RIGGWELTER #8 APRIL 2018 ed. Amy Kinsman
The following works are copyrighted to their listed authors ÂŠ2018. Riggwelter Press is copyrighted to Amy Kinsman ÂŠ2017.
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Found on books
Your Cat, Manx
Fishing for Stars
consider the cicada after love
A Mouth Named Cat
A Different Marriage
Armed with paint
No Country For Old Women
Open (Clevedon Pier, North Somerset)
God of Disbelief
The Amputee Clinic
A Play Where Death Features Prominently: August 11, 2012
Angel of the Night (Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol)
This Unique Arrangement of Things
The Last Swallow
Groverake in Lambing Season
Dear Reader, thank you for sticking with us all the way to the eighth issue. You’re one of us now – a friend, part of the furniture, or family if you will. This issue is all about families: those that we’re born into, those that we choose and those that choose us. Not every family contained within these pages is a happy one, but all are unique and fascinating: nuclear families, queer families, animal families and even God makes an appearance here and there (yes – it’s Easter, don’t think we’d forgotten about religion entirely). To those of you that celebrate, we wish you the very best of Easters and to those of you that don’t, we wish you the very best of April Fool’s Days. THIS ISSUE IS NOT A JOKE. WE REPEAT: THIS ISSUE IS NOT A JOKE. As always, before we begin, a few thankyous are in order. First and foremost, thank you to our families – whoever we choose them to be – you’re the very best. Thank you to everyone who has supported Riggwelter so far, by submitting, by promoting us on social media or just by reading. You’re all superstars. This month, anyone who has nominated us for a Saboteur Award is particularly bright. Thank you to Spring for being (probably, as far as Britain knows) on the way. Please enjoy.
Amy Kinsman (Founding Editor)
We are drawn to them: paper flowers and deep puddles, rainbow-colored locks and lip rings, sparklers and sprinklers, tattoos, the man with the lizard draped over his shoulder, popsicles and rhyming poems, the woman who sells everything she owns on a Saturday for a quarter, lemonade stands and spies. Faces and fangs, floating through our fitful hours like images in a crystal ball. Everything is exotic and I believed. Goldfish sweating in their soon-to-be plastic coffins at the fair, worldâ€™s largest pumpkin, the butter cow, and Paul Bunyan. At the altar of American tourist attractions, I have bowed my head to the giant strawberry, a palace made of corn, a shop full of rocks, shells, and alligator jaws. These are the hours that stories are made of-busy yourself now. Your life has just begun. Jen Rouse
Found on books
Walking on glass, Lolita, we never had it so good. The hurricane, the light fantastic, true romance. The idiot. The liar. The hangmanâ€™s noose. Joe Williams
Your Cat, Manx
In my mind, my arm is around your shoulders, and I am kissing you. In reality we discuss your plans for the convent. “Yeah,” I say, gazing into your eyes, “your argument sounds reasonable.” All I know about you is you are possibly allergic to wheat and refuse to eat the pizza I baked today. Outside the sky turns silver blue. “There’s the Big Dipper,” you say, “and Orion’s Belt.” When we take turns peeking through your telescope, I sneak a peek at you. The fire crackles in the woodstove while I boil soymilk for our hot chocolate. “I want to be in Middlebury,” you say, “where the nuns eat granola for breakfast.” I want you to invite me to visit. You remark on the stained-glass windows with magic marker colors. I admire the chili peppers dangling from your ears. Your earlobes are attached while mine are free hanging. Your cat, Manx, is sitting in my lap.
Eva M. Schlesinger
Fishing for Stars
She appears at waterâ€™s edge as cloak of night blacks out sea of sky, drawn back to steer into distant body of space that breathes in rhythm with tides; takes her cue from stare of moon, casts line of lens as bait to catch light and fishes for stars, with the hook of her eye.
consider the cicada after love
consider the cicada, after love: molting, mating, molting, moving forward, legs after legs after legs, crawling from the bed as if it were discarded skin. your cigarette lit on the balcony, ready to engage one final sunrise before you burrow deep into the earth, sleep beckoning to you like sirensâ€™ songs. my form becomes a mattress ornament; my body is a product of the past; my mind can neither rest nor drudge along. I know that I cannot escape myself: ready to cry, to drown among the sweat collected in pools on a summer night. cicadas understand this feeling too: to scream, to shake, to flail for lack of breath, for inability to breathe in air between the drops of rancid August heat. I am an insect, and that insectâ€™s God: observing myself through naturally occurring kaleidoscopes, an image produced one thousand times with compound eyes: two men in the bedroom, heard from the bath, announcing affirmations, or perhaps two boys alone, listening to echoes of each other under layers of bones. two men: four eyes mirroring each other, a recursive loop. neither can escape. returning from the balcony you sigh, fresh body still translucent in the light. the velcro scratch of a ripe collarbone, the lines of grain along the abdomen, or a discolored patch beneath your arm
and knees we discuss before and after we enter and exit one another. lineages are exoskeletons: both of us are named after our fathers and our fathers’ fathers and our fathers’ fathers’ fathers, a name shedding its skin as if somehow it can escape itself by becoming and re-becoming. retired insect shells will always learn to sing as they return themselves to earth. so too have I begun to sing, at last, because you’ve buried yourself away. seventeen: a generous number of years before I must behold your face again.
Michael Leon Stewart
Extensions Jennifer del Castillo
You hold me in your machine gun arms and I clutch the back of your t-shirt while my lips leave pomegranate colored bruises, staining your skin. I remember how we found each other: how you seemed to just appear out of a crack in the sidewalk. You tell me what I know already: you hate your car with its side door dent, taped up bumper and lopsided license plate. You forget I know already about your dog that slinks through the cat door and the money you hide in a vase. I have finished the last of a slice of cake that is mostly vanilla icing. It reminds me of what a cloud should taste like but doesn’t. You ask me if I like to travel, and I murmur yes because I am too busy staring at your arms and the veins on your wrists. The heat of your body presses against mine. You growl my name. It is after you slice through a pomegranate’s heart with a knife and I eat the seeds that gleam red like jewels that I know I have made a mistake. I tell you I am a girl made of sunlight, not deep darkness and flickering shapes, but you tell me that you have already decided. In the snow, I write words to my mother even though I know that someone’s feet or an animal’s hooves or snowflakes falling will wipe them away.
Winter is a shroud covering my face. Narcissus flowers. Gold petals, white petals. Their delicate stems bend and grow through the cracks in the ice, refusing to die. One day a snowy egret appears, long legged and elegant. Downy feathers, baby soft. It stands in the middle of the frozen lake until you chase it and it flaps to a tree. I miss my mother, her voice calling me, but in this moment, all I want to do is trace the letters of your name with my fingers until they become a poem tattooed on the inside of my wrist.
Like being in a sepiatinted photograph, the edges crusting, this morning light settles in like cream through murky coffee. A woman on a bicycle with a tiny dog poking her head out of a basket passes. I wait for things to come out of a wind like this. Something slightly acidic rises and the clouds swoop down like soft vultures. Windows split into rock candy crystals. Birds or children or trains seem to scream from a distance that is here. Now. I should sit up and pay attention, hands at 10 and 2. When they find the car, twisted like a coat hanger, a few fields over, I should be ready for a close up-metal bars and shadows. Cameras eat this shit up, and maybe I'll be blonde and wrapped in a shower curtain. Maybe I'll be the wrong woman. Jen Rouse
Daylight: wardrobe doors flung wide; rag-tag army railed for inspection. Her morning ritual, the choosing and smoothing of well-worn navy skirt. Veterans pressed aside, their silks creased with stale scent and memories; Young hopefuls dismissed: slim-fit jeans, jackets waisted like vases. Urgency suffocates like bundled fabric; no breathe left to tend gaping rips, absent buttons, scuffs of lipstick; no patience for itchy collars, upstart zips. She pushes past the blue-cross-tagged impulse buys after Girls' lunch Bellinis; the strapless ball-gown's topaz flash fit for a princess, still in waiting. Huddled in line; hangered retainers: Her never-worn, once-worn selves. Julia D. McGuinness
A Mouth Named Cat
The morning the group and I met outside the county jail, I stopped by the court to file for divorce. I’d been meaning to and it was convenient since the courthouse, the admin building and the jail are all connected by both a tunnel and a skybridge. I took the tunnel because I always get disoriented in height. The group had decided not to wear uniform clothing, but we all showed up in mostly black and gray. I wore my scarf even though it was June. It was too heavy for the wind, unlike the Confederate flag clanging around out front. We weren’t going to break in yet. This was our last strategy meeting. Keani and Daryl were going to lead the men, Jonalie and Briaca the women. They’d had the most contact with the convicts. Also, we’re not prudes: only the men are strong enough to carry the statues. “You don’t need a lawyer? You can just walk in and get divorced?” Cat nudged me as Jonalie drew circles in the air around some jail windows with her finger. “I have one on standby,” I said. “It shouldn’t be contested, though.” “Tomorrow, you’ll know the right cells by looking for pairs of shoes in a V under the door latches.” Briaca put her wrists together, pulled her fingers apart, lifted her hands about her and turned side to side to make sure we all knew what a V looked like. “Which way should the mouth be opening?” Cat giggle to herself. “Seriously?” I glared at her, but couldn’t help smiling. “The last thing we’ll do,” Jonalie pointed at Cat and me, “is nick that flag.”
My spouse joins the petition without argument a week later. I submit our signed agreement. Freedom won’t be long now. At 2:30, my alarm goes off as I’m frying an egg. I shove my feet into my shoes, harder than I usually have to. I haven’t slept for a few days. I walk to Cat’s. The dark in the sky is stale. It’s rained. Cat’s mouth is full of sauerkraut when she steps outside. “No secrets there?” She holds the backpack with the rope cutter, headlamp and no doubt protein bars and bottles of sparkling lime water for me to wear. “Yep, no sleep, either.” I roll my shoulders under the wide straps. 3:10, exactly on time. I expect to hear crowbars, metal groaning. I don’t. The rest of the women will have somehow gotten inside and been breaking people out for the last 45 minutes. Cat pulls out the blankets that look made of compacted dryer lint and pats the concrete. I slip out of the backpack, lie down and let her tuck me in. She sets the rope cutters next to my face as she leans over to kiss my mouth - “you won’t be getting much of that for a while, eh?” - and starts off on her stroll around the blocks until it’s time. She passes by on the sidewalk on the other side of the street, closer to the courthouse once, maybe more. I shut my eyes whenever the cops drive by. Keani and Daryl and three of the other guys shuffle down the hill with the Jefferson Davis from Monument Avenue, failing to suppress their grunts. They disappear around the corner of the jail and a few minutes later, Keisha - the teenager with the weed convicted for 15 five years ago - jogs by in Jonalie’s shorts and sneakers, which makes me realize that my feet are so uncomfortable because I’d jammed then into the wrong shoes. I think there may be enough time to fix that until I see the Robert E. Lee from Main Street barrelling down the hill on the shoulders of three of the other
guys because the Stonewall Jackson from Jeb Stuart Road will be right behind to switch places with Jerrell and Sheila, both kids who are, by the legal arm of our organization, innocent. I see them both, in the shirts and shoes I donated, bolt out and split up followed by Jake (the Rocky Mount from J Road will replace him), Katie (the Jeb Stuart from First will go behind her bars) and Tanisha (whose cell will be free for the Matthew Fontaine Maury from Confederate Ave). When I see Yani (stole a pack of cigarettes when he was 17 in exchange for ten years; we’ll replace her with the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors deal from Sunnyview Boulevard), I’ll know to start climbing the pole to get the flag down as fast as possible. I’m the only one who’s been able to practice my contribution, so I should be the cherry on top of this whole protest event.
Cat screeches like tires. The Matthew Fontaine Maury’s down in a red pool, the head dented in. Three of our four men hauling it are in unnatural heaps near it; our fourth is rushing the officer about to shoot him. Cat’s shooting obscenities faster than I can hear them, faster than I can get up the pole. I get up just barely high enough to clip at the rope near the pulley halfway up the pole and the flag loosens like this city’s grip on reality but does not fall. “I said one more step and I’ll fire.” But Robert was sprinting, he can’t stop in time and he falls, side pierced like a savior. The wrong rope - mine, not the damn flag’s - snaps and I only manage one more cut before falling, fast, but not so fast that I miss another office grabbing Cat by her ponytail, shoving his gun in her mouth and firing.
Or: Cat sees the gargoyle from Sunnyview plowing down Profanity Hill to the jail just as she sees a squad car and runs across the road in front of it screaming help help help. The car pulls off and the officer follows her up Profanity away from Jake and Katie and Yani and the Jeb Stuart and the Matthew Fontaine Maury and Jonalie and Briaca and, as I scale that pole and fell that flag, the rest of our women and, one by one, every last inmate in the state of Virginia as the diehards for vengeance lobbying just last week for funding for the new bunker see the photos of our work in every paper for weeks and weeks, do an about-face and push to shut down such injustice.
I’ve got the rope cutters in my fist when I show up to court with my attorney. Cat’s in the back, mouthing like a baseball catcher. “You got this,” I think she says. “Be cool.” The rain on the courthouse sounds like sand. Cat has a dark red bandana tight around her neck. The light is hard as stone. “My client does not think the agreement submitted by the opposing party is equitable, your honor.” My spouse’s lawyer does not look left, does not look right. My lawyer turns to frown at me. “You told me he signed it” she mouths just as Cat stands up. “Really?” She thrusts her chin at my spouse. “Splitting property, debts and assets would be fair,” my spouse’s lawyer glances back at Cat and smirks. “This agreement, perhaps not surprisingly, favors the opposing party despite her unequal contributions to finances and -” “Counsel,” the judge holds up her hands. “While I don’t doubt that you have an eloquent argument regarding just distribution of the wealth, territories and opportunities in this union, such will not be necessary.” She lowers her eyes without
lowering her face and writes in silence for a good two minutes before looking up again. “I’m not granting your petition.” “I’m certain we can come to an actual agreement by the end of this month, your honor, if -” “I don’t care what agreements you broker between the parties.” The judge hands papers to her clerk, who begins scanning them. “I’m not granting your petition.” “Really?” Now Cat’s facing the judge. “Is that because of your arrogance or your cruelty?” “You are out of line, mammy, so I’ll not dignify it with a response. I’m not granting the petition. Next case.” Our lawyers leave, looking around like everything is made of funhouse mirrors. Cat (short for nothing) is named after her mother’s therapist, who got Julie pregnant three weeks after she stopped seeing him (for therapy). For the first time in the fifteen years I’ve known her, she has no words. She puts her speechless mouth over mine, unties the blood-red fabric from her throat and knots it under my voice box. Two white lawyers approach their podiums with their white clients. Arguments for separation, division of the fruits of their labor and how to share the burden of college tuition for the children rev. I face my white man, muscles swollen like pride across his chest, shoulders like a mantle, unprepared for the fact that the law cannot separate him from me.
A Different Marriage
When I was ten, I was convinced I would never want marriage. I had known the halo of white flowers once, the altar beaming at my godforsaken toddler face. The children’s slumped bodies lining the pews saying it all— we would all be Judas if we knew who he was, that damning look we shot across the dinner table as our parents kissed. The same resounding feeling of discomfort when our primary school teachers talked of our futures as mother and fathers, our chests tightening at the thought of fleshy babies in cradles. My wince at the suggestion of parenthood in “when I grow up, I want to be…”, the implication of birthless children if you were born on Mother’s Day. On the playground, the girls declared motherhood before husband the same way I stood before the pastor and dipped my hand in holy, married myself to church rooms I filled with notes on boredom during Sunday Bible studies. The day after marriage I watched a boy at school crawl under a fence to walk home before bell rang, dirt eating his shoulders. Claire S. Lee
Harbour Alan Murphy
My bike’s laying bent and twisted on the shore near the bridge, so Ken’s giving me a backie on his. He’s punching down on the pedals, lunging side to side with every push. “No one saw us, did they?” I ask, but remember the old dear walking a black Labrador like ours, and hundreds of cars driving by, and I swear Mr. Pearson was jogging over the other side of the river. The way he says no sounds like yes. “Listen,” Ken says, “this is what happened. She was on the bike. Alone, right? She lent it from you because she was late for something… for an exam, yeah, an exam. You got it?” Ken almost loses control as he peeks over his shoulder at me, “and because she lives two floors down from us we know she’s cool and wouldn’t rob it... All we know is that she headed off happy as Larry… and we haven’t seen her since. Got it?” “What about my trousers, I’ve got none clean at home.” I say. “You can borrow a pair of mine, and a shirt. Make sure to wash that mud from your face… You hurt anywhere?” “Don’t think so,” I reply, “she must have broke my fall.” Going through the underpass Ken’s voice booms, “No, not an exam… a doctor’s appointment… yeah, a doctor’s appointment. Exam’s not ‘til July, you wally!”
At home Ken stands over me. I have trouble getting the trousers on for shaking. They’re an inch too long. I ask him if we did right just leaving her there, but I already know the answer. What really happened was that she’d promised me five minutes with her in the archway under the bridge if I gave her a couple of smokes. Ken had a full packet of ten
and said I wouldn’t have to owe him. He kept pushing me towards her, grinning like The Joker. I’d never given anyone a backie before, Ken never trusted me enough. If he had, then maybe I wouldn’t have wobbled and tipped over the edge, and her head wouldn’t have cracked like eggshell, and her eyes wouldn’t stare at me like they’d stopped seeing.
Pearson pulls me out of class that afternoon. I see Ken being led across the asphalt. Separate cars take us down the station, blue lights flashing all the way. The policeman at the desk asks me my name and address, tells me to empty out my pockets, asks me to wait. Another copper bulldozers through a side door; steam rises from his coffee, shoots from his ears. He’s tall, pot-bellied, flush-faced. He speedreads the paperwork. “Belt. And the laces from your trainers,” he orders. I fumble them loose. “This way,” he says. We descend two flights of stairs and along a corridor. His footsteps ping sharp in the emptiness. One cell has its door open. “In,” he says, closes the door, turns the key.
Armed with paint
She’ll not stay maiden-quiet.
What I say is true, is true. I scratched his face, pulled his hair grasped his penis so tight I removed flesh. Applying thumbscrews doesn’t change her tune. He gets off lightly. Everyone talks about what she said and did. Later, she mixes the colours of revenge and ranks them in the order of guilt. Pearl light on the skin of warrior arms, shadows between his teeth, in facial hair and corrugated forehead. He’ll stay like this forever now. To do this, she has to watch it happening under her hands day and night for months. To do this, she sketches the tautness of muscles required to hold a man while sawing through his neck. With the end of her brush she conjures the poison in his eyes. To do this properly, she does it twice – perfecting body’s torque, blood’s trajectory, his hair tangling between
her fingers. To do this, she must dare to better her fatherâ€™s friend, Caravaggio, whose holy women wore the faces of whores. She's on the point of laughing, the damask dresses are about to rustle with relief but first she must steady her hand to draw his blood. Rebecca Gethin
*Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) utilised the face of her attacker for both her paintings â€˜The Death of Holofernesâ€™.
No Country For Old Women
Star City stretches its legs, land hungry for love, anticipating sparkle, like an engagement ring on a virginâ€™s hand. Imagine the architect, his legs spread as he leaned over the model growing into his child, product of letting loose. The tower shoots up, brilliant, looking to fuck a goddess, always on, forever the centre of attention. I step out, and a small woman, dressed in a beggarâ€™s opera kind of way, pushes her face in front of mine and breathes a starving breath. She is dense, gives off no reflection, light, but my eardrums echo with her white noise. Irene Cunningham
Open (Clevedon Pier, North Somerset) Tina Huckle
Those huge ears weren’t the biggest thing about him, nor were his balls, which he massaged through his pants as if polishing crotch-mounted trophies— leg hiked over the table, oblivious to customers, fancying himself the slickest car salesman in Alabama. He’d slipped through law enforcement nets with cars stripped and rebranded, beat both his wives without arrest, and night-hunted out of season with the game warden’s blessings, each triumph feeding the thing that expanded through the years, pushing away the only relative with a direct line to matter, even in those last months when he perched on the gurney, chatting up nurses who rolled their eyes or giggled as his blood surged through the machine and his last wife—in bed at home— faded under a cloud of cigarette smoke. C.S. Fuqua
My grandfather Sam and his neighbor Eleanor were two elderly brats. For more than forty years they lived side by side in tiny suburban houses. They argued about leaves blowing over boundary lines and sniped about trash cans. Sam called Eleanor a nut and worse and Eleanor said Sam was miserable old jerk. The latest brouhaha was over Sam’s decision to build a brick wall right on the boundary line. Eleanor had a fit, but Sam had gotten the proper permits and proceeded to noisily haul in bricks and other material because he was going to build it himself. Sam planned his brick wall with precision and forethought; the certainty that its construction would drive Eleanor crazy drove him. He started building his wall on a mild April morning making sure he made as much noise as possible. As he set the bricks in place he could see Eleanor glaring at him from her window. He often stared back when he saw her and jabbed a brick straight up into the air imitating a middle finger. The wall wasn’t high or long but it served Sam’s purpose by partially blocking his view of Eleanor. Eleanor complained to the selectmen but of course she had no recourse and Sam was delighted she was fuming and suffering. Through spring and summer, Sam gloated. On a bright autumn day I visited Sam to rake his yard and try to avoid another season of arguments about leaves breaching the boundary line. When I arrived an ambulance was at Eleanor’s. The EMT’s told me she had been found dead near the wall and they thought she was trying to go to Sam’s for help.
Sam was watching from his doorway. I went up the front steps and told him Eleanor had been found dead at the wall. He smiled a little. “Good,” he said. “Good.”
My horse talks dirty to me. So, he snorts, an Oldenburger, a Morgan and a Tennessee
Walker trot into a bar… I threaten to take away his alfalfa, put him on oat grass and beet powder but he just blows nostril gunk at me derisively. It starts last spring. A gorgeous-fresh Saturday, after Aprille with his shoures sote and all. Fine day for riding. Trailer up. No problem. Tack and saddle, move out and a quarter mile later he balks. Won’t budge. I squeeze once, twice, harder. Nothing. Smack his rump with the crop. Nothing. Kick. That’s when he says knock it off! Can’t
you see I’m hurting? That’s what bursts into my head anyway in vaguely Euro-English tinged with sorrel and chocolate and weird faint background music--- pan pipes / ram’s horns or something. My ears hear rrrhuhhuhhuhhuhhuhhuhhuh. “What the…” I start—
Take me home dammit, my intercostal’s out again. Need that equine chiropractor. And if you kick me one more time… The trail, bushes trees and passing bicyclist spin. I rein my brain back into my skull. A half pirouette and an hour later back at the barn I sit outside his corral. Waiting. He stands-there-like-always. Flies crawling over his mask / swishing them off his flanks / stomping them from fetlocks. Disinterested ears. No cribbing no horse yawns no mind-melding-weirdness. Not that day anyway. But the following week… Did you hear the one about the
Holstein bull and the piebald mare? Then there are the buckskin filly jokes. And the bawdy stallion-at-stud stories. And the limerick about the widow with the moonblind appaloosa… And the catcalls:
Look at the haunches on that girl! She’s a breeder! He neighs at a new arrival, a Percheron. Turns out she’s an alpha. Kicks his butt first time they’re turned out together. Can’t hide my smirk. I bring people out—girlfriend, family, riding buddies. Try to get him going. Nada. Like that ragtime-singing frog in the old cartoon. My coy potty-mouth quarter horse. Why can’t he be more like Mr. Ed? Or Francis? Or just keep it zipped? He’s not so sassy when he colics up. I nurse him through it. When the boarding manager moves the pretty Paso Fino away from next door he silently pines for a week. I console with carrots. I’m actually glad when he curses at me for currying his withers too hard. I could put up with the raunch indefinitely but one morning I’m scraping yellow bot eggs from his leg hairs and he starts ranting in that barely audible nicker of his how he has ancestral memory clear as Montana sunshine all the way to eohippus and listen
bud, all that chance and physical necessity stuff is foal crap everything’s designed just look at me, perfection! He slaps my face with his tail swings his hip into my chest suddenly and knocks me on my rear but keeps babbling: and God made spirit ponies for the cherubs
to play polo keeps them in a heavenly pasture he sends angels down to bet the parimutuels too yep and he thinks dressage is femme he loves horses way more than dogs cats dumbass llamas or spazz goats and someday soon horses will all organize then humans better look out we’re talking freakin’ equipocalypse baby-He’s bobbing his jug head and slobbering by now. “You’re crazy!” I holler, “Shut up!" Ladies in the arena swivel and gawk. Then he throws a cow kick, just misses my knee. “Glue factory time,” I mutter. Of course, I don’t mean it. But next day:
For sale, roan gelding, AQHA reg., 12 y.o, 15.2, well broke, Western only. Vaccs/worming current. Ties, trailers, picks feet up, stands for farrier, front shoes. Great conformation, disposition 5. Needs intermediate rider. $4000.
With flattering pics. I leave out the chatty part. Non-disclosure of the unexplainable. Last few days he’s incommunicado. Does everything I want, by the book. But it’s like, he knows. For the past week there’s been non-stop whinnying around the barn. Lots of squealing, grunting, gate kicking too. Then, a trader called this morning from out of state. Offered $2500, sight unseen, pending the vet check. We settled on $3250. The mobile team from the veterinary school is coming out the end of the week. And suddenly this afternoon, it’s dead calm. Not a single peep from any stall. Just… Stares. It’s like, Stepford horses. Friday can’t come soon enough.
Richard Manly Heiman
When I bought this sound card I didn't know that it understands death. How it can hear the criminals coming. It predicts rows. These are the speakers that fizz with obituary, the HR824s, left and right, tweeter and woofer. Connected to the number stations of the cold war it buzzes me the international stains, the good humoured remains of scolding air. The hi-jackers of cables are polluting its coppery innards Titillating grains of gold, spread in the air needlessly. Makers of war will take offence from the wailing vigour of conversations. Ears in stereo, psycho-listening to the dispersed sounds going global flying satellite smooth in torrents of rhyme, surprised by pleasing murmurs. Jude Cowan Montague
Rocks on yacht in the Bahamas, blimpish, belching, dropsical, shocking, eats its fill from dying sea, dispatching fish and krill. Blister kissing coral to whitened bone, it sucks up shark, shrimp, squid, then, up the beach, skewers baby seals on its pointed teeth. Smug slug, slouching with an insouciant grin, it sucks out the world’s marrow – mouth strained wide to bite and snatch and chew, and munch and grind. Vain beast thinks itself smart, but, lips apart, it gulps and paws the hollow at its heart.
A drooling chasm yawns. It’s terrified, fears Death, but, sure as hell, it has to know Death waits for it and will be satisfied. Lindy Newns
God of Disbelief
If I had never been temptation, who would recognize my resistance? My snake bellied essence, ravelling a wild-fruited trunk, transcending it ontologically I do not exist; you can ignore me in spray-paint graffiti'd antique mirrors French golden curls swirled about, my unkempt bristles brushing the dunes Tanned into fetish focused binding leather, by my northern star light, by my star soup eyes I hold the fool's sense by the hearth, cook it up and combust it into spindling spirals The therapeutic aroma of smelling my own sacrifice for my own luxury Iâ€™ve even began to listen to my own prayers as I pull them out of my throat I am the god of disbelief I am the devil of all advocates I am the patron saint of sinners I will lay my tingling spine on altar I already drink the wine I am the God of drinking wine I am the devil of dancing on the altar John Maurer
Family (Cover Image) Jude Cowan Montague
There are holes in all the light you let in. I am not the winter you made me. Not the ghost trained to haunt you. I can speak without your puppet strings. I’m ill so that you don’t have to be. You can’t wring out people hoping to be left with the good bits. Not every day is a bad day. I’ve never slept with a girl who has daddy issues before. A silent clearing in an ocean of white noise is not always a bad thing. Loneliness is not a fetish and neither are the things he spat at me which you made me repeat until I was gagging on my own tongue. Stop wishing for my memories back. The patriarch’s only gift was given to us in bad faith. If you are not going to fall on your own sword you could try pushing someone on to theirs. I’m running out of ways to not get out of bed, of avoiding another round of pillow talk telling lovers they are not what I envisioned – everyone looks the same during an eclipse. You want to tell them about those suicidal tendencies. Settle for telling them all of those daddy issues and how you replaced him with the scarecrow from Oz. Drink too much and claim you have food poisoning. Fuck
thy neighbour. Fuck yourself until orgasms are as mundane as breathing. Drink beach water. Leave the tap running. Pretend your father died and is on his way to the Emerald City. Tell them they are going to be the one that got away. Drown in anything and anyone that touches you. Saying I love you is the worst way to make them stay. Words don’t work. Language is a game that no one ever really wins unlike the Sunday crossword puzzle. Dear Failure, pick yourself up off my bedroom floor. I am sick of tripping over you on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night and spending hours convincing myself – we are not synonymous. I never needed you to see through the dark. Katie Smart
The Amputee Clinic
There was a mysterious man standing over me. I wanted to ask him who/where/what/ how/why/when and all that. But all that came out was - “Bleugh?” He seemed to understand the question. “I’m Doctor Butcher, your surgeon. You’re in an amputee clinic. You suffered a severe mental trauma and we had to amputate your sense of irony.” “Bleugh?!” I looked down. I was in my normal clothes - no hospital gown, body intact. “You were attending a Vegan Parenting Awareness event,” he continued. “Your children snuck off and climbed into a huge vat of lentil dahl. They were braised alive. Nobody noticed they were missing until the food had been consumed. Essentially, you were eating your own children while discussing the merits of being an upstanding vegan parent.” “Oh man,” I said. “Isn’t that… Unfortunate, don’t you think?” “Indeed. So you can see why we had to perform the amputation. Otherwise you’d have lost the plot completely.” “Ok, thanks Dr…” “Call me Brian. Dr. Brian Butcher.”
Lost count of how many days I’ve been here.
They’ve told me I’ll never regain my sense of irony, but can replicate it through intensive rehabilitation. The process is excruciating. For hours, twice a day, I’m sat in a room looking at pictures I find boring and incidental. An arm with a tattoo that says, ‘Regret Nohing’ (just a misspelt tattoo!); the word ‘non-hyphenated’ (just a word!); A tshirt that says, ‘I hate ironic statements on t-shirts’ (and?!). Thought I had a breakthrough moment, when a nurse told me about rain on her wedding day. “That’s ironic!” I said. Wrongly. Other incorrect interpretations of irony, she told me, include not taking good advice, black flies in chardonnay, late death row pardons and free rides when you’ve already paid. “Just a heads up,” she said.
The other amputees here call me Irony. This is the etiquette – to name people by what they’ve had amputated. I feel closest to is Humour. She got admitted after she kept splatting custard pies in people’s faces. First time I met her, I tested the water. “I’ve lost my sense of irony,” I said. “That’s why my clothes are always so creased.” “They’re not creased,” she said. “I have no time for liars. Leave me alone.” She stormed off to her room to listen to Radiohead and watch Lars Von Trier films pastimes she’d come to enjoy since having her sense of humour surgically removed. Today, she apologised. “Rehab’s been tough. They’re making me watch episodes of something called ‘Friends’. It’s this melodrama about a mental health support group in New York. Gives me a lump in my throat every time.”
Week six. There are only seven amputees here and we’ve become close knit. I wish Right & Wrong was around more. We get on well, but she spends a lot of time in solitary confinement due to her misdemeanours around the clinic. In her opinion, imprisonment of humans against their will is a principled and wonderful thing, so she doesn’t object to this. Today, she told me that cooking and eating my own children made me an ‘absolute hero’. She then punched me in the face and spat at the nurse and was taken away, probably for a while. Belonging isn’t around much either. They operated on him after he kept joining cults and accepting drinks of Kool-Aid. Every time you feel like you’re getting a bit of rapport with the guy, he disappears to his room. I tried talking to Empathy about it. Preop, she used to go around attempting to contract illnesses to get a better understanding of what the sufferers were going through. But post-op, she was just like “Whatever.”
Urgency held the process up by two weeks, but eventually the seven of us managed to get out of the clinic on day release. We were barely out of the grounds when we were rounded up at gun point and bundled into the back of a white van. Inside the van, we were addressed by a transgender individual wearing a pair of trousers on the head, a bubble wrap sarong and a jumper made from chicken skin and cocoa powder.
“I am Conformity. I escaped the clinic a few months ago and I want our bimbs back. They keep them in the basement underneath the clinic. We’re going to break in there together.” “We’re going to break back into the clinic we’re currently on day realise from?” I said. “Isn’t that… an interesting plan, don’t you think?” “Whatever,” said Empathy. “What are bimbs?” “The parts of our brains they amputated, dumbass,” said Conformity. Humour piped up, “And if we do get the bimbs back, how are we going to… unamputate them?” Conformity lit a fat one. “I already kidnapped Dr. Butcher. Forced him to amputate his own sense of responsibility. He is now happy to perform the procedures.” We debated the matter for a while. Right & Wrong was the last to agree to it, as she had no idea where she stood on the matter. Empathy knocked her out with a sniff hook and we got on with it – breaking in and getting the bimbs back successfully.
The moment I awoke from the unamputation, I felt pain welling up inside. My children. “My children.” I screamed and screamed, the screams reverberating around the van. Empathy, sobbing, hugged me and said, “I’m sorry for your loss. So so sorry.” Belonging told me he wanted to live with me, to replace my children. Urgency tried to cut the conversation short, urging us to get out of this van, “now!” Humour started giggling manically. Conformity fainted, unable to bear the anarchistic carnage we’d
caused. Right & Wrong whispered something into the ear of Timing, the seventh amputee. Timing came over, started giggling and rubbing my nose. Everything went hazy. The van dissipated around meâ€Ś â€Ś I woke up to my youngest, Dallas, splatting an imaginary custard pie onto my face.
We set off early, as the hills were so far away, collected ‘scripts the day before stopped for garage sandwiches and cans of Lilt. Roads got narrower, steeper, more winding. Dagger needed a piss so we stopped again in a lay by someone shouted ‘Take a plastic pot with you, in case they want a sample.’ When we arrived the full heat of the day was still held back by hazy clouds. The Brecon Beacons were blue in the distance, we breathed clean air and silence. Even our cynical ears could not detect the sound of traffic. We walked slowly, dodging nettles, brambles and gorse paused for restorative cigarettes. Dagger spotted it first; lying amongst Cow Parsley and White Campion in the dried-up ditch. Fleece grubby below a cloud of buzzing flies Four legs sticking up above the bloated belly. A blood rank smell, compelling drama of nothing happening. We gathered round and watched and watched each other watching. Loz said it was disgusting, turned her stomach, but she could handle it, she’d seen far worse. Barry, who never said much, talked about working in a butcher’s shop, the skills he learnt, respect for the knife. The animal was silent. A farmer arrived by tractor, got on with the grim job of moving the carcass, On the way home we joked the highlight of the day had been not the stunning view or garage sandwiches but the sheep and the way it made us feel to see it lying on its back, gone too far over. Stuck.
A Play Where Death Features Prominently: August 11, 2012
A cool fall night. The carnival. Texas. Golden leaves backed by midnight’s sky. Romantic evening. Enter: SARAH and accompanying BOYFRIEND. SARAH and accompanying BOYFRIEND, hands held, make their way down the street.
The setup, the accident: alcohol, sugar, dehydration, a feeling of invincibility. Inevitably summoned for tragedy, DEATH waits in the wings. It all happens rather quickly. BOYFRIEND stumbles. SARAH hauls him up. Hands still clasped. A twinkle in the street. Fascination passes slowly through his intoxicated brain. A twenty-five cent thought drifts behind his eyes. BOYFRIEND drops SARAH’s hand.
Two beams of light projected across the stage. Headlights ignored. BOYFRIEND intent on a quarter. Last step. Into traffic.
Squeal of tires. Honking of horn. BOYFRIEND hit. DEATH enters.
DEATH: I could not focus on the sight of body mixed with asphalt. Rather, it was the sound: the crunching of bones, terrible screech of a smile wrenched from lips, twisted into agony, the squeal of tire on flesh on pavement. It was not the sound of death, the ending of his life, that held me transfixed. It was the overpowering lack of hope, the silent absence of smiles, that riveted me. Humans say much in the silence before speaking.
End of Play. Christopher Barton
Angel of the Night (Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol) Tina Huckle
This Unique Arrangement of Things
Obvious items, like photographs and letters, can be put into boxes and stored away, ready to be taken out on the loneliest nights. The decay of these is so slight and gradual that it will barely be noticed. But there are other things, little things, that show signs of the life that touched them. Some will disintegrate over time, be thrown away, or pushed to one side as life plays on. This unique arrangement of things can never be replicated, only recorded, so I return home with my camera ready. I tiptoe around and snap everything I see. I try several angles, taking a few shots from each, for safety. The imprint of his arm on a sofa cushion; the circle tea stain on a coaster; the folds of the bed sheets; the position of the living room door that he brushed past when we left in a hurry last week. I zoom in to make sure that every detail is captured. Dried blood spots on a scrunched-up tissue in the bathroom; a pen scribble on a scrap of paper by the telephone; a fingerprint on the side of a vase; half a cucumber in the fridge, drying at the end where he’d chopped it. There’s bound to be something I’ll miss, something I’ll only remember when it’s too late, or that will disappear without a thought ever being paid to it. A single hair on top of a chest of drawers, blown into a corner, picked up by a vacuum cleaner, then disposed of without any consideration. ‘Life is just a rearrangement of atoms,’ he’d always say. His attempt at grief prevention. ‘Nothing is really ever gone.’ Standing here in the empty house, I’m not so sure. I intend to hang on to this particular arrangement for as long as I can.
The Last Swallow
I watch from the edge as the sun distances itself, becoming another part of the sky. A swallow glides, searching with its tweezer like beak. Feeding on the final credits of summer. And mother waits for the stairlift to carry her to the clouds. As I wait on the edge. And the moon like a door knob to an undated exit is ready to open, for her migration. Gareth Culshaw
Groverake in Lambing Season
It's a cold spring. Not even spring. Icy snow still clings to heather. I'm walking under charred red brick, past burnt-out lockers. Whisper-clangs from ghosts in the mineshaft. There is silence on the fells. Too early for curlews. Nothing here but me and Swaledales. I walk into the mine shop, sending the ghosts scattering. Spine to the light, I tense myself to steel-grey echoes of faraway bustle. There's a paleness to my left. Rubble sack? An old cement bag? Heart snaps a note. It's still in its wrapper. Velvet face with legs curled under. Scarlet-dead in iridium placenta. And yet so perfect within its hours-old, yet-unfelt grief. I back away, into frost-stung air: ghosts all watching as I slink up the hill, hissing, "this was never your loss. This was never your loss."
Christopher Barton is an emerging writer currently living in Nacogdoches, TX. He has had poetry published in the past in Gravel and The Lake. When he is not hard at work, Christopher enjoys sipping good coffee behind the pine curtain. Spencer Chou is a writer and editor from Nottingham, England. He runs the literary magazine and publisher The Nottingham Review, and his writing has been published in various places. In 2016 he was shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award. You can follow him on Twitter @spencerchou Neil Clark lives and works in Edinburgh. He writes short stories, flash fiction and micro fiction, and also has the first draft of a novel collecting virtual dust somewhere. His work has previously been showcased alongside other Scottish writers as part of Book
Week Scotland, and at fiftywordstories.com. On Twitter, he regularly posts very short stories in tweet form. You can follow him @NeilRClark. Jude Cowan Montague worked for Reuters Television Archive for ten years. Her album
The Leidenfrost Effect (Folkwit Records 2015) reimagines quirky stories from the Reuters Life! feed. She produces The News Agents on Resonance 104.4 FM. Her most recent book is The Originals (Hesterglock Press, 2017). She is an award-winning printmaker working out of her studio, Montague Armstrong, in St Leonards-on-Sea. Gareth Culshaw lives in Wales. He is an aspiring writer who has his first collection out in 2018 by futurecycle. Irene Cunningham has had many poems published in lit mags across the years, including London Review of Books (as Maggie York), New Welsh Review, New Writing
Scotland, Stand, Iron, Writing Women, Northwords Now, Poetry Scotland and others. She lives at Loch Lomond, preparing for when the scythe lands. Her new website, still a work in progress, is here, http://ireneintheworld.wixsite.com/writer Jennifer del Castillo came into writing and photography as a way to find meaning in life after becoming disabled and recovering from trauma. The intention she looks to create is not to be perfect with the work. Instead it is up to observers to come up with their own interpretations. You can find her at smallslowstep.com and on twitter/instagram (@smallslowstep).
C.S. Fuqua’s books include White Trash & Southern - Collected Poems, The Swing ~
Poems of Fatherhood, Walking after Midnight - Collected Stories, the SF novel Big Daddy’s Fast-Past Gadget, Hush, Puppy! A Southern Fried Tale (children’s), and Native American Flute Craft, among others. His work has appeared in publications such as Year's Best Horror Stories XIX, XX and XXI, Pudding, Pearl, Chiron Review, Christian Science Monitor, Slipstream, The Old Farmer's Almanac, The Writer, and Honolulu Magazine. Rebecca Gethin lives on Dartmoor in Devon. In 2017, two of her pamphlets were published: A Sprig of Rowan by Three Drops Press and All the Time in the World by
Cinnamon Press, who also published a collection and two novels of hers. Her poems have also appeared in various magazines and anthologies. She runs a Poetry School seminar in Plymouth. www.rebeccagethin.wordpress.com Lee Hamblin is from the UK. He lives and teaches yoga in Greece. He’s had stories published in MoonPark Review, Stories for Homes Volume 2, Bath Flash Fiction
Volume 2, Blue Fifth Review, Ellipsis Zine, Fictive Dream, STORGY, Flash Frontier, Spelk, Reflex, F(r)online. He tweets @kali_thea and puts words here: https://hamblin1.wordpress.com Inspired by Margaret Atwood and Kelly Link, Candace Hartsuyker seeks to uncover hidden truths. She is a first-year fiction student in McNeese State University’s MFA Program. She has been published in Foliate Oak and Foxglove Journal. Maya Horton is a writer, artist and astronomer from the North East of England. Her poetry has appeared in The Guardian, The Stare's Nest, The Dawntreader, and many other publications. She is currently studying a PhD. Tina Huckle is an amateur photographer and published poet. Her coastal photography has won competitions by Sea Salt clothing and Quba Sails. Her poetry, written under the name Edwards (a nod to her Grandfather who was also a poet) has been published in Reach Poetry by Indigo Dreams Publishing. It can also be found online in Visual
Verse and Clear Poetry. A keen walker and keeper of ducks, she currently resides in North Somerset. Claire S. Lee is a student from Southern California. Her writing has been recognized by
Tinderbox Poetry Journal and the Scholastic Art & Writing awards, and can be found or is forthcoming in Alexandria Quarterly, Rising Phoenix Review, Blue Marble Review, and *82 Review, among others. She works as the managing editor for COUNTERCLOCK and as an editorial intern for The Blueshift Journal.
Richard Manly Heiman lives on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada. He works as a substitute teacher, and writes when the kids are at recess. His work has been published by Bop Dead City, After the Pause, Rattle, Into the Void, and elsewhere. Richard holds an MFA from Lindenwood University. He is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and his URL is www.poetrick.com John Maurer is a 23-year-old writer that writes fiction, poetry, and everything inbetween, things that aren’t boring to read, hopefully. He has been previously published at: Claudius Speaks, Quail Bell, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Thought Catalog, The Scarlet Leaf
Review, and The Foliate Oak. @JohnPMaurer Julia D. McGuinness lives in the North West of England where she writes, counsels and runs writing workshops for creativity and well-being - including with patients at a Maggie’s Cancer Care Centre. Her poetry has appeared online in places such as Clear
Poetry, Silver Birch Press, Nutshells and Nuggets and Ink, Sweat and Tears. Her poetry collection Chester City Walls was published by Poetry Space in 2015. Elizabeth Moura lives in a converted factory in a small city and works with elders in a small town. She has had poetry, flash fiction or photographs published in several publications including The Heron’s Nest, Chrysanthemum, Ardea, Presence, Shamrock,
Paragraph Planet and Flash Fiction Magazine. Alan Murphy is the Irish writer and illustrator of three collections of poetry for young readers. He lives in Lismore, County Waterford where he writes, makes art, and occasionally reviews YA and children’s books. His last collection, Prometheus
Unplugged, was listed in a children’s and young adults’ books of the year article in the Irish Times. It and another book Psychosilly have also been shortlisted for the Irish CAP awards for independent authors. He has recently published adult poetry with Degenerate Literature, art and poetry with all the sins and photography with Riggwelter Press. Lindy Newns is an award-winning playwright, shortlisted for the Verity Bargate, Bush
Theatre award, and the Oldham Colisseum one act play award (2016) among others. Her poetry has been commended in the Portico Poetry competition, and has appeared in Orbis and the latest Old Grey Hen anthology, published December 2017.
Jen Rouse’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Poet Lore, Pretty Owl, The Tishman
Review, The Inflectionist Review, Midwestern Gothic, Sinister Wisdom, the Plath Poetry Project, Occulum, Lavender Review, and elsewhere. She has work forthcoming in Up the Staircase's 10th anniversary issue. She’s the 2017 winner of Gulf Stream’s summer poetry contest. Rouse’s chapbook, Acid and Tender, was published in 2016 by Headmistress Press. Find her at jen-rouse.com and on Twitter @jrouse. Eva M. Schlesinger has been a Grand Slam contender on The Moth Stage, where she made the audience of 1,400 laugh nonstop. Her flash has appeared in Atlas & Alice,
former cactus, Tattoo Highway, and elsewhere. She is the author of four poetry chapbooks, including three whose covers she designed. Every day Eva reads voraciously, draws wildly, improvises musically, and writes. Pauline Sewards is a co-host of Satellite of Love in Bristol and occasionally hosts readings at Torriano Meeting House in London. Recent feature readings include
Milk Poetry, Free Verse Poetry book fair, Persisters events in London and Bristol and Brighton Dome on International Women’s Day. Published widely in print and online including The Journal, South Bank poetry, Loose Muse and Ink, Sweat and Tears. In 2018, Hearing Eye Press are publishing her first collection. Katie Smart has an MA in English Literature from the University of Sheffield. She previously worked on the poetry editorial team for the University’s creative writing journal, Route 57. Katie has had work published by Three Drops from a Cauldron. Her work often explores identity, gender and sexuality. Michael Leon Stewart is a queer reader and writer from Pennsylvania. He contributes reviews and interviews to The Triangle, and his work has been published in East
Jasmine Review and The George Street Carnival. Paul Waring is a clinical psychologist who once designed menswear and was a singer/songwriter in several Liverpool bands. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee and his poems have been published or are forthcoming in Clear Poetry, Prole, Algebra of Owls,
Amaryllis, Three Drops from a Cauldron, The Open Mouse, Rat’s Ass Review, Reach Poetry, Foxglove Journal and many others. His blog is https://waringwords.wordpress.com
Do you feel isolated, uncertain about where in the world your story might be welcome? Megan Wildhood, a Seattle-based writer and poet, can deeply relate - she feels like an outsider most places she goes. She's written about the various ways she's felt like a misfit in The Atlantic, Litro Magazine, PsychCentral, America Magazine and in her chapbook, Long Division, released September 2017 from Finishing Line Press, among other publications. Head on over to meganwildhood.com to learn more. Joe Williams is a former starving musician who transformed into a starving poet in 2015, entirely by mistake. He lives in Leeds and appears regularly at events in Yorkshire and beyond, and has been published in numerous anthologies and in magazines online and in print. In 2017 he won the prestigious Open Mic Competition at Ilkley Literature Festival and had his debut poetry pamphlet, Killing the Piano, published by Half Moon Books. www.joewilliams.co.uk
ISSUE #9 COMING MAY 1st 2018
Welcome to the eighth issue! Riggwelter keeps rolling on. This issue contains poetry, short fiction, visual art and experimental media by: C...
Published on Apr 1, 2018
Welcome to the eighth issue! Riggwelter keeps rolling on. This issue contains poetry, short fiction, visual art and experimental media by: C...