Three Drops from a Cauldron Issue 14 April 2017 Edited by Kate Garrett Poems copyright © 2017 Individual authors Issue copyright © Kate Garrett
Cover image is cropped from ‘Swetha’ by Christine Stoddard Image copyright © 2017 Christine Stoddard ‘Swetha’ is a still from an upcoming poetry film the artist is making through her studio, Quail Bell Press & Productions.
Three Drops from a Cauldron Issue 14 / April 2017 The Resurrection by Clifton Redmond Undine by Noel Williams Hex by Jennie Farley Belladonna by Alyson Faye Sleeping Beauty by Sarah James The God Who Hated Women by Elizabeth Power Not a Love Poem by Claire Walker Treating the Wolf by Bethany W Pope Churching a Cow at Mountbellew, Co. Galway by Peter J. King Auspices by Chris Hardy Last Things by John Gabriel Adkins Taigh na Gareach by Helen Harrison
The Resurrection Perhaps it was a mirage emerging from a smashed pool of sky mirror, rising up like a miracle from the russet belly of Bullinâ€™s Bay, dripping sunlight, ghost shadows of sail masts, weeds wrapped on wood like scant cloth, a vision of Calvary. Crowds gathered on the bank and cheered when they hauled out the pole and cross beam, blessed with the scent of myrrh and aloes. The rest of the Stonewall Jackson, must be sleeping with its secrets, safe in its coffin of muck and sand. There was no crown of thorns or weeping mother.
Undine Tossing Prada stilettos into a pool, gnurling her toes in sand moon-white, stripping Cardin and Janet Raeger, she strides to the night sea. It licks her heels. It wrestles her knees. It breathes at her breast. Her hair trawls stars in slick foils unfolding. She drinks the salt that swallows her, bare as a bird, her heart flickering, a fish.
Hex How did they work it, this dark magic, our forbears who painted cave walls, with mammoth, bison, speared for happy hunting, necromancers holding worded spells over flame, mumbling witches stirring a broth of herbs. Me, I took up my felt tipped pen, sketched her face on the back of my note book, coloured it in to look like Warholâ€™s portrait of Marilyn, my fingers poised with the tip of a sharp rusty pin.
Belladonna The children danced around the towering maypole, wrapping the brightly coloured ribbons in the time honoured routines they had been taught, creating fluid rainbows while they sang and laughed. Each child wore a fragrant hand woven garland (daisies for innocence). Each child shook a tin rattle packed with their baby teeth. The air was filled with the scents of burning herbs. Rosemary for remembrance; thyme for courage. It was an apparently joyous scene watched by the whole village. The congregation cheered and clapped except for Missy, who was white faced and taut lipped standing on the edges of the group, set apart by her grief for her lost girl. The villagers shunned her, afraid to show sympathy. Their pastor forbade open displays of mourning. He instructed his Flock to express only joy at the dying of one year and the birth of another. The lost ones he instructed them, were part of the price to be paid for the Flock’s well being. There were, thought Missy, so many who were lost - to the plague which had decimated their village population; to the night demons who stole their animals under cover of darkness; to the forests where poisonous flora flourished. This was before you added in the ones nominated by the Pastor’s cursed ballot box. She knew the elders gossiped at dusk around their hearths – of how to overthrow the Pastor, but no man it seemed would dare to stand against him. A tiny child, skinny as a sparrow, clinging to her mother’s roughly woven skirts, peeked out. Wide eyed, innocent and ignorant. Her eyes are such a wondrous colour, thought Missy. Geranium blue. Though she likely will not survive the next three years. Young girls were frequently the chosen. The boys, less so. Missy suspected this was because they were needed to trap food, fight and labour. The Pastor’s splendid dwelling had taken months of the men’s toil. Missy listened, head bowed, while the Pastor emoted, spitting liberally as he thumped his fist on the table. He declared the dead girl’s great sacrifice had been for the good of the Flock. His words were spiky thorns ripping into her chest. Her thoughts lay with her dead daughter who had been no more than eight harvests old when the Collectors arrived, bringing their
hated nets and ropes. It had been like capturing a wild bird and breaking its wings. Missy’s scrawny, blue veined hand clutched at the freshly torn sprigs in her apron pocket. She had gathered them from the forest’s mulchy guts the previous night. It was forbidden to do so but she was beyond caring. Sweet lush Belladonna; in honour of her lost girl. The pastor finished with his usual blessing. It was time to curtsey and depart. Time to prepare. Her neighbours shuffled past her, caps in hand, eyes averted. Too afraid to speak. She had to free the village, let them be reborn again. Bring an end to the ballot box for the lost. Only the child with the geranium eyes stared openly at her. Missy boldly pointed to her apron pocket then slashed her throat with her forefinger. Wide eyed the child scurried away. In her cottage she baked bread for the Pastor’s supper as was the custom and fashioned the garland with her daughter’s ribbons and hair. This would be laid in the Pastor’s hearth. Her tears fell freely as she did this. They fell into the herbal drink she brewed to the time honoured recipe. When the torches were lit outside Missy gathered up her basket of goodies and traversed the path to the Pastor’s splendid abode where he lived alone. He was the only villager with that privilege. Families of up to thirteen or more, often crowded together into one small dwelling. So when plague descended whole families expired in a few nights. Missy had noticed this pattern and had pressed the elders to build more homes. The Pastor had vetoed this. As he did all change. Birth and death he intoned, were part of the natural cycle of life. Missy knocked, waited and then entered, curtseying. A fire burned in the hearth, the floor was freshly swept and the air smelt of rosemary. She swung her basket up clumsily onto the table as it bounced against her swollen belly. ‘Welcome my child.’ The Pastor rose from the fireside chair. ‘Come here.’ Missy tolerated his hand stroking her stomach and touching her face in a blessing. She felt the baby within turn and kick. ‘Soon now, Missy,’ The Pastor smiled. ‘You will be a mother again. As I promised you. You will no longer heed the one you lost.’ Missy closed her eyes and thought of her midnight foraging trip to the forest. Hate bubbled up in her but she pressed it down. She smiled instead
as a dutiful Follower. In the corner of the room she espied the wooden ballot box with its pile of stacked counters. The Pastor sat at the table and bent his head in prayer. Missy did the same. Then she began to lay out the bowls and bread in the required order. The jug with the herbal drink she placed at his right elbow. ‘My beautiful Missy you have done all that is required.’ The Pastor gazed at her belly while he took a generous swig. * The whole village turned out for the crowning of the Spring Queen. There was abundant ale drinking, dancing galore, while the ballot box burned superbly and a lamb was slaughtered for food and cooked over the coals. Missy cradled her new born daughter close to her chest in the woven sling. ‘How is Bella this fine day?’ asked her neighbour Mistress Lively. ‘Flourishing. Thank ye.’ Missy laughed. The girl with geranium eyes, a skinny scrap, snuggled up and put her hand in Missy’s apron. Pulling out sweet treats, the girl did not eat them, but hesitating, dropped them to the mud.
Sleeping Beauty Longer than we know, we’ve known her: dew glint in crash-site brambles, the song from a shaken hedgerow, wind-blown grief. Read the headlines/google/twitter, real haunted beauty trapped beneath tragedy, heartbreak, loss… Her first lover’s body hung with tree shadows for three weeks before it was found. Red leaves fluttered around like moths, then dripped to the hard ground. Flies clung in a black veil of snapped question marks. No note, no text, nothing. Unspoken words pool like spindled blood when she hears. She tastes slugs on her lips, worm fingers on her neck, a sharp nettle-sting. Her song’s still warm when the next call comes: a heart attack all her new lover’s friend will say. She imagines ribs tightening, chest strained, stabs of pain; ebbing away. She closes her eyes, thickets her veins with a hundred years’ weight. Mould layers her face, dust thickens to a skin. Time creeps. Ivy leaves weave their green hearts against snow; sun loosens her bindweed throat. She wills her unpicked eyes to stay closed,
but tears spill on the morningsâ€™ red berries. Mist clouds the hedgerows like a kiss of warm breath, waking again to the chill of how this keeps happening and how the world keeps spinning.
The God Who Hated Women This poem is dedicated to Dame Alice Kyteler of Kilkenny, accused of being a witch in 1324, and the burning of her servant Petronella de Meath. This was the first actual witch burning in the known world. I listen to Bog Story where stones pulsate and time is measured by the slow growth of fur on rocks. Bog women with feet damp guard the old, untouched. It is here the Madam Moragan walks. There is no ground to break in bog. No woman then went to well to touch the water measured Christian. Those who begged a pagan help, knew more mystery in clear water than told by any holy bell, or that decanted in any holy well. The holy cross marked women once owned proud space amid the trumpet shout of growth when growing was women’s work and man’s was breaking ground. There was a time when men knew what to do with women. I swallow tears at the memory of reverence. There were blood rites and crimson tapestry on cave walls. We reigned in our womb world. And only women knew its mystery. It’s a long time since we laughed and sang and water rushed over bleeding, birthing women. Before they came to spill our blood, they robbed us of the Rite of Life they scoured our depths – tore down
the iron rich curtain of our wombs shamed and damned our flow to eternity. At High Cross Cong, when they weren’t burning witches, the priests prayed with voices sweet and polished, they pledged allegiance to the great protector of men – the God who hated women. They held us in chains in dank churches –underground. I was cold – freezing. Outlight – the bells proclaimed their hideous peals of power about my head. They took away a world I loved, the gentle worship of the divine. Her trees, her bird song, The Green, richer and more powerful than they knew what to do with – they made god male so we could worship man. I watched some women turn and run, give in, give up, accede to supremacy. It pained my head to hear their lies. It pains me now to think of it. Picture this – the best, the ripest of knowledge gone underground . It hailed the day they came to kill. Holocaust, the cost of holy too high to pay. My legs dissolved, tar charred my lungs, flames crept about my head I had a thirst and the horror of my final moment – they stood and blessed me with their water even as I burnt.
Not a Love Poem At first glance, he is nothing but a shadow obscuring flowers, an outline of a shape her blue eyes donâ€™t recognise. She sticks to the path, as her mother has taught, no thought for the heart in her chest, or his. Love, that plaything her mother shields her from. When he stumbles a greeting, hoarse in his throat, she thinks nothing of a smile, a hello from her upturned mouth. She carries on her way, sticks to the path. His pointed grin grazing just inside her vision.
Treating the Wolf 1 Fenrir was a puppy, growing quickly; a child of Loki with Loki’s endless appetite. At first, the gods befriended him, despite the prophecy which foretold that his razor-rimmed jaws would gulp down all the worlds. But fear grows in the hearts of gods, even as it flourishes in the bones of men. In the guise of a game, they bound the wolf. Head and paws they tied him fast with ropes spelled to be unbreakable. They sank their canine kinsman into the black sea where he would wait out centuries with rage fermenting in his guts, and a hunger growing to taste the tender flesh of gods.
2 There was a wolf which hunted the fields near Gubbio. Its appetite grew larger every day, until nothing, man or beast, could count itself safe. No sword or spear pierced that rough hide. No wall could halt its passage. In desperation, the villagers called for the aid of a man who would become a saint. Guileless, Francis came, carrying only his words. He left the warriors trembling behind useless, steel-slatted gates. The fearsome wolf came running when Francis called. He was eager, but not gentle. Red flesh was perfume in his nostrils. Francis smiled at the sight of those teeth. He held out his work-hard hand. ‘Wolf,’ he said, ‘You have been very wicked. The villagers would like to string you up by the neck, but I know a way which will be better for all of you.
If you agree to stop hunting, if you consent to be fed and become a help, protecting the people from peril, then God will refrain from striking you dead.â€™ The wolf cocked his vast head to the left, like a spaniel, and placed his paw into the waiting hand of the man. He grew to be loved, but no less fearsome; his blade was placed into a shaft, so that it no longer cut mankind to the red heart of the bone. Such is the solution to all of our fears.
Bethany W Pope
Churching a Cow at Mountbellew, Co. Galway *
The sounds of birth still booming through the barn, calf licked and nudged, unsteady on new legs, they took the mother – not too far, the newborn yet in sight – and round her tail tied scarlet cloth, to keep away the clúrachán.** Water from the church’s stoup was sprinkled on her back, while someone fetched a candle from the priest; Bridget lit it, she and Ben then passed the light, beneath, around, above the beast in blessing.
Peter J. King
*From an account told to Mary Burke of Eskerroe by her father in 1938, in The Schools’ Collection, Volume 77, p.525 **The clúrachán, or cluricaune, is a solitary sprite, like a leprechaun but lazy.
Auspices Athene Noctua We felt we were being watched and turning saw an owl poised on a rock at midday still and intent. There were grasshoppers on the hill behind the beach and damselflies flickering along the waterâ€™s edge but for the moment the small bird considered whether we could remain. She drew everything to her, even the sea stopped moving then she was gone as if sheâ€™d not been there. The crickets and the sea were allowed to sing again and the place was an ounce lighter now its soul had left.
Last Things The trees were punchy from the soot. Since she’d appeared, all four-hundred of the Four Hundred Boys had churned to glimpse the girl in the orangecolored dress. Except that she was hard to see, only spotted ambiguously, corner-of-the-eye in her home’s windows. These Four Hundred Boys climbed ladders and peeked through keyholes, desperating at late hours, ignoring chores. Untended animals ran away to live in the forest. And the old lady no one needed said, “This world is guttering out.” The boys didn’t dare go inside: everyone knew that no one knew what happened to those who went inside, after brave Bobby, boy four-hundred-andone, had disappeared. One by one, untended plants started running away to live in the forest. And the Four Hundred Boys dogpiled into writhing hills around her home for a glimpse, just thrashing around. And sometimes the old lady no one needed would have a few drinks too many. Sometimes the smokestacks would belch a black payload into every living human’s lungs. And the Four Hundred Boys would crash against the home in waves; sometimes in tsunamis. But the boys never got what they wanted, no glimpse of the girl in the orangecolored dress. The most dedicated grew bored and disillusioned, just miserable, until all of their hundreds drained away back to their beds. Very little was left. The old lady no one needed begged the boys to join her escape into the forest: even the rocks were coming along, it seemed. The Four Hundred Boys didn’t hear. The Four Hundred Boys disappeared that night. And the last rock to leave would later recount a strange sound that had swished in the sooty desolate blackness of the last night: the sound of orange-colored pleats.
John Gabriel Adkins
Taigh na Gareach Many ‘Murphy’s’ in the area... So nick- names slipped off the tongue; His suited a way of believing in Fairies where he fished off the rock At Lough Currane. ‘Taigh na gareach’, ‘Tag of the Fairies’. Not one could convince him to change His belief in ‘magic & luck’, Not even his brother ‘Cod Murphy’, So where he fished off a rock in The mountains, the name ‘Taigh na gareach’ stuck...
Biographical Notes Cover artist Christine Stoddard is a Salvadoran-Scottish-American writer and artist who lives in Brooklyn. Her visuals have appeared in the New York Transit Museum, the Ground Zero Hurricane Katrina Museum, the Poe Museum, the Queens Museum, the Condé Nast Building, George Washington University's Gallery 102, and beyond. In 2014, Folio Magazine named her one of the top 20 media visionaries in their 20s for founding the culture magazine, Quail Bell. Christine's artwork has been recognized by the Puffin Foundation, Artbridge, and the Library of Virginia. Writers Clifton Redmond is an Irish poet, a member of The Carlow Writer's Cooperative. He has had poems published in various literary journals both in Ireland and Internationally. Noel Williams is co-editor of Antiphon (antiphon.org.uk) and associate editor of Orbis. He mentors other writers, reviews for magazines such as The North and Envoi and was Resident Poet at Bank Street Arts Centre in Sheffield, his home town. He publishes internationally and has won a few prizes. His PhD was on the word “fairy” in lore and literature. Cinnamon Press published his collection Out of Breath in 2014. Website: noelwilliams.wordpress.com Jennie Farley is a published poet, workshop leader and teacher. Her poetry has featured in many magazines including New Welsh Review, Under the Radar, The Interpreter’s House, Prole. Her latest collection My Grandmother Skating is published by Indigo Dreams Publishing 2016. Jennie founded and runs NewBohemians@CharltonKings providing regular events of poetry, performance and music at deepspaceworks art centre. She lives in Cheltenham. Alyson Faye trained originally in the UK as a teacher/tutor. She wrote a couple of children's books which were published by Collins and Ginn. Now she lives near Bronte terrain in Yorkshire with her teen son, partner and 3 rescue cats. She writes noir flash fiction, which has appeared on websites like Tubeflash, iron soap, zeroflash, ether books, the violet hour and in anthologies and as
podcasts. She enjoys old movies, singing and swimming. She is a confirmed chocoholic and is still hopeless at maths. Her blog is at www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com. Sarah James is a poet, short fiction writer, journalist and photographer. Her latest collections are plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press) and the Overton Poetry Prize winning sequence Lampshade & Glass Rivers (Loughborough University). A short novella, Kaleidsocope, is published by Mantle Lane Press later this year. Her website is at www.sarah-james.co.uk and she is editor at V. Press, poetry and flash imprint. Elizabeth Power is a writer from East Cork, now based in Galway, Ireland. She has an Honours degree in Social & Economics Studies (Women’s Studies) (1996) and an MA in Writing (2007). Her short fiction has won and been placed in numerous literary awards. She is published in The Moth Magazine, The Galway Review, Crannog, and Skylight 47, and the anthology, Noir by Noir West (Arlen, 2014). She has been a practising shaman for over 20 years. See www.elizabethpowerwriter.com Claire Walker’s poetry has appeared in magazines and on websites including The Interpreter’s House, Ink Sweat and Tears, Prole, And Other Poems, Clear Poetry and Amaryllis, and in anthologies such as The Chronicles of Eve (Paper Swans Press) and Lughnasadh 2015 (Three Drops from a Cauldron). She is coeditor of the webzine Atrium Poetry, and her first pamphlet, The Girl Who Grew Into a Crocodile, is published by V. Press. Bethany W Pope is an award-winning writer. She received her PhD from Aberystwyth University’s Creative Writing program, and her MA from the University of Wales Trinity St David. She has published several collections of poetry: A Radiance (Cultured Llama, 2012), Crown of Thorns (Oneiros Books, 2013), The Gospel of Flies (Writing Knights Press 2014), and Undisturbed Circles (Lapwing, 2014). Her collection The Rag and Boneyard was published this year by Indigo Dreams and her chapbook Among The White Roots was released by Three Drops Press last autumn. Her next collection, Silage, shall be released by Indigo Dreams this year. Her first novel, Masque, was published by Seren last June. Peter J. King (b. Boston, Lincolnshire) was active on the London poetry scene in the 1970s, running tapocketa press, and co-founding words worth magazine with Alaric Sumner. In 1980 he took up philosophy, and is now lecturer at Pembroke College and St Edmund Hall, Oxford. Returning intermittently to
poetry, including translation from modern Greek and German, he began seriously writing, publishing, and performing again in 2013. His latest collection is Adding Colours to the Chameleon (2016, Wisdom’s Bottom Press), and his next will be All What Larkin, due from Albion Beatnik Press in 2017. Chris Hardy has lived in Asia and Africa and now lives in London. His poems have been widely published and have won prizes. His fourth collection will be published in 2017. He is in LiTTLe MACHiNe (www.little-machine.com), performing settings of poetry at literary events around the UK and abroad. Currently touring with Roger McGough, they’ve just made an album with him. (The most brilliant music and poetry band in the world. – Carol Ann Duffy) John Gabriel Adkins is a Pushcart-nominated writer of microfiction, antistories and other oddities, and is a member of the Still Eating Oranges arts collective. This year his work has appeared (or is forthcoming) in Literary Orphans, SPANK the CARP, Five 2 One, Sick Lit Magazine, The Bitchin' Kitsch, The Sleep Aquarium and more. Helen Harrison was raised on the Wirral, seven miles from Liverpool, by Irish parents, and has lived most of her adult life in Co Monaghan, Ireland, where she is married with a grown-up daughter. She enjoys travelling, and reading poetry at various venues. Helen has had poems published in Live Encounters Poetry, The Poetry Shed, A New Ulster, Poethead blog, North West Words, Mad Swirl, Algebra of Owls, Tintean, the Galway Review, Bray Journal and Stanzas. Her first collection of poetry ‘The Last Fire’ was published during 2015 by Lapwing. Some of Helen’s poems can be found here: poetry4on.blogspot.ie
Previous Publication Credits ‘Undine’ by Noel Williams was first published in Champion Poems #1, SPM publications. A much earlier version of ‘Last Things’ by John Gabriel Adkins first appeared in Apocrypha & Abstractions.
Welcome to our April issue! This month's poetry and flash fiction are brought to you by the darker sides of Sleeping Beauty and Little Red R...