Pumpkin pie – Cath Barton

 

In the dark street the window of the sweetshop shone out. Maisie, aged nine and three-quarters, had taken a detour on her way home from school. She pressed her nose up against the shop window; there were meringues iced to look like ghosts, witches’ hats made of chocolate and little marzipan pumpkins. Maisie pushed her hands deep into the pockets of her coat as she continued to stare at the sweets. In the right-hand pocket her hand closed on something unexpected and she pulled it out. It looked like a small, hard, shiny nut. She held it in the palm of her right hand and touched it, very gently, with her left index finger. Would a fairy appear in a puff of smoke and offer her three wishes, or at least her pick from the sweets? Nothing happened. She touched it again, said one of her own magic spells under her breath and waited. Still nothing happened. She put the nut back in her pocket and turned, reluctantly, from the bright window.

When she arrived home her mother was in the kitchen, looking flustered as she always seemed to be these days.

“Tea’s nearly ready,” she said. “I wondered where on earth you’d got to, Maisie. Wash your hands quickly now.”

They had bread and butter and jam for tea, as usual. Maisie had a cup of milk and her mother drank tea, weak tea. The two of them sat in silence, each lost in her own thoughts, but after a while the warmth from the food and the one-bar gas fire made them easier with one another.

“I’ve got a surprise,” the woman said, and the girl looked up, uncertain whether to ask what it was. Her mother was unpredictable, and Maisie didn’t understand what made her upset.

“It’s a pumpkin. Your dad brought it round. I’m going to make a pie.” She smiled at her daughter in an entreating way.

Maisie found it difficult thinking about her dad, so she thought about the marzipan pumpkins in the sweetshop window instead. She had never eaten pumpkin pie, but she had had marzipan on Christmas cake and she knew she liked that. She managed a wobbly smile

“Tomorrow,” said her mother, “We’ll have it tomorrow. It’ll be a treat.”

That night, when she knelt by her bed to say her prayers, Maisie held the shiny nut between her hands.

“I’m giving you a third chance,” she said, and then, surprising herself with her boldness.

“And just so as you know, this isn’t for me. I want you to make things better for my mum and dad.”

Next day Maisie stopped at the sweetshop window again on her way home from school. The marzipan pumpkins seemed to be winking at her. When she put her hand on the nut in her pocket it felt different. She pulled it out and gasped: it had turned into a coin, as bright and shiny as the shop window. Maisie pushed open the shop door, a bell tinkled and a little old man appeared from a back room.

She ran home with her bag of sweets. At the door she hesitated, hearing voices in the kitchen, but there were no shouts, no tears. Just soft talking.

They had tea together, Maisie and her mother and father. Pumpkin pie. Which, actually, the girl did not like. But she didn’t say so, just smiled. As they all did. Later, Maisie looked in the bag for a marzipan pumpkin. But the bag was empty, apart from a small, hard, empty nutshell.

 

 

Author pic.CathBarton.smallCath Barton is an English writer who lives in Wales. She won the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella 2017 for The Plankton Collector, now published by New Welsh Review under their Rarebyte imprint. Cath was awarded a place on the 2018 Literature Wales Enhanced Mentoring Scheme to complete a collection of short stories inspired by the work of the sixteenth century Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch. Active in the online flash fiction community, she is also a regular contributor to the online critical hub Wales Arts Review. She tweets @CathBarton1. Find out more at https://cathbarton.com.

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How I love – Joe Albanese

 

From your hope is how I hear you

Through your unabashed scars is how I feel you

 

Between each thought I always see you

And it’s in your flowing that I know you

 

The sacred and magic are born from you

For simple being, the world should thank you

 

In crowded streets I may have lost you

But with heart-star lantern, I’ll search for you

 

Although ghosts may sometimes haunt you

It’s because who wouldn’t live beside you?

 

From your laughter I cannot save you

But in tears I’d never have you

 

If it’s in the sunlight that I want you

Then it’s in its shadows I am with you

 

If all our lives I never reach you

Then let these words be how I love you.

 

 

JoeAlbanese_photoJoe Albanese is a writer from New Jersey. His work can be found in publications across the U.S. and in ten other countries. Joe’s novel, Caina (Mockingbird Lane Press), and his novella, Smash and Grab (Books to Go Now), were both published in 2018.

Childlessness – Antony Owen

 

You and I have perfected being invisible,

to be the disappearing dot as people move on

we will always be children growing grey like shovelled snow.

~

You and I have swallowed bruises from joy at others’ children,

made chemical love with natural hopes to conceive

mourned in revelations of blue stripe tombs.

~

We wanted a baby so bad I held you like one in our Ikea tomb.

At seven PM on the dot we mixed potions dead of magic

I was so close to your skin and noticed you had gone.

~

You and I have heard it all like how one day it will happen for us

like Sheila and Tom down the road who sold a house for seed,

one night I stood naked in the firelight and doused the flames.

~

You alone knew that our spines are like hand rails on tube trains,

everyone is leaving and there is only you and I in the dark eye

the pin-prick daylight will not conceive us and we no longer weep.

~

I alone knew that my bloodline stops with me, thank god it stops

but remember the cherry tree that blossomed then died

they cut it down and the roots fought hard to keep it.

~

I alone know that you and I are sick and fucking tired of polite sadness,

to avoid the conversations that make others feel awkward because we are,

to realise that some family trees bear fruit so sweet it makes the wind smell bitter.

~

You alone know that the sharps box is Pandora’s box letting us out,

the needles mock us like talons of a crow on Jacobite earth

next week is our check-up but we are nether here or there.

~

I alone know as a man who sees our children writhing in the dreamcatcher

that there is a beach with a gate for us where the sea-smoke cools the sun,

I alone know that the manger of loving you is more than tangible life.

 

 

biopic 3Antony Owen was raised in the industrial heartland of Coventry which is a notable inspiration of his work. Owen is also a critically acclaimed writer on war poems with work translated in Japanese, Mandarin and Dutch. His fifth collection of poetry, The Nagasaki Elder, (V.Press) was published in September 2017 and is already its 2nd print run. The Nagasaki Elder was inspired by direct testimonies of atomic bomb survivors taken in Hiroshima plus evacuees displaced from conflict. Owen’s work has been commissioned by BBC and National Poetry Day and is regularly taught in Hiroshima at monthly poetry workshops by Professor Klein. He was chosen by CND UK as one their first national peace education patrons alongside AL Kennedy. Owen was also a recipient Coventry’s 2016 Peace & Reconciliation Award.

dark magic – AM Roselli

 

is it dark magic that occurs

behind a wet curtain

a blanket of steam       spray cascades down your flesh

is it darker magic still

when your eyes close

 

slight-of-hand for the senses

touch vibrates the clean sudsy silk

no floral bouquet or inattentive perfumes

no phony scent of any kind

unadulterated mist

like morning dreams

pouring over you

awash in clear mercy

 

when the frothing in your head

caresses the patterned tiles

and floats away in shimmering bubbles

 

the spray cuts off

the curtain draws back

the steam dissipates

 

in one breathless moment

the spell ceases

like a heartbeat

evaporates out the window

 

along with your fantasies

 

AM Roselli author picture b_wAM Roselli is a writer and artist who lives in the Hudson Valley, New York. She has a collection of illustrated poetry, Love of the Monster, published by Door in the Floor Publishing, 2016, available on Amazon. She previously served as an art director at Prentice Hall Educational Publishing. Since 2014 she has been sharing her writing and artwork on her blog, anntogether.com.