care to make yourself plain— no curls, no ribbons in your hair and please, no jewelry to dazzle their poor eyes. You must be still. Stare straight ahead. You’ll have to hold this pose for hours so go barefoot and find a patch of springy grass. Now, take off every stitch — they’ll shun crisp cotton, new-washed wool or silk. Take just one flower— make it as perfect as you can. Choose it for colour or for its scent and clasp it tight in both your hands. Can you hear their beating wings? Not here yet so you have time to still your heart, harness adrenaline and master the pulse that makes your left breast rise and fall. Be still. Calm your mind and let them come. Prepare your naked skin for feet that are all tickle as they land. Shut out their humming. Stop up your ears with air and let them settle, dressing you in fit-and-flare with shoulder straps. Make light your muscles. Let them bathe their fibres in the beating of your dress. The final test (this took me years) is to turn your blood to ice so that they check your wrists for signs of life.
You will be braceleted by bees. Hilary Robinson
Bare feet Marija Smits
We started removing our trousers together soaking legs clinging to each limb You joked about how trousers only ever came in plural and a single trouser entered my mind as you pulled the second leg out I saw just your underwear. Bright as detergent, vivid as my imagination You stood astride and questioned why I was so slow. I wanted to take in each moment and unwrap myself the way I wished it was you. Your clothes a pile on the floor you watched me, removing each sock before you began to re-dress each article laid-out in order of size every one a solitary survivor, separate waiting for its complementary garment ‘Do you mind if I take these clothes?’ You pointed to the meticulously placed set to my right. ‘Either is fine’ I answered. Taking in one last look. You began to dress, pulling the jeans to your waist. Your zip the final act of this diversion. Your eyes looked down at my top. Stephen Daniels
Once I wore bespoke blue organza: swirled with cool oceans. But industrious with invention you bit chunks from my hidden seams dug up my gold, salt, coal, diamonds; then you decked me in a smog shrug insisted on a steel corset tied me up in custom stays that smoked out the mountains of my green breasts. And you did not pause when your tailoring of my design made me fracture. My curves are not silent. As you relentlessly adjust my protective veils expose my skin, my desert ribs, I spin on. Preserve a secret, a white petticoat could still be mine â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Antarctica. Jane R. Rogers
David Bankson lives in Texas. His poetry and microfiction can be found or is forthcoming in (b)oink Magazine, Thank You for Swallowing, Artifact Nouveau, Five 2
One, Indiana Voice Journal, and Walking is Still Honest, among others. Cath Barton is an English writer and photographer who lives in Wales. She won the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella for The Plankton Collector, which will be published in 2018 by New Welsh Review under their Rarebyte imprint. Read more about her writing at https://cathbarton.com/ James Coffey has worked in the building industry, in the retail trade, in a government office crunching numbers and as a janitorial supplies sales person. He likes his garden, he loves his books and sometimes has a go at writing flash fiction. Lori Cramer writes stories of varying lengths, from Twitter fiction to novels. Her short prose has appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Brilliant Flash Fiction, The Drabble,
Fictive Dream, Toasted Cheese Literary Journal, Unbroken Journal, and Whale Road Review, among others. Links to her writing can be found at https://loricramerfiction.wordpress.com. Twitter: @LCramer29. Stephen Daniels is the editor of Amaryllis Poetry and Strange Poetry websites. His poetry has been published in numerous magazines and websites. His debut pamphlet
Tell Mistakes I Love Them was published in 2017 by V. Press. Find out more at www.stephenkirkdaniels.com Rachel Davies has been published in journals and anthologies, most recently The
Interpreters House and Beautiful Dragons Press. She has been a winner in several poetry competitions. She co-ordinates East Manchester and Tameside Stanza, is on Poets & Players organising committee. She has an MA in Creative Writing and is working towards a PhD in poetry from MMU. You can read her blog here: racheld1607.com Harshal Desai is an artist, entrepreneur, and writer that loathes the typical 9-5 existence. He documents his thoughts through writing and photography as he takes on societies norms armed with nothing more than his cheeky wit and undeniable charm. His work is published in Verbal Art, Phenomenal Literature, National Geographic,
FineFlu, The Type Image, 805Lit, Door is a Jar, Asian Signature, Spark, and SickLit Magazine. He is a co-founder of Parentheses Journal. Email him on email@example.com
Logan Ellis holds an MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts. His work has appeared in Enizagam, Fog Machine, A Galaxy of Starfish: An Anthology of Modern
Surrealism, among others, and is rumored to levitate objects wirelessly. His debut book, Etymologizer, is forthcoming from Maudlin House. Twitter @bugcatcherlo. Shannon Frost Greenstein resides in Philadelphia with her soulmate and impossibly beautiful son. She harbors an unhealthy interest in Game of Thrones, Friedrich Nietzsche, the Summer Olympics, and Mount Everest. Her work can be found on
McSweeneyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Internet Tendency, Scary Mommy, Vagabond City Lit, The ManifestStation, the Corvus Review, the Philadelphia Stories literary magazine , and various other publications. She comes up when you Google her. Erik Fuhrer is a PhD candidate in English and MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Notre Dame. His poems have previously appeared in BlazeVox, Shotglass
Journal, The Long Island Quarterly, and various other online venues. Elizabeth Gibson was announced as a New North Poet at the 2017 Northern Writersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Awards. She is a Masters student at the University of Manchester whose work has appeared in The Compass, Antiphon, Cake, Far Off Places, The Poetry
Shed and Ink, Sweat & Tears. She edits Foxglove Journal and the Word Life section of Now Then Manchester. She tweets at @Grizonne and blogs at http://elizabethgibsonwriter.blogspot.co.uk. Steve Harrison was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire but now lives in Shropshire just off the M54 or in the shadow of The Wrekin on his rural pastoral poetic days. His work has been anthologised by local charities, Much Wenlock Poetry Festival, Ledbury Festival Physic Garden and the best-selling Emergency Poet publications. He regularly performs across the West Midlands and won the Ledbury Poetry Festival Slam in 2014. His poem on the healing power of the foxglove will be published in the next
Wetherspoons Magazine if a beer drinking budgie doesn't replace the proposed copy. Justin Karcher is the author of Tailgating at the Gates of Hell from Ghost City Press, the chapbook When Severed Ears Sing You Songs from CWP Collective Press, and the micro-chapbook Just Because You've Been Hospitalized for Depression Doesn't Mean
You're Kanye West from Ghost City Press, as part of their 2017 summer microchapbook series. He tweets @Justin_Karcher Hailey Lamb received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in photography from Kendall College of Art and Design. Post-graduation, she spends her time working in an art gallery and making as much art as she can. Her work has been featured nationally in
publications such as Babe Vibes and Comeback Magazine, as well as in exhibitions at the Lansing Art Gallery, the Grand Rapids Public Museum, and beyond. Sarah Little is a poet-storyteller. When she isn’t conjuring new tales or trying to keep pace with her to-create list she blogs, knits, and sometimes goes looking for shenanigans. Her work has appeared in Cold Coffee Stand, Twisted Sister, and Halo
Literary Magazine, among others. Her first poetry chapbook, Tiny Moments, was released in April 2017. Kirsten Luckins is a poet, performer and theatre-maker whose first collection, The
Trouble With Compassion, was launched by Burning Eye Books at StAnza Festival in 2016. She has been published in various magazines, including Magma and The Interpreter’s House, has been a BBC Slam finalist, was shortlisted for the Wenlock Prize and has toured two funded spoken word theatre shows. You can follow her current projects on Twitter at @ImeldaSays, or at kirstenluckins.wordpress.com Mandy Macdonald is an Australian writer living in Aberdeen. She returned to poetry after many years via Jo Bell's '52' project in 2014. Music, poetry and gardening keep her sane. Her poems have appeared in anthologies including A Bee's Breakfast, Aiblins:
New Scottish Political Poetry, Extraordinary Forms, and elsewhere in print and online (Poetry Scotland, The Fat Damsel, Clear Poetry, Three Drops from a Cauldron, the Maligned Species project, Contemporary Haibun Online, and elsewhere. Darla Mottram is a writer based in Portland, Oregon. Her work has been featured in print and online at NAILED Magazine, SOFTBLOW, After Happy Hour Review, Prick of
the Spindle, and Voice Catcher Journal, among others. Her most urgent passions include literature and long walks on windy days, preferably with her dog Banjo in tow. You can find her online at darlamottram.net. Alan Murphy is an Irish writer and illustrator of three collections of poetry for young readers. His last collection, Prometheus Unplugged, was listed in a children’s and young adult’s books of the year article in the Irish Times and shortlisted for the CAP awards. He has recently published adult poetry with Degenerate Literature and art and poetry with all the sins (who chose his collage as their lead image for an issue). NuBlaccSoul is the people’s poet, a social media journalist, a Black Consciousness Today activist, debater and a voice of #SocialCommentary for his kin and kind. The 21year-young ARTist was born and bred in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and of Eastern Cape descent too. The wordsmith is currently based in the Nelson Mandela Bay, currently studying towards a Bachelor of Arts degree, in Media, Communication and Culture at the Nelson Mandela University. He lives by his own conceptualised motto:
Believe. Be. Live. And you’ll forever live; not physically, but historically. Previous publications include poems in the Experimental Writing: Africa Vs Latin American anthology (2016), in the two anthologies by the Nelson Mandela University, Piece by piece (2015) and Carved onto the page (2017), in edition 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12 of the Cape Town based e-zine, Ja. Most recently, SWITCH Magazine (October 2017 edition) has published art by NuBlaccSoul. Tamara L. Panici is currently studying language in Novi Sad, Serbia. She has work in or forthcoming in Fjords Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Abyss & Apex, Black Poppy
Review, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Carbon Culture Review, and Vagabond City. She wishes she were born a shiny pigeon or a wombat, maybe even a prickly pear cactus. Simon Read is a writer, living and working in the UK. His work includes short fiction, poetry, lyrics, songs, and word-based artworks. You can find out more about Simon's work at: https://ashadowfalling.wordpress.com/ Hilary Robinson is a retired teacher who has just completed her MA at Manchester Metropolitan University. She has written a collection-length portfolio of poems about the effects of infidelity on a long and otherwise happy marriage which she hopes to publish. Her poems have appeared in The Interpreter’s House, Obsessed with Pipework,
Avis, The Morning Star, A New Manchester Alphabet and several anthologies. Hilary enjoys collaborating with composers and has recently written the libretto for a short opera. Jane R. Rogers has now been writing poetry for six years. Jane is a member of the Greenwich Poetry Workshop and the Magma Poetry magazine team where she coedited the July 2016 Magma issue 65 with a theme of ‘Revolution’. Jane’s poems have been published in print and online – appearing in Atrium, Prole, Ink Sweat & Tears,
Long Exposure Magazine, Obsessed with Pipework, Picaroon Poetry, Three Drops in a Cauldron, in Greenwich Poetry Workshop’s anthologies and in the Tate Gallery Website poetry anthology 2012 (edited by Pascale Petite). Jane lives in London but misses the West Country. Marija Smits is the pen name of Dr Teika Bellamy, a UK-based mother-of-two, exscientist and editor whose writing has appeared in various publications, including Mslexia, Brittle Star, Strix, Literary Mama, Picaroon Poetry and LossLit. When she’s not busy with her children, or writing or drawing, she’s running the indie press, Mother’s Milk Books. She is continually delighted by the fact that Teika means ‘fairy tale story’ in Latvian.
Sneha Subramanian Kanta is a GREAT scholarship awardee, with a second postgraduate degree in literature from England. Her poem 'At Dusk With the Gods' won the Alfaaz (Kalaage) prize. She is co-founder of Parentheses Journal, a venture that straddles hybrid genres across coasts and climes. Her work is forthcoming in VIATOR
project, former cactus, Verdancies and elsewhere. Angela Topping’s eighth collection, The Five Petals of Elderflower, was published in 2016 by Red Squirrel Press. Her poems have won prizes, featured on Radio 4’s Poetry Please, and been set for A-level. Magazine credits include The Poetry Review, The Dark
Horse, The North and The Interpreter’s House. In 2014, she was one of Gladstone Library’s Writers in Residence. She is based in the North West of England. Claire Walker's poetry has been published in magazines, anthologies and webzines. She is a Reader for Three Drops Press, and Co-Editor of Atrium Poetry Webzine. Her first pamphlet - The Girl Who Grew Into a Crocodile - was published by V. Press in 2015, and a second - Somewhere Between Rose and Black - will follow in December 2017.
ISSUE #5 COMING JANUARY 1st 2018