The Plaque – Kate Whitehead

 

Aileen stands in the upstairs bedroom of the holiday home, sensing subtle traces of him: a faint sharp aroma of old spice, a musky hint of pipe tobacco. Dazzled by the surprise of another day’s sunshine, she peers down at the historical tableau: kids jumping from the high stone harbour walls, catapulting magically through space.

She reaches into the musty wardrobe for a pinstriped dress belted at the waist, pats her close coiled curls and applies the peachy orange lipstick. Strapped into beige high heeled sandals, she navigates the cobbles, steps lightly and confidently down the hill, greeting familiar faces with a casual nod.

If he were here today, she thinks, we would walk together, mad dogs in the noonday sun marvelling in unison at the fantastic summer that reminds us of 1976. In her solo state, this unexpected burst of blue brilliance only accentuates her sense of loss, twisted under the harsh glare.

Her foundation trickles down her right cheek, melting in the brightest sun of the day. She’s tempted to retreat into the cool cavern but doggedly continues her weekly constitutional, climbing the haphazard steps, breathlessly gulping at the still salt air.

Aileen rests for a moment at the top, scowls disapprovingly at the floating detritus, discarded takeaway boxes tangled in the early brambles. Her scowl falls into a small self-congratulatory smile as she admires the deceptively distant elegant grey contours of the holiday home, sandwiched proudly in the middle of the granite.

Huddled at one end of the splintered brown bench with the missing slat, a blonde woman sits clutching a small notebook.

“Sorry, should I move?” she asks, half grimacing, half smiling – Aileen can’t be sure.

“No, there’s more than enough room for the two of us,” Aileen drawls authoritatively.

The blonde woman scours her small trove of uncontroversial chit chat, talks about the weather for the tenth time that morning.

She’s called Alice and she lives in the village all year round, at the top of the hill.

Aileen half listens to Alice mulling over shards of a memory of him.

“Oh, just look at that time, I’m late for lunch!” Aileen exclaims, slicing into Alice’s monologue about autumn in the village.

Standing up dizzily, Aileen turns and notices it, larger, bolder, golder, recently screwed on: the second plaque, below her husband’s.

Aileen trembles, shocked and enraged at the blatant unbelievable audacity of this thing that’s appeared overnight.

She spits the words at Alice. “They can’t do this, not without my permission, this bench is ours, we paid 500 pounds to put the plaque there in his memory because he loved the village so much.

“I need to talk to someone about this, someone who knows I need an explanation.”

“So you own the bench, do you?” Alice mutters indignantly, resentful at being privy to such a morbidly intricate drama.

“Goodbye then, enjoy your day,” Aileen growls, slowly regaining her starchy composure.

Alice observes Aileen’s cautious descent back down the steps and over to the other side of the harbour, paralysed by an overpowering sense of gloom. She raises reluctantly from the bench, her daily dose of calm contaminated by the morbid nature of this revelation…

Aileen sits on a stool in her porch, unstraps her beige high heels, shuts her eyes and imbibes the familiar scent: dusty tomato plants mingled with the spicy cinnamon of her tiny purple orchids.

She can’t decide: will it be lunch first, then the stern phone call to the woman at the chapel, who knows everything, to get to the bottom of the troubling matter of the second plaque?

After a single glass of merlot, suffused with transient drowsy contentment, she wistfully recalls her husband’s easy-going good nature and lets it go, the matter of the second plaque. His words chime in her head, gently mocking.

“Well, what harm can it do, two plaques on the bench? I’m happy to be with the other fellow anyway.”

It’s the end of her solo summer sojourn in the holiday home, drifting through the huge rooms, relieved when the huge sun sinks leaving her shrouded in a comforting twilight blanket. She watches the evening news, tut-tutting at the relentless stupidity of it all, crochets for the grandchildren then slides gratefully under the lavender-scented sheets.

Alice seeks out a new bench for her morning calm the following day, on the other side of the harbour. It is slightly concealed by overhanging branches and next to an overflowing litter bin buzzing with flies. If she twists her head slightly to the right, she can see the golden yellow contours of her own home high up above the harbour. She reaches behind her, runs her hands along with the rough wood, relieved to find it unadorned, seized by an unexpected feeling of gratitude that time hasn’t outsmarted her yet.

 


Kate’s Whitehead’s short fiction often has a strong sense of place. She did gain a certificate in creative writing from Birkbeck but ultimately has gained more inspiration form reading widely and voraciously and listening to authors she admires talking about their approach to writing. Her writing has been published in online literary journals, fanzines and the print publications Confluence and Impspired.

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Walking the Dales Way in Autumn – Ceinwen E. Cariad Haydon

 

Rain-glistened raised roots

emerald moss-coated stones

water spattered, spreading cow pats

slippery wooden footbridges

rocking, ancient stiles

with hard-sprung gates –

 

all conspire to tumble me as I walk

our old ways in these Dales

long swept by winds, storms,

artists’ eyes, mizzle and sunlight.

 

Somehow, I stay upright

and advance slowly, mindful

of the present moment

rich with overflows

of tricky beauty

as breezes waft smells of byre

and mulch of fallen, slithered leaves –

 

I find I am

unbalanced only by time

about to run out.

 


Ceinwen lives near Newcastle upon Tyne, UK and writes short stories and poetry. She is widely published in online magazines and in print anthologies. Her first chapbook is ‘Cerddi Bach’ [Little Poems], Hedgehog Press, July 2019. She is developing practice as participatory arts facilitator. She believes everyone’s voice counts.

diner – Tammy L. Breitweiser

 

A three day trip

A torn plastic booth

White stuffing protruding

From the wound.

Bandaged haphazardly with silver tape

 

The aroma of stirring coffee with a spoon

On day 16.

Fills my nose

But my mind is still on

Six driving hours and two time changes

 

Misty droplets roll in from the lake

The fog horn is not the sound

Which concerns me.

 

“I am four years old

The year I learn to lie,”

Says my little companion.

Elsa always told me

“Don’t get attached”

 

What else do you need?

“Pink marshmallow mountains”

You had a bowl of ice cream

I had a glass of tequila and lime.

 

We drive down Highway 90

The bridge from old life to new.

I grip the wheel and think about

All the times I have driven on this road

Where I was going and how

A boy started the whole thing.

 


Tammy L. Breitweiser writes, walks, inspires, and teaches. She is the conjurer of everyday magic with short concise poems and stories. Her fiction has been published in Gone Lawn, Cabinets of Heed, Spelk, Five on the Fifth, Clover and White, Fiction Berlin Kitchen, Shorts Magazine, and Elephants Never. She is the lead moderator for the Sarah Selecky Centered community and a teacher for the school.  You can connect with Tammy through IG @inspiretammyb.

Life with a View – John Short

 

Gascony

 

After we parted yesterday

the grass was dancing.

You’d wanted kind words

but I was happily silent.

 

Outside the old room

with flaking plaster walls

I sat on the porch

and watched young frogs

hop through vines.

 

Rough wine from oak barrels.

I drank it on the porch

as the world seemed to dance.

 

Beyond fields of maize

and bright yellow rapeseed

your village perches

with its pink roof jumble.

 

From the highest point

land shimmers like mirage.

We see for miles

to glacial mountains

ascending from the plain.

 


John Short studied Comparative Religion at Leeds University (UK) then spent many years in France, Spain and Greece doing a variety of jobs. In 2008 he returned to Liverpool and a couple of years later began submitting work to magazines. Now internationally published, he’s appeared in places like Pennine Platform, South Bank Poetry, London Grip, Ink Sweat & Tears, Envoi, French Literary Review and The High Window. In 2018 he was nominated for the Pushcart Prize by StepAway Magazine and has been featured twice as Poet of the Month on the Write Out Loud national poetry forum. He lives in Liverpool, is a member of Liver Bards and reads at local venues and beyond.

Breakfast Club – Jeffrey Joseph

 

I take my daughter into Breakfast Club,

Tracksuit bottoms sparking as I force myself along,

And leg ends heavy with damp;

She skips beside me, taut with a promise of the new,

Her sentences long, long, her questions unanswerable,

Her laughter unanswerable.

 

In the busy, smelly, milk and plimsoll hall, she stands bemused –

Aware, perhaps, that something is changing,

Hearing across a span which I have lost

(Or, if not lost, forgotten),

The din of warring hopes.

 

Through the window I see her – a uniformed dot –

Move, unnoticed, to her place.

 


Jeffrey Joseph was born in London in 1952 and was educated at the University of York, University College Cardiff and at The Open University. He worked at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama before spending many years as Performance Manager at Trinity Laban Conservatoire. He is a heavily published musical journalist and poet. His music has been performed on the South Bank, at St John’s Smith Square, in Westminster Abbey, in the National Concert Hall in Dublin, throughout Europe and in Africa and the USA. He is published by Warwick Music/Hal Leonard Music and is distributed on-line by lulu.com.

The Beach of the Cathedrals – Glenn Hubbard

 

The pseeping of pipits. The ticking

of robins. The flicking of redstarts.

Is the curtain-raiser.

 

Descend to the sand to walk up

dark naves. Arches and stacks

of schist and layered slate.

 

Stop to peer into the cracks and caves,

the patient work of tireless waves. Wait.

To hear the drip of fresh water.

 

Blue mussels in dense colonies.

Clenched goose barnacles in clusters.

Safety in numbers.

 

Near the shore

note the pools.

How they shelve.

 

Imagine the sun-tempered cool

on a day in July. The slide

in from the soft edge.

 

The sand sucks at the soles

of your shoes. Ascend,

the sound of the sea dissipating.

 

The pseeping of pipits. The ticking

of robins. The flicking of redstarts.

Is the send-off.

 


Glenn Hubbard has been writing since 2013 and lives at the foot of the Sierra de Guadarrama near Madrid. He has written a good deal of nature poetry over the years, inspired by the flora and fauna of both Spain and the UK. Some of this work has been published in journals such as Words for the Wildthe Dawntreader and Sarasvati.

Cromarty, 29 April 2019 – Neil Fulwood

 

Wake early. Take a cafetière

through to the conservatory.

Mist blanks out everything:

the road, the firth, the sea

beyond the curve of headland.

The oil rigs are vague shapes –

storybook monsters; phantoms.

Plunge; pour a mugful. Take

your first sip of the day. Feel

the bitter kickstart of caffeine.

The day hasn’t come alive yet.

Give it time. The sun will burn

through the mist. Landscape,

sea and sky will correlate.

 


Neil Fulwood was born in Nottingham, England, where he still lives and works. He has published two pamphlets with The Black Light Engine Room Press, Numbers Stations and The Little Book of Forced Calm; and two full collections with Shoestring Press, No Avoiding It and Can’t Take Me Anywhere. His third collection, Service Cancelled, is due for publication later this year.

The Rainham Diver – Rebecca Metcalfe

 

The tide slips away, the river lowers, and he is there beneath the water. Striding across the mud towards the bank, he does not move. Seagulls circle overhead and shriek, boats chug past going East or West, but he does move. His body is a cage that imprisons river water with each high tide, releasing it as the moon shifts. In front of him, the reeds lead up to the bank, and beyond them the oil refineries, chemical works and factories that line the estuary all the way to the sea. Behind him is more of the same, just with the heaving mass of grey water between. He has sunk into the thick, green mud and so there he stays; a grey figure against a grey skyline. And he does not move.

 

 

22752130_10210178275199633_1006394601_nOriginally from Essex, Rebecca Metcalfe studied first at the University of Chester and then at the University of Liverpool. She now lives in an attic in Manchester with two black cats and works part time in a museum and part time in a restaurant. She has previously been published in Spelk, Flash: The International Short Story Magazine, Peach Street Magazine, Lumpen Journal, and Foxglove Journal, among others. She can be found on Twitter at @beckyannwriter.

When – Louise Wilford

 

and then, when the sluggish earth winds down,

when the wild copper sun streams into the sea,

when the night creeps in like a timid guest

then, beneath the scraps of cloud,

as the air stiffens with the last chirps of the crickets

as the scent of autumn seeps like a charm into my veins

and the still-warm twilight twists about my limbs

when the brush of a dying ladybird on my forearm

or the dry ivy leaf combing my shoulder

is itchy as elf-fingers as I pass, when the shuffling hedgehog

circles the lawn and the first drift of leaves

crumbles beneath our shoes, when the mouse-eyed

elderberries droop, black bubbles in the ripple of moonlight,

and the night’s grey dust dampens the rosehips

and snags among the blood-red haws

then, we will step through the dandelion clocks,

through the lazy cobwebs, through the sleepy moths,

and we will dance, my love – my love, we will dance

and then we will dance as the slow earth turns

 

 

unnamed (2)Yorkshirewoman Louise Wilford has had over 100 poems and short stories published and has won or been shortlisted for several competitions, most recently the £750 Arts Quarterly Prize and the MereFest Poetry Prize. She is currently nearing the end of a Masters degree in Creative Writing with the Open University, and is currently working on a novel inspired by The Tempest, while trying to process why the world appears to be falling apart.

Canvey Island – Rebecca Metcalfe

 

We spend the afternoon playing on the beach surrounded by fumes from the oil-refineries and chemical works. With our plastic spades we build sandcastles and dig for buried treasure. There’s a picnic of marmalade sandwiches and cartons of Ribena, then a shout of “tag: you’re it” starts the running around games. The tide hisses at us if we get too close. We run up to the bulging concrete flood-barrier and take it in turns to sneak round the edge to see if we can spot the troll we know lives behind it. He’ll get us if he sees us. We climb up and jump off into the sand with a thud. We have to rub our hands furiously up and down our legs to get the sand off before we can get back in the car. The drive home smells of seaweed and factory fumes, and we sit and laugh as we pick the grit out from under our fingernails.

 

 

22752130_10210178275199633_1006394601_nOriginally from Essex, Rebecca Metcalfe studied first at the University of Chester and then at the University of Liverpool. She now lives in an attic in Manchester with two black cats and works part time in a museum and part time in a restaurant. She has previously been published in Spelk, Flash: The International Short Story Magazine, Peach Street Magazine, Lumpen Journal, and Foxglove Journal, among others. She can be found on Twitter at @beckyannwriter.

Before – Elisabeth Kelly

 

Dusty tins of condensed milk in the pantry.

Scholl slip on wooden sandals in the porch.

The blue labels worn down so only a soft oval remains in the wooden sole.

Tip toe hanging up the washing and the sandals falling down off dry heels.

Your life mapped by the cracks on your skin.

 

A drum of stagnant water in the corner of the steading.

Wellingtons with waterproofs wound around in the utility room.

Two sets of different ones, occasional and everyday wear.

Smelling of the black rubber cover over the silage pit and the cold stone ramp of the

midden.

Your life lived between the two.

 

A tree house made of old fence posts in Back Field.

Bare-feet drumming through the dust of the lane. Creosote sticking to the backs of knees.

Cow muck with a crust on top to poke with your toes, daring, pushing to see how far you

will go.

 

I never gave a thought then to how far we may go.

 

 

 

DSC_0520Elisabeth Kelly is an Early Years Teacher based on a hill farm in the Scottish Borders. She lives with her young family and too many animals. She has recently returned to writing. She has a poem currently in the Longlist for the Anthony Cronin Award at the Wexford Literary Festival 2020. She tweets at @eekelly22.

Imperfect Shelter – Martin Potter

 

Overcast and when it starts

To come down a heavy headed

Tree appears to offer

 

Round its trunk a dry space

Above countless leaf strata

Parrying the downpour

 

To begin with it’s like a roof

Secure you hear the percolation

Working through the rafters

 

Until collected the outsize drops

Single out whatever tender

Spots are homing unwary

 

 

FullSizeRenderMartin Potter is a poet and academic, and his poems have appeared in Acumen, The French Literary Review, Eborakon, Scintilla, and other journals. His pamphlet In the Particular was published by Eyewear in December 2017. Read more at https://martinpotterpoet.home.blog.

My Final Walk in the Woods – James G. Piatt

 

Strolling along a bark filled path in the woods the breath of summer gusts into my mind and the warbling of tiny birds enters my ears. Tiny colorful wildflowers, pink, yellow, and blue paint the face of the meadow across the way, and waft their honeyed scents into the breeze. I hear the whispering sounds of the tiny brook alongside the path, and watch small rabbits with blades of grass in their mouths hopping quietly across the field. Maple trees with their white and gray skin, and oak trees with their gnarled limbs reaching for ground and sky shade my path. A red-shouldered hawk soars to the heavens with a screech as I disturb its tranquility sitting in a tall pine tree. I hear murmuring voices of tiny animals under fallen leaves and twigs in the distance, as the soft balmy breeze hurries over the ground with its euphonious voice. My memories awaken, and I remember my happy treks to the woods when I was a young lad. I exhale my breath with a nostalgic sigh as I realize my walks in the woods will be ending soon. My mind is still young, but my body has turned old.

 

 

Bio pic 2James is the author of four collections of poetry, Solace Between the Lines (2019), Light (2016), Ancient Rhythms (2014), and The Silent Pond (2012). He has had over 1,440 poems (four of which were nominated for Pushcart and Best of Web Awards), five novels, eight essays, and thirty-five short stories published. He earned his BS and MA from California State Polytechnic University, and his doctorate from BYU.

Spending a Day with an Uncanny Nature – Chandan Dey

 

a snowy day–

 

the green leaves of the garden

are wrapped in the thick blanket of ice

 

the dangling white rose

is the face of a black tiger

in such a depressing morning

 

a flock of one-winged birds

are migrating to a sunless island

through gray clouds arranged unruly

in this pale light of dreary noon

 

the deepening dusk

with its illusive movement

is descending swiftly to the earth

through eerie sound of the crickets

 

in the distance–

 

the wavy mountain

is a strayed dolphin, swimming

in the ocean of night-fog

 

alone

 

 

CD biog picChandan Dey is a new and emerging writer living in Kolkata, India. His work has appeared in Liquid Imagination, Vayavya, Sky Island Journal and is forthcoming elsewhere. He works in Kolkata and is a passionate reader and writer of poetry. He loves to write articles on scientific philosophy; some of them have already been published online. Some of his work can be found on http://www.chandankumardey.blogspot.in.

School run Lenzie Moss – Finola Scott

 

Step over guarding thorns,

the outstretched claws of brambles,

their plump dark jewels gone now.

Breathe the heavy scent of the viburnum

and tuck a sprig of pink into your mitten

to sweeten day’s cruel frost.

Stop. Listen

to mavis and sparrow all branch-tangled

heralding winter’s early dusk.

Ease past the dog rose, its bareness held

until all is green, all is spring. Head out

and round between the shining birches

calling to the moon.

Nearly there. Don’t stop

to watch as hinds tiptoe or heron stalk the Moss.

There’ll be time.

 

 

C2C2 (2)Makar of the Fed of Writers (Scotland) Finola Scott’s work is on posters, tapestries and postcards. Her poems are widely published in anthologies and magazines including New Writing Scotland, The Lighthouse and Fenland Reed. Her work was commissioned by Stanza Poetry Festival for a multi-media installation. Much Left Unsaid, her pamphlet, is published by Red Squirrel Press. Poems, pictures and events can be found at Finola Scott Poems.