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Three Drops from a Cauldron

H Midwinter 2015 Part Two 17 December

H


Three Drops from a Cauldron Midwinter Special 2015 Part Two 17 December 2015

H Edited by Kate Garrett

www.threedropspoetry.co.uk

H Three Drops Press Sheffield, England


Editor’s Note

7

The Lady of Winter

8

The Bird and I

9

Threads of Fate

10

Not haunted

11

Snow Day

12

The Errand

13

Holly

14

Snow Prayer

15

Midwinter Apparition

16

Medieval Magic

17

Solstice

18

The Larch

19

Sweet Dreams

20

Santa is

22

Wood Gods

23

The Year of Blue Snow

24

Kaitak in winter

25

Spike

26

A Christmas Story – For the Children

27

Saint Lucy’s night

28

Practical Magic

29

Legacy

31

The Snow as it Leaves

32


Towards a White Wedding

33

Too Much of a Good Thing

35

Boxing Day

36

Who Saved the Hoodie Girl

37

The Edge of the New Year

38

January

39

Writers

42

Previous Publication Credits

46


Editor’s Note Welcome to part two of our Midwinter e-issue! Thanks as always to everyone who submitted, the writers in this edition, and of course, to anyone taking the time to read our humble publication. Enjoy the poems and flash fictions – wishing you all warmth, happiness, and peace this winter. Kate Garrett Sheffield December 2015

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The Lady of Winter Many weeks had passed since The Lady of Winter had donned Her season’s mantle in order to rule over the earth whilst Her sister, The Lady of Summer, slept. It was time to celebrate the midpoint of Her reign, the Festival of Midwinter, marking the moment when day was no more than a short break between nights. People had come from far and wide to witness The Lady of Winter in all Her finery and to celebrate with Her this time of darkness... not because they liked the dark or enjoyed the cold, though some did revel in the season. No, most turned up wearing sprigs of holly or mistletoe because they knew that come morning, the dark would begin to wane as the spark of light that was the day would slowly start to grow. The Lady of Winter held court outside beneath a cold, clear winter sky. Sculptures of ice and garlands of greenery filled Her roofless hall and in the firelight Her domain sparkled and shimmered. As the people gathered, they looked upon The Lady in awe as She sat upon Her throne of yew, carved into which were the symbols of Her season: snowflakes, icicles and bare tree branches. Her cloak was made of delicately spun spiders web, which when exposed to the elements, became frost-encrusted and sparkled like jewels in the harsh winter sun and cold light of the moon. Upon Her head sat a crown of green holly leaves, decorated with berries the colour of blood, tiny pine cones and sprays of mistletoe. Earrings of ice hung from Her ears like stalactites and at Her throat sat Winter’s Star, a gemstone that glimmered iridescently, as if a rainbow had been caught and frozen within. As celestial silver light from the moon and a multitude of stars lit up the sky overhead, some of the wiser people from amongst the crowd considered the difficulties of Her reign. Although She could appear a hard and cruel Lady, She did what was best for the good of the land. After half a year of toiling in the light, She made the people, as well as the earth itself, rest in the dark, so that when the wheel again turned, and Her sister stirred from slumber, the world would be ready to begin anew. In silence, those present watched the sun set. Once the dark had descended and She had the attention of all, The Lady rose to address the gathering. ‘Welcome everyone to the Festival of Midwinter. I am The Lady of Winter, and my gifts to the world are rest, reflection, rejuvenation and rebirth.’ With that, the people rejoiced and celebrated long into the night in order to witness the dawn and the strengthening sun. Sammi Cox

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The Bird and I What’s to be done with me when I grow stiff in death? Shall I go with incineration, burial, or deep freeze, and in what condition will I be for any of those scenarios — organs gone, donated to the desperately ill, other parts parceled off to some research laboratory? I’ll have to pass on cryonics, as dying whole is essential for that. Besides, who’d thaw me, and when? Since none of this can be foretold, and buried six feet under remains a rotten prospect, cremation is the terminus ad quem I hereby select for when, intact (or not), my corpse is stone cold. Further, I direct that my ashes not be stashed God only knows where. Instead, please toss me into a good stiff breeze — that is, after a generous sprinkle is reserved for the stuffing of the Christmas Turkey. Ruth Sabath Rosenthal

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Threads of Fate After the stellar lights arched around Polaris – I visioned an antlered dog sniffing Across the black Stones edge. Sliding around Gray, stripped icebergs. The hound strained, The staff of wood, basket shape in the top, Was gripped in his jaw. The earth Groaned. Winds stung, Sung a haunting Water spirit song. This hound found the crone Buried in ice. He remembered her Touch, Hands spinning silken thread. I learned To weave a shawl of navy blue and white Long ago in steady rhythm, Back and forth. The Mosaic goddess said She had chanted: The death of the gods, A world under water, And the world resurfacing fertile and new. Back and forth. Humanity denied her mirrored truth. They attempted to stop time, Even death. Their story carved in runes On her silver amulet chair Made of stump. The crone glanced up to see lights of viridian Like agates shape-shifted made of stars. Revealed the silhouette of her antlered dog. Cindy Rinne

10


Not haunted The night was quiet. I did not dream of you, although I sat up late in your old room to read the Penguin Book of Ghost Stories, two pillows propped behind me in your bed. Nothing was manifested while I slept: the great organ playing in the hall, a tapping at the window, or the door thrown open with a thunderous eclat for some awful announcement. None of that. Outside the stars, undisturbed by comets, went through their slow gymnastics and the frost sizzled coldly in the suffering trees. David Callin

11


Snow Day Ink dark hush. Sliver of silver pierces, eerily bright. Unnaturally silent – promising. Whispers of breath condense briefly: ghosts vanishing in darkness. Soles flinch at draughty boards, stomach tight, curtains pooling darkly under the weight of expectation… Drapes slide silently, frigid air presses in: Jack Frost stealing breath, prickling skin. Soft silver glow suffuses silently, seductive. Unseen. Occluded glass glimmers, overgrown with fragile ferns, fronds, tendrils, scattered stars illuminated by moon’s refracted glow – a crystalline garden, fleeting world. A finger licked and pressed melts a porthole: eye to glass – keyhole peephole – shimmering white waves roll away. Delight erupts, fizzing, bubbling... Swallow sound. Lock it down. Embrace joy silently. Slip back into feathered nest, watch sky leach ink to turquoise, fade to palest lemon. Comatose comma shifts and sighs beside me – first cry of joy belongs to them. No hurry: stolen day; infinite promise. A.B. Cooper

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The Errand It was so good to get out of that stifling cottage. “I’ll go” I said quickly. “Let me go.” She was relieved, I could see that. She hates snow, but I love it. She’s afraid she’ll slip and fall over but I run and jump and slide and never fall. She gave me a basket and covered it with a pretty checked cloth. “Give her my love” she said as I opened the door. “And make sure you come home before it gets dark. I don’t like you being in the forest at night, it’s not safe.” But I did like the forest, both in the day and at night. Perhaps especially at night and especially when it had snowed. I loved the silence and the black shapes of the trees against the snow, and I liked seeing the way my red cape swirled in the breeze among the shadows. My new black bar strap shoes crunched on the ice. I knew I should have stayed on the path, but it was so beautiful among the trees with mounds of snow weighing down the branches. Like a picture, a painting, and I was in it. And then I saw him in a clearing, grey and black fur startling against the pewter sky. I put the basket of food down so that I could look at him, and he looked at me. He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and as I walked towards him I could see the silvery-white fur of his chest and belly, and the halo of darker fur around his head and ears. I watched the exquisite black and grey dapple of his long nose. I watched him and I knew him and I loved him. Get home before dark? There, in that clearing, I was already home. Marilyn Finlay

13


Holly Holly said: Hope and Wait and see. A red berried mantle celebrates me. Holly said: Hope and Wait and see. Under white winter grows the green tree. Holly said: Hope and Wait and see. In my spiked heart the bird sings free. Holly said: Hope and Wait and see. Come, gentle. Enter. Rest in me. Linda Goulden

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Snow Prayer after an episode of Niagara emotions when domestic silence is deafening and your hands heavy with it your ears crave a tick of a clock or the ring of a phone – you look past the faded furniture through net curtains to the bay window where you used to sit as a child to read Jane Eyre whilst the other children snowballed and sledged and laughed at elbow and shin bruises a testament to their bravery you look outside to white-washed skies the flurries of snow tickling the window pane a quilt is feathering the gardens and gates into unity of a different quiet your feet float you to the front door the handle opens before you know it you stand on your doorstep on the threshold between worlds your lips whisper a prayer to the Snow Queen who understands your heart better than anyone you lift your face to the infinity of soft-ice stars falling from a cotton-wool blanket your mouth falls open one snowflake falls on your tongue – an answer Bethany Rivers

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Midwinter Apparition The frozen parking lot glistens like a mirror. I’m sitting with friends looking out the window at Charley’s Grilled Subs. A young girl with fringed jacket and black knit stockings traverses the silky surface like a stunning winter fairy on a glazed pond. A blue-white patterned scarf drapes her neck and matches her skirt. I’m numb as if tapped by a magic wand. She strolls nimbly in heeled boots across the ice to her red Nissan. Are you as smitten as me? I ask my friends. They say there was no girl, no red Nissan. Dennis Trujillo

16


Medieval Magic Scrying away the Witching Hour with a mirror black as pitch, weaving Technicolor thoughts, requests and invocations through a focused visioned tunnel of the minds third eye. To step beyond the borderlines, to look around that corner, rune stone tongue and rabbit foot, visual and audio hallucination. To traverse where feet cannot, to feel where fingers become blind, experience is a priceless silver coin from the water’s edge of a palpitating knowledge. Moths of sage to shawl delight, fire blanket access and exit. A mental rush and travelling vibrations to that Question Mark? for another golden oak ring to adorn your inner knot of learning. Paul Tristram

17


Solstice And now, the year turns. Short dark days close as Earth’s circle allows the hope of light to kindle fresh beginnings; and the weight of midwinter lifts. The still air chills all life, we are as numb leaves frozen in ice, suspended between the end and the suggestion of silent creation. All is poised in soundless waiting, no breath moves the bitter shadow. But soft, listen, hush, shhshh ... And now, the year turns, trembling shivers of breeze loosen the endless shroud of cold mist. The sleeping spirit quivers as hard earth is roused; and slow sap stirs and yawns. A ray of fragile sun, and now, the year turns. Hope is held in pale dawn, as the first light creeps under nature’s unmoving skin. Warmth touches the moment, and now, we can allow the seed of expectation to encourage the rotation of life to begin. Jackie Biggs

18


The Larch It was in autumn that the blue-green conifer, the Larch, who lived at the edge of the pine forest, felt the stab of envy most keenly. In spring and summer she was jealous enough of her deciduous cousins’ lime-coloured leaves and confetti blossom, but it was in autumn when their leaves turned red, orange, yellow and then fell to leave great swathes of gold on the forest floor that she most ardently wished to be like them. Oh how she longed to be rid of her awful, drab needles. True, they kept her warm throughout the winter, but she would bear the cold, and gladly, if only she could have a little of her cousins’ colours. Her elders, the mighty conifers of the pine forest, scolded the Larch; for what was the use of yearning to be something other? A tree had to accept what it was and, besides, there was beauty in her needles which were the colour of sea thistles. But the Larch, who was little more than a sapling, heard nothing of wisdom in their words. So on the first bitter day of winter, when Jack frost came a-calling, she begged him for a little magic. ‘You wish to become like your cousins? Although they stand about us with shivering limbs and naked trunks?’ The Larch said yes. ‘Very well. I shall do my best.’ And so it was that Jack Frost, who knew little of the magic of spring and summer and autumn, cast a spell of crystalline finery over the Larch; soon her blue-green needles were rimed with a frost so thick that each one of them was loosed and they fell from her branches. ‘Oh!’ said the Larch, as she understood what it was to be truly cold and exposed to the winds. ‘What have I done!’ And she wept, even as she consoled herself with the thought that come spring she would be covered in a finery of blossom and sap-green leaves. When her elders saw what had happened they wept too; and that winter was, indeed, bitter. Come spring, the Larch was full of hope and looking forward to her new apparel but, alas, no bud unfurled, no blossom appeared. And worst of all, there were no round, flat leaves. Instead, her blue-green needles grew back. Her elders were overjoyed by this but the Larch could not share in their joy. ‘I didn’t want this, though!’ she wailed. ‘Well, what did you want?’ asked a passing beetle. ‘I wanted to look like my cousins; to be something other than myself.’ ‘Tsk!’ said the beetle. ‘Age will soon relieve you of such longings. And in the meantime, you will have to content yourself with being unique. A deciduous conifer – and such a beautiful one too – I mean, whoever heard of such a thing? Yes, you are singular, indeed.’ And he scurried off to leave the Larch reflecting on the novel idea that uniqueness could, perhaps, have its charms. Marija Smits 19


Sweet Dreams What’s that smell? What, the gingerbread? It always smells like gingerbread. Have you not noticed what the walls are made of? Don’t be sarcastic, Hank. Spices. Can’t you smell spices or have you got so fat your nose is too blocked to smell? Ha ha, you're such a comedian, Gretchen. If I weren’t in this cage, I’d bow down. Maybe I’d even give you a slice of my pie. But I am and I won’t. Pie! That’s it! Mince pies! The siblings inhaled deeply, filling themselves with cloves and cinnamon, hope and despair. Oh, crumbs. That means it’s nearly Christmas. We’ve been here for months. I can’t believe it. This is ridiculous. Hey, I just had a thought. Not another one. You just had one yesterday. Who do you think you are, Einstein? Fine. I won’t tell you. Gretchen returned to sweeping the floor, half turned away from Hank. Hank watched her from behind the bars.He jiggled his leg to distract himself. Okay, tell me. I know you want to. Gretchen stopped sweeping and moved closer to her brother. She whispered loudly, even though she didn't need to. I think you’re going to be Christmas dinner. What? Before Hank could process this idea and, as always with his sister’s ideas, reject it, there was a bang on the door. Not a bang like a knock, the way the children had been taught when they’d gone to visit their stepmother before she was their stepmother, but a bang like an axe slicing a very old, very hard, boiled sweet. Father! the children shouted, in unison for once. Hank! Gretchen! the axe man said, running towards them. Where have you been? What took you so long? Well, he said, chopping the lock off the cage and pushing the children out of the confectionery house and into the snow. The witch was just emerging from the outhouse behind a tree, wiping her hands on her skirt. It’s a long story. Lots of paperwork. Then I had to wait for ages for the council to process my form. And traffic was terrible on the way up here. Some old fat guy with a load of reindeer and a sleigh kept stopping and starting. Ever tried to drive through reindeer droppings? Sounds like you’ve got an axe to grind. Where's Stepmama? Dead. Attacked by a wolf on her way to her grandmama’s. In her best red poncho too. It was terrible, just terrible. I’m sorry, kids. It’s going to be a sad Christmas. Gretchen looked at Hank and Hank looked at Gretchen, pausing just outside the carriage. The witch tripped over her robe, the one Gretchen never got 'round to shortening, as she chased after them. She landed in a snowdrift, the top of her hat pointing upwards. The children smiled, their teeth black from too much sugar and a lack of dental hygiene. 20


Merry Christmas, Hank. It certainly is. None of them saw the wolf coming. C.I. Selkirk

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Santa is Santa is Santa is not Your Dad Yet perhaps Santa is Your Dad's body Santa is holidays Are coming Santa is Not going to pay Your dentist Santa is future tears Santa is the Elf Queen's lover His semen glitters Like Edward Cullen Produces a litter that Chop the trees Light the furnace Make the toys that bring such joys And then die in the Spring Santa is A man with a very poor diet Sherry and brandy and mincemeat in pies On the bedroom floor unconscious he lies And he's not coming back Santa is The bridge between Innocence and Stupidity You regret both You miss Both Santa is The man at the mall Who misses his own children Who has bills and debts to pay A man who no-one believes in Santa is Santa is not Andrew Blair

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Wood Gods wolf god dons gold crown posh pomp-show front scorns, scolds, scoffs, scowls scop croons, howls to moon prowls cold moor coy fox follows, romps to or fro on rot mold wold spoors top mockdog, plots doom slow brown sloth so old looks out from hollow nook, forsooks mool womb’s comfort bows low to Mors odd frog hops from gloss frost pond slosh slogs on fozy wold bog holds bowl of worm broth for Thor moon-moth’s cocoon swoons cold fog gloom blooms Frost Lord trops, trolls, hobs, spooks stroll north goth ghosts loom, loon vows horror shorn monk owl forth on foot brown cloth cowl, worn wool togs looks for lost scroll, orbs know world-sooth on rooftop, crow coos soft chords moodsong to woo Moon God pool glows on moss knoll toft frown not flock, swoosh to work look! brood fools took stobs, swords lob rocks, toss tor, throw thorns yowl shock, stomp bold, knock pol pot down sorrow storm robs wolf of crown now blood flows from snow tomb smooth cottonroots hold strong long lost wood gods won Monica Shah

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The Year of Blue Snow My granddad told me a story of the legendary king of the lumberjacks, how five giant storks worked in relays to deliver him to his folks, how his baby lungs were so strong he could empty a whole pond full of frogs with one holler. Only the great outdoors was big enough for him. My granddad told me of a winter so freezing geese flew backwards and Paul Bunyan was snowshoeing in woods, massive footsteps smothering all sound, when he stumbled on a baby ox in a snowbank. It was so cold, snow and ox were blue. He called the ox Babe and man and beast became inseparable. My granddad told me that Babe grew to be huge, seven axe handles wide between the eyes. Paul cut acres of timber single-handedly with his huge axe; Babe hauled it away fast. Babe’s burial tomb formed the Black Hills of South Dakota but Paul returns each year to fish in lakes in Minnesota and at campfires fishermen and hunters still talk of the giant, Paul Bunyan, and Babe, the Blue Ox. Mary Franklin

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Kaitak in winter A dry plain, building-rimmed, At the mountain’s foot: Dust lies on the concrete, On the rubbish and bleached grass; The sky a silent grey, No living thing to be seen. Born in foment of waters Stirred from the placid sea By rubble tumbled from barges; Steadied by sand, buttressed by breakwater Against storm and wayward shipping; A concrete apron flung over all. Phoenixes descending, Scorching the concrete, Spewing bodies innumerable, And consuming as many more – The scent of their kerosene breath, The stink of their droppings. Along arcs of power, along far-flung pathways, Came worshippers from the wide world Submitting to the narrow approaches, Skimming between rooftops, And at last touching down, Halting before the concrete’s end. Ten years ago all movement ceased: Concrete brooding through the seasons, Turned by summer into molten iron To be quenched by torrential rain Then tempered by golden November, And dulled by grey winter. The unending cycle, The passage of seasons without hope. Yet overhead, stray vapour trails And a distant drone, Call forth oil-heavy exhalation And stir memories in the depths. Matthew Harrison

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Spike the orphan child waited on sundays at the gate boggled by the hinges a self-employed hugger of sheep he has the hard agile hands of a maker do itchy scalp pheasant in the sack footsteps rolling across the snow going home for Christmas Day Gareth Writer-Davies

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A Christmas Story – For the Children Beneath the cacophony of Christmas, the jangling of discordant bells. I can hear them, their cries calling out like peewits over the moors. No matter that there are no moors where I come from, or peewits either. Existence is without place or time. What I did has lifted me beyond such inconsequences. I am of the moment. This moment or the next one, but especially this one – Christmas, Hanukkah, Saturnalia. The season of excess. Listen. The rustling of the flames, like crisply unwrapping paper. The peewit calls. The shrieks – Surprise? Joy? Look. White, like fields of snow. Deep red, a seasonal colour. Blood pours like never ending wine from a flagon. Flesh is carved like the plump, moist turkey you are enjoying. Bones snap – a wish, a wish! I wish I had never been born. I wish he had never been born. I would wish they had never been born, but at my word it was almost as if they hadn’t. Been. The mother peewits are calling for their boy babies. In Ramah, Rachel is weeping for her little ones, tears splashing like a diamond fountain, like translucent crystal icicles, sharp, blade-like, cutting into the snow-blossom flesh. Warm flames cascade over barely-born bodies. Flesh melts and crackles succulently. It’s a festive season. Welcome. Come on in. Bring your little ones. Especially the little ones. I stand behind the door of Christmas. My name is Herod. J.S. Watts

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Saint Lucy’s night The frost-bitten beaks of houses dip tiredly into the snow and on the winding lane, among the pines Saint Lucy steals through the frosted forest and the ice of the season unreasonably slow she carries her chair her magical chair made from the bones of different trees to find a small church where bells toll for our souls Lucy stands her chair there to spy on the witches to look behind the stitches of their heavy glamour to see their well-hidden horns a sign of their craft and alliance The ice creeks under the weight of their secret and Lucy’s chair slowly sinks in the lake some secrets are too cruel to bear; under the weight the ice of her heart breaks. Fanni Sütő

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Practical Magic On a winter's solstice eve Emilia Pettigrew-Bestawich sat before her bubbling caldron. “Ho-hum,” Emilia sighed, the scent of her philtre watered her eyes as she gazed longingly at the simmering brew, she and hesitated. “Should I add the vital ingredient. Too much then my love elixir will be too potent and if not enough, too mild to make any difference. And what spell shall I cast, Pixie-dust Bubblesocks?” she asked her cat, whose coat was sleek and black and she had four silvery feet. “What if I conjure a talisman and charm Samuel Pettifer instead?” Pixie-dust purred softly warming her sharp glittery paws before the blazing hearth pouting her tiny nose and sniffing her mistress’s witchery efforts. Emilia thought her cat's smile seemed sly, it made her nervous because, Pixie-dust was unlike any other feline; she could talk. Sadly, much to Emilia Pettigrew-Bestawich’s regret, the cat often besmirched her neighbours, or anyone in clear-earshot; Emilia was deemed rude, and constantly ostracised. “Meow-mistress, what have I told you before,” she extended her claws to their fullest length studying them as they glinted before the open flames. “Careful what you wish for ... Mmm?” Nearby came the sounds of a cavalcade of sleighs gliding along the gentle snowy slopes beyond Emilia’s pretty stone cottage. Christmas lights covered the outside of the house, and she’d carefully decorated inside too. Anticipation mounted and she hoped someone would knock, but the jingly bells and laughter passed straight by. “Mistress, Samuel won’t be coming, he hasn’t said a word to you since Halloween. Remember you tricked him when he asked for a treat— ” “I didn't — you threw a lit jack-o-lantern at him — oh, Pixie-dust, I’ve nothing to lose by casting a love charm to make Samuel and the entire townsfolk like me.” “Mistress-s-s, they will never like you. They didn’t like your Granny, or your Mother, and they don’t like me, and I'm such a pretty-kitty with beautiful shiny claws.” The cat smirked and Emilia felt the familiar prick of her tears. “Just grow gracefully into an old embittered crone. Release your inner wickedness, and stop trying to be nice. Be a wicked hag,” and the cat coughed up a fur ball and discarded it into the fire. “Cat, that's enough.” Emilia spat. “Oh — I know— it’s the perfect spell to use.” Rolling up her sleeves, Emilia rushed outside, a moment later she returned grasping an icicle as thick as her wrist. She held it over her cauldron whispering an incantation then dropped it into the brew. Pretty glittery lights flashed, pink steam rose and Pixie-dust transformed into a cat-shaped icicle and immediately began to melt. Someone knocked on Emilia’s door. She ran and opened it, and found Samuel on her threshold holding a sprig of mistletoe over his head. “Emilia, will you go out with me?” “Yes, Samuel,” and she kissed him. 29


He chuckled. “I tried asking you out before, but your horrible cat hates me.” “Never mind her, Samuel, she’s kinda liquidated herself.” K.M. Ross

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Legacy all I see is death around me what still lives is suspended In space on a hammock connecting Earth and Moon the Sun has been kidnapped by Pleiades held for a ransom of two bushels each: wheat, barley, and corn I own nothing but yards of skin stitched to some bones with violin strings the stockpiled remnants from a world long gone I build a fire to keep Boreas’ breath at bay not long ago I was born here the Yucatån peninsula in the Chicxulub Crater carved by the asteroid which killed the Dinosaurs Nick Romeo

31


The Snow as it Leaves All that remains of the snow fox, a miniature hillside spine. Her midweek thawdiet, accelerated by wind and rain, unsculptors. Freed from the need to tune into local radio, We play jazz records as we sit down for breakfast. Everything averages, contrast slips away, returns to green and grey. We settle for our surroundings. These card scenes are for Christmas, not for life. Chris Hemingway

32


Towards a White Wedding I had been betrothed to Prince Raphael of North Isslia and was en route to his castle. At 26, my parents had done well to match me with a handsome husband. Whom I had yet to meet. The first day’s ride through the wooded lowlands was comfortable enough, but the long circle around Lake Clarita brought a change of clime: the previously mild winter now revealed its tongue of biting wind and icy claw fingers. “Snow within a day,” commented Old Agatha, once my wet nurse now my chaperone. “You’ll look good in furs, missie.” My fair appearance was assured by the many mirrors at court. The major concern was my condition, the hidden side that only Mother, Father, Agatha and the Royal Apothecary truly knew about. Cleared roads became barely passable dirt tracks, pine needle-strewn avenues amongst the trees. The cold, refreshing air was replaced by a crispness that numbed the throat. We rested by a frozen pond on the outskirts of the woods. I woke during the night. The co-driver stood nervously on guard, his musket aimed at nothing in particular. A wolf’s howl rent the air and wet flakes touched my cheek. By dawn we were snowed in. An afternoon thaw helped us make a little progress but before sunset we had paused, fearful of ice. That night the wolf pack surrounded us. Swift feet, grey-black coats, mouths somewhere between snarling and vaguely smiling. The boldest came and sniffed at my window, eyes darker than a starless sky. My abrupt scream frightened him off. We awoke to the strange sight of boot-prints rather than paw marks in the snow. Agatha scolded our feeble guards. Onwards. Another two days and nights. And every witching hour our lupine visitors circled our encampment, snuffling a challenge or a warning. Agatha was warming her hands by a makeshift, sputtering fire of damp logs. “Why haven’t they attacked us, miss?” she muttered. Revelation came like an icicle through my foggy head. “They’re protecting us.” I strode through the snowdrift back to the carriage, fetching something from my capacious bag. “Here, look at this,” I said. “Why, that’s a painting of His Highness, Prince Raphael, ma’am.” “Look at those dark eyes. Where have you seen them before?” “I don’t believe I’ve ever met –” “At the carriage window last night. And the night before.” “You mean, miss…?” A cacophony of birds erupted from the snow–draped pines around us at the approach of five horsemen. My guards took up battle positions but I yelled, “Lay down your arms!” He was black-haired, sporting fine clothes that fitted him like a second skin. “My Lady,” he bowed, “may I now openly escort you to Castle Isslia?” “It would be my pleasure, Prince Raphael.” Oh, he was so attractive – looks, personality, manner. What a match we would make. 33


There would, of course, still be the need to tell him about‌ my ability. I’m sure that would not be a stumbling block to our future happiness. Allen Ashley

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Too Much of a Good Thing I can’t remember a time when I was actually trim, not even as a younger man, but each year as I let out my belt, I am confronted with my girth. Frankly, we are not talking love handles or a spare tyre here, either. I would like to be able to describe myself as cuddly, or chubby or pudgy, but that would be too generous. I am just big arse fat. Some fellows in my situation hitch up their trousers underneath their swelling bellies and I’ve tried it, but it’s not the right look for me. On the bright side, my weight has never been a problem. The children have never nagged me about it. No one teases me and it’s never held me back careerwise. However, Christmas is coming and although it’s the busiest time of the year for me at work, I am determined to make an effort to walk each day and to more mindful about what I eat. After all, nobody wants Santa to get stuck in a chimney somewhere when he should be distributing gifts to good children all over the world. Do they? Irene Buckler

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Boxing Day The very idea of servants had faded altogether.

We stomped the cardboard shipping boxes that arrived almost daily. Sometimes I raced out to yell thanks But the delivery van tore off down the street I was left barefoot on the cold front porch Feeling a bit foolish. We stuffed the wrapping paper and the twisted ribbon into the metal trashbin in the garage, forgot about it. We reheated the casserole, sliced the leftover roast, laid out the Christmas crackers on the table, on the good china plates. It was quiet, the day after Christmas, that day punctuated by the making of coffee, long distance phone calls, experimenting with new gadgets, thumbing through new books, thank you, thank you, thank yous. What we loved was the feast after the feast, celebrating what was left. We switched on the colored lights outside, the white lights inside, pulled up our chairs. There were stories and jokes, the pop of Christmas crackers, then, the paper crowns and plastic trinkets. We burned real candles, made a family of friends. Lynne Viti

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Who Saved the Hoodie Girl What is a dimension hopper to do with a shortest day and a longest night? Monad was familiar with solstices… he enjoyed flitting in and out of time as the bubble people understood it. He possessed the right kind of skill and imagination to transform himself into almost any shape or form he desired. When midwinter came round on the revolving blue bubble he was more than happy to go and play there within its concept of space-time. He liked being a bubble being, whether a factual or fictional one. They were both equally important in the spinning blue world where storytellers were revered, especially by children, but also childlike adults who had grown down rather than up, and lost sight of the magic they knew as children. Monad lived in a moment outside of time, like a micro-star with a whole universe inside it, an ever present moment where all adventures and fairy tales are written, and he loved a story. Though he could enter the blue world at any time, he was drawn to midwinter, a time when bubble nature sleeps, and blue bubble beings huddle together for warmth and inspiration. He hopped in at a Winter Solstice on a sceptred isle in the north, where cold gripped the land and snow was deep and uneven, the moon silver-bright, and magic teased the air. There were snowflakes glistening on fir trees and sleigh bells echoed on an empty sky. He was in a winter wonderland, a dreamscape where the shortest daylight fades in to the longest night. ‘Yuletide? Saturnalia? Christmas!’ Monad saw one super-imposed on the other, as bubble beings on this isle had mixed them all up like ingredients of a plum pudding, and their bubble time had moulded them together with fairy tales and nativity plays, and sumptuous feasts resulting in bloated bubble bellies and hangovers for the grown downs. But the children could bring the soft magic of midwinter to life and Monad had come for this. Cosy fireside stories on cold nights stirred even the imagination of an ageless shape-shifting time hopper, and he wanted to lose himself in a character. He closed his eyes and dreamed one up, and then the story took over. Clearing snow and cutting branches in a dark forest, he had big heavy arms that were needed to carry logs for the village on the forest’s edge. ‘A lowly woodcutter’s not that magical,’ he thought. ’Unless... unless…’ In an enchanted twilight he seized the moment and became the immortal he always was. Yet no-one suspected that the little red hoodie girl would be saved by a time hopping ‘woodcutter.’ Not even the grandmother with the largest teeth he had ever seen. He was a hero, an overnight success that took forever…then was gone in a flash… Louis Cennamo

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The Edge of the New Year I found you at the edge between the new year and the old. You were a cold creature that barely acknowledged me, for you didn’t have the strength to do so. I am the lord of the hearth, and I offered you warmth. Still you shivered in the cold, a cold so deep that it came from your bones. I am the lord of tricks and I offered you a solution born from curiousity and jealousy. Not able to see me for what I am, you accepted the sprig of mistletoe and clutched it to your chest. The sprig took root in your heart and grew, surrounding you like a shroud, wrapping around you and throwing out white berries nearly the colour of your greying skin. I left you standing at the edge between the new year and the old. You were wrapped warmly in the mistletoe that had sprung from my fingers and bridged the gap between your hand and mine. It burned you, my mistletoe, like it does every year, even though every year we come back to this place and I bind you again. Over and over I say to you I won’t give up. You never reply, though I suspect resurrection is a difficult thing and returning from the dead can’t be easy. Nonetheless, I play my part. I offer you poisonous mistletoe with which you can make your cocoon, and you rise again burning brighter than ever before, lily of the valley in your hands. You are safe from all things except for my love; I am safe from nothing but the return of happiness. I sat with you as you withered and as my gift burned at you. You were still in the light of my hearth. I waited for what I knew must come. And at long last you caught fire, burning away your mistletoe shroud and rising again on wings of light. The world rejoiced to see you on the far side of the new year. You left me at the edge of this year and last, your only gift to me a cluster of lily-of-the-valley. I leapt forward over the edge and into the new year, laughing all the way. A.C. Grant

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January1 “….. in a certain faraway land the cold is so intense that words freeze as soon as they are uttered, and after some time then thaw and become audible, so that words spoken in winter go unheard until the next summer.” – Plutarch, Moralia Ianuarius In the closed-lid-dark we open our eyes: see nothing but blackness; after a time, discern glints of colour. The mind, like a door that keeps sticking makes promises for someone else to keep deciding forgetting thinks of new things that nobody thought to give offers everything, takes it away. Gennaio Light peels minute from minute. Cold grinds shadows to hoar frost, flays birdsong to sinew. Everything withdraws into its marrow. Long nights are punctuated by ice-sharp stars as if they held answers to questions that had no words. Wulf Monath I am afraid of the noise of wind in pine trees, as though a big sea runs through them the punch of air, the boom of branches the creak of a mast. Their bones are growing old inside me.

Ianuarius: Latin for the god of the door. Wulf-monath is Anglo Saxon and means wolf month. Tammikuu is Finnish for month of the oak, but the original meaning was the month of the heart of winter, as tammi has initially meant axis or core. Leden is Czech for ice month. Gennaio is Italian. Wintarmanoth: Charlemagne’s word for winter / cold month. 1

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Leden The river sound is flecked with almost words in its hurry over stones. Ancient language flows by never caught, never lost. They are listening, all ears but don’t hear a thing. The hunter is kept at bay. Tammikuu Bare twigs of oak and ash sift the air, crave to touch edges of light. I tread on the lives of leaves, copper and gold, staring up from the ground. Dead things, things I’d rather never have known. Blood among roots. Wintarmonath A gust of starling starts on the rim of the wind. Rain hammers nails to the land, fog sinks into granite. Sunset flows through us, reaches our heart. A robin sings out in the dark. Rebecca Gethin

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Writers Dennis Trujillo was born and raised in Pueblo, Colorado. He had a twenty year career in the US Army followed by a fifteen year career as a middle/high school math teacher. He now resides in Korea and is employed at Shinhan University in the city of Dongducheon. He runs and does yoga each morning for grounding and focus and for the sheer joy of it. Rebecca Gethin lives on Dartmoor. Her collection A Handful of Water was published by Cinnamon Press (2013), who also published her two novels. She is a gardener, a children’s bookseller, and runs poetry workshops in Devon. She has a website: www.rebeccagethin.wordpress.com, and her Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/rebeccagethindartmoor. Monica Shah was born in London and grew up in various small towns in the UK, Africa, India and North America. So it’s no surprise she embraced the fairy tales of all cultures, certain that English pixies consort with Persian peris and Incan huacas. Her writing often dwells in the juxtaposition between identity, culture, myth and nature. Her poetry has occasionally appeared in small press publications and sometimes even in her journal. Mary Franklin has had poems published in print and online in Iota, The Open Mouse, Ink Sweat and Tears, London Grip, Message in a Bottle, The Stare’s Nest, Three Drops from a Cauldron and various anthologies. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. Cindy Rinne creates art and writes in San Bernardino, CA. She is the author of spider with wings (Jamii Publishing), Quiet Lantern is forthcoming (Turning Point), and she co-authored Speaking Through Sediment with Michael Cooper (ELJ Publications). Her poem, “Mapping” was nominated for the Liakoura Award by Pirene’s Fountain. Her poetry appeared or is forthcoming in Naugatuck River Review, Zoomoozophone, Eternal Haunted Summer, and others. www.fiberverse.com Irene Buckler is a retired teacher, a person who has always enjoyed making things and teaching others how to make them. Over the years she has written many educational activities and programs. Now that she has the time to explore other kinds of writing, flash fiction is her favourite, because it is a perfect fit for our busy times. She loves the discipline involved in creating a complete story in so few words. Louis Cennamo is a musician, holistic healer and poet. Once described as a ‘subtle blend of laid back hippy musician and airtight, industrial strength disciple.’ He has had a successful career as a bassist and has many musical works published. He wrote and performed for ten years with London writing group Word4Word, and has several poems published in anthologies. He co-founded Rhyme and Rhythm Jazz Poetry Club with writers Sarah Doyle and Allen Ashley.

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Jackie Biggs is a freelance writer, editor and poet. She has had work published on websites and in magazines and anthologies. Her first collection of poetry, The Spaces in Between was published in September 2015 by Pinewood Press. Some of her poetry (and other work) appears on her blog: jackie-news.blogspot.co.uk contact: jackienews@hotmail.co.uk Linda Goulden is a Derbyshire poet whose poems have been sung by a choir and hung in the woods at Grinlow and at Dove Stone Reservoir as well as appearing in magazine, anthology and on local radio. Bethany Rivers has three passions in life: writing poetry, teaching creative writing and running poetry therapy retreats. She has had poems accepted by Envoi, Bare Fiction, Ink Sweat & Tears, Blithe Spirit, Sarasvati, Cinnamon Press, The Lampeter Review, English Chicago Review, Scintilla, Amygdala and Indigo Dreams. Her top poets of the season are Mary Oliver and Zelda Chappel. Chris Hemingway is a poet and singer-songwriter from Cheltenham. He has a selfpublished a collection of lyrics and poetry Cigarettes and Daffodils and has assisted/ read/ sung at Cheltenham Poetry Festival, GlosInk and New Bohemians Charlton Kings events. He also has recently read for the Ekphrasis Group at the Ashmolean Museum. Ruth Sabath Rosenthal is a New York poet, well published in the U.S., and internationally. Her poem “on yet another birthday” was nominated for a Pushcart prize. Ruth has authored five books of poetry: “Facing Home”, “Facing Home and beyond”, “little, but by no means small”, “Food: Nature vs Nurture” and “Gone, but Not Easily” — all available from Amazon. Please feel free to visit Ruth’s website: www.newyorkcitypoet.com J.S.Watts is a UK writer. Her poetry and short stories appear in diverse publications and broadcasts in the UK, US, Canada and Australia. To date she has had four books published: a poetry collection - Cats and Other Myths, a multiaward nominated poetry pamphlet - Songs of Steelyard Sue, both published by Lapwing Publications and two novels, A Darker Moon - dark literary fantasy, and Witchlight - a paranormal tale, both published in the US and UK by Vagabondage Press. For further details see: www.jswatts.co.uk Marilyn Finlay is an actor, who has worked in theatre, film, television and radio. As a writer she has written several plays for children, a published pantomime for use in schools, 2 radio plays and flash fiction and poetry. Most recently she was runner up in Kilburn Literary Festival Flash Fiction Competition. Marilyn has led many drama workshops for adults and children, and currently spends a day a week leading workshops in a primary school. Sammi Cox lives in the UK and spends her time writing and making things. She can be found scribbling short stories and poetry, often inspired by mythology and folklore, at: sammiscribbles.wordpress.com 43


Allen Ashley previously appeared on the Three Drops from a Cauldron website with his poem “The Green Man”. He works as a writing tutor with five groups running across north London, including the advanced group Clockhouse London Writers. Recent publications include two poems in “Orbis 172”, one poem in “BFS Horizons 1”. His latest book is as editor of “Creeping Crawlers” (Shadow Publishing, 2015). Matthew Harrison lives in Hong Kong, and whether because of that or some other reason entirely his writing has veered from science fiction to literary and he is currently writing poetry. He has published pieces in various genres. Matthew is married with two children but no pets as there is no space for these in Hong Kong. mharrison@netvigator.com - www.matthewharrison.hk Paul Tristram is a Welsh writer who has poems, short stories, sketches and photography published in many publications around the world, he yearns to tattoo porcelain bridesmaids instead of digging empty graves for innocence at midnight, this too may pass, yet. Buy his book ‘Poetry From The Nearest Barstool’ at www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1326241036 And a split poetry book ‘The Raven And The Vagabond Heart’ with Bethany W Pope at www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1326415204 You can also read his poems and stories here! paultristram.blogspot.co.uk Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, C.I. Selkirk was born on a cold winter's night. Reading was necessary to occupy the long, dark nights. Writing came later (much later), as a means to slay figurative dragons and bring people to life without leaving the house. Wolves have never been nearby but there have been gophers and neighbours' cats. A.C. Grant is a young writer living in snowy Ottawa, Canada. Midwinter is one of her favourite times of year, especially the hopeful nature of the season. She belongs to her cat, Lizzie. Nick Romeo is a multidisciplinary artist, musician and poet. His poems have been published in “The Brentwood Anthology, by Pittsburgh Poetry Exchange,” Uppagus, Rune, StreetCake Magazine, Eye Contact, Syzygy, and others. He lives in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania with his wife and cat, Megatron. www.pittsburghartistregistry.org/accounts/view/nickromeo Lynne Viti teaches in the Writing Program at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Her writing has appeared most recently in Damfino Journal, Paterson Review (forthcoming) The Lost Country, The Irish Literary Review,Foliate Oak Literary Magazine and Grey Sparrow Review. She blogs at stillinschool.wordpress.com. David Callin lives in what he likes to call the Deep South of the Kingdom of the Isles. On a clear day he can see almost everything. He has had poems in The Journal, Envoi, Cake and Prole, among others, and also online in Snakeskin, Ink, Sweat & Tears and Antiphon. 44


Fanni Sütő is a writer, poet, dreamer in her mid-twenties, who believes in fairy tales even if they are dark, disenchanted and deconstructed. She writes about everything which comes in her way or goes bump in the night. Born in Hungary, educated in the UK, she currently lives in France. She has been published in Hungary, the US, the UK and Australia. Her website is: inkmapsandmacarons.com K. M. Ross, Newcastle author, belly dancer, wife, and mother of three. The Hunter Writers' Centre awarded Kim the 2010 Link-Lit Mentorship with award winning spec-fic author/poet Jenny Blackford. She's had several small press publications, and short stories in: "Novascapses, Vol 1", edited by Cassandra Page. Flash fiction piece in: "HWC 2015 Grieve Anthology. And, two short stories in the soon-tobe-released anthologies: "Novascapses, Vol 2" edited by Cassandra Page, and "Sproutlings" edited by Morgan Bell. A. B. Cooper has had a range of poetry published online and in postcard form with Paper Swans Press with whom she co-edited an anthology entitled ‘Schooldays’. In addition, she is currently setting up a poetry mentoring service for young poets. She reviewed vampire film 'Byzantium' for the horror site 'The Slaughtered Bird' and is also working on her first novel - a ghost story for adults. She enjoys all things dark and delicious. Andrew Blair is a writer and performer, and the ex-Godfather of Edinburgh poetry. He has had work published inValve, Gutter and The Grind, and won a PBH Fringe Audience Award in 2014 for his show Knife Whimsy with Ross McCleary. Marija Smits is the pen-name of Teika Bellamy, a mother-of-two, writer and poetess whose work has featured in a variety of publications. When she’s not busy with her children, or writing, she likes to draw and paint. Very late at night, when everyone else is asleep, she runs the indie press, Mother’s Milk Books. She is continually delighted by the fact that Teika means ‘fairy tale story’ in Latvian. Gareth Writer-Davies was Commended in the Prole Laureate Competition in 2015 and Specially Commended in the Welsh Poetry Competition, Shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and the Erbacce Prize in 2014, Highly Commended, Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize in 2013 and 2012. His pamphlet "Bodies", was published this year through Indigo Dreams.

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Previous Publication Credits ‘The Bird and I’ by Ruth Sabath Rosenthal was first published in the author’s collection Facing Home and Beyond (Paragon Press, 2011). ‘Legacy’ by Nick Romeo was previously published in Rune Magazine, Spring 2015. ‘Spike’ by Gareth Writer-Davies was first published on Ink, Sweat & Tears, December 2013.

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Three Drops from a Cauldron: Midwinter 2015 (Part Two)  

Featuring poetry and flash fiction by: Jackie Biggs, Linda Goulden, Bethany Rivers, Cindy Rinne, Dennis Trujillo, Mary Franklin, Chris Hemin...

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