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Issue number 12 Summer 2018


In This Issue 06 08 09 14 15 16 18 20 21 22 23

Queen of Summer Geraldine Douglas

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Close Encounters of the Aqueous Plague Gerard Sarnat

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Someone to Cook For Anthony McIntyre

Manchester Tears Steve Douglas Knock Alex Moore A Living Mosaic Shirley Jones-Luke As a Lizard James Bell Bermondsey to Basra Battlefront Steve Douglas At the End of the Rainbow Lynn White Bitchin’ in the Kitchen Paul Waring Buckets of Love John Baverstock Book Town Mike Farren A Perpetual State of Disappointment Shirley Jones-Luke

30 31 32 34 35 36 38 39

Cocooned Lynn White

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Four Hundred Then Four Hundred More Years Gerard Sarnat

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Largin’ it in Later Life Paul Waring

Dan the Roofer Adrian Slonaker Homeless John Baverstock Evermore my Prince Geraldine Douglas This and That David Dykes Little Mermaid Steve Douglas Dolly Ed Blundell We Were Strangers Once, Too Alison Theresa Gibson

Girl at the Piano Ed Blundell My Love, a Biologist David Tallach Real Life Mirage Kimberly A. Cavanagh


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The Dreaming of the Cormorant Annie Maclean

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The Gardener Adrian Slonaker

66 68 70 72 74 75

I Promise Ed Blundell

Peasant Poet Mike Farren Nan Was my Nigella Paul Waring Young Zac and Old Horace James Bell The Silent Observer Anthony Wade We Are Coming For Our Language Shirley Jones-Luke

The Newlyweds Adrian Slonaker Walk in the Park Lynn White Three Avatars of the Unicorn Mike Farren Winter Chills Yasemin Balandi Your Whole Black Mouth Shirley Jones-Luke

Scrittura Magazine Š Copyright 2018 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 SOCIAL MEDIA ASSISTANT: Jessica Briscoe WEB: www.scritturamagazine.tumblr.com EMAIL: scrittura.magazine@gmail.com TWITTER: @Scrittura_Mag FACEBOOK: scritturamag


Scrittura Magazine

A Note From The Editors Welcome to the Summer issue of Scrittura Magazine (and what a whopper it is)! We absolutely love reading each and every submission that pops into our inbox, and being able to offer this platform to showcase such a wide range of new, exciting writing from contributors across the world, so we are incredibly proud to say that this is our largest issue yet! After twelve issues it is hugely rewarding to see that the magazine is continuing to grow, and we are committed to keeping it this way as we head into our fourth year! Another reason we love producing this magazine is being able to promote topical writing about things that matter, and this issue is full of such work, kicking off with ‘Manchester Tears’ (pg 8), a truly emotional tribute to the victims of the Manchester bombing, which is especially relevant as we commemorate the one-year anniversary of the atrocity. For further thought-provoking pieces turn to ‘Homeless’ (pg 32) which offers a sobering perspective on homelessness, and ‘A Perpetual State of Disappointment’ (pg 23) which provides a hard-hitting perspective of the effects of prejudice. Alternatively, for an uplifting read, try ‘Buckets of Love’ (pg 21) for a romantic pick-me-up. As for prose, we have a touching reimagining of a classic fairy tale in ‘Someone to Cook For’ (pg 26) and a warming story about two characters who manage to bridge the generational gap, ‘Young Zac and Old Horace’ (pg 60). This issue’s cover art is inspired by ‘At the End of the Rainbow’ (pg 18), an amusing and magical depiction of a circus of dreams. Thanks so much to all of our contributors for this issue; if you haven’t submitted to us yet it’s not too late! We continue to have a rolling submissions system, with the current deadline of July 31st 2018 for consideration for Issue 13. As always, a special thanks to Catherine, our truly brilliant designer for not only another stunning issue, but our biggest yet, and a huge welcome to Jessica, our new social media assistant who has already been hard at work online - make sure to let her know your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter!

Valentina & Yasmin

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Queen of Summer Geraldine Douglas

Gaia, Goddess of flower crowns, the honourable Queen of Summer. Cherished by all, mother to God’s creation. Her soul spills colours unknown to man, wherever she treads, a seed births. A silver shimmer, a tell-tale sign of her glorious being. Limed leaves worship and hiccup over purring Violets as puny sunstrokes trickle life through ebony earth. She is the notes in great symphonies, curling saffron threads drift in Butterfly’s wake. Beneath sunbeam gold she glides… Her body ancient, polished opal. Goddess Gaia summons Daisies to blush, Cowslips to drip lemon nectar, Wallflowers to unfasten their copper-bright buttons… In awe of her beauty.


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Manchester Tears Steve Douglas Teen fans brim full of Ariana, young sons larked, popped pink balloons, promenading Princesses pirouetted, pranced, rushed out to tell proud Mams and Dads... Oh! How they’d loved it, sang and swooned... On this strange night the Moon frowned. From her Station, the spirit of Victoria wept, as twenty–two beautiful souls were gently lifted onto the Saint Peter’s Gate, Heavenly Express. Shattered dozens rescued by everyday heroes and angels to life-fight for the right to boogie again. Our bright Cotton City bleeds, scrikes and rises, Mancs all, of every colour, diverse in creed, join Berlin, Paris, Istanbul, and plead... end this madness by a deluded breed. Thanks for the candles, thoughts and prayers, much love to the folk facing years of tears. This town has dealt with mither galore It will be mint again, of that you can be sure. Always at the forefront, friendly, never hid that’s our Manchester! Alright Our kid!


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Knock Alex Moore

A hand dropped onto Greg’s shoulder. ‘RTC, fatal. On A19 coming north outside Middlesborough around 10 last night,’ said Ewan behind him. ‘This poor kid came off his motorbike, died almost instantly. Fancy making it a hat trick of death knocks?’ The question was entirely rhetorical. Like everyone, Greg knew what a death knock involved, but he had no desire to repeat the experience. Yet he also knew that he was expected to follow his news editor to his desk and receive a proper briefing, presumably along with some justification that it was his “turn” once again. Alice, who had joined the reporting staff at the same time as Greg, looked down, shuffled papers and made a few busy clicks of her mouse. The other two trainees were on the late shift tonight, so wouldn’t be in until 1. The four of them had less than a year of experience between them. This isn’t how it was meant to be, Greg thought. Perhaps if he’d actually read newspapers, local papers in particular, a bit more closely before going to university, he’d have known the real formula: 95% mundanity and 5% raw tragedy. But he hadn’t, and had assumed it was All The President’s Men, all the time. So when one of those papers – the mighty Newcastle Chronicle, no less – offered him a traineeship, he thought he was in, he was made, and it was only a matter of time before the honours began rolling in. But that was forgetting he still lived with his parents. Some days he actually wore his old school tie since he only had three in total. Greg put down the document he had been reading – the agenda for a council meeting scheduled for that evening: Dignified, comforting, obedient paperwork that would never answer back, hang up on him or slam doors in his face. Ewan sat down and swiveled his chair round to face Greg. ‘Cleveland coroner gave us the name, and Pat, on the Gazette, got his address off electoral roll,’ he said, casually handing over a folded note. ‘It’s not their patch so they’re not pursuing it, but it’s bang in the middle of ours. Elswick. You can probably walk it.’ Greg knew the way. It was short, but uphill. Alice, trying to be supportive, whispered some last-minute advice as Greg gathered up his jacket, notebook and some good biros. ‘Remember to sweep the mantelpiece,’ she said. ‘That was my big mistake in our role play.’

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Yes, Greg remembered: Alice had actually done role-play death knocks on her Journalism course. Her instructors had played the parts of grieving widows or parents, probably while Greg was analysing the finer points of the North American wire service market towards the end of his Media Studies degree. Her course managed to be shorter, cheaper and more practical than his, and yet he’d got picked for death knock jobs three times in a row. She hadn’t been chosen once yet. Maybe Ewan really did fancy her, Greg mused. Less than half an hour later, Greg was at the end of Summerhill Grove, Elswick. It was a street in a hardworking law-abiding area at 11 on a February weekday, so naturally it was deserted. Only a few curtains were open, but this included those of the target house. Greg walked past, performing an early intel-gathering sweep. The house looked unlived-in, but of course a family in shock are unlikely to obligingly face the world through the living room window. He reasoned that they were probably in the dining room at the back, or in their bedrooms. Greg kept walking, and gave his pockets a quick pat as though he was checking for his wallet. Then he made a pantomime of having forgotten something, and retreated back the way he’d come. Soon he found himself outside the corner shop, the windows grimy and plastered with local notices, the sign – Elswick Park News – lacking the final ‘s’ to make what Greg considered a wonderfully ironic motif. If you get to the family first, Greg reasoned, and are unceremoniously told to go F off, then any approach to anyone else, like the neighbours or local businesses, will be met with the question ‘What did the family say?’ You tell them they didn’t want to talk, and no-one else will. So you do it the other way round: talk around the family before approaching them directly. It adds a layer of plausible deniability when you tell them, ‘Actually, I haven’t spoken to the family yet. I will call on them, but I want to know a bit of background first, get a feel for how the unfortunate victim fit into the community.’ This also has the advantage of being true. Greg used exactly that line with Barbara and Tony, and it worked. Out came his notebook, and in the pristine shorthand of a rookie, Greg confirmed the prosaic details; ‘Yes,’ Barbara said with an uncertain glance across at her husband, ‘I think he had some family in Middlesborough so he was probably coming back from there, but no, sorry, we don’t know what he’d been doing since leaving school, do we Tone? But it was probably something to do with cars and yes, dreadful news, every parent’s nightmare, they must be devastated.’ Now Greg knew what angles of approach were available to him. Death knocks were all about presentation. The fact that the death was probably preventable meant that the family might want some law changed, so a story in the paper would be “an opportunity to raise awareness” and maybe get a campaign going. Failing that, the “tribute” was the universal fallback: a chance to tell the


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world how much the dearly departed was loved and how much they’d be missed. The fact that the family got something out of the transaction was an odd comfort to Greg. It made it feel less like he, and his newspaper, were taking advantage, that in fact the situation was more one of mutual exploitation. The bottom line – never stated, but certainly implied a couple of times, including on the two death knocks he had done so far – was that inquests were held in public courtrooms and could be reported on with or without the family’s say-so. Deaths, like births and marriages, were matters of public record, and this would be their last chance to take control of that process and humanise it. It had worked before, the producing stories full of teary sentiments; by the time the coroner’s verdict was drily reported some days or weeks later, nobody would notice how it cast the victim in a poor light. Greg told himself to quit delaying the inevitable. He knew what he had to do. Having returned now to the house, he lifted the knocker to the horizontal, paused, and breathed in. The knocker, he noticed, had been polished recently, and threw back at him a reflection he was not keen to see: his big, babyish eyes, his smooth cheeks, the eyes that shouted out to all who could see that here was a person who desperately wished himself elsewhere. When the parents answer the door, I’ll probably remind them of the son they’ve just lost, Greg thought. That was when it dawned on him. That was why he, and the younger reporters generally, ended up lumped with the task. We’re non-threatening, Greg thought; we’re alone, we’re vulnerable, and we elicit sympathy in a way that can easily be exploited. Carefully he returned the knocker to its cradle and, as silently as he could manage, he took a few steps back and one to the side. He winced as the hinge on the gate squealed, and instinctively he gave a little cough to cover the sound. Then he walked away. ‘I knocked; no answer,’ Greg rehearsed as he walked back to the office. ‘I knocked; no answer.’ Outwardly Greg appeared calm, unperturbed, no more distressed by his actions than a postman who realizes at the last moment that he has nothing to deliver. But on the inside all was in a tumult. The realisation had hit Greg hard, and had made him want to change. If it was really true that his vulnerability and obvious sensitivity were to blame for his being given all the death knocks…well, he would just have to change himself so that was no longer the case. Ewan was patrolling the newsroom when Greg got back. He looked expectantly at his young charge, but changed his expression microseconds later to one that showed disappointment edged with understanding. Greg hardly needed to say, ‘I knocked. No answer,’ though the words came out mechanically in any case. He felt no shame; the transformation, he was pleased to note, was already beginning.

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‘Aye, it happens sometimes. Get anything from neighbours?’ ‘Well, corner shop, yes. Knew the family quite well.’ ‘Don’t go too big on it on the back of that, it’d only piss the family off when they finally emerge. Can you give me about two hundred words, just the facts? Then the inquest will give us another bite of the cherry.’ Greg was gratified by that result, especially since Ewan hadn’t asked for pictures. Without going into the family home there’d been no way to ‘sweep the mantelpiece’, as Alice had suggested, and so he had been unable to return with any family photographs for the paper to use. However, he still thought two hundred words would be a difficult ask; shame, Greg thought distractedly, that we can’t just pad the page out, and brighten it a little, with a grabbed pic off Facebook. Greg later found out why Ewan had taken the news so well: two other potential splashes had emerged while he was out. The union rep at a car factory in Sunderland had let slip that there were some redundancies on the way – on the fringe of our patch, but a lot of the employees live deeper inside; and the jury had come back with a guilty verdict in a big court case – death by dangerous driving, a peach of a crime because the sentences always seem low to the victims’ families, lending itself to a headline like He’s Ruined All Our Lives And Only Gets Eighteen Months. And heaven forbid there should be three interesting stories on a single day – wasted riches that the Chronicle would be foolish to sell all at once for less than a pound. Greg typed up his story without even looking at the notes he’d made. One hundred and eighty nine words. Close enough. The bike crash ended up on page two, a repository for important-but-dull news. The only people who read page two are other journalists, and that was exactly what Greg was doing at 8.15 the next morning as the newsroom filled up around him. Ewan was there too, at the end of the block of desks, putting the finishing touches to the day’s news list ahead of the 8.30 editorial conference. His phone rang. Nothing unusual there. This was the peak time of day for complaints from the public: just enough time had passed since the newsagents opened for a concerned friend to tell someone that they’d been mentioned, been misquoted, been accused of being a paedophile or had their name spelled wrong. Greg sipped his Americano and read, not even listening to Ewan’s call, until Alice waved to him over the cubicle divider. ‘It’s them,’ she mouthed. ‘The motorbike kid.’ Greg’s blood ran spiky. The pitch and rhythm of the voice – probably male – coming from Ewan’s handset suggested annoyance, but there was no way of knowing yet whether this was a ‘How dare you write about our son without our permission?’ call or a ‘How dare you write about our son without talking to us and letting us say our piece?’ call. Both were equally possible. All Greg had to go on was one side of the conversation. Instantly wide awake, he looked over to get a better read of Ewan’s body language. ‘Yes.’ Then a pause. ‘Thank you for calling us. And, of course, we have


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nothing but sympathy for you and can’t imagine what you’re going through…The Middlesborough police. Our colleagues contact them regularly…’ Ewan had had this conversation before. It didn’t even require his full concentration at this stage. His eyes met Greg’s. Greg guessed that the last question was along the lines of ‘How did you find out?’ and that the whole conversation was going in the ‘…without letting us say our piece?’ direction. Ewan furrowed his brow but his voice remained the same, the tone mechanically human as though an automated service was pretending sentience. ‘We try to report what we know, as soon as we know it. A lot of people will have driven that stretch of road and wondered what was going on.’ Greg just knew the next question: ‘Why didn’t you talk to us?’ ‘Well we tried to. Our reporter went to your house yesterday morning. Summerhill Grove, isn’t it?’ This was it. Exposure. Exposure as a coward. And a liar. The pause was, or felt, longer than expected. Greg had no idea what his face was doing. But Ewan’s expression hadn’t changed. Then it was his turn to speak again. ‘…That’s completely understandable. It’s natural you’d want to be with family at a time like this. And I’m sure your sister’s looking after you. The reporter I mentioned, Greg, is actually with me right now. Would you…?’ Ewan’s eyebrows made a “your turn” expression. Greg swept some papers aside to reveal his phone and hovered his hand over the receiver. He had no idea what his opening gambit would be, were Ewan to put the caller through. ‘…OK. There’ll be plenty of chances later on down the line, perhaps after the funeral… Not at all, we’re grateful you got in touch. Do you mind if I take a number for you?’ What a pro, Greg thought, though this was not how he usually regarded Ewan. But then he felt unusually well disposed towards him, and Alice, and the cup of coffee in his left hand and the paperclip on the floor and basically everything in the world. He had had a massive and totally undeserved let-off. Thank God for that sister. Greg briefly tried to imagine the trouble he’d have been in if the family had said, ‘Oh, we saw a guy snooping around outside our house about that time, but he didn’t knock or anything,’ but he stopped because he didn’t have to imagine something that was never going to happen. That’s life in a results-oriented business like journalism. Ewan mouthed “speak later” as he handed Greg the name and phone number he had just written, then strode off to his morning meeting. Greg added the paper to the mess on his desk.

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A Living Mosaic Shirley Jones-Luke Amerikkka, the shape of fire burning crosses & swastikas Amerikkka, anti-rainbow embracing darkness Amerikkka, a mixed palette a diamond gone rough Amerikkka, desires a white world forgetting the blend of bodies Amerikkka, erases history for a more favorable story Amerikkka, built by foreign bodies needs to accept its true colors


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as a lizard James Bell what a life as a lizard when the sun comes out to loll splay-legged and soak up the heat brown skin hard to see against the stone movement will be fluid when it comes with the long tongue whipped out for an instant snack – can even lose the long tail in extremis in the age of chivalry it is said dragons being lizards could grow back body parts too – unlike George who would have been lost without his lance things might have been different except for that asteroid – though what a life as a lizard when the sun comes out

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Bermondsey to Basra Battlefront Steve Douglas 2002. Dole doldrums, ASBO estate yobbos attack stagnated study, mates dying on crack, no jobs for the Bermondsey boys... Hackney College heroines on heroin. Signed the khaki dotted line, fatigued in worn out fatigues, sore lung buster yomps, swallowed streams, belly-down trails... sinuses stained, putrid bog and shovel patrol aromas linger. Shots targeted, schooled blade skills honed to end life. Bunk blanket ruler measured, corners squared, shitter scrubbed, pillow lumps puffed, boots spat, polished, buffed blood and bone, number one hair, pristine kit perfectly lockered. Regimented buttons, buckles...Brasso bright… Woodentop beret tight. R.S.M. provides ‘Bags of Swank.’ Pass out salute, resolute... to relatives in suits and booted, behind prided smiles, mindful of warfare worries... Helmand posting, replace snipered squaddie. 2016. Decorated warrior emerges, six layered, thicker skinned, still barking up ten years of desert dust. New Hero of the Waterloo Railway Arch Company... Sticky, sickly cold, battle-hot frozen nightly in... sweat soaked Dante-esque dreamscapes. Cramp-crouched, seated sentry, on border of cardboard bivouac-bunker. Vacant blue-eyed vagrant focused on gaze-line rushing feet... Coffee shopped, clip-clopping, Tubetown army,


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shiny-brogued, moisturised commuters, doused in Chanel and Boss, on iPhones to no-one, pat shrapnel-less pockets, lumpy coins spoil designer lines. Look right through him, look right through... Gunner’s sunken spirit, body tremors...a blemish on the sunny side of the street. Gnarled trigger finger cracks sharply, scarred digits gently lay out blood won, gleaming medallions from patron Royal, cushioned on tatty, holed, miniature Union Jack... up for sale, seen better days...like the owner. Adrenalin gushes, lurch for cover, Sally Army’s soup van backfires. One blink blasted to Sangin’s square, comrades close, to win, to dare, passing pooch takes time to stare. Nudged back by King’s Cross seeking, prosthetic hand, Ex-G.I, touring by... Paper Queen pressed deftly into palm by ‘Naam’ vet scarred by Nixon and napalm. Blink back once more to blackened Basra... Market place barrel bomb, scouting mission hell... took aced pals to the Last Post Chapel. First Class flagged return to Brize Norton... mates forever etched in gore, no glory. In his undetonated mind he carries ...a roadside bomb.

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At the End of the Rainbow Lynn White In the circus of my dreams the unicorns are galloping round and round the ring, their golden hooves are flashing as the light catches them, fractured light making rainbows from their damp breath. They’re dancing, rearing, prancing, stamping their feet then kicking up the gold dust they’ve ground from their droppings into shimmering sawdust and pointing towards the rainbows with their golden horns, with their unique golden horns. In the circus of my dreams the rainbows are ready for climbing. Up and over go the unicorns. They’ll find their crock of gold at the end, the gold they made last time. Now it’s ready for their inspection, ready to be ground into dust fine enough to carefully coat their golden hooves. Then they will dip their heads to burnish afresh their golden horns, their unique golden horns.


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Bitchin’ in the Kitchen Paul Waring It all kicked off last week. A cast-iron pot got heavy; flipped its lid and gave an oven dish  a basting. Kettle boiled over after a mug flew off  the handle; forks felt knife’s sharp tongue  for poking their noses in, while spoons just stood  there stirring with the mixer. It’s more stressful  than a soap opera – our appliances are heading  for a breakdown: washing machine and dishwasher  overloaded, fridge can’t chill, toaster burning out  and grill smoking again to calm its nerves. The sink  is drained. It’s now spread to the lounge – TV  and phone don’t speak, radio talks behind everyone’s  backs and the fruit bowl is rife with rumours like  the one about bananas getting bent-out-of-shape.


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Buckets of Love John Baverstock

Love is something That we all need to share, Letting others know Just how much that we care, Even if it is expressed With a cuddle or a hug, We all need to catch This makes-you-feel-good bug, Sometimes it brings out The biggest of smiles, The thought of everything Being more than worthwhile, When the words I love you Are said to someone dear, Might be the reassurance They needed to hear, It may pick them up When they are feeling low, Could also be the emotion They long for you to show, For some without love There is no point in living, Love is something, That we are all capable of giving, Just let it pour from your heart, A gift totally free, Let it fill a bucket for you, And fill a bucket for me.

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Book Town Mike Farren Words have their own law of gravity. Falling off the language-shed, they find their way to travel: surging in spate from the lips, uttered like the slow flow of a broad summer river or held underground so long, their voice is bitter with dankness. When they draw together in the ocean of language, there are swells, storms, dead calms and days of joyful skimming, skipping over the whitecaps of description, dialogue and narrative. But when they pool on this riverbank with nowhere to go but to flood into shops, cake the baker’s flour, saturate stock in the haberdasher’s, spoil meat on the butcher’s slab, what lingers is the death of language, books mouldering in this graveyard, stink of mortality of thought itself.


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A Perpetual State of Disappointment Shirley Jones-Luke I do not expect much in a world where giving needs a reason. I do not expect to be liked, loved or even tolerated. I do not expect to be understood, reasoned with or referred to in passing conversation. I do not expect to be smiled at or greeted warmly with a near-suffocating hug. I do expect frowns, condescending tones, voices ripe with disbelief and eyebrows furrowed in confusion. I expect to be a misunderstood moppet. I expect to hang my head low or rub my temples or swear under my breath. I expect to shake my head in frustration and hear my voice rise with agitation. I do not expect sympathy when I am angry. I expect to be stereotyped as the “angry Black woman” and to be regarded as such. I expect my opinions to be dismissed and my reluctance to be cajoled into acceptance. I expect to be pressured into acceptance. That’s more how I feel about my surroundings. I am in an environment where creativity is burned at the stake. I expect scorch marks on my skin. I expect my flesh to be red from the fire of conformity, but also from my anger. I’m expected to surrender to a society of my peers. I do not expect to go quietly.

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Close Encounters of the Aqueous Plague Gerard Sarnat i. Yesterday’s dry creek bed below our house now a raging river postbox at bottom of driveway – few hours ago   wife emptied without comment is surrounded by two feet of flood as I inch Subaru down hillock to the low water mark. Making my trek up Degas Road, kind of biblical scene      there where two tiny geysers break through seam in the pavement with what I decide to presume means deluge   from broken pipes of unknown proportions…

ii. Late to babysit littlest grandson, already delayed by eldest daughter phone calls regarding her kids’ flu already aware you need to fill car’s red light gas tank, I snap a quick video; shoot it to the town’s Public Works Director in the hopes Howard Young                will get the repair ball rolling STAT. Arrived (baby asleep), miracle of miracles, both                Town Center & CalWater they refer me to answer Good Old Days telephone: return                    home to late night redemption.


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Someone to Cook For Anthony McIntyre


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Mr Smith lived alone; he had done so ever since his wife died at the age of seventy, five years ago. They had met at the local sugar factory, where she was a supervisor and he a manager. They were married for fifty years. They had one daughter, Angela who moved to Australia. Each Thursday, he would collect his pension from the post office and then visit the Save the Children charity shop, where he would buy a paperback book and anything of interest for his display cabinet. In the charity shop, Melanie, the shop assistant, was sitting at the counter completing a survey on how to find true love. She was twenty-five and had a string of failed relationships behind her. Mr Smith hoped Melanie would find true love just like he had done. As he pottered around, he chose a novel – a Western, titled Guns at Charcoal Creek. On another shelf was what looked like an oil can, but more like an elongated tea pot. It had a jewel on one side and was priced at fifty pence. Mr Smith thought it would look good in his display cabinet. ‘Came in this morning,’ said Melanie. Mr Smith purchased the oil can along with the novel. On the way home he called in to the butcher’s shop and bought a piece of steak for tea. At home he placed the oil can on the windowsill and promised himself he would clean it later. After tea he took the oil can and placed it on some newspaper and began to polish it with a rubbing compound he had found under the kitchen sink. Once the green smoke had cleared, he saw a young woman stood in the doorway; she was wearing a gold turban, purple top, silver trousers that did nothing for her, and bright green shoes that curled up at the toes. ‘I’m here to grant you three wishes,’ she said. Mr Smith smiled. ‘But first you must agree to the terms and conditions. You cannot ask for all the tea in China, all the money in the world and I don’t do world peace.’ She pulled out a scroll, unravelled it and indicated for Mr Smith to sign. Mr Smith quickly eyed the document and signed it. ‘I don’t really need three wishes.’ ‘Everybody needs three wishes.’ ‘Not me, I’m afraid.’ The woman smiled. ‘My last client took two minutes to use his three wishes.’ ‘When was that?’ ‘Two hundred years ago.’ ‘Have you been in there all that time?’ ‘Yes, as soon as the wishes are granted I return to the lamp.’ ‘How about a nice cup of tea?’

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Over tea, the woman explained how she and her husband had been punished by the Sultan of Karamoo; they had both been sentenced to ten thousand years in separate lamps. In the beginning they had been sold as a pair but over time they had become separated and hoped one day to be re-united. After tea Mr Smith went upstairs to air the spare bedroom. It had been a while since he’d had a house guest. Downstairs his house guest had found the remote control to the television and was laughing away to an episode of Dad’s Army. ‘This is funny,’ she laughed. ‘Wait until you see Some Mother’s do ‘ave ‘em, you’ll hyperventilate.’ For breakfast, Mr Smith cooked bacon, eggs, sausage, beans, four rounds of toast and a pot of tea. It was good to have company. ‘Any thoughts on your three wishes?’ ‘Perhaps you could help me in the garden.’ Mr Smith was careful to point out the difference between flowers and weeds. Together they collected all the weeds and slugs, placed them in a plastic bag and then emptied them into his green recycling bin. For lunch they sat in the garden with homemade lemonade, and salmon sandwiches whilst they listened to the birds sing. ‘Perhaps later this week you can help me with the potting shed.’ On Sunday, Mr Smith went to church, leaving his house guest watching the television. He listened to the sermon, sang a few hymns and heard how much was needed for a new roof. He thought about telling the vicar about his house guest but thought better of it. Perhaps he could wish for a new church roof, but thought it was probably a bad idea, after all they had been saving for five years, and interfering in God’s plan may not be such a good idea. For dinner Mr Smith put a piece of beef in the oven, roasted some potatoes and vegetables. For dessert he opened a tin of rice pudding. It was nice to have someone to cook for. The days passed into weeks and over time they became good friends. One day they sorted out the potting shed. Paint brushes that had stood like soldiers in jam jars for decades were demobbed into the dustbin along with tins of old paint. He sorted his tools and stacked boxes of nails and screws and placed them on a shelf at the back. ‘What’s this?’ asked his house guest. She was holding up a hub cap. ‘That,’ he said, ‘is from the first car I ever owned, an Austin Seven, I


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proposed to my wife in that car down on Fampton Beach.’ His house guest became quite sad and talked about her beloved husband Zambod and how she hoped one day to be reunited. A tear fell from her eye and landed on the hub cap. He took it from her and placed it on the shelf. By the time the potting shed was tidy, any man over the age of fifty would have been proud to call it his own. The next day, Mr Smith went to the charity shop and found Melanie in tears. She had broken up with her boyfriend. She had thought he was her one true love. Mr Smith mooched around, found nothing of interest, except a novel titled Six Guns for Hire. He felt a little guilty buying it as he hadn’t started the last one. Back home he explained to his house guest about Melanie’s broken heart. ‘I wish Melanie would find true love,’ he said. ‘Your wish is my command.’ Mr Smith had forgotten about his three wishes. On pension day, Mr Smith walked to the post office and then into the charity shop. He was surprised when Melanie wasn’t there. ‘Where’s Melanie?’ he asked. A woman in her mid-fifties, stood as stern as a head teacher behind the counter. ‘Apparently, she has met the man of her dreams and is off to Gretna Green. Left me in the lurch, she has. I had to get my Albert to run me up here. Oh, and if you’re Mr Smith, she left you a gift.’ Mr Smith nodded and was pleased Melanie had found true love. The woman handed Mr Smith a package. He opened it and found it was an oil can identical to the one he had previously bought. On his way back home, Mr Smith called in at the butcher’s shop and bought two pound of sausages. Back at his potting shed, Mr Smith admired the oil can; he had one similar in his display cabinet and thought about cleaning it after tea and placed it behind the hub cap. He hoped his house guest would enjoy the sausages. It was good to have someone to cook for.

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Cocooned Lynn White Sometimes the finest of threads can be the stickiest, the hardest to escape from. Sometimes the silkiest of threads can hold the fastest, can surround you and engulf you. Sometimes the most beautiful of threads are woven into a tight web from which there is no means of escape.

So you stay, trapped by what was once beautiful and now forms a prison, a cocoon. Seemingly comfortable, but ready to eat you up in the end. Just ask the spider and the fly.


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Dan the Roofer Adrian Slonaker Toiling daily as a dedicated roofer, Dan negotiates the steepest slants with the bounce of an ibex, braving broiling August temperatures and the slick perfidy of February ice storms but unable to stomach small talk, questions shorn of common sense, needless needling from negligent underlings, political polemics from pot-stirrers, or muddled anecdotes that wander like vodka-soaked vagabonds in the village square. Dan has sampled soupçons of the social life but declared ‘hell no’ to additional helpings, figuring that he’s more fulfilled as a monk without religion or friends, except for a canine named Carl.

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Homeless John Baverstock Tha’s nobody, Tha’s on thee own, Since being kicked out, A full beard tha’s grown, Clothes consists of old jeans, Jumper and jacket, An old pair of boots Tha didn’t cost a packet, You have one pair of socks And pants to tha name, A blanket that tha wraps around Tha skinny frame, Sit in doorway on an old cushion you found, The only thing tha’s keeping Your backside from the ground, Tha’s got a new name now, It’s called a beggar on’t street, Asking for spare change, So tha can buy thee sen sumat to eat, Long gone those days, When you owned thee own home, Went on holidays to cities Like Barcelona and Rome, You were respected, With wife, and job in the city, Lost the lot in months, Since life has shown you no pity, First to go was job, Followed by the wife, The house was repossessed, Brought the next change in life, Mounting debts saw everything


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Taken from under your feet, Finally, all was left Was a life on the street, The subway on a night, Provides shelter to kip, From a chipped old mug, A hot drink you sip, Occasionally might get tha head down In hostel for a treat, A bed and a shower, Summat warm to eat, Once a week, The facility can be used for free, T’other six nights, Homelessness is the grim reality.

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Evermore my Prince Geraldine Douglas Thou purest heart, life summons us to part. Ochre pollen, once gold now a bud-less story, told… Of crimson kisses in limed-lands of grass, bosomed beats so desperate to last, a contented spirit, righteous promise upon his face, in his Heaven I sleep my hair plaited lace. A carmine sunset warms our hearts, a budding wish, a pledge not to part. I kiss your hands, lay carnations on our bed. Place forever forget-me-nots on your pillows, red. Faint breezes give rise to love-bound seeds. Happy tears drip-drip as ivory beads. Crystal-citron eyes beam with clarity, cherished passions thrive, to the God of infinity. I love thee, my darling, my lips never sour, one-hundred times kissed upon this hour. Emotions flare through chamomile fields, my budding womb answers in lusty yield! Evermore my Prince, my trueness to you runs deep, together, forever till blossom-dawns sleep. Lemon Lupins stretch their spines in respect of our devotions. Meadow-fair Mimosa-oceans unravel in wind-kissed motion. The finest amongst planets and stars heavenly mirror where ‘ere thou art. Let us lie in a perfumed cot of Rosemary reeds, our souls to drown in Clover mead… Until our spirits pass far beyond, away… In God’s paradise our love will never fray.


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This and That David Dykes Ugly papercraft crows hunched on trees. Black-feathered screams curdle the blank sky. Thoughts bloom in mud, grow under the moon and soak in the wet grass; why can’t I be like you? Broken by night, still tomorrow screams are muted by sun stripes and the old water lilies. What shelters things that make a soft mind hard? Nothing can stop the roots from breaking. In a century the cedar tree grows four inches. The paper birch takes less than a year. These days are full—weed sprouts made of this and that. Tell me I’m growing slow, slow peace.

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Little Mermaid Steve Douglas In the land of Queen Margrethe and King Canute lives a little wonder, ever so cute. Born in nineteen thirteen, prim and clever cast in youth, ageing never. In Copenhagen’s Royal Theatre Carl from Carlsberg fell deeply amored by the prancing vision that had him floored... Pirouetting prima ballerina, Ellen Price her intricate shoe work so precise, playing the part of the Ocean Princess. Enchanted Carl commissioned bronze moulding hands of Edvard Eriksen, his dream to expand. Modest Ellen posed still for her face while Eline Eriksen undressed at a pace... Her sublime curves just so for the torso, to complete the divine Little M. Langelilinie is her home, perched atop her homely rock, observing every Dane’s tick and tock, wistfully unflinching at harbours rim, unblinking at historical whim and sin. King Christian X’s palace fell forced to bow to Nazi shells ... Sea salty tears shed as Swastika banners flew... Danes in chocolate box, pastel houses knew... the aided escape of all their Jews ensued. The sixties saw her lose her head chopped off by ‘liberators of everyday life’. A new one fitted to end the strife. In eighty-four, right arm sawn off by two men with too much beer to quaff. Decapitation struck once more in ninety-eight


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a month went by before she returned to view the sailing freight. In the year two thousand and three dynamite was set in her wrist and knee exploded poor Little M out into the sea... only to rise again as all can see. Since then she’s been painted pink by some fink, caught green handed with a dildo by International Women’s gusto...and Braziered and Burkha’d until in o’ seven her podium haven moved out deeper in a thoughtful idea, safe to keep her. Sojourned in Shanghai in twenty ten China’s people paid their yen to marvel at Little Miss M. This little lady is the practical twin of the original beauty, that the Eriksens secretly hide within? She greets flyers at Kastrup, takes tea in the Tivoli, ...and from Romania to Madrid, Salt Lake City to Solvang, Calgary to Kimballton, her fourteen sisters fly the white cross with red all over the world, a seabed figurehead.

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Dolly Ed Blundell Lost doll peeps through the grimy glass; Her sad face cracked across the cheek, Black button eyes that hold no tears. Outside, a world she’ll never know, Where all who loved her left to live, Leaving her here abandoned. Can dolls have hope and can she dream That one day someone will return To take her back to love and life? Till then she peers out through the pane.


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We Were Strangers Once, Too Alison Theresa Gibson Five of us tumbled ungracefully from the taxi at eight o’clock the next morning. Jason, Pete, Eleanor, Stuart and me. The house was large and square, like an English country manor, and the bricks were covered in vines. Colourful rooms were visible behind lace curtains undulating in the breeze. It was a house of layers – vines and bricks, lace and paint. There were already three people standing there: two men and a woman, all wearing jeans and the tourist apparel from the markets – alpaca ponchos and beanies with earflaps. Somehow, they made the clothing look natural, even though whenever I had tried on similar items I had looked like an oversized, pink mannequin in costume. We were still scattered around the tracks of the departed taxi when a tall man emerged from the front door, surveyed the cluster of people, and gestured for us to follow him. I glanced at Eleanor; she looked nervous and was gripping Stuart’s hand. I wished that I had someone’s hand to hold, but that was part of the excitement really – anonymity and adventure. I could be anyone today. We followed the tall man and emerged as though onto a film set; the back garden wasn’t enclosed, it continued into a layer of hills on which Incan ruins stood, catching the morning sun. Mountains ran off in every direction. For the first time, I truly understood the term ‘mountain range’. There was no main peak in sight, just layers of rolling earth as though the blanket of the world had been bunched up, as though a hand would soon be reaching down to smooth the creases. The man led us to a collection of pillows laid out under a quilted canopy, the area easily accommodating the eight of us. We each found a spot to sit, but were now facing the house rather than the mountains. The magic I had begun to feel floated away. From here, it was just a house. I wondered if my companions knew what was going on. Pete lay back on his elbows, explicitly embodying his comfort, while the rest of us shifted with unease. He knew what to expect, and could luxuriate while we failed to play it cool. ‘Hola,’ a voice called, and we swivelled to find its source. A man with long black curls, a purple leather jacket, skinny black jeans and chunky black boots was walking towards us from the ruins. His walk was jerky, like his boots were too heavy for his legs, and it took a long time for him to reach us. There was

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something planned, and picturesque, about the entrance, as though he had just wandered down from a rock concert in the Andes. He sat in front of us, his legs crossed comfortably, like he was used to meditating, and smiled. Despite his youthful clothes, his face was lined. He had the broad cheekbones of a Peruvian but when he spoke it was with an American twang. ‘Welcome to your San Pedro experience. My name is Jim. This is where you can seek and hopefully find answers to your questions about life. San Pedro will listen to those brave enough to question him.’ A woman with wispy white hair floating past her shoulders appeared from the back of the house. She stepped easily with bare feet on the grass, and passed him a glass jug of yellow juice, then gave us each a tumbler. Jim placed the jug in front of his crossed ankles but paid it no attention, and we followed his example with our glasses. ‘Before we begin, please lie down.’ He watched silently as we organised ourselves. Lying down, my stomach felt flat and empty from not eating breakfast. My head was near Jason’s knees, and I wondered what odd part of my body Eleanor was getting acquainted with. ‘Think about your life, its contours and absences. Think about what you want to ask San Pedro.’ The silence was absolute, making the buzzing in my mind sharper. My life’s contours were unromantically straight and narrow – school was finished, university was finished, I would no doubt return to Sydney to find a job. I had no interest in being married but I liked the idea of children. I wanted to travel. All things easily done, if I wanted and tried hard enough. But what would make you happiest? A voice asked in my head. I don’t believe in happiness, I replied. Was that why I was here, in this garden and in this country, looking for happiness? I didn’t need San Pedro to tell me I was chasing a dream in that case. What will you regret not doing? There was something broken in me when I considered the future. I just wanted it over with as soon as possible. To blink and be eighty, with hair as wispy and white as the old woman. With stories to tell, without having to live them. ‘Please sit up,’ Jim said. My stomach fluttered in panic. I didn’t want San Pedro to think that my future held nothing for me. What kind of advice could be given about a void? While we had been distracted by our thoughts, Jim had poured out the juice. Picking up the glass, I had the disconcerting feeling that it was pus rather than juice. ‘Did any of you eat this morning?’ Jim asked. We all shook our heads and


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he nodded his approval. ‘You will need to drink it all very quickly. The effects can last from eight hours to twenty-four, depending on the person. In about half an hour you will vomit. The garden is yours and there is a bathroom just inside. If you become distressed, please find me or Louise. I am your guardian today, and I promise that I will take care of you.’ He looked at each of us fiercely for a long moment. I felt Eleanor shift beside me, her fingers turning white as they gripped Stuart’s hand. I felt a pang of loneliness, until I caught Jason’s eye. He smiled, nervous but watchful, and I breathed easier. ‘Okay, when you are ready,’ Jim said. Pete immediately raised his glass to his lips, looked skywards as though saying a prayer, and then drank. Jason followed. He shuddered violently halfway through but continued until the glass was empty. After closing his eyes for a few seconds he looked at me expectantly. Everyone else had finished, only Eleanor’s glass and mine were still full. I caught Eleanor’s eye and tilted my juice towards her in a gentle ‘cheers’. She was very pale, her eyes like bruises above her cheekbones. The thick juice slid down my throat easily at first, but halfway through the smell sunk in and I gagged. It was like old fruit gone watery with a hint of acidic vomit behind it. My only thought was to get it over. I choked to the end, then clasped a hand over my mouth, expecting it to come back up immediately, but my stomach was surprisingly settled. Jim had begun speaking with Pete and I focused on their conversation, trying to ignore the gases still clinging to my nostrils. ‘The Machu Picchu trek is so touristy now, there’s no point to it. Plus, the path is basically falling apart because so many people do it,’ Pete said. Jim tilted his head to one side, as though listening closely. ‘There are lots of treks you can do though,’ one of the men from the other group said. ‘And they close it down for parts of the year anyway for maintenance. They’re prepared for all the people.’ ‘If you pay enough money they’ll let you do anything, no matter the environmental cost,’ Pete replied. There was a pause, as though none of our brains could compute a response. ‘I got the train,’ I said, and felt everyone look at me. Perhaps it was the cactus juice, but it looked as though their heads were wobbling on their necks as they turned to stare, their eyes throbbing out of their faces. The talking flowed as though everyone was having an interesting conversation with themselves. Just as I was wondering when the half hour would be over, Pete scrambled up and ran to the edge of the garden. With his hands on his knees, his body heaved. The sight made me nauseous. Jason disappeared around the side of the house though the sounds of retching carried. I took the path towards the back

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door, my knees swaying under my weight, and found the bathroom easily. It was pristinely white but I didn’t have time to appreciate it before I was squatting by the toilet, emptying my stomach. I felt immediately better, though my vision was tilted. Outside, the group was standing in a huddle around Jim, like they were a nest and he was the wild-haired chick. As I approached he looked away and gestured to the ruins. ‘Let us find some answers,’ he said. I was on a precipice. A long, neat wall built into the side of the mountain, the stones firm but narrow under my feet. Patches of greens overlapped each other, strewn with boulders. My thought from earlier, that the world was a blanket, was suddenly undoubtedly true. I bent my knees, bracing myself under the giant’s hand that was surely coming to knock the boulders down the mountains, taking me with them. It began to rain. My teeth were chattering. The cold was inside me but my skin was on fire. The valley was like a diorama in front of me, a perfectly encapsulated and pre-planned scene. Did that make me the giant? I raised a hand in front of my face, trying to see the distance. ‘Kay,’ someone’s voice carried on the breeze. I turned gingerly. The group was watching me. ‘Let’s go inside,’ Jason called. I stepped off my precipice and felt the earth sliding like a travelator I had to keep pace with. They watched me approach, their eyes still bulging, and I felt beautiful. They were waiting for me. They wanted me with them. Jason took my hand. I lay down with Jason and Pete on colourful cushions and blankets in a small wooden room of the house. Why was it wooden? I wanted to sleep but when I closed my eyes they popped open again. There were women staring at each other over a candle flame. The flame flickered on their faces. Witches. The picture frame warped with every breath they took. ‘Mine’s wearing off,’ Jason said. His head was against my shoulder. On his other side, Pete lay on his stomach, half on Jason’s arm. ‘No, it’s not,’ Pete said. ‘You’re just getting used to it.’ ‘But she’s still gone,’ Jason said, nudging me. I giggled. ‘See?’ ‘It might depend how much stuff you’ve done. Maybe she’s new to it.’


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‘Have you done a lot?’ Jason asked eagerly. Pete grunted in reply. ‘Heroin? Ice?’ ‘Yeah, but I’m not proud of it.’ ‘I want to try that shit.’ ‘Don’t. It’ll fuck you up. Stick with coke.’ ‘I’m bored of coke.’ I started laughing and they looked at me, their bulging eyes twitching until they giggled, their eyes sharpening until they were drilling holes in me. I couldn’t believe this was my life. I had never imagined this, had never known it existed to be imagined. ‘What’s so funny?’ Jason asked eventually. ‘I wonder what my mum would say, if she could see me.’ ‘My dad would probably kill me,’ Jason said. ‘Mine would join in,’ Pete said. There was a slight pause. ‘My dad died when I was little,’ I said. Whenever I mentioned it for the first time there was a sucking of air, as though the lack of words people could offer vacuumed out the area. But this time felt better. ‘I’m sorry,’ they both said. ‘How?’ Pete asked. ‘A car accident. I was eight; my sister was three. I don’t know how Mum kept going.’ ‘Some people are so strong,’ Jason said quietly, his eyes focused on the witches. I stared at my face in the bathroom mirror. My pupils were so big my eyes looked black. I had never seen them so big under fluorescent lights. My head wavered above my body like an oversized balloon, or maybe my body had shrunk. I looked like an emaciated, bobble-headed model. Jim had summoned us. It was time to go. But I couldn’t stop staring. Jason appeared behind me. ‘We have to go,’ he said. I nodded. I was tired but my eyes wouldn’t close. He came to me, put his hands around me, under my shirt. His fingers were warm on my back. He kissed me. He was so warm. My hands crept under his shirt. I wanted skin. There was a loud banging on the door. ‘Time to go,’ Jim called in a singsong voice.

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We stumbled down the mountain, following a dirt track that ran behind houses. Someone had put a shawl around my shoulders and the wool scratched against my chin. My teeth were chattering again. Had they ever stopped? Children paused in their games to watch us. I felt dirty, a zoological experiment allowed out into the community. Our taxi from the central square back to the hostel smelled like burnt sugar, and the driver’s teeth were almost black. The world was no longer tilting, but still my eyes wouldn’t shut. They were so dry I wanted to submerge my face in oil with my eyes open. We walked into the hostel and a crowd of people at reception parted, like we were prisoners being led to our deaths. Someone asked a question and Pete answered. He used too many words. ‘Food,’ Jason moaned beside me. We joined the line for dinner. It was spaghetti Bolognese, and it was the best food I had ever eaten. Eating made life seem normal again, but I didn’t feel normal. ‘We should all move here,’ Eleanor said once her plate was scraped clean. The swirls of leftover sauce weren’t pulsing, but I could imagine that they were.


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‘We should!’ Stuart said, grinning. ‘Make a pact, now,’ Pete demanded, holding his hand out. I never wanted to say goodbye to these people. We were a family. I wanted to grasp their hands, and sit, our fingers entwined, all night. I rested my hand on top of Pete’s, and felt the sinews of his knuckles. Jason put his on mine, and Eleanor and Stuart were on top. It was a meaty, bony sandwich. ‘We’ll sort it out and come back. We’ll live here, get pissed and high every night. Have the goddamn time of our lives, here. What do you say?’ We cheered, and threw our hands up high. The people at the tables around us stared. My eyes were becoming sticky, as though they had reached peak dryness and were coming back to normal via a strange, uncomfortable route. I closed them, and rested my palms over the top. It was dark, complete. I exhaled. When I opened them again, the brightness was painful. ‘Bed,’ Jason said, and just like that, we stood from the table and went our separate ways. I climbed into my bunk. It wasn’t even midnight, and the room pulsed with the noise of people preparing to go out for the night. I turned to the wall.

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My mind skipped over the day’s events, unable to hold onto anything, memories trickling like water. I clasped my hands over my ears, worried that they were the escape route for everything I wanted to remember. Something was happening. My chest was deflating. My skin was unbearably grimy, and my forehead stung with sunburn. I had told Pete and Jason about my father. A groan filled my lungs. They were strangers, and I had shared with them the crux of my life, the event all other events fell into line behind. I was exposed. Vulnerable. I may as well have been naked. I turned my face into my pillow and howled, the sound reverberating back into my throat until it ached. That morning, I had dreamed of being anyone. Instead I had shown more of myself than I could have imagined. I dreaded seeing them again, and seeing my exposure in their eyes. Perhaps at sunrise I could sneak away, like a fugitive. Loneliness ached in my chest. In the darkness, I imagined home, in my best friend’s room, talking about things that required no explanation because we just knew. Is this what San Pedro had shown me: that strangers can feel like best friends, but only fleetingly? Afterwards, there is this hollowness. You are more alone than ever. San Pedro tricked us into thinking we were an instant family, like macaroni cheese – just add water. The day had felt endless but it was only a matter of hours, and only time can create genuine intimacy. Time that sprawls over months and years and decades, with mutual knowledge growing thicker all the time like a scab of protective armour. I pulled my head away from the pillow, which had grown hot and damp beneath my mouth. I turned back to the room and the endless strangers flickered like a mirage. This time, I knew it wasn’t San Pedro. They were an illusion in my life, like I was in theirs. At eighty, I didn’t want to be alone, but that would mean giving my time now – for the next six decades – to people. The same people, over and over again, until our paths were so entwined that the ravages of time would do nothing to separate us. Perhaps I had asked San a question, after all.


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Four Hundred Then Four Hundred More Years Gerard Sarnat “I should sell my tongue and buy a thousand ears.” – Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), Muslim Sufi mystic “I sold my soul to Mephistopheles for a thousand years.” – Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus, 1616 “He should trade-in his Twitter account for thousands of tears.” – secular anti-Trumpocracy millennials, 2018                                          * riffing off Andrews, Travis M. 2018, Chicago Sun-Times sidelines film critic Richard Roeper for allegedly buying Twitter followers, The Washington Post, [https://wapo.st/2lb0YKP]


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Largin’ it in Later Life Paul Waring Nan and her mates bob off everywhere on Ryanair or Easyjet in designer gear and wouldn’t be seen dead in no-name trainers, have crap phones, pokey teles  or, God-forbid, grey hair.  Grandad prefers throwdowns with dance  floor bangers to Radio 2 any day. He gave  up chillaxing yonks ago – became a gym bunny  to buff his body. The Tesco checkout lady  thinks his sleeve tattoos are turtley amazzin’.  They go clubbing at weekends and get  rinsed, neck Prosecco, scoff takeaways  while Strictly or X-Factor are on. Nan says  she’s not got time to cook since they started  largin’ it. Mam and Dad think they’re off  their rockers, but what would they know?

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Girl at the Piano Ed Blundell After Duncan Grant 1885 to 1979 She sits stiffly in the parlour, Stilted, sombre, English parlour, Hair pulled tight in plaited pigtails, Back hard against the wooden chair, Practicing her Chopin passage, Melancholy, Polish music. Through the window, rustic landscapes, Trees, green fields and distant hills. Somewhere far away in Europe, Armies are marching, men at war. Here soft, gentle, falling cadences, Fingers fumbling across the keys.


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My Love, a Biologist David Tallach I wish I understood all the riches Of your mind, the way you pour forth on bees: So urgent in your soft and stripy top, Their lives so brief, from birth to final sting. We just two viewers on the microscope, A specimen slide hiving into view, My focus always on you, attraction A joyful contagion, a forest fire. Research the sweet science of your inside, Curling secrets high, profound as wheatsheaf, Would you join me in a perfect circle, Reimagine the world in your image? Consummation devoutly to be wished: XX to XY, harmonise the sky.


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Real Life Mirage Kimberly A. Cavanagh Beads of water Formed on my legs Like pearls Drops of water Slid down my curls And onto my reflection Curves, curls Silhouetted lines Of a woman I don’t even know The silhouetted girl Is beautiful! Curves, curls, lines Why can’t this art of me Be spotted in the mirror? Is that why art is so beautiful? The essence on canvas In art there is no imperfection Can we be trained to see More beautifully? Make love to the lines And curves in front of you Seeing what lies before you Touch the girl Who you think Doesn’t exist

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The Dreaming of the Cormorant Annie Maclean


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When my wings fan out, I turn to travel home like a missile. Locked. I’m smooth across my flight, scratching air and stretching over loam. My journey lasts the length of all a night. I’m steered by stars. I memorise their flame to reassess and readjust my height so route and rate will always stay the same. I wish that I could waken as a crow. I’d hide myself inside its darkest name and blackest robes. To hems and depths I’d go (even when I cross into the gloam). My reach is limitless. I’d know the ends and edges of the rims to roam when my wings fan out and I swerve to travel home.

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The Gardener Adrian Slonaker On weekends, the gardener thanked his comrades – the tomatoes, the strawberries, the corn, the cucumbers, the morning glories and the deep purple clematis for lowering his blood pressure and for letting him talk without cutting him off with transparent excuses the way his former acquaintances had, the way his wife had before she’d left for Albuquerque with their son. He and his botanical buddies inhabited their realm bounded by the strong, tall junipers he’d planted to keep out visions of ugly above-ground pools owned by equally ugly-sounding people, and he treated his garden with more attention and affection than some mothers would lavish upon their all-too-human children. He talked to them, sang to them, nourished them and watered them. Frosts and storms chilled and shook him more than they chilled and shook the plants, and at the end of each growing season, he mourned their loss by wearing black boots for a month, consoled only by the fact that he’d have new friends next year.


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Peasant Poet Mike Farren Not existing – not ever having existed – existing coterminous with my body and mind but in a different time – I invent a past realer than history – this ancestor – this peasant – just like any real ancestor might have been – knowing lore and rhythms of nature – heartbeat – seasons – moons and tides – peopling woods and fields with his own gods and mythology – coining rhymes and verses almost like my own but for our different times and sensibilities – no more or less a waster – never fathering a child that could have led to me – except through this one idea of an unknown peasant poet – unrecorded – illiterate – uneducated – hungry – shortlived – ineffectual – sublime.


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Nan Was my Nigella Paul Waring Player’s Weights ciggies perma-glued to smudged lipsticked lips Nan looked like Fanny Cradock not Nigella and never once cooked  with her coat on  after haring back from Harrods  in a Hackney cab  swinging a brace of guinea fowl.  But Nan conjured magic tricks on a duck egg blue cabinet worktop that lacked Chelsea chic  or state-of-the-art appliances and eyes were her scales in a Dagenham kitchen fifty years  before midnight chocolate cake  fridge raids and bolognese in bed  had even been invented.

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Young Zac and Old Horace James Bell It was broad daylight. Well, it was one of those grey days that nobody liked and had to be put up with. Horace had been to the local library to check his emails. Even with portable devices around such as smart phones that do everything, he still preferred not to own a computer. Maybe it was age. Now in his ninth decade, he belonged to an era where a radio was called a wireless and televisions were not TVs, still had valves and only a couple of channels to watch. He did have a modern TV and enjoyed how you could sit in your armchair and change channels with a remote control. He liked to watch old films best these days, for many brought back memories. The library, with its young smiling staff, gave a point to the day now. He sent poems to a poetry forum and had work commented upon. In the free hour allowed he might also surf the net, as he understood it was called. Recently a crowd of about twenty girls and boys had decided to rampage around the library shelves on Saturdays. Horace assumed they were at school during the week. It disturbed staff and other library users when large books were dropped on the floor to make a noise. They would run in and shout as loud as they could while dropping said books. Horace was not disturbed at all by this. He found it brightened his day to have a sudden old-fashioned happening all around him. It took him back to the days when Joan Littlewood arranged her happenings in various theatres and elsewhere. Saturdays were looked forward to. The young people were surprised at his charmed smile, as it was clearly not the effect they expected. It was their time for anarchy. They would work it out of their systems and then get on with their studies, and life in general. They all looked well cared for, dressed neatly and clearly well fed. Horace knew from his pinnacle of great age and experience that this anarchy could not be sustained. It did indeed peter out after a few weeks, to his regret, and after the powers that be became very worried at what was happening to the young people in the burgh. With silence these concerns bit the dust of non-presence of issue. To make sure he did not get in too much of a rut, Horace changed the route he walked to and from the library and even the time of day. One day, he decided to trot down an alley as a short cut. His slow feet sounded off the walls as he walked, and he took in the unsavoury smells of refuse bins – the big ones on


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wheels that all seemed to sprout like oversized metal bags of French fries – inedible though. Into this reverie entered a voice, a young one that was not quite yet through puberty. The voice echoed off the walls. ‘Hey you! You deaf or somefink?’ Horace turned slowly, the only way he could, to face the direction the voice came from. The voice had come from a black male youth of around fourteen years old. He held a knife pointed aggressively towards Horace. ‘Now, somefink, there’s an interesting word,’ said Horace. ‘I want your money! Or you’re dead!’ ‘That’s better, and much clearer.’ The boy did a little threatening dance where he bent forward and shifted the knife smoothly from hand to hand. ‘Money!’ ‘Makes the world go round,’ said Horace, unconcerned. ‘You want me to stab you?’ Horace considered the offer. ‘To what end?’ he finally asked. ‘The problem is that I’ve not had my pension yet this month. There might be about a fiver in change and one or two toffees, if you are desperate.’ The boy had begun to sweat and was visibly less aggressive looking. ‘Money,’ he demanded, but with much less conviction. ‘I am a Black Belt in Tai Chi, you know,’ said Horace, and took up a stance that might or might not have anything to do with a martial art. The boy paused, then laughed out loud and the knife was dropped to his side. ‘You’re a crazy old man.’ ‘Old, certainly. Crazy is a matter of opinion.’ The boy began to visibly relax and put the knife away. ‘What’s your name?’ asked Horace. ‘Zac.’ ‘Short for...?’ ‘Zachary.’ ‘Horace, pleased to meet you. I was called Horrible in days gone by.’ ‘Maybe you’re not such a crazy old guy.’ ‘Thank you.’ Horace found a fairly clean step outside a blank metal door and sat down. Zac joined him. ‘What’s a name like Horace about, then?’ asked Zac. ‘It used to be very popular, especially when people studied Latin, as there was a Roman poet called Horace. The Romans were great people and very warlike

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too. They had an empire but it didn’t really work out well in the end.’ ‘I guess that’s why you’re so old now,’ said Zac, with a logic only he understood. ‘I seem to recognise you from somewhere,’ said Horace. Zac looked at him. ‘I know, you were with the crowd that used to charge around the library.’ ‘We was makin’ a statement.’ ‘What about?’ ‘Dunno really.’ ‘At least you all got something off your chests. Libraries are useful places for all sorts of things these days. Grumpy librarian days seem to be over now, too.’ Zac sniggered. ‘What’s this big holdup stuff about then?’ asked Horace after a pause. ‘By the looks of it, that’s your mum’s kitchen knife.’ ‘Dunno really. Took the knife coz I wanted to be tough.’ ‘There are better ways of becoming tough than going to prison for stabbing an old man.’ ‘I wouldn’t want to stab you.’ ‘Now, that’s good to hear.’ Horace stood up again to stretch his legs and Zac followed suit. ‘This was supposed to be a short cut for me,’ said Horace. ‘Me too.’ ‘Well, must get on. Maybe be seeing you around, Zachary.’ ‘Yeah, sure to, Horace.’ They shook hands and walked off in separate directions. Horace meandered in his memories as he walked home. The last time he was faced with a knife was during World War Two, when he was a Commando on special ops. His machine gun had been emptied of bullets and a German soldier came at him. Horace’s training immediately came into operation and he disarmed and killed his enemy. Those were the days when he was called Horrible. He could still have disarmed Zac easily, but thought other methods were more appropriate in this case. He picked up speed a little as he remembered Casablanca starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman was on television that afternoon; he’d seen it when it first came out in 1942, sat in the cinema in uniform with a girl, also in uniform. She was an ambulance driver and he intended to marry her, but her ambulance was bombed the next night. She was a fine memory and the film always brought tears to his eyes.


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The Silent Observer Anthony Wade

The dishwasher stood agape, an accusatory mouth, a silent scream, not the cause of the family row that erupted with such cruel heat, merely the spill that sparked the blaze that engulfed everyone, deep wells unseen feeding ancient hurts of childhood, of parenthood, of family, threatening to consume the future beyond ash, until the net of love regenerated, the resentments again restrained.

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We Are Coming For Our Language Shirley Jones-Luke


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In the history of words suffragettes fighting for rights badges of honor queer an insult to some but a fortune to others who wish to tell it slant & mingle fact with fiction as they try to copyright our words we must reclaim our names This appropriation is unnecessary for the power of language has been distorted & used against us This is unacceptable our culture will not be tainted our words will not be appropriated we will veto this wrong an offensive sting a symbol of irrational actions now in play must be restricted by law singled out for the corruption that it is & present itself for intense scrutiny for our language is at stake

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I Promise Ed Blundell


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I will not become old, Grow anxious about travelling When the weather forecast worsens. I will not become pedantic, Insisting on “different from” Rather than “different to or than”. I will not repeat my stories, Swear summers used to be hotter, Argue with the television, Write angry letters to the press, Get set in my ways and grumble, Shaking my head when things are changed, Announcing that the world’s gone mad, And everything has gone to pot. Even though I know it has.

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The Newlyweds Adrian Slonaker They’re still technically newlyweds, having eloped in blue jeans at the county courthouse one-hundred sixty-six days ago, but when Tim and Susan slip into the full-size bed hogging three-fourths of their shabby efficiency on Sheridan, they mechanically deposit surf-hued spoonfuls of pistachio ice cream upon their tongues and silently screen Hoarders reruns on the ancient tube TV with the converter box. The fleeting fire has retreated, leaving a beige banality punctuated by platitudes and politeness, with her unburdening her thorniest thoughts to her mother while he suppresses his with a taciturn toughness of which Kipling would have approved.


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Walk in the Park Lynn White It was to be a long walk over untrodden ground, untrodden by me, that is. My town trilby would do as a sun hat to shield me from the heat. My boots would cope with any mud remaining from the past deluge and I had purchased a map and compass. Just through the park with the river running by and the children splashing about in the shallow water. Then across the field full of daisies and over the stile on to the fells. I could see some tiny figures of well practiced walkers already up there. Maybe


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I should have set out earlier. Maybe I should have worn my boots in for a little longer; they already felt like they were rubbing holes in my feet. And I was already overheating. Perhaps I should try again tomorrow. I would set out earlier. Perhaps I should abandon my plan and my boots and map and town hat and sit in that patch of shade and show those children how to make daisy chains. Yes, that’s a good idea!

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Three Avatars of the Unicorn Mike Farren “I’m sorry it wasn’t a unicorn. It would have been nice to have unicorns.” Tom Stoppard 1. The village is bypassed by history. Battles are fathomless, and kings are strange as gods, and none can prove the tattle-tale had only seen the horse – its rider dead – galloping from the butchery of the rout and maddened by the arrow in its head. 2. The mercenaries and merchants far from home long for their comfortable normality: house, family and field and clouded sky, the smooth-backed cattle, single-yielding corn, and horses that would sooner bear a horn than be this wrinkled, grey rhinoceros. 3. Bright children search their rationality to find the mythic beast that leaves no spoor, no hair from mane or tail, no dung, no scent: the nothing their analysis allows to awe, to superstition damned as lie; to wonder, and its gorgeous heraldry.


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Winter Chills Yasemin Balandi Flocculent snow I am under blanket My dreams a festoon Oh must I be awake? Why must I be awake? Laziness like honey Seeps through my veins I burn with envy For animals hibernated. Winter. Winter. Winter Chills in my aging bones Some days I long to be Young again But not often. Today I want to be young again: Winter chills unfazed, unblazed! Not longing to hibernate.  I close my eyes and drift into a haze. The harsh floor of my environs- the dark woods A diamond glaze White. White. White.  My pointy hat and my broom are under snow. Yet the chill of the winter is grey. Said the great witch Greta.


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Your Whole Black Mouth Shirley Jones-Luke

after Danez Smith

Your whole Black mouth is an O your whole Black scream is a tunnel of rampage your whole world is a hood within a hood your people may not be your people Your whole Black mouth begs to be heard. Your whole Black legacy is the aftermath of Mississippi burning Your whole family migrated from the South when it released its hostages descendants of Africa your family may not be your family Your whole Black mouth spits more lies than it has tasted truths Your whole Blackness is a concept created by criminals who came on the Mayflower seeking asylum your whole future was shaped by psychos your destiny does not end with an O Your whole Black mouth will speak its reality.

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Profile for Scrittura Literary Magazine

Scrittura Magazine, Issue 12, Summer 2018  

Welcome to the Summer issue of Scrittura Magazine (and what a whopper it is)! We absolutely love reading each and every submission that po...

Scrittura Magazine, Issue 12, Summer 2018  

Welcome to the Summer issue of Scrittura Magazine (and what a whopper it is)! We absolutely love reading each and every submission that po...

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