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Issue number 2 Winter 2015


Scrittura Magazine Š Copyright 2015 All Rights Reserved. Scrittura Magazine is a UK-based online literary magazine, launched in 2015 by three Creative Writing graduates who wanted to provide a platform to showcase new and exciting writing from across the world. Scrittura Magazine is published quarterly, and is free for all. This means that we are unable to offer payment for publication. Submissions information can be found online at www.scritturamagazine.tumblr.com EDITOR: Valentina Terrinoni EDITOR: Yasmin Rahman DESIGNER / ILLUSTRATOR: Catherine Roe WEB: www.scritturamagazine.tumblr.com EMAIL: scrittura.magazine@gmail.com TWITTER: @Scrittura_Mag FACEBOOK: scritturamag


In This Issue 08 10 12 14 15 16 22 23

Hero S. Thomas Summers On Healing Patricia Antony Geriatric Jive Peter Flint First Sun Gerry Stewart The Acquaintance Amanda Anastasi Oh the Tragedy, Captured as Mine Nuzhat Biswas Sunny Days Margaret Walton A Frenchman’s Fantasy and a Book Before the Fire

24 25 26 27 30 31 38 39 40 41 51 52 54 56 57 66 67 68

Wealth S. Thomas Summers Meet Cute Caitlin Gillespie Cock-Blocked by Tybalt Dane Cobain Cool Music James Bell Dog Love Robert Ford Memoirs of a Minor Athlete Kenneth Hickey Reflecting on Age Ed Blundell Autumn Leaves Andy Stears Unknown Fiza Goyal Monster Alice Anthony Love is Shit Peter Flint To the Colonized Woman of my Bloodline Patricia Antony Unravelling Genealogy Gerry Stewart The Spare Time Artist Julia Barnard Flame by the Sea Jimmy Hartill Fly on the Wall S. Thomas Summers Forever and Always Marium Hassan Tricks of the Mind (After TU FU) George Freek

William Mullins


69 70 71 72 75 76 77 78 79

When I’m Away Dane Cobain Endymion Sinking William Mullins There Were Two Of Us Stephen Mead Before I Jump Off Cromer Pier, Let Me Explain, My Lovely Molly Draper Like Words on a Liquor Bottle Mickey J. Corrigan Love Under City Lights Natalie Warren Two Minutes Peter Flint Responsibility Dane Cobain Consolation (After YU LU) George Freek


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A Note From The Editors Welcome to the winter issue of Scrittura Magazine! It seems like just yesterday we started this amazing journey of creating Scrittura, and now we’re releasing our second issue, and what an issue it is! Once again, we received so many amazing submissions from across the globe and we had such a great time reading them all. A huge thank you to everyone who submitted to us; it was very difficult making our final selections of featured pieces for this issue! Our goal with Scrittura was to create an outlet to showcase fantastic writing from across the world. We accept writing on any topic, from people of any age, from any location, and have no entry fees, which results in a fantastic range of submissions. As writers ourselves, we know how hard it is to thrive in this industry, so our main aim with this magazine was to give budding writers an opportunity to get their work published and we are so proud to be able to do that and feature so many great pieces of writing. We have some very topical pieces in this issue, including a great short story by Nuzhat Biswas about the Syrian refugee crisis (Oh The Tragedy, Captured As Mine, page 16) and a brilliant poem by Peter Flint about Remembrance Day (Two Minutes, page 77). We’re also excited to feature another dramatic script (Monster) by Alice Anthony, as this is a genre we were very keen to feature, knowing there aren’t many magazines offering a platform for script-writers. Turn to page 41 for a great tensionfilled read. A huge thank you to everyone who has shared, reblogged or retweeted our posts or calls to submissions, written lovely blog posts about us or sent us nice emails. It really warms our hearts to see the fantastic reactions to our magazine and to hear about the great impact we’re having. A final thank you has to go to Catherine, our amazing designer, for creating a wonderful second issue with such amazing illustrations! We really hope that you enjoy reading this issue and would love to hear your thoughts via email or social media!

Valentina & Yasmin

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Hero

S. Thomas Summers Deep, where the wild things creep, where darkness chokes the air between trees, and cold earth tightens its hold on a wildflower’s root, tempting it never to bloom again, the beasts tremble; goblins hide their heads behind the stout frames of oak stumps and giants lie still as stone so not to be spied by the boy who steps from his bed, wrapped in a blue blanket, as the wind beats against the windows

and cools his heart with fright.

Poised on the back porch, he raises his wooden sword against midnight’s


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scary things, and shouts as a knight must,

Be gone you monsters or I shall slay

you tomorrow, as soon as Mommy says I can.

Indeed, the fanged nasties must quake.​

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On Healing Patricia Antony This is it – This is where I tell you we’re done. This is where healing no longer looks like your fox red eyes. No; this is where healing is the discolored skin on my thighs. It’s the 3am mating call of a lost bird; The look in my mother’s eyes when I show up with a suitcase. It is the feral she chokes down at my tepid smile, My name tattooed across my father’s arm On worn out leather skin – that is what sacrifice looks like. Let’s start here. At a time when the dawn looks like a bruise (No one paints). Healing comes with picking out scabs and letting Old wounds open up Bleeding in the dust This is healing. Some days it will asphyxiate Some days it’s a sadist But it has always been pure. Some days healing will be giving myself away To the wrong people – Allowing the milk to boil over until it burns. Orchid lips with a fly catcher’s throat It is walking back to check if you’re really bad for each other. Sometimes it’s staying a week, a month or two To see if you were right.


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It is being a bomb shelter and swallowing dynamites Like sleeping pills, It is putting a lock on your rusty bones and Forgetting you are inside. But the day healing turns off the vacancy sign, Settle yourself into bed, pinch the soft skin Of your thighs And finally, my love, finally Just sink.

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Geriatric Jive Peter Flint

We’ve got hearing-aids We’ve got glasses Got our special transport passes Meet at the Post Office Thursday mornin’ Getting stronger Heed the warnin’ GREY POWER! Don’t dig reggae Don’t dig ‘rap’ Think ‘house’ and ‘rave’ A load of…‘rubbish’ Don’t dig Adele Don’t dig Spice Think Daniel O’Donnell’s very nice GREY POWER! Don’t have no P.C. No mobile-phone The Internet is a no-go zone Hate designers Hate their gear Wear the same stuff Every year GREY POWER! Aches and pains in every part Got a dodgy hip Got a dicky heart We’re old and frail But we ain’t mugs We take our pills But we don’t do drugs GREY POWER!


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We’re kempt and shevelled Cool and couth Got no time for modern youth Don’t wear trainers Baseball cap Think young folks’ fashion… Are rather foolish GREY POWER! A new old wave Demographic revolution We’re defying evolution Still livin’ life Still havin’ fun Time won’t stand still But we’ll make it run GREY POWER!

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First Sun Gerry Stewart first sun balanced above

daffodils

the murky water and half-weeded

bed strawberries

peeking out

check the sky for rain

worn out snowdrops bent with submission

bumblebees ease themselves out for a test fly

pear flowers hold back a few days longer to see if the clemency stays

blaring rock songs

hair squirreling in my eyes

in exultation


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The Acquaintance Amanda Anastasi It was the instant crease at the centre of your brow that latched me. They way you clipped your vowels. Your unequivocal consonants. How your eyes darted to register a passerby and how those endless pools, indefinite in tone, upon the mention of Yeats would lift their veil, the irises lightening. How your voice that sailed in and out of my ear with Mozartian ease, had no sudden harsh or hammering tenor. No vacant or misplaced silences. How your frayed hands, animated and in full agreement with your face, punctuated the vivid points of your stories. Those stories that tell of the many pavements you paced before you paused at my door. How there is a dignity in you lingering here. Your brow crease softening here.

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Oh the Tragedy, Captured as Mine Nuzhat Biswas i. He is a fractured soul when they meet.

ii. It is the first time Tasbeeh dreams of home in a long, long while. It comes in fragments; the sweet heat of a Palestinian sun, his grandfather’s olive tree, the plump, yellow-ochre cat that always came snooping for leftover fishbones after dinner, Umm Khadeeja’s homemade sugar doughnuts which, everyone was convinced, were the sweetest, most exotic dessert known to man. Tasbeeh is in the midst of reliving his old days at the makeshift elementary school when a hand frantically shakes his shoulder. ‘Tasbeeh, Tasbeeh.’ Ammi is in near hysterics. Tasbeeh rises, rubbing the sleep from his eyes as he does so. There are tears framing the edges of Ammi’s pale eyes. Tasbeeh braces himself for the worst. ‘You were sleeping…with your eyes open.’ Tasbeeh waits. ‘I was scared, Tasbeeh.’ His mother runs a hand through his wheat-coloured hair and fusses over the crow’s feet etched into the skin below his eyes. But Tasbeeh is already lost to her. The dream is still engraved into his eyelids and Tasbeeh can’t. Can’t. Can’t think anymore because he is certain that his heart will give way. The wind outside picks up, and the entrance of the tent cracks open and for a single, earth-grounding moment, their eyes don’t quite meet.


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And then, he is gone. Tasbeeh lays his head onto Ammi’s lap. It is the last time he dreams with his eyes open.

iii. He is a fractured soul when they meet. His broken pieces are scattered over the remnants of his demolished home, his father’s overturned grave, the charred bodies of those he has loved, and those he has lost. He is blood, crimson and drying. He is slit, open and weeping.

iv. Tasbeeh does not have any friends in this strange place he is now forced to call home. In his heart of hearts, Tasbeeh is not sure what home means anymore and where home is. But he remembers having a home once, not long ago. He had friends too. He can’t quite remember their faces or their names, but he remembers being happy and the warm camaraderie they’d shared. And then Tasbeeh thinks, that’s not right, I have…Abdullaah, and though Tasbeeh is not quite sure what exactly it is that they are, for the moment, the knowledge puts his heart at ease.

v. Abdullaah does not like it here in Turkey. The weather is too hot, or it is too cold. The water is too sweet. The men who come from the city to help them, as they say, speak in an Arabic that is all sharp edges and hard, guttural sounds and he cannot help but be forevermore reminded that he is not in Syria. They tell him to forget, to move on. The many other Syrian refugees his family has fled with have the same words dancing on their lips. ‘It does not do well to dwell on these things,’ his mother had said, peering at him with worried eyes. ‘We’ll go when the war is over.’ And when he’d snapped his head up and bit out, ‘When?’ she’d

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cradled his head to her bosom and whispered, ‘Oh my sweet little boy.’ They tell him to forget, to move on, but how can he, when his bones are made of Syrian dust? His only reprieve is in that boy (Tasbeeh, he think his Ummi called him) who is always tracing his shadow, and to look at him and see the same sorrow mirrored in his eyes and a mouthful of forevers that never make it past his chapped, half-a-Syrian lips.

vi. Tasbeeh watches him, with large, child-like eyes as he slinks off into the shadows when the sky is painted gold. He feels something stir deep within him as he sees Abdullaah’s gangly form hunched near the riverside, pain clouding his face. Tasbeeh knows and understands this feeling as empathy. He feels it too, the pain, which is born from more than the loss of one’s birth place. Tasbeeh also wishes he could comfort him, lessen the load on his shoulders but he also knows that Abdullaah would not take too kindly to it. He’s so big, Tasbeeh thinks, even though he is but two years older than he. It is the way that Abdullaah’s face suddenly contorts that disarms him, and he thinks about what his Abi had once said to him, in a way a father should never have to speak to his son; ‘There are lots of children in this world but very little childhood. I don’t want you to be one of them.’ And this is what he tells Abdullaah and he says, I don’t want you to be one of them either, and then he is crying, in the painful, heart-grasping, quiet way that only Abdullaah can.

vii. Tasbeeh does not know many things. He did not know how to do algebra and was not very good at science in school. He does not know why people fight heinous wars and are unkind and act the way they do. He does not know, or rather, he does not truly comprehend why his home is no more his. Tasbeeh does not know how it happened or when it did or why.


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But there are some things Tasbeeh does know. Tasbeeh knows that he and Abdullaah are friends (he also knows that makes him very, very happy). Tasbeeh knows his mother is Syrian, his father is not. Tasbeeh knows that he loves Abdullaah in the way he imagined he would if he’d had an older brother. Tasbeeh knows he does not want Abdullaah to die. (He also knows that Abdullaah will never hesitate to gamble with his own life.) Tasbeeh knows that this is the happiest he has been in a long, long time.

viii. They sit by the riverside (the very one Tasbeeh had stumbled in to see two rivulets flowing down Abdullaah’s face a week after he arrived at the refugee camp; their first meeting, and a disastrous one at that) after their dawn prayers and drink in the beauty of the rising sun. Tasbeeh is all praises, and it is one of those things that both startle and warm Abdullaah’s heart. Tasbeeh’s tongue wraps around beautiful Arabic syllables that Abdullaah has only ever read in Qabbani’s poems back at school. The sunrise, like most things here, doesn’t mean much to him. To him, the sunrise was forever and always in Syria and he has yet to see anything like it. ‘If there is one thing you would want someone to ask you, what would it be, Abdullaah?’ Tasbeeh always has an irksome habit of saying his name all the time even when they are the only two occupants, as though otherwise, he would think his questions were addressed to someone else. He supposes he’d name his firstborn after him. Abdullaah looks down, and he says, reluctantly but honestly, ‘How are you?’ Something about the way Abdullaah phrases that question shakes Tasbeeh to the core and he reaches for his shoulder and asks, ‘How are you, Abdullaah’? But he looks away and says, ‘It’s too late.’ They sit by the riverside until the sun perches itself on a kingdom of clouds and

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settles in for the day, and press quiet promises between each other like flowers in a book.

ix. ‘You’re leaving.’ It is a half-question. Abdullaah is quiet. He wants to say I never belonged here anyway, Tasbeeh or I have to or I never imagined dying anywhere but Syria. But he swallows all the words that are at the tip of his tongue and he waits. Waits. ‘Abdullaah,’ Tasbeeh says, a phantom of a whisper but what he really means is don’t leave me, Abdullaah. His bags are already packed, the gun slung over his shoulder loaded with bullets. Pain is seeing his mother cry for the first time. He looks at Tasbeeh and thinks how much he has grown in the past two years. And Abdullaah knows, knows that Tasbeeh will be a better man than he will ever be. ‘We’d made a good pair, eh, Tasbeeh?’ Past tense. Tasbeeh shudders. Pain is seeing his father buried six feet below the ground. Abdullaah picks up his bag, slides it over the other shoulder. ‘I’m okay, Tasbeeh. I’ll be okay.’ Abdullaah holds him up, and swallows him in an enormous hug. Pain is seeing war for the first time – live, and in colour. Tasbeeh clings to him, all hard elbows and crystal teardrops, clings to him in the white-knuckled way of children clutching balloon strings.

x. Abdullaah dies an un-fractured soul before the last Damascun rose is stripped of its colour.


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xi. Tasbeeh does not name his first-born after him. Or the second, nor the third. On the eve of the birth of his fourth child, however, Abdullaah’s mother comes to visit. The old woman is kind, a bit out of sorts, but her laugh reminds him of Abdullaah’s, frozen and frosted with love. Tasbeeh likes her, though he is not sure whether she calls him Abdullaah from time to time on purpose or because he reminds her of her son. She leaves a little after the sun sets. It is a son. Tasbeeh names him Abdullaah.

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Sunny Days Margaret Walton

We are playing in the garden on a lovely sunny day, The table makes a splendid boat for sailing far away. The chairs are lined up neatly, so the train can make the port, And Grandma runs behind the bike, which makes a car of sorts. They want to go out shopping and interrupt my game; The car is hot and stuffy and I’m sure to get a pain. It really is too far to walk, through all the streets to shop, I’m much too big to carry, but my legs still hurt a lot. Now everyone’s decided I can do just what I’d hoped, I’m staying in the garden, having ices on the boat. We’re planning yet another game, don’t know what it’s called, My bike’s a bus now Grandma, hurry up and climb aboard.


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A Frenchman's Fantasy and a Book Before the Fire William Mullins I Beneath seas of granite, in the shimmering reflection born of bright coils and underworld minerals, three adventurers pause‌ in awe of the creation that rests unaware of their surprising presence. Methuselah of beasts, its breaths are deep and measured. II Somewhere far above, the pop and rustle of forming ashes animates the pages of a well worn book in leather bound.

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Wealth

S. Thomas Summers Butterflies, for a moment, rest on the rose petals, their wings gently winking at the fairies sitting on the cottage-window-ledge, dangling their feet above the twisted ivy slowly scaling the cottage wall. Even the sparrows abandon their toil, find perches on the fence’s soft wood for each time the wind tickles the birch tree its leaves banter with the morning sun tossing the light back into the air where house flies, as greedy as leprechauns, dart and swoop to filch each speckle of gold.


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Meet Cute Caitlin Gillespie They met at a London dance hall a 1950’s swirl a quartet of drinks and laughter a treacle sepia whirl perfumed in movement like glistening cogs ‘Welcome’ at the door not ‘No Blacks, No Dogs, No Paddy’s’ the floral Mayo skirts in fashion meeting Black Irish passion suited and booted borne of Donegal. In the back of a pandemonium of minds‘It will not be long love, till your wedding day, how softly I watched her move here and move there. As the sun moves in the evening, she moves through the fair.’ My Grandmother filled her bedroom with statues of Mary they wore Lourdes blue sat alongside the photographs of all those she loved after she was gone it remained unchanged until my grandfather was gone it remained unchanged. All that time he slept in that room with the jewelry the fur coats the lipstick the Mary’s he bought her the receipts and dust remnants of a faerie blowing from two dreams. I would peep inside the bedroom North London light bouncing from the crystal on her dressing table my reflection in her mirror now with breasts the curve in my waist to my hips in the mirror in which she once undressed waiting until someone called my name breeze stirring lace remembering fingering her bed spread. In the back of my mind her song for me ‘Lula, lula lula. Hush now don’t ye cry, lula lula lula. It’s an Irish lullaby.’

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COCKBLOCKED BY TYBALT Dane Cobain

he prince of cats is a bastard and an asshole, and when he bites his thumb at me I hope he bleeds and gets gangrene, so he can’t draw swords or shoot me down.

T

rince of cats, I’m the prince of wolves and foxes, a creature of the forests who’s morally honest and on it, and I can’t start to ponder your dishonour ‘cause your cousin’s calling my number.

P

ueen Mab is not amused, Benvolio’s bemused and Mercutio’s confused about the blade that you stuck through his stomach, bile rising in his gullet and if I had a bullet, I’d chuck it, ‘cause there’s so much pain in just the smell of the rain, and it’s a shame to get caught in the crossfire.

Q

don’t care if she’s a Capulet, and she don’t care if I’m a Montague.

I


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Somebody gave me an envelope full of money that consisted of £25 and £60 notes. It surprised me. I had never held that much money in my hand at one time and was too nervous to count it. My first impulse was to spend it, at least some of it, as I could not conceive of something that would cost such a lot. So my impulse took me to the only place in town that sold cool music. I had always wanted people to think I was a cool kind of guy but never quite achieved this goal. Now, with this money I could certainly get closer to my aim. The façade of the store is all open at the front like a bazaar, which adds to its coolness. The antiquarian bookstore alongside is the same and has a gravitas that allows for even more cache to this music store. Its name, blazoned over the top in a colour and script redolent of the late 1960s is just right: Cool Music. Unlike other music stores, Cool Music never plays music out loud. This only adds to its uniqueness and mystery. There is an unspoken recognition that people who go there to buy music know what they are going to buy, so why play stuff if there is already music in the customer’s head? I was at a slight disadvantage as I had no

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music in my head and went with no preconceived ideas of what I might buy that day. So, I approached my buying trip with the trepidation of a novice, though not entirely unaware of form as I had walked around it the previous day, feeling quite invisible, in order to pick up some ideas from conversations between more knowledgeable people. Rodeo Drive: a much underrated 80s Indie band... Hit Me: Punk classic masochistic combo... Head Gasket: legendary Scandinavian heavy metal band... And so it went on and on, which confused me more than it helped. So, this day I was going to make my own decisions. As I walked round the corner onto the coolest street in town, straightaway my shoulders lifted, I widened my stride and generally took on an air of knowing what I was about. I maintained this air as I entered Cool Music and looked around at all sorts of vinyl, tape and CD recordings. ‘Oh, it’s you. I didn’t recognise you at first,’ a pleasant female voice said. When I looked around I saw it was the girl who worked behind the counter, smiling back at me. ‘You know me; same guy, different clothes,’ I replied with what was meant to be an engaging smile. I thought my quip was quite smart, off the cuff, maybe flirtatious too. Nevertheless, she smirked at me in a friendly sort of way that was difficult to read. The knowledgeable owner was deep in conversation with one of the knowing people; their exchange as rapid as it was intense. Yet as I passed, he paused to give me a nod and a kind greeting. This lifted me to no end and told me I had truly arrived amongst the coolest people in town. I wondered, only for a moment mind you, where they all went the rest of the time. Just seconds after picking up a Rodeo Drive Retrospective double CD, somebody spoke to me over my shoulder as I examined the cover, ‘Marvellous choice. Significant band in their day. There’s an outtake of “Pick a Bale of Polyester” from their original studio album as the final track.’ The voice belonged to the owner, who went on to give me the entire discography of Rodeo Drive. He went on to recommend other stuff I’d never heard of and, of course, feeling flush I took him up on several suggestions, including an original vinyl edition of Head Gasket’s “Crash”, their final live recording before they crashed into the Baltic in their private jet on a flight from Stockholm. ‘Live’ is not a term I’ve really got to grips with, because you’d have to be alive in order to do any kind of recording. The owner left me eventually with a single emphatic word: ‘Enjoy!’ I decided to pay and go then, as I was feeling hungry. At the laden counter and cash desk I was waylaid by a display of CDs with no names at all on them, only black and white photographs of the girl who served behind the counter. ‘It’s all my stuff,’ she said and smiled enigmatically like in one of the covers. I


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picked up a couple at random and placed everything I had on the small clear space beside the till. ‘Oh, thanks, you are kind,’ she said as she rang up my selections. When her own stuff went in the bag with the Cool Music logo on it she voiced the owner’s mantra again: ‘Enjoy.’ The bag was heavy. People watched with what I took to be envy as I left, but it might have been disdain. I paused outside as the weight of the bag depressed rather than elated me with expectation. I would never hear the music I had bought as I had nothing to play it on. I decided the bag was just too much to carry all the way home and would dump it at the earliest opportunity. It was late afternoon, which meant I had been in Cool Music the best part of a day. As I looked around, I thought buildings were missing, ones that had been there in the morning; instead just grassy mounds with sun reflecting off the ground. The antiquarian bookshop next door had already closed its shutters firmly down. I wondered what would go next before walking off with my heavily loaded bag.

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Dog Love Robert Ford

Of course dogs love the same way we do, even if our human minds narrow it into loyalty or faithfulness with their busy machinery. She kept me awake all night, pacing, balancing the certain with the uncertain: back and forth; back and forth. Her claws fretted the kitchen floor, eyes on the darkened windows, nosing the strange air in search of any familiar molecules of her master, but finding none. All the while those anonymous surgeons were spinning his life like a china plate, piecing together the broken heart, somewhere on the edge of a nearby town.


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Memoirs of a Minor Athlete Kenneth Hickey Then follow thou thy desperate sire of Crete, Thou Icarus: thy life to me is sweet. A man of genius makes no mistake.

I

So Daedalus, despising the Minoian Isle, All broken marble and broken future, and his long exile imprisoned by the glistening tide was filled with want to soil his feet in native mud, now filled his lungs to speak ‘The cruel King may obstruct our flight by land or sea or foam You will always hear me singing this song... but the cirrus road still remains free: That way we will go: Minos rules all the earth but has no diminion of the sky.’ Thus spoken he harnessed his mind to innovation blue sky thinking Thinking not grounded or touched by present realities and disturbed the organic order of things. Darwin would be appalled Gathering the discarded threads from avian attire, Most likely from charity donation bins

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No duvets, rugs or rags, Tiniest first growing to massive, Till they looked as Ancient pan-pipes in a row, Each flute longer than the last. Favourite of Peruvian panhandlers Multicoloured blankets one and all The peacock of the buskers As if the world had always been as such. Tied them together with wool of mismatched sheep, The wax of bees at the root, The Queen was not consulted And arched each plum to tender bow, To match the wing of authentic fowl. No imitator he. Icarus, his heir, waited impatiently. ‘Are you done yet?’ Never knew the danger, Chased the stray plumes that plucked the passing breeze, Daily exercise is recommended to fight this childhood obesity epidemic The scourge of our generation Ran his mucky fingers over golden wax of Apis mellifera and with his sport, Slowed old Papa’s wonderous workings. As kids are wont to do. II Having finished the chore he had begun, the engineer placed his tanned carcass amid the winged pair and lingered in the stirring wind. Turning to the child, he cried ‘Icarus, I caution thee, to take the median path, glide too low


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and the sweet Icarian Sea will weigh these wings, flutter to too great an atmosphere, and Ra will burn your arms to builders’ tan. Don’t Be a Paleface, Trek betwixt the extremities. Avoid the ox driver, the herdsman, Him of hollow orange hue Equally Hell-like, the City of Poseidon, Though they only sent one ship to chastise Hector As frugal as the natives of the land they call the Kingdom. The god in turn sent his great wave. Tsunami, tsunami came washing over me. Equally avoid Orion’s naked blade. Take the path I present’ And having put forth the policies of flight, The Principles and Practice of International Aviation Law Cambridge University Press March two thousand and fourteen he tailored the lately fashioned wings on the shoulders of his lad. As he toiled and issued his cautions the elderly athlete’s face was damp with weeping. His hands quivered like a child’s.

III

He gave a final kiss to his child, Then rising slowly on his wings, flew skyward, restless for his son, like a fearful fowl, leading her young from a rocky outcrop, into the empty air. Dead air. Nothing to hear. He implored Icarus to jump, A soul in tension that’s learning to fly. While demonstrating the knotty knack of flight,

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Fierce flapping his own feather, Searching for his son in the rearview mirror. A fisherman catching flounder with a pulsating pole, or herder resting on his rod, or farmer leaning on the shaft of his hoe, maybe spied the first aviators, and paused transfixed, sure they were witnessing divinity angels traversing the heavens. Virgin Atlantic, more experience than our name suggests.

IV

Before them lay the sacred isle of Samos, Blessed of Juno, Never tired o’ lookin’ for a rest. Apollo’s cradle and round island to the rear, To starboard Levitha, and Calymne, rich in honey nut loops, Every loop is filled with fun loads of honey. The boy begins to grow daring in flippant flight, An angel in blue Forsakes his director, Hauled by yearning for the cluttered clouds, Wheeled to wilder altitudes. Proximity to the ever hungry sun Made pliable the perfumed honeycomb that clasped the wing in place. Flapping with naked extremities in vain, shorn of paddle wings, Like a Wile E. Coyote perusing Road Runner to his death, could not harness the wind. And as his lips belched forth his pater’s designation, He submerged into the deep blue sea, - But the world is a dark enough place for even a little flicker to be welcome So now called the Icarian Sea, After our calamitous cosmonaut.


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The forlorn father, now shorn of son, bawled ‘Icarus, Icarus where have you gone? Which way should I search to see you?’ ‘Icarus’ he cried once more. Until the feathers on the swell filled his vision, No denying nature now. He cursed his inventions like Einstein and the H bomb. And placed the cadaver in perpetual sleep, In a tomb on the isle named Icaria Titled for his slaughtered child. No one rose three days later. The dead stay dead forever.

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Reflecting on Age Ed Blundell I catch sight of an old, grey man, In the house window opposite, Sipping his drink as I savour My cup of Americano. He squints across the rim at me Lounging in the pavement cafe. He’s frail and marked with scars of time, Oh Age you bring us down and low. I watch him and I sympathise And as I gaze I realise, It is my reflection.


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Autumn Leaves Andrew Stears

Autumn leaves have fallen once more Opening up an enchanted door To a world of joyous crunchy leaves To be jumped on like trampolines. On the ground, orange and brown Bringing warmth to all around Piled high, we kick and dive Autumn leaves explode in the sky!

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Unknown Fiza Goyal Swimming through the chaos, Nothing comes into my grasp, Not one thing at all, Just sinfully shattered sea shells, And waves of wreckage that drift away. After hours of floating, And no horizon in sight, I give up on thinking, And find myself sinking, To the darkest depths of imagination, Where no light has ever reached.


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Monster Alice Anthony SCENE 1 Ann is sat at the table. Steven walks in from work and takes his coat off. STEVEN

Good day?

Ann shrugs in silence. She nods at the dirty linen balled up on the floor next to the table. STEVEN

ANN

Again? Fourth time this week. It’s like he knows I can’t bear it.

Steven moves the linen off the stage. STEVEN

ANN

STEVEN

What is it, d’you reckon? Too much water before bed? It’s not that. We need to take him back to the doctor, Steven. It’s not on for a 6 year old to still... (pause) Sometimes I think that...It feels like he’s doing it to spite me.

Oh darling...

He rubs her shoulders. STEVEN

ANN STEVEN

You’re tired. Stressed. I don’t think it’s that.

Of course it is. He can be a handful.

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I’d be stressed. ANN STEVEN

I don’t know...It’s just...I love him so much but... (pause)

Ann.

ANN

You’re never here and–

STEVEN

I know. It’s work, it’s...I’m so close to this promotion I can almost taste it.

ANN

But you’re never here and I feel like, like me and him, it’s not really...we’re not really… I’m cooped up in this house and by the time you get home he’s already in bed and all I want to do is sleep and forget.

A moment passes in silence as Steven embraces Ann quietly. When they break apart, still holding hands, Steven notices a big bruise on her lower arm. He kisses it softly. STEVEN

How about I take over this weekend. I’ll take him out to the playground and you can relax, have a nice bath, some alone time. Regroup.

ANN

He gets so angry sometimes.

STEVEN

A few days off will do you both good.

ANN

I think he needs help.

STEVEN

We’ll take him back to the doctor and see about his bladder, okay?

Ann nods. STEVEN

And after we’ll get a babysitter and go for a nice meal together. Just us two. It’s been too long.


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SCENE 2 Steven sits at the dinner table. Ann is pacing the room behind him. ANN

Unbelievable.

STEVEN

Darling...

ANN

Where does he get it? No. Tell me. Where does he get it?

STEVEN

He’s just a kid.

ANN

It’s not normal behaviour, Steve. I’ve certainly not taught him to act like that. I’ve tried, really tried.

STEVEN

I know. It’s not you. What exactly did they say?

ANN

They told me he was savage. That he, he just knocked that kid and he was laughing like, like he was enjoying it. I’ve always known that there was something/

STEVEN

/Well maybe I could call the school and talk to/

ANN

/I’ve only just spoken to them.

STEVEN

Maybe it’s just boys/

ANN

/Don’t give me that boys will be boys...bullshit. Not all boys have these kinds of, these outbursts...I think something’s seriously wrong, Steve...

STEVEN

I’ll talk to him later, okay? It’ll be fine. Don’t worry/

ANN

/A child getting into fights like that, that’s not fine, okay?

STEVEN

I got into fights all the time when I was/

ANN

/Always making excuses for him.

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STEVEN

He’s a child! What do you want me to say?

ANN

It’ll happen again, you know? I know it, it will, he’s always so... This anger, it’s...I feel like I can’t even trust him anymore.

STEVEN

Ann, darling. You’re overreacting.

ANN

He told me he hated me the other day.

STEVEN

/He’s 6, for crying out loud! (pause)

A moment passes in silence. ANN

Steven, please, I think he needs help, I really/

STEVEN

Ann...

ANN

No, I think he really, we need to get him on medication or something because I can’t cope anymore and/

Steven takes her hands and holds them. STEVEN

/Listen. I’ll talk to him, okay?

Ann calms down under his touch. But medication… ANN

I just don’t know what to do anymore.

STEVEN

We’re not there, Ann. He’s just a little boy. He’s acting up. We can deal with this in other ways.

ANN (mumbles)

Easy for you to say.

STEVEN

Christ, Ann. What can I do? Give up work? You chose/ to stay at


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home. ANN

/I didn’t choose this.

Steven puts his hands in his hair in frustration and takes a deep breath. He takes her hand and kisses it. STEVEN

Hey. I know you didn’t. You’re doing the best you can. I know that. I’ll talk to him, okay? We’ll work this out.

SCENE 3 Ann is sat at the dinner table. Her right hand is bandaged. STEVEN

He’s asleep. He’s still a bit upset but I finally got him down.

ANN

He’s upset?

STEVEN

How’s your...?

ANN

Still burned, Steven, what do you think?

STEVEN

The cream should be easing the sting a bit.

ANN

I think we should go to the hospital.

STEVEN

I’m not sure they’d do anything diff/

ANN

/I’d feel more comfortable if we all went to the hospital.

STEVEN

They’re only minor/

ANN

/Yeah? Thank God for that. He could’ve burned the whole house down....

STEVEN

We don’t know if/

ANN

/He knew exactly what he was doing.

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(pause) STEVEN

Anyone could’ve lit those bins, Ann. They’re right out front/

ANN

/You weren’t there. You didn’t see. As usual!

STEVEN

I spoke to him and he said he didn’t do it, Ann.

ANN

Of course he’d say that. Always believe him, don’t you. Never me.

STEVEN

We can’t know for sure what happened.

ANN

But I know.

(pause) STEVEN

Listen. You’re upset, I get that. He’s upset, too. It won’t happen again.

ANN

He could’ve killed me, Steven.

STEVEN

Don’t exaggerate.

ANN

I’m going to have to inform the doctor of his behaviour again. If you were here then, me and him alone, I just/ don’t feel safe.

STEVEN

/I’m getting tired of this now. I’m not talking about this again.

SCENE 4 Steven is sat at the table. Ann walks in holding a piece of paper. She slides it over to him. STEVEN

ANN STEVEN

What’s this? The neighbour’s cat. It’s been missing for three days.

Oh. I’ll keep an eye out.


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ANN

I found it.

STEVEN

Where?

ANN

I found her in our garden, Steven. She’s dead.

STEVEN

Jesus! Have you told the neighbours?

(beat)

ANN

STEVEN

And what should I tell them, exactly? That our son killed their cat?

How do you mean, he killed/

ANN

/Its head was all bashed in, Steven. Did you kill it?

STEVEN

Of course not but....He’d never/

ANN

/Explain this, then. Explain this dead cat for me, cos I sure as hell can’t.

Steven gets up, grabs the paper and goes off stage to look at the cat. He comes back visibly shaken. STEVEN

Christ… Maybe it was something else.

ANN

Who else could get into our garden?

STEVEN

Oh, I don’t know....Maybe it got hurt somewhere else and dragged itself into our/

ANN

/I can’t take this anymore. When are you finally going to believe that there is something wrong with our son?

STEVEN

There’s nothing/

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ANN

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/Steven, please...I don’t sleep. I can’t eat. I’m scared of...What’s he going to do next, Steven? When does this end? (pause) I want you to finally do something. This has gone far enough. There’s a dead cat in our garden and/

STEVEN

And I see no proof that our son/

ANN

No, you never see it, do you? Off at work. You never want to see it. Your precious little boy. (pause) The meds aren’t working, Steve. We gave it a shot but we have to consider the next step, now. The doctor said that if symptoms persisted that we should consider/

STEVEN

Can you just stop.

Steven looks over the ‘Missing Cat’ poster again, still puzzled. ANN

He should be locked away, Steven. Before he hurts anyone else. We need to put him away.

STEVEN

I’ll get rid of the damn cat tonight and…

He turns the paper over. He notices bloodied fingerprints on the back. His expression turns. A moment passes in silence. ANN

And?

STEVEN

And this time I’ll talk to the doctor.

ANN

I’ll call, he knows me/

STEVEN

/No, Ann. It’s going to be me.

SCENE 5 A strong LED lamp flickers. Ann is sitting at the table. Steven walks in and sits down


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opposite her. ANN

You’ll never believe what he did now, Steven.

He’s done it now, you know. He’s really done it.

(pause)

(pause)

He grabbed the scissors and he, he tried to go for me, Steven, he really did. It’s not right, you know. It’s not okay. We need to go back to the doctor, Steven. We need to have him looked at again because I’m scared.

(pause)

I’m so scared, Steven.

STEVEN

Are you?

ANN

It’s not…How can you even say that? We have to do something. You have to help me because I don’t know what to do anymore, Steven, I think, I think he wants to kill me.

(pause)

You’re never here when he does it but it’s true, I swear it’s true, I just have to make you see and then. You’ll see.

STEVEN

The doctors said/

ANN

/Last week I caught him with the rat poison, Steven. I can’t eat anymore because he’s just waiting, he’s waiting for me to eat and I’ve been so ill and throwing up and I think, no I know, it’s, it’s the rat, it’s him, Steven, it’s him.

(pause) Why won’t you help me? I need you to help me, please, Steven. We have to do something before it’s too late. We have to get him committed because he’ll, he’ll kill me, Steven. I can’t bear it

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anymore. The doctors said that…That… STEVEN

The doctors are going to help you now, Ann.

(pause) ANN

I don’t...

STEVEN

You need to stay in here until you get better.

ANN

I...I am...

STEVEN

The meds should start working soon.

ANN

His...meds? They’ve never /worked/

STEVEN

/But you’re never coming near my son again.


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Love is Shit Peter Flint Side by side sit lovers Not speaking Not touching Glancing now and then To read each other’s thoughts Indifferent to those around Seeking comfort in closeness No violins play Choirs sing Or bluebirds swoop Only the murmur of voices Terrifying ticking of the clock Half-hearted glances at magazines Long out of date… A voice… A summons A nurse…sugar-coated efficiency Their eyes meet Alarm, apprehension, acceptance Relax into muttered mundanity Another call… They rise as one Gather their things Walk towards their future… Side by side…

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To the Colonized Woman of my Bloodline Patricia Antony He slides a finger up your forehead, A vermillion trail blazing past your hair line Reminds you of the sea routes the white men took Had they noticed the blood so close behind? They speak of your hips as if it were the hills They rolled down, childish glee whistling through their teeth. When they ask you about your lover For a moment it is almost incredulous But you say only two, Then none. They only love you on the mantelpiece Ebony skin and shaved teeth Bones cracking to the rhythm of their whips. They want to spill the birdsong out of your body But give them your notions, And suddenly, you are a rabid dog looking to infect. You are only something to cut moonbeams in half with. Just another broken bangle on your mother’s wrist. You were taught never to bite the hand that feeds you, To politely bow your head, and always Have your mouth shaped to yes. The cloying smell of rot sticks to your hair


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You chew it every minute like paan hoping Soon enough you’ll taste the smog of your homeland. But you are here and now, and this isn’t home. This is a body clamped over yours; this is a dying system. When he puts his leg over you at night, you wish it was sand You wish for the coastal line to come sweeping into your bedroom And take you back home. But home is here and now. And you are not you, you have not been you since they called you exotic. You have been orphaned by your own body – Your goddess domesticated. Silk sari traded in because You are no longer a huntress, but a woman now. Too much exotic, too little bondage. You are on sale for the world, And you don’t even know it.

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Unravelling Genealogy Gerry Stewart Prairie cemetery photographs by two unknown great-aunts, decades old conversations spoken through our family trees. A distant oak clasps the open sky among tufting native grasses, a small preserved corner. Perched on opposite branches their silver hair fine spun spiderwebs, they recite each scratch on white marble. Names catch on a strand and carry their tales further back, minute vibrations with the breeze. Rusting iron fences constructed around the expanding generations become unbalanced by twining roots. Our scraps of knowledge disregarded, yet they push our journey forward. I can’t help poking beneath the matted hummocks of each new lead, cousins and spouses swirling up like surprised partridges. We stumble over rumours, geodes, lost coins half-buried among the mud of dates, repeated names.


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My lazy chase in the sun is quickly broken by a brick wall, an ancestor with no records or trace. I continue scrambling as the hours trickle away. Blanket corners of our picnic pulled together, I tie the generational ends with emails, letters, photos. We are women on the wing, intent  on taking our stories away from the graveyard before sunset. Nothing can be set in stone, not even faith on tombstones.

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The Spare Time Artist Julia Barnard Inspiration strikes. I’ll make a note for later. Can’t do it today. Hordes of good ideas. Jungle made of post-it notes. Is it home time yet? Where’d I put that paint? Pads and pens unused, unloved… Dig them out tonight. Yarn, wire, hooks, and glue. Endless possibilities. Plan for the weekend. Make something, or draw. Do it for yourself, not them. Just express yourself. I’ll draw him! Or her! Portrait sketch in black and grey. Perfect. Now let’s go. Wait! Where’s the time gone? I have only just started. Back to work Monday.


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Flame by the Sea Jimmy Hartill The wind whipped the traveller’s crimson mantle about his shoulders as he tramped down the hilltop towards the village of Torfa. The dull thud of waves crashing against the slate cliffs below echoed with every careful step he made. Tall reeds threatened to steal his footing but somehow he managed to maintain his balance all the way to the thin dirt trail leading down to Torfa proper. He turned to look at the sky and watched the swirling storm clouds threatening to burst open. Adjusting the sword slung across his back, the traveller continued down the trail and into the village. The dirt track soon gave way to cobbled stones and finally to a tiled path as he passed by a wooden board with the village’s name crudely painted on. The scent of salt permeated the air and a thin layer of white crystals dusted all of the buildings that faced the sea. The traveller quickly glanced around for signs of life. The village looked almost deserted. Wooden stalls were set up along the middle of town and houses of crude stone sprawled out along the coast, with one noticeably larger one to the side. A handful of buildings were built away from the coast, all bigger and grander but only one had a candle burning in the window. It was easy to see, only the faintest glimmers of sunlight remained. The traveller had little choice; he approached the building. Once past the old wooden door, the noise hit him immediately, a cacophony of bawdy sailor talk and occasional curses interspersed with sudden outbursts of anger. It was like any other tavern the traveller had been in, save for the overpowering stench of fish. At least this solved the riddle of the empty town. The traveller approached the bar; the friendly bearded face of the owner turn to face him with a full flagon of golden coloured ale. ‘Greetings stranger! How can I help ye this eve-’ the owner stopped, his eyes focused on the crimson sheet pinned like a scarf around the traveller’s shoulders. The traveller’s own focused on the fishhook necklace and recognised the distinctive loop of the Church of Ulden. He held his hands up in a pacifying gesture. ‘All I need is a place to stay the night; I’ll be gone come morning.’ ‘You’ll find no such place here, heathen,’ the inn-keep spat. ‘This village is full of God-fearing folk. We’ve no need of your kind, Moth!’ The traveller did his best not to rise to the insult, but his furrowed brow and

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hard gaze caused the inn-keep to glance nervously at the sword on his back. The pub had fallen dreadfully quiet. Without saying a word, the traveller left with a loud banging of the door. While he’d been inside, the first few drops of rain had begun to fall. The traveller grunted that even bloody Ulden apparently had it out for him. He was about to walk back up the trail and try his luck at the next village when he felt a hand tap him on the shoulder. He turned, coming face to face with a young woman; she looked young, though her face may not have shown it, weather beaten like everyone else in Torfa. Her hair had the consistency of dried seaweed crudely tied into two bunches in the northern fashion beneath her shawl but the youth was in her eyes; they sparkled with unhidden energy. ‘Where you goin?’ she asked. ‘I think “away” was the request,’ he responded, bumping his shoulder free of her hand. ‘In this weather? You’ll be dead ‘fore it even reaches midnight.’ ‘I’m hardier than I look, don’t you fear,’ he called over his shoulder. ‘Aye, but none are hardy enough to fend off Ulden’s Messengers,’ the girl replied. The traveller stopped. He glanced back to confirm she was serious and to his great annoyance it seemed that she might well be. The waves crashed against the dock once more and left a faint sound of splattering as the sea foam landed. ‘It appears I must stay the night. I’m sure the inn-keep will be thrilled.’ ‘What, old Jasper? Don’t let him get you down, come on, you can stay with me in the church, wouldn’t do to turn away a traveller.’ The girl frowned when she saw that the man she’d so generously offered a place to stay was laughing with great abandon. ‘Something funny?’ she inquired. ‘Yes. I’ll tell you after some food though; I suspect you might throw me out.’ The church of Ulden stood opposite the tavern (which the girl claimed was called ‘The Mermaid’s Legs’ to the traveller’s bewilderment) and was clearly one of the best kept buildings in Torfa. The inside was lined with gleaming glazed tiles all over the walls the colour of pearls. The deep blue carpet that led to the altar was delicately inlaid with indigo and the centre-piece was a stylised gilded fishhook of the kind Ulden’s faithful worshipped with such devotion. Taking a seat in the pews, the traveller waited while his newfound host rummaged in a backroom with a faint clatter of pans. She emerged with a plate of salted fish and a hunk of tough looking bread. The traveller gratefully accepted both


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and practically inhaled his meal before being offered a chalice of water. He eyed it somewhat warily, dipping a finger in it first, before drinking it down. ‘So what’s your name?’ the traveller asked, catching his breath from the speed with which he had drank the chalice dry. ‘Franny, I’m a devotee of Ulden under Mother Grace.’ The traveller nodded. ‘You’re not exactly dressed like a nun.’ ‘I’ve only recently moved here, my robes are still being stitched. Indigo thread ain’t easy to come by I’ll have you know! Anyway, who’re you when you’re at home?’ ‘If I had a home I’d tell you.’ The traveller smiled wryly. ‘My name’s Asher.’ ‘And what do you do for a living?’ Franny was frowning now, wandering why a vagrant would be wearing well maintained leather armour and carrying a sword. ‘Slay monsters,’ Asher replied idly. ‘Usually for an extremely low fee but it’s better than nothing.’ ‘What? You just wander through Cendria killing monsters?’ ‘Not just Cendria, I’ve been to Dharma, Yotsgard, even spent some time in the Concordium until I got poisoned for attending the wrong party.’ Franny scowled. ‘It ain’t funny to mock simple village lasses! Telling me you been to all them places, you look like you’re barely out of your teens!’ ‘I’m twenty three! You don’t have to believe me, I’m just telling you where I’ve been.’ Franny turned away in a huff, her arms folded and deeply regretting that she’d shown some leniency to this travelling shyster. Asher, in contrast, could scarce believe a devotee of Ulden didn’t recognise the crimson mantle on his shoulders. He was considering having words with Mother Grace before he left, her education of the girl was clearly lacking in the bigotry that abounded everywhere else in the Holy Ulden Empire. But there was something she’d said that was bothering him, digging at his peace of mind and finally urging him into speech despite Franny’s new disdain for him. ‘What did you mean by Ulden’s Messengers? They sound dangerous.’ The devotee of Ulden turned around, trying to ascertain if he was making fun of her again. He looked earnest enough, she supposed. ‘You ain’t seen them? I thought you were just being stupid before but you haven’t heard of the messengers? They’re everywhere in these parts, lurking in the moors. Attack any not carrying the holy sign. Which you seem to have forgotten,’ Franny tapped his chest in an accusatory manner. Asher did his best not to find the humour in the situation. ‘So why do you think they’re his messengers? Because they’re afraid of hooks?’ Asher asked with an arched eyebrow.

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‘No! By Ulden’s beard, you’re a simpleton. They’re Ulden’s Messengers because they got scales and they lurk in the water of the marshes around here. They look like they’re half men, half fish. Y’know, like mermaids but with claws. Anyone out at night without a hook ain’t never seen again.’ ‘And that doesn’t bother you?’ Asher asked. Her expression told him more than words ever could. ‘Sorry,’ he mumbled. ‘I have been discourteous after you offered me shelter.’ Franny waved her hand dismissively. ‘It’s fine, you’re just a traveller. And a stupid one at that not to be wearing a hook, worship must be more relaxed where you come from.’ ‘Or non-existent,’ an elderly voice hissed from the shadows as a woman wearing the blue robes of Ulden hobbled out. She had a hunched back and her eyes bulged unpleasantly. She used a long staff as support which would be fine by itself were it not for the fact the staff had the same fishhook on it that everyone else did. This one looked a little different though. A little… sharper. Asher sighed and let his head sink to his chest. Looks like the game was up. ‘Francheshka,’ the old woman crooned. ‘Pray, do you remember your lessons?’ ‘Of course, Mother Grace. I ain’t a dullard,’ Franny flustered while the old woman paced around her. ‘Then, pray tell, tell me what you know of Ulden and the deceivers, Book II verse 18.’ ‘Uhh, the scripture says ‘Ulden, in his aquatic realm, is the one true God. Beware! Oh foolish followers, fore there are those out there who worship false gods and claim piety to deceitful monsters. Thou must set things to right by scorning such people who worship Gerra of Soil, Hyndarl of Sky, Brunx of Flame or Alsoph of Light, they are deceivers and must be cleansed’.’ ‘Hngh. Not bad child, but it isn’t ‘set things to right’, it’s ‘set things right’, there is no ‘to’,’ Mother Grace chided, hobbling towards Asher now. ‘What say you, traveller?’ ‘I think set things to right sounds better.’ ‘Don’t we think we’re clever?’ Mother Grace growled under her breath. ‘Francheshka, you have shown great piety in accepting this poor lost sheep into the temple, feeding him from our meagre supplies. But sadly you have also shown gross naiveté for not recognising that crimson mantle.’ Mother Grace’s hand reached out for it but was warded off by Asher raising his. Retracting her fingers and hobbling away, Mother Grace turned back to lecture her unfortunate student. ‘That man is a Moth, the mantle proves it so; a ‘chosen of Brunx’. He is a heretic, worshipping a false god and claiming to possess great powers. Such a


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charlatan should be given no kindness, no care. As I am sure he learned first-hand if he spoke to any of the other villagers.’ Asher shrugged, not willing to give her the satisfaction. ‘You will leave now,’ Mother Grace said. ‘Never to return, I trust?’ ‘I am afraid that may be difficult,’ Asher sighed, rising to his feet and strolling out of range of Mother Grace’s threatening staff. ‘While I was chatting with Franny here she told me about the messengers. I’m not a well-read man, as I’m sure you’d be keen to point out, but I’ve never heard of any messengers of Ulden. Certainly not any that rise from the marshes and drag errant travellers to their doom. They sound like the sort of problem we ‘Moths’ are obligated to deal with.’ Mother Grace’s already chilly demeanour turned somehow colder. The staff trembled in her grip, her hand quaking with a rage barely supressed by force of will. ‘Do you seek to bring shame upon us, Moth? Do you not think I know there is no mention of these messengers in the Book of Water? But Ulden is as vast and unknowable as the sea, they could be something never before seen and scribed by humanity, they could be from our God. We do not know. And so we shall not permit you to kill them.’ Asher smiled an ugly sardonic smile. ‘What makes you think that I need permission?’ The church’s door swung open with a mighty push and Asher, chosen of Brunx, walked out into the drizzling rain with the door creaking closed behind him. *** The door opened with a loud bang of oak, the heavy staccato beat of rain echoing throughout the church. Jasper swept the oiled leather robe off his broad shoulders and rested his sputtering lantern beside the first row of pews. Mother Grace bowed her head gratefully as the innkeeper marched, dripping, up to the altar where she was praying. ‘We went out to the marsh but still no sign of the Moth. Bastard must be in hiding.’ Jasper sniffed back the onset of a cold while the old woman processed what he had said. ‘Mother Grace, I been thinking…He can’t really kill them can he? They’re holy servants of the lord. Ulden will protect them and smite him down, surely?’ Mother Grace was quiet, her wrinkled hands praying on a rosary that shifted through her hands every now and then. Her lips were murmuring quickly as the prayers came free and easy, the practice of years. It took her a few moments to respond to Jasper.

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‘Whether he can or not, it is not our place to let it be tested. We must protect the messengers.’ Mother Grace reached for her staff and with Jasper’s out-stretched arm she hobbled down to the church’s old doors. ‘The storm’s grown quite strong,’ Mother Grace murmured as the rain lashed the streets and dragged the waves to perilous heights. ‘Aye, we’re constantly losing light. The lads were talking about giving up the search, letting the Moth just get swallowed up by the bog?’ There was an air of hope in Jasper’s voice, as if he was awaiting permission. Mother Grace sighed and nodded. ‘Aye, it gains us nothing to watch all our young men join Ulden before their time.’ Jasper sighed with relief and leant outside, bellowing to the villagers that they should return. Mother Grace bowed her head in gratitude once more– a gesture Jasper returned. They heard a piercing scream. Jasper whipped his head around and his eyes widened in fear. ‘Mother Grace,’ he stammered. ‘Where is Franny?’ ‘No,’ Mother Grace whispered, her rosary falling to the floor in a tinkle of wood. Mother Grace was used to prayer; she conducted herself with one every few hours. But this was different. This time she was almost pleading. Pleading that Ulden not take his faithful servant to her rest in the sea, so soon before her time. Franny held an arm up against the blustering weather, her shawl whipped about by the velocity of the wind. She could see lightning ripping through the sky some distance away and the terrible rumble of thunder rushing across the land as if freed by the wounded sky. She was staying as far from the bogs as she could, keeping an eye on the plants that grew beside her. She could recognise the reeds and bogrushes that marked the start of the swamp; they were quite different from the spattering of erlsnare that lined the path like a bramble safety rope. She held her lantern out and shouted into the swamps, the same as all the others had been doing. But she wasn’t crying out like the others, she wasn’t demanding that the Moth make himself known. She called for Asher to come with her. She wasn’t that bright, she knew that. There was a reason her Mother had sent her to study under Mother Grace, and it wasn’t just because she ‘felt her pious soul’. No, Franny knew she wasn’t a looker. She was pretty enough but too much time helping her pa and brothers on the boat had ruined her looks. No, Franny didn’t think she was a smart girl. But she did know one thing. You didn’t leave a traveller alone in this storm. Whatever Asher had done, whatever he was, he was a baby-faced traveller


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first and foremost. And Franny wasn’t about to leave him out alone in a storm. She managed to stumble further forward, passed a wide based old tree with its spindly branches about five feet in the air and spreading like inverted roots. ‘The Hanging Tree’ it was called. She shivered at the memory of all the old horror stories about that tree. Before the knowledge of Ulden had flooded into Torfa, they’d had their own laws. How many people had been hung from that tree until they spluttered their last? How many cast into the bog to rot away in disgrace? Franny didn’t like the Hanging Tree at all. Had she any sense she’d turn back now, leave the Moth to his fate, wandering the moor at night. But she wasn’t a smart girl. ‘Asher!’ she cried again. ‘Where are you?’ There was movement behind her. She turned, ready to give the young man an earful but stopped. It wasn’t Asher. It wasn’t even human. Its top half was dotted with scales, oddly grey-green scales that reminded Franny of those rare trout she’d seen in rivers. The skin beneath was slimy, dark green with a gooey tinge, sprawled webbed fingers with very, very thin talons flickering in the air. Its legs were bowed, horribly so, it walked like a crab, but it seemed to move quite fast. It was blind too, sightless eyes on the sides of its head flickering around trying to find her. The noise was the worst part. Franny recognised that noise. When she was twelve, her little brother had fallen overboard. She managed to rescue him but he’d been unconscious, he only yet lived because her father had pounded on his chest as if he was trying to beat life back into his breast. Her brother had spat up the water in his lungs, spluttering and tear-stained. The noise that this creature was making sounded the same; the sound of saturated lungs trying to gorge up water. Carefully, ever so carefully, she tried to step past it. She kept the erlsnare in sight as she moved to ensure she didn’t accidentally fall with a splash into the murky water. Her shoes were already soaked through and made very faint squelching noises as she stepped. She prayed to Ulden that he would stay his hand and that this monstrosity would not harm her. It was a messenger of his, was it not? Surely it would not attack her. Snap. A branch from the Hanging Tree had fallen on the path, concealed beneath the erlsnare. The creature was upon her. She fell back, screaming and brandishing her holy symbol like a shield. The Hook of Ulden had protected travellers for years on these shores, surely it would now as well? Franny’s devotion proved true, the beast did recoil. At the sight of the hook, clear liquid bubbled up from its lungs and burst free in gouts of sparkling spring water. Ulden did indeed protect his faithful.

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But it was not enough, spluttering free of the clear water, it ran at her again wobbling hideously on its bended legs. Franny screamed once more, the scream heard in the village. And behind the monster she saw something. She saw the light only a second before it hit. The beast fell into two pieces as a silvery blade cleaved it from shoulder to hip. A squeal of pain and a bubble of escaping sludge were all the noises it made as both halves fell on opposite sides of the path with a splash. Asher was soaked through, his hair clinging to his scalp and his armour blackened, streaked with odd patches of some vile liquid. He was bleeding, various cuts dotted his face and his armour was lacking some vital plates. But what stunned Franny the most was his sword. It was plain enough, wrought steel and a black leather hand-guard. But the blade was wreathed in flames, flickering constantly despite the rain sizzling against the metal. An ever burning flame. ‘What are you doing out here?’ he panted, clearly struggling to stand. ‘What am I doing? What’re you doing! Why is your sword aflame?’ ‘I’m a Chosen of Brunx. The Goddess of Fire. You can probably work it out,’ Asher said, no more time for manners. Franny didn’t have time to continue discussing her newly found polytheistic worldview, as there was a bubbling sound from the swamp. More and more of the creatures were emerging. Asher took her by the hand and the two of them raced back through the trail, erlsnare to guide their way, the storm above reaching a crescendo. Asher soon recognised the heath he’d climbed down before and sprinted across it with Franny stumbling behind him. They were met by the villagers, Jasper and Mother Grace at the head and a gasp rumbling between them. ‘He’s kidnapped Franny!’ Jasper concluded, to Asher’s immeasurable rage. ‘Get her to safety, you idiots,’ Asher bellowed hurling Franny forwards and turned to face the advancing fiends. Scaled creatures lurched and shambled towards the village, that horrible drowning sound echoing around amidst the writhing reeds under their webbed feet. Asher had worked out what they were, of course. The dishonourable dead, cast into the marsh. Left to rot and fester in the dark. It wasn’t hard to imagine evil forces managing to repurpose such forms. There were far too many. Torfa had been bloodthirsty before they found religion. He didn’t have much of a choice. Holding his right hand forward, Asher closed his eyes and silently began to pray, thinking the same mantra over and over. ‘Oh Brunx, your burning majesty, grant your follower more power, let my spark not extinguish, that I might bring the light!’


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The villagers all felt it. A dull pink glow across their skin. A sudden wave of heat. Asher’s fingers clawed and a dim glow began to emanate from his right hand, the heat grew stronger and some villagers noticed steam rising from their boots. The creatures were running at them now, swaying precariously as they lolled from left to right. Asher roared. And there was an inferno. Springing from his palm was a tornado of flames, spinning and spiralling like a breath from the maw of a mighty dragon. The reeds burned away in seconds, soot blowing into the air and falling as dim grey ash while the heat ravaged the squealing monstrosities. Scales melted, eyes bubbled out of sockets and steam exploded from bodies as they fell. Almost as soon as it began the fire vanished, plunging the area back into darkness. The villagers were speechless, staring at the smoking heath, seared and burned beyond recognition. And the young man lying face down amidst the ashes. Silently, and in small numbers, they turned and left him there. Lying, alone, beneath the night sky. All except for Franny and Mother Grace. Franny crossed the heath, stepping from springy greenery to charred black without a moment’s hesitation. She raised Asher up and, looking at his hair, tried to dust out the black that had accumulated. It would not move. His hair was scorched, two thin lines of black running through his hair. Burned by the flames. Franny knew then why they had called him a Moth. Like all the Chosen of Brunx, he was drawn to a flame that would be his undoing. The cost of his power. Mother Grace stood beside her as this realisation sunk in. ‘He can stay until he wakes,’ she croaked. ‘I know not if those beings were truly emissaries of our God. But he intended to protect us. Whatever else he is guilty of, I cannot curse him for that. Let him stay until he wakes. And then he shall leave.’ Franny nodded, stumbling as she awkwardly lifted Asher up and began the trek back down to the village. She hadn’t even noticed that the storm had passed.

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Fly on the Wall S. Thomas Summers

When I said I love you, the fly, marring the white wall like a wart, startled by the tea-cup you dropped on the kitchen tile, zipped, buzzed, circled over the stove, swooped behind the blender, fled through the open window, and shared, I’m told, the incident with the swift that frequents the branch beside the backyard feeder. By now, even the garter, coiled like a ribbon under the noon sun wants to know if you love me too.


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Forever and Always Marium Hassan

Forever and always is such a cliché Since there is no one who would really stay All those promises and bonds are broken in an instance, Making you wish that you had kept a distance, So it’s better if you don’t fall under false perceptions, Because reality is concealed by masks of deception, There is never going to be a fairytale ending, So you may as well stop pretending.

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Tricks of the Mind (After TU FU) George Freek How far is it to the nearest star? I stare at a blank sky. I don’t want to know, and the moon blocks such improbable calculations. I return my attentions to things nearby. I hear a bird in a tree. I look for it to no avail. And in a moment it’s gone. Was it even there? Already I have forgotten its sweet song.


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When I'm Away Dane Cobain Don’t you forget me, or think for one second that I’m not thinking of you, because I always think of you, even when I’m thinking about something else, ‘cause you’re kind of a part of me and it’s like how you can always see your nose but don’t notice it, you’re always just there inside my head, making it a better head to be trapped inside. Truth is, I feel like a traitor, ‘cause I never know when you might need me like I need you, but absence makes the heart grow fonder and if I have to wait any longer, I’ll wait longer. What’s the point of beauty in the world when you’re not there to see it? You’ll have to see it through me because my eyes can be your eyes, without the lighthouses. I’m going to miss you more than words can communicate, but my god, I need a holiday.

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Endymion Sinking William Mullins

Lying against the ancient mount,          Mad with the dust of dreams,            His reveries there form founts,            Surreal, entrancing, inner-scenes… No immortal heart melts above;              No kiss presses youth’s cheek.              He hides from offered love;              A shadow-world he seeks.


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There Were Two Of Us Stephen Mead

Remember? It felt Totalitarian: the systems, the boggling, the being simply shuffled dolls in those throes‌ Back then though, we didn’t have the definition. You turned to angry distances, to silences, to unexplained fights. The fists were just a defence leaping against others & then shovelling pills down your own throat. Muddle, muddle----they came back as distortion, as truth, as living fear & the will to persist. This much is clear, & I, a thief of images, drifted to my own different distant silence while listening to sea gulls. Back then I was aware of little else. This afternoon when I awoke four tears slid from my eyes. I counted them, have not yet washed, the dried salt a tattoo, & did I really believe that of us in our whole family there truly only was two?

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Before I Jump Off Cromer Pier, Let Me Explain, My Lovely Molly Draper The Elvesden is a beautiful Inn, as you know, and might just be my favourite, as it was yours. I pretend we don’t know each other and that we are meeting there for a clandestine liaison; sitting in the corner, holding hands. I order an afternoon tea for two after going through all the options with a fine-toothed comb. It’s on a three tiered plate and the tea is in a big pot, like we used to have, my dear. We sit after and be still for a while. I act like that glint in the waiter’s eye isn’t recognition or sympathy, but suspicion. ‘He’s wondering if we are married, my love!’ I say. I can’t help but laugh as we leave together in the same old car. They may mistake my holding arm; think it’s a passionate embrace and not a crutch to cross the car park. ‘Tongues will wag!’ I say. We have sat here in silence before. Nobody minded. I did not feel the pitiful eyes of the younger generation. They are used to such scenes here. They didn’t see me and wonder what to do, or if they should offer help, or if they should stop and ask for a more detailed account of what exactly is going on, and how long it had been so. And how sad, how very sad. The squeeze of a hand on the shoulder did not make my arm ache as if I have never felt a hand touch me with any more than an incidental stroke. I did not wish it would linger, my love. I have a bit of a haul ahead of me now as we head on. One of us could sleep, the other drive on and sing along quietly to everything on the radio, regardless of the words. Shall it be me? I think it shall. You rest, my sweet. You sit back now, my lovely. I can feel the comfort of this little principality; the honour of guardianship, the closeness of old age shared. ‘You watch, I will sleep,’ I imagine you say. ‘What an honour!’ I say, with a bow and you smile.


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Everything is under control ‘with the help of Ford!’ I say and pat the steering wheel, and everything is going to be O.K. My hand beats the tune on the thigh. The thigh does not move in time, or bend absentmindedly against me, or twitch on the offbeat, or yield to my hand. The thigh does not move at all. The thigh stays warm and still and where it has been guided until the time comes to guide it again. Time passes quickly. I can look out of the window in Norwich, comment on the houses and shops; and say how it’s changed, over the years. You don’t say a word, not one, my sweet. I head on up and through to Cromer. There’s a lot to see along the way. There’s a lot to talk about, my darling. I pass through flatlands and enviable houses; and remember those industrial areas and cold concrete faced buildings that only you love? I see those old wrong turns that always led to a little adventure, despite the cross words, my sweet. Angry words I can’t quite remember really, but the wrong turns, I can, my darling. ‘Shall we take a wrong turn?’ I say. ‘It’s only a wrong turn when you don’t know you’re taking it!’ you’d say. But you don’t now, my love. I keep going and get to Cromer. I go down Tucker Street, past the pie and mash shop and park up. I walk with you, my dear, slowly back. We sit back in the corner; it is bliss. It smells of gravy and pastry, in the best way, my love. It’s dark and warm and the owner is as welcoming and kind eyed as your mother, remember? Stay here a while, my sweet, and wait. She looks after us, my darling. When I am ready again we walk on up to the Hotel de Paris and check in, like lovers do. You hold back shyly and stay slightly behind me, embarrassed (they think) and I do the necessary. I take charge, like I used to, and guard your way. There is a room there that looks far out over the sea with three aspects, remember my sweet? On the left, the sun sinks down into the sea, ahead, the pier, and on the right the sun rises up in front of you in the early morning. I have booked it months before, of course, it’s very popular, the tower room; and this is why, this view. They ask me if I want a lower, more manageable room. I say thank you, but no. New management, my darling. My guiding arms have helped you around corners here before, my dear, and unable to keep my hands off you and you off me, we have entered our own little world. We were here many times, my sweet, the two of us. We kissed in doorways and held back in the shadows laughing at the other guests, before running to our room when the coast was clear. That was us… lovers, remember dear? You look away. We have twelve hours. One of us could nap. I sit back on the bed and look out the window. That sky soon explodes in every colour I have ever seen. It is truly

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glorious, my love. I knew it would be. We have seen so many sunsets here, my lovely. I set my alarm for 3am. I am tired from the long drive. I lay down next to you and close my eyes and hide. I go to sleep with my face in the nook of your arm, my face against your breast. This is how you used to sleep on me, remember, my darling? Your breath soothes the air about me, I sleep. At three, at the first ting of the alarm, I wake up and my hand flies out to stop it. I get ready quickly. I look over and see you. I sit on the edge of the bed, in the same way I did for the sunset. I look out the other window to watch the very beginning of the last day. The sun rises from the sea, as she always does. Slowly each corner of the room gathers clarity and the dead is over, the light and colour return to my little world, and there you are sleeping on the bed at the centre of it. Night can last a very long time. But morning always comes. The sun rises. When my eyes have adjusted to this new day, I gently wake you up, for the last time. I get us ready, brushing your hair, my love, savouring the moment. Your smell is not you anymore, my sweet, you are already leaving ahead of me. You smell like everything now, everything but you. I check the room and look one more time at our beautiful view. You stare at some unknown spot, just below the window at the edge of the wallpaper, worn slightly where the curtain pulls across it. We take a morning walk, I know the way. It is early, there isn’t anybody about. On the way across the beach we fill our pockets with stones. I do yours for you, my sweet. I am careful, my darling. Soon we can’t walk very far and I laugh at the weight of the world, the weight of our world. Your cheeks are wet with spray from the sea, my darling. Salty droplets have collected in your lashes and it looks like you have been crying, but you have not, my sweet. Such pretty eyes, my love. I easily make my way through the barrier at the end of the pier. It isn’t very secure and is actually quite dangerous. ‘I could hurt myself,’ I laugh and turn to you, but you are looking away, my love. I hold your hand. Sitting up on the edge is tricky. I wipe the wet side for you and lift you on. You are light now, my sweet, so light. You sit like a doll. I make sure there is nobody there and I give you one last kiss, on your porcelain cheek and whisper, ‘My love, my love, my love.’ There is no sign, no flicker of recognition, no words, right up to the very end. There is no cry out, no mark of alarm, no shudder. You drop silently down and under, and are gone and out of sight in a heartbeat. A slight ripple in the morning tide, like something you thought you saw, someone you once knew… my lovely.


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Like Words on a Liquor Bottle Mickey J. Corrigan

Drink and forget. Don’t drink and drive me away. Let me sink now below the waves of blankness and return by empty boat floating down the slope of your shoulder to settle in the pool below your belt. You are a full dose the packaging tells all nothing is missing all the ingredients right there on the surface deep inside me where they’ve always been. Whatever lurks behind the printed words beyond the opaque glass the amber flow the unspoken all the paradox of loving a way of life until death do us drink, please don’t drink alone.

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Love Under City Lights Natalie Warren

I heard a voice calling out low to a lover Songs poised above the lips in play; understood that language, as night met day, spoken between lovers I drown against you, in dying, I find death good Between bare hands, like a rabbit caught in a snare I turn back my liquid anguished eyes; misunderstood the smell of fear, lust, a musk heavy on the air I drown against you, in dying, I find death good A fine wire around my throat, I am caught in your snare a wolf sniffs the scent of prey, then drinks the blood Your kiss above the catch, rough hands caught in my hair I drown against you, in dying, I find death good escape, forgive, in the arms of oblivion, with you In dying, I find death good, as I drown against you.Â


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Two Minutes Peter Flint

I wonder what thoughts Pass through those heads Carefully coiffured and cut Bowed in silent churches Cathedrals and market-squares… ‘Has the dog been sick again?’ ‘Wish I hadn’t worn these shoes’ ‘Is my lipstick too bright?’ ‘What did she mean when…?’ Some will remember… Warm, laughing babies Flesh ripped by flying metal Bones and skulls smashed With explosive hammers A grinning, cheeky schoolboy Screaming in his agony Boisterous young men Eyes now dull and staring… Banners droop…bugles wail Arthritic arms creak to salute Priests, politicians spew platitudes In reverential tones… ‘Lest we forget!’ The last grain drops Breaking the stillness Once more… They are forgotten!

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Responsibility Dane Cobain Don’t expect anything from anyone, ‘cause they’ll promise the sun and then they’ll run away in the daytime, because the night is in a relationship, and anyway, she never really liked me to begin with. I should point out that this isn’t about who you think it’s about; this isn’t about anything. We’ve all got bills to pay and money to make, we’ve got garden snakes threading through the plot we lost, bags of compost spread slowly burying the dirt with more dirt. There’s so much shit that something’s got to give, literally; flies circle around me and land on the sleeves of my hoodie.


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Consolation (After LU YU) George Freek This night is bitter. I sit alone in my room. I rub my heavy eyelids. I turn the pages of a book, and try to read, but quit after a brief look. Moonlight drifts in my open window, as the hours slowly pass. When I finally sleep, I dream of my youth, of what I’d hoped to achieve, but had never begun. At least my wife is dead. She had faith in me. She didn’t live to see what I have become.

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Profile for Scrittura Magazine

Scrittura Magazine, Issue 2, Winter 2015  

Scrittura Magazine, Issue 2, Winter 2015

Scrittura Magazine, Issue 2, Winter 2015  

Scrittura Magazine, Issue 2, Winter 2015

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