After Me – Julia Molloy

 

Darling, come closer. There’s nothing to be scared of, nothing to fear. You are always safe with me. Whenever you smile, I’ll smile too, though mostly you make jokes that aren’t funny these days. Whenever you cry, I’ll be waiting with my shoulder and a glass of your favourite wine. It’s the Rioja you prefer now, isn’t it? When we first met, it was all about the alcopops and fluorescent cocktails that quickly got us high so we could dance and be free. We’d dance to songs we no longer heard while others vomited and fought and cried. We’d dance and hold each other close. I guess we lost friends that way. But I can still remember how it felt, the first time we held each other. Our shoes stuck to the floor and the DJ shouted through the air, but all I could focus on was you. I thought my skin would ignite. As the years have mellowed, as our days have grown more fleeting, we savour the Rioja while we can. We don’t dance or play music. We sit, and we hold hands through fading daylight and long dark nights.

Darling, come closer. That was what you used to whisper in the darkest of nights after our son died. We held each other under bed sheets you always insist on ironing. We waited for time to do its work, but I think we both still feel the emptiness. So we hold each other wrapped in the clean, sharp edges of the bedsheets. We stop asking why.

Darling, come closer. I worry about who will keep you safe after me. Who will know about your favourite Rioja? Who will know how to leave you in peace when you come home from work, how to give you that space in which to breathe? Who will know the hole inside? I suppose someone could learn this soon enough, but still I worry. I don’t recall learning these things about you as much as absorbing them. We cried once at a study where children were punished and rewarded to see if they learned better. Our own son toddled at our feet. But now I come to think of it, that was how I absorbed these things about you. Your joys and your hates, your laughs and your rages, punishments and rewards. Who else can absorb these things and keep you safe?

Darling, come closer. I need to feel you near me. You don’t understand why I worry so much about you, why I don’t worry more about myself and what I must face. You don’t understand that worrying about you keeps the fear away. When we met, I remember how I felt a weight had been lifted from my mind. I didn’t have to be alone. I could hold you in my arms and you wouldn’t even comment on my clammy skin. Now, I worry about you to keep darkness at bay.

Darling, come closer. I can feel the darkness coming. I whisper to you again and again, or at least I think I do. You’re smiling, but not as you used to. It’s a smile that will turn into a cry the moment I close my eyes. I whisper again, or perhaps I don’t. Perhaps this is just the dream of life. Perhaps this is how you are after me.

 

 

Author photoJulia Molloy is a short story writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming at The Fiction Pool, Fictive Dream, Crack the Spine, STORGY, Platform for Prose and Riggwelter Press. Her work was shortlisted for the Fresher Writing Prize 2016. She graduated from Lancaster University in 2015 with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing and now works at a government organisation. You can find her at www.juliamolloy.org and on Twitter @JRMolloy2.

Advertisements

Distracting photograph – Kieran Egan

 

Pensive, looking sideways, unfocused eyes,

perhaps wondering about her future.

 

Now flight-phobic, terrified of takeoffs.

To ease her anxieties I had suggested 

we bring and talk about photographs of ourselves, 

at ages five, and ten, fifteen, and twenty.

 

We examined the pensive ten-year-old girl looking sideways.

The woman she had become started to reminisce 

about her family, her school,

and what the girl in the photograph most cared about.

 

It was just a few minutes’ distraction, to ease her fears,

neither of us anticipated the flood of sobbing tears.

 

 

unnamed (2)Kieran Egan lives in Vancouver, Canada. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Quills (Canada), Literary Review of Canada, Dalhousie Review (Canada), High Window (UK), Orbis (UK), Raintown Review (USA), Envoi (UK), Shot Glass Journal (USA), Qwerty (Canada), Snapdragon (USA), The Antigonish Review (Canada), Acumen (UK), Canadian Quarterly and The Interpreter’s House (UK); also shortlisted for the John W. Bilsland Literary Award, 2017 and for the TLS Mick Imlah prize 2017.

Garage Cobwebs – Alyssa Trivett

 

As the cobweb hangs

by the hockey goal

near the bike with

cracked spokes,

oil spilled from yesteryear

covers the cement surface

in artistic splotches,

in holy water coffee ground

dots throughout.

We are only chess pieces

piling things,

playing irregular Jenga.

Knocking the stump remover

bottle over and rattling rusted

metal shelves.

The sealed chamber opens.

We skate with

recycling and trash bins,

soaking up the sun in

brief movie clip moments.

 

 

unnamed (1)Alyssa Trivett is a wandering soul from the Midwest. When not working two jobs, she listens to music and scrawls lines on the back of gas station receipts. Her work has appeared in VerseWrights, In Between Hangovers, and recently at Otoliths and Five 2 One.

Yesterday Calling – Laura Potts

 

Somewhen,

a gull snaps its wings

and laughs

as I stretch out the past

 

to the city with its dark heart

and us,

splitting our skins for a kiss.

 

On the rim of a memory,

spinning,

we fizz

like silver pins

on that street

or this.

 

My lover’s words I remember

trembled

like globed pearls on tepid stars

the hot dark of torchlight

kicking

from the pavement

sparks

as he went.

 

Bone-bent,

with eighty-six years in my face,

I read books

and play cards

and years have dried up,

slow prunes

in a vase.

 

But last,

in my crabbed hands his skin,

doused with river lights,

no foul breath of wartime but

a whole lost world of long-kissed nights,

 

thin films of eyes candled bright

in the lobes of my palms,

the four-medal arms deliberate,

passionate,

strong.

 

 

Afterwards, the distant salute of a bomb.

 

 

527Laura Potts is twenty-one years old and lives in West Yorkshire. She has twice been named a Foyle Young Poet. Her poems have appeared in Seamus Heaney’sAgenda, The Interpreter’s House and Poetry Salzburg Review. She has recently been shortlisted for a Charter-Oak Award for Best Historical Fiction at The University of Colorado and also made The 2017 Oxford Brookes International Poetry Prize shortlist. This year Laura became one of The Poetry Business’ New Poets and a BBC New Voice for 2017. Her first BBC radio drama Sweet The Mourning Dew will air at Christmas 2017.

View from Ferryside – Byron Beynon

 

History oozing into pores

invigorates the past;

there’s the castle for instance,

high on a humpbacked hill

reaching out from Llansteffan’s

sand-ferrying shore.

The eternal language of seabirds

regional accents

in the warm rain

as they dive and soar,

sudden shifts in scale and tempo

recording the deep tales

from the journeying sea.

A landscape navigating

through the syllabus of days

that have vanished

onto the skin of time.

The air pure with thoughts,

clear with water-music

occupies this space

entering the cartographer’s

coast of memory.

 

 

Byron Beynon 2014Byron Beynon lives in Swansea, Wales. His work has appeared in several publications including London Magazine, Poetry Ireland Review, San Pedro River Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, Yellow Nib and the human rights anthology In Protest (University of London and Keats House Poets). Collections include Human Shores (Lapwing Publications) and The Echoing Coastline (Agenda Editions).

On Blueberry Hill – Roy Moller

 

the moon took ill

and left me in the loop of

decisions, decisions

past decisions

 

and it would take a world war

to rip the railings I’ve erected around me

 

and here goes a car alarm,

squeezing and releasing

 

 

Roy MollerRoy Moller is a poet and songwriter who lives in Dunbar on the east coast of Scotland. He is the author of the short-run collection Imports and his work has been featured in the anthologies The Sea (Rebel Poetry) and Neu! Reekie! UntitledTwo. His musical works include My Week Beats Your Year, described by Louder Than War as “profoundly moving and inspirational”. His website is www.roymoller.com.

Bed Against the Partition – Roy Moller

 

In from Ontario to have me,

she rooms in a floral,

threadbare situation

in strange Scotland,

picking up chanting

from Infants and Juveniles,

and pigtailed little madams

shoo-ing away

clodhopping brogues

from elaborate elastics

and hopscotch plotted

in chalk mark.

 

She samples the songs of

pat-a-cake in action.

She is handsome, she is pretty,

She is the flower of the golden city.

 

She’s seven months seeded,

sitting out playtime

perched on the edge

of a tartan coverlet

wishing the quilt

and pillow would muffle

anxious appointments,

obligations pressing upon her

and pressing within her

till she can skip over

this rope again forever.

 

Roy MollerRoy Moller is a poet and songwriter who lives in Dunbar on the east coast of Scotland. He is the author of the short-run collection Imports and his work has been featured in the anthologies The Sea (Rebel Poetry) and Neu! Reekie! UntitledTwo. His musical works include My Week Beats Your Year, described by Louder Than War as “profoundly moving and inspirational”. His website is www.roymoller.com.

Higashi-Koenji 東高円寺 – Anne Louise Avery

 

*Higashi-Koenji is situated in Tokyo’s Suginami ward and is famous as a center of alternative youth culture and for its temples and shrines.

 

The summer my father died

I moved to Higashi Koenji.

The house had new tatami floors

And a fat white cat called Setsuke.

It smelled of cedar wood and mayonnaise. 

It was also

By a video store,

The best in Tokyo

(with every X-Files episode

And sun-faded posters of Peter Sellers).

A lantern carver lived next door.

His mother left me peaches on our stoop

Coated with a thin dusting of mica.

One day, I walked to the station

At six fifteen am to catch a train to Mitaka-shi.

It was my father’s birthday,

The Seventh of July,

And overnight the station people had covered the entrance

With silver stars and 

Long streamers like tentacles 

(Watermelon pink! Slush blue! Frog green!)

For the Tanabata Matsuri, 

The Star Festival,

When the Weaver-girl and the Cow-herd

Meet on a bridge across the Milky Way

Made of magpie wings.

In the evening, I eat grilled eel and

Strawberry cheese cake and

Scratch a wish with marker pen on a thin strip of tanzaku paper. 

And I tie it next to all the other wishes

Bristling on a bamboo branch in Koenji temple.

 

Anne Louise Avery PassportAnne Louise Avery is a writer, art historian and the cartography editor at the travel journal, Panorama (http://panoramajournal.org). Her recent book, Albion’s Glorious Ile, published by Unicorn Press, was featured in the Guardian and on Radio 4. She is also the director of the acclaimed arts education charity, Flash of Splendour. Follow her on Twitter @annelouiseavery and @petitflash.

Blackberrying – J V Birch

 

We walk along the river in Arrowtown

from full sun to dappled shade to welcome shadow.

 

Trees hum with a green to remember

as the shallow water trips and twists over rock bed.

 

We find the fat little jewels of blackberries

race back to our childhoods as we share each bounty

kiss clean each other’s purple-stained fingers

recall the tenderness of us.

 

J V Birch website photoJ V Birch lives in Adelaide. Her poems have appeared in anthologies, journals and magazines across Australia, the UK, Canada and the US. She has two collections – Smashed glass at midnight and What the water & moon gave me  published by Ginninderra Press, and is currently working on her third. She blogs at www.jvbirch.com.

Pinky Swear – Jayne Martin

 

The caustic odor of rubbing alcohol burns my nostrils, settles on my tongue. A nurse paints Vaseline on my parched lips. I can’t remember the last time I was kissed.

I am tethered to tubes, encased in a coffin of flesh and bone that ignores all commands.

The growing cries of gulls, boardwalk barkers, laughter and shrieks of excitement begin to flood the room.

I sit in the car of a rollercoaster as it chugs and bumps up the steep incline toward the point of no return. Braver kids raise their arms high over their heads. I squeeze my eyes shut until it’s over; say “I want to go again,” relieved when you do not.

The ocean breeze sends salt and sand up onto the walkway where we smoke cigarettes stolen from my mother’s purse and stroll looking for boys. We make up names, Bridgette and Marilyn. Names that sound older and sophisticated unlike our own. We fool no one.

A pipe organ bellows. With fingers still sticky from cotton candy, we board gaily-painted steeds, ride round and round, each time stretching as far as we dare for the brass ring, each time finding it just out of reach.

Our bodies distort in fun house mirrors and we wonder who we will become.

Pinky-swear friends forever.

We do not anticipate the power of decades to divide.

The nurse rolls my body onto its side to slip a fresh sheet beneath, and I see you next to my bedside. You wear our favorite sweater, the rose one we passed back and forth until it unraveled, your smile still a mouthful of braces, your hand outstretched to me. In it, a brass ring.

 

001Jayne Martin is the 2016 winner of Vestal Review’s VERA award for flash fiction. Her work has appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Literary Orphans, Midwestern Gothic, f(r)iction, Blink-Ink, Spelk, Cleaver, Connotation Press and Hippocampus among others. She is the author of “Suitable for Giving: A Collection of Wit with a Side of Wry.” She lives in Santa Barbara, California. Find her on Twitter @Jayne_Martin.

First Available Cousin – Ray Busler

 

It had still been dark when we were called. It wasn’t a pajama run; I was dressed, but still slept a few miles in the car. There were no cousins for me to play with this time. We lived closest, most available for urgency, first on the scene.

I couldn’t wait on the big porch, too much winter for that now. I missed the wooden swing, missed the creaking and mesmerizing motion of the thing. Last summer we rode, four cousins abreast in that swing for hours of false alarm. My oldest cousin told of broken swing chains and loose eye bolts that, in some parallel child universe sent chubby pink tots, not unlike myself, sailing in full pendulant moment, sailing loose in the air before finding the steel spikes of the wrought iron fence well below porch level. A lucky one missed the fence to be only crucified in the mock orange bush. She was saved, as the tale went, by an uncle by marriage, and merely had her eyes gouged out by thorns for her trouble. We cousins loved that swing, relished the idea of it and I longed for the day I could be the oldest cousin and tell the tale, with some improvements that I whetted in idle mental minutes.

Now, it was winter and I waited in stale stifle too near the gas logs in the parlor. When there was a full complement of cousins the parlor was off limits, too many fragile memories to be exposed to the rough usage of youth. One was an acceptable number though. I sat on my hands deliberately avoiding the sensuous feel of Dresden figurines and the other flotsam of irreplaceable family history.

There was, almost lost in the repeating wallpaper pattern of pink roses, a painting – a woodcut really. Japanese, I suppose today, assuming that then future role of older cousin. Blue ink and black, with a touch of red in the eye of a rampant, distant sea risen dragon, an icon of the storm in the foreground. The real hero of the drawing was the wave about to crash down on a frail boat. There could be no possible reprieve from that wave. It was a wave of inevitability. I watched the wave until I could hear a phantom wind, smell spectral salt and rotting squid. I watched the wave until…

“Your Grandmother has passed on.” The words woke me.

“Do you understand? Do you understand what I mean by death? Your Grandmother is dead.”

Of course I understood death. That’s why we were here, wasn’t it?

 

Ray lives in Alabama with his long suffering wife of 40 years. That is to say she is older than 40, but didn’t suffer for the first 20.  Ray writes for the pleasure of the writing, and the joy of inflicting it upon others.

Eustace – Sandra Arnold

 

The shock of seeing Eustace in the charity shop window almost rattled Miranda out of her skin. She’d never believed her parents’ insistence that they hadn’t got rid of him. But twenty years later there he was. Eustace as he’d looked at the edge of the sea, watching her father tip grandpa’s ashes into the waves. Watching her father’s tears as the arc of grey grit hit the water. Listening to tales of grandpa’s fishing days; how he’d taught generations of boys to swim and fish and sail; how he was the best of men. While her cousins watched bits of crushed bone drift away on the tide, Miranda watched the boy. His white curls haloed around his head like the seeds of a dandelion clock before they’re blown away by the wind. She asked him who he was. “Eustace,” he said.

The psychiatrist suggested art therapy as a way to unlock whatever had caused Miranda’s mutism. However, he added, as several of her cousins exhibited the same symptoms there was probably a genetic component.

While Miranda painted Eustace he told her he knew why all the girls in her family were mute. She didn’t go back to art therapy. Instead she talked to Eustace.

The psychiatrist reassured Miranda’s parents that imaginary companions were common in solitary children, and it was simply coincidence that the boy in Miranda’s painting resembled her grandpa’s brother who’d drowned as a child, and when Miranda started socialising with real children the imaginary one would disappear. He did. And so did the painting.

“Nice painting, eh?’ said the charity shop owner.

She nodded. “I’ll take it.”

She’d show her cousins. She’d tell them about Eustace. She’d tell them everything.

 

Sandra's author photoSandra Arnold lives in New Zealand. She is a novelist, essayist, short story and flash-fiction writer with a PhD in Creative Writing from CQ University, Australia. Her work has been widely published and anthologised in New Zealand and internationally and has won several awards. Her flash fiction appears in numerous journals including The Airgonaut, Spelk, Jellyfish Review, Flash FrontierBlue Fifth Review and was selected for the UK 2017 National Flash Fiction Day international anthology, Sleep is a beautiful colour. Learn more at http://authors.org.nz/author/sandraarnold.

Two Women at a Window – Maurice Devitt

 

after Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

 

Their eyes betray nothing

of what might have gone before.

Were they caught in a cat-fight

over a dress, borrowed

but never returned, or a letter,

steamed open and hastily re-sealed –

news that could not be unseen,

the final link in a chain

of stolen glances, whispered words

and footsteps quickening

on the wooden stairs?

 

Or had they lost the morning

to impatience and panic,

the constant cling of call-bells,

paths crossing like ghosts

in voiceless corridors?

 

Either way they will slip back

into their lives,

the feelings they had shelved

will return,

and we will never know

what words were spoken

in the half-eaten silence.

 

Personal PhotoRunner-up in The Interpreter’s House Poetry Competition in 2017, Maurice Devitt was winner of the Trocaire/Poetry Ireland Competition in 2015 and has been placed or shortlisted in many competitions including the Patrick Kavanagh Award, Listowel Collection Competition, Over the Edge New Writer Competition, Cuirt New Writing Award, Cork Literary Review  and the Doire Press International Chapbook Competition. He has had poems published in Ireland, England, Scotland, the US, Mexico, Romania, India and Australia, runs the Irish Centre for Poetry Studies site and is a founder member of the Hibernian Writers’ Group.

Reel Life – Chrissi Sepe

 

Why did I choose “Dance of the Dwarfs” when my dad’s best friend, Elijah, had me perform piano for his new friend? This stranger was a glum man with a blonde bowl haircut and bangs: the spitting image of Paul Williams.

“You must listen to her play!” Elijah said. “She’s a child prodigy!”’

My piano teacher gave me the song only hours earlier. What made me think I could play it? My fingers fumbled, and I knew I was horrible.

“Always a pleasure,” Elijah said.

Elijah had heard me play dozens of times. I gazed up at Paul Williams from the piano bench. He simply nodded.

“Why don’t you sit in with us in your dad’s studio?” Elijah asked.

The studio was actually my parents’ bedroom where my dad kept his reel-to-reel machine. There were seven people already crammed around the double bed, all facing the reel-to-reel that stood to the side of the room on a small, wooden table. Everyone focused on the melodic music of trumpets, drums, guitars, and the sweetest voice that ever emanated from a woman: Marcy with the beautiful, long, blonde hair. She had a tiny brown, cut out leather purse strapped around her gold turtleneck sweater and those Indian moccasins that dominated the streets of the 1970’s. Elijah closed his eyes as we listened to the song written by my dad.

“Beautiful! Bravo!” Elijah said, eyes now open, his hands applauding loudly.

“You are an amazing singer!” my dad exclaimed, turning to Marcy.

My heart gently sank because my dad never complimented anyone on their singing. He was a singer himself, therefore a harsh critic.

Back in the living room, my mom sat on our couch, reading a magazine. I sensed that she didn’t like when musicians hung out in her bedroom on a weeknight. Why did she want to spoil the fun?

“Mom?” I asked. “Why do you think Elijah closed his eyes while the song played?”

“It helps people listen to the music better.”

I was surprised she had an answer.

Several years later when I was a teen, my dad died, and Marcy sent us a condolence card. I told Elijah how thoughtful that was.

“Oh yeah, Marcy! She blamed me for not contacting her to tell her how sick your dad was. She’d heard from someone else that he’d passed. I hadn’t heard from the woman in years, and she reams me out?!”

When my mom tossed out most of the sympathy cards, I grabbed Marcy’s from the pile and brought it into my bedroom. I cradled it in my hands.

Over the years, I’ve mostly remembered how my dad complimented Marcy’s voice and how Paul Williams only nodded after I’d played my song. What I should carry more closely in my heart is how Elijah invited me to hear my dad’s reel-to-reels. And how my mom knew exactly how to answer the question of why Elijah’s eyes were closed when he listened to the music.

 

unnamedChrissi Sepe is the author of novels, “Bliss, Bliss, Bliss,” and “Iggy Gorgess.” Her essay “Anais Nin – A Recipe for Immortality” appears in Volume 13 of the Anais Nin Literary Journal, and her short story, “Caramel Macchiatos and Conversation,” is in Volume 14, both published by Sky Blue Press.

Sinister – Maurice Devitt

 

*Sinister is the Latin word for left-handed.

 

At school I wanted to be

left-handed, so I told

the teacher my right arm

was broken, hitched it in a scarf

around my neck and proceeded

to write with my left – whispery

at first, but gradually I gained

strength and my ‘O’s became

perfectly rounded: pieces of art,

letters I could stand back from

and admire. That day over lunch

I drew one on the classroom

floor, pulled a rope-ladder

from my pocket and climbed

down, careful to cover my tracks.

It seems I tunnelled in the dark

for hours, until suddenly I saw

a circle of light, clambered

towards it to lift myself out,

only to be met by the cold stare

of my mother,

a stick of chalk in her right hand.

 

Personal PhotoRunner-up in The Interpreter’s House Poetry Competition in 2017, Maurice Devitt was winner of the Trocaire/Poetry Ireland Competition in 2015 and has been placed or shortlisted in many competitions including the Patrick Kavanagh Award, Listowel Collection Competition, Over the Edge New Writer Competition, Cuirt New Writing Award, Cork Literary Review  and the Doire Press International Chapbook Competition. He has had poems published in Ireland, England, Scotland, the US, Mexico, Romania, India and Australia, runs the Irish Centre for Poetry Studies site and is a founder member of the Hibernian Writers’ Group.