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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Fluttering – Heather Walker

 

I notice the fluttering inside of me at the time the earth stands still. Equal day and night. I turn to the man sleeping with his back to me. The shape of him stirs me and the fluttering increases. I lie my head against him and he does not stir.

The fluttering reminds me of a butterfly whose wings knock against a closed window, yet I cannot open up and let you out. It is not yet time. The year dips into winter. Snow lines the windowsill. I breathe on the glass and draw a heart. How I long to be out in the fields once more.

I have not told him of the fluttering I feel inside. This is my secret and I have no wish to share it. I hug my arms around my stomach, shelter you, to reassure you.

As days move into months, I have not grown much, yet I feel your kick. I caress your movement, talk to you as I shower. Surely it will be soon. I have still not told him. How can I?

Spring comes with a burst of white and yellow. I walk the fields, my feet sodden with dew. Lifting my face to the sun, I ask it what I should do. When the pain begins, I rejoice seeking a hollow rather than return home where he will ask questions.

You are restless to escape and now cramps rage through me as you shift. I hunker down and push, bearing my weight and strength through the length of me. And then the slip-slide of body, membrane, mucus and blood onto the grass. You are all legs as you flounder. Your head turns and we make eye contact. I smile and stroke your body, still wet through. I lift you to the sun and name you Solar. Placing you at my feet, you dry off, all the while trying to find your feet. I hug you, nestle into your furriness, and place you to my breast.

He will never understand. I can never tell him of this. You are mine, and we shall run the fields together, just as I did before I met the human.

 


Heather Walker is a London based writer of poetry, flash and short fiction. Her work has appeared in various magazines, ezines and anthologies, including Paragraph Planet, Visual Verse, Ink Sweat & Tears, Seaborne and Popshop. Her novellas, Where It Ends and The Chair are available through Amazon.

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.

Arran Postcard – Anna Percy

 

Dear T.

I know you have cycled on the coast road where I bumped along on the bus I haven’t asked if you stopped here at Kildonan where seals are promised or whether in fact the flop of their sea adapted bodies fills you with the same glee a fortification crumbles in a dark stone on the hill a look out a warning place the first line of defence the current light house sits on an islet must be lonely have to row back and forth to find another body the sun has started to blaze and yet the sea froze my toes a swimming costume was a dare to the water the water itself is all subtle movement and glitter past the sand everything is bands of blue and white you would swim.

 


Anna Percy has been writing for the page, stage and publication since 2004 mostly in the North of England. In 2010 she co founded the feminist collective Stirred Poetry. She has three full length collections with Flapjack Press. This poem is from an upcoming pamphlet The Everlasting Now from Some Roast Poets.

Chronos – Anna Ross

 

Tick, tick, tick.

The clock hands are all heading for twelve,

And there is nothing I can do to stop them.

Perhaps I could break the clocks.

Tear their hands from their faces,

Scatter their cogs on the floor.

But I don’t. I know it will not help.

For no matter how many timepieces I destroy,

The clock hands will still reach twelve.

 

Tick, tick, tick.

I’ve tried to look the other way.

But time is a tricky thing to hide from.

It is indefinite and exact, constant and ongoing.

And it knows not its own value.

I’ve played my part, fulfilled my role,

And in this I make my exit.

 

Tick, tick, tick

Twelve will be my final hour, when I shall meet my ‘justice’.

Under the midday sun, as the church bell rings,

The hour is near and they have all come for me.

The tides still flow, the sun still rises,

I am no longer scheming escape.

My life and my innocence are inconsequential to time.

For all the clock hands are heading for twelve,

And there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.

 

Tick, tick, tick.

 


Anna Ross lives in North Yorkshire and works as a university administrator. She greatly enjoys reading and writing stories and poems of all shapes and sizes. Her short stories have been published across a range of anthologies. Though she is noted amongst her peers for writing literature with dark underlying themes and messages she is actually a very friendly person in the real world.

Passing Colours – Martin Potter

 

Rail journey

Thickset windows fix

Fleeting landscape green-chill

Outside carriage warmth

 

A winter sun’s

Tentative intense

Strikes brushwood bark-bole

Bounces lemon curd

 

Off the trees’

December slumber skin

Insinuating dazzle

Lichen imbued light

 


Martin Potter (https://martinpotterpoet.home.blog) is a poet and academic, and his poems have appeared in Acumen, The French Literary Review, Eborakon, Scintilla, Ink Sweat & Tears, The Poetry Village, and other journals. His pamphlet In the Particular was published by Eyewear in December, 2017.

Baskett Slough III – Marc Janssen

 

The milk sun combs uncombed fields

While

An atonal chorus of geese concert invisibly directly overhead.

 

All around

The illusion of softness

In the graceful curving hill-scapes,

Rust carpets of oak leaves,

Before it is broken by an insincere tittering of human voices.

 


Marc Janssen lives in a house with a wife who likes him and a cat who loathes him. Regardless of that turmoil, his poetry can be found scattered around the world in places like Penumbra, Slant, Cirque Journal, Off the Coast and Poetry Salzburg. Janssen also coordinates the Salem Poetry Project, a weekly reading, the annual Salem Poetry Festival, and was a 2020 nominee for Oregon Poet Laureate.

Sunlight – Stephen Kingsnorth

 

The bulbs above –

their filaments,

the broken joints of spider legs –

hang lazy, washing on the line,

a sad parade unheeded now,

awaiting switch of energy,

electricity,

spark generation of the sun.

 

The bulbs below –

first snowdrops show,

hint cream and green above the snow,

the phototroph, explosive strength,

breaks crystal ice of brittle soil.

Then corms of crocus, specie, grow,

pale mauve or streaked,

bear stripes of war

from battle through harsh undergrowth,

spark generation of the sun.

 


Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had over 250 pieces published by on-line poetry sites, printed journals and anthologies. Find more at https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com.

The prints you laid – Gareth Culshaw

 

The coast elbowed the land

a sea came from afar

nudged the pebbles until they rolled.

 

We walked. Left a memory

in the road. I unclipped

the lead from my hand,

 

and you cut away the distance

between yourself and a gull.

 

I followed the earth’s golden dust

as you pounded the edge of land

and water.

 

An oystercatcher flicked up into the gulp.

I watched the sun on your fur

 

that carried light, put prints

in the sand before I got there.

 

I hope they’re still around to lead me

when I go back, alone.

 


Gareth lives in Wales. He has two collections by FutureCycle, The Miner & A Bard’s View. He is a current student at Manchester Met.

White Butterflies – Andy Eycott

 

White butterflies

crisp as a new playing cards,

hinged wings

guitar picks strumming.

 

The first rests on yellow petals

the second fluttering

over blackberries ripening,

both blown into the bushes

 

as a train that doesn’t stop 

at this station thunders through.

A flash of bright white returns

drawn back by a dandelion sun.

 


Andy lives in South East London and currently works within the NHS. Since being diagnosed with dyslexia at forty-eight he has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies. These include Obsessed with Pipework, Worktown Words, Orbis, The Dawntreader, The Cannon’s Mouth, Snakeskin, Runcible Spoon, Sentinel Literary Quarterly and Poems in the Waiting Room. He had also qualified as a counsellor and enjoys writing stories for his grandson.

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.

Late September Morning – Glen Sorestad

 

You always hear them 

before you see them.

 

When I heard them, 

I stopped, looked up:

 

the cries of Snow Geese, 

thousands of them, 

 

ragged flying necklaces 

strewn across 

 

a robin’s egg sky, 

slant of rising sun 

 

glinting off 

brilliant white feathers.

 

That familiar ache 

seized my throat, 

 

their plaintive cries 

waning as they flowed by, 

 

carrying summer 

southwest to the river.

 


Glen Sorestad is a Canadian poet whose work has appeared in publication in various parts of the world, has appeared in over 60 anthologies and textbooks, and has been translated into eight languages. He was nominated for Best of the Web 2020. He lives with his wife Sonia in Saskatoon on the northern plains.

Parental Guidance – Maurice Devitt

 

A hot summer’s day on the estate, tar-lines

softening in the blistering sun. Constructing

triangles with ice-pop sticks, we meld the corners

with our new liquorice glue and whip them

like frisbees from between our fingers,

to watch them ride the warm silent air,

twisting and dipping until they crash and split

like atoms, sticks splayed. I throw one

and it takes off, rising sharply as though from a sling,

then stalls like a cough and bounces off

the windscreen of a cornering car. Sliding

to a stop, the driver jumps out, engine left running.

I am already gone, scooting down the side-passage

of our house. He lopes up the steps, pounds on the door.

No answer at first, just the peripheral view

of a net-curtain settling. He looks up at the windows,

they hold their silence. He shuffles self-consciously

on the step. My mother opens the door, her small frame

standing tall in the doorway, her face suitably sullen.

The man is shouting about what I have done,

while my mother examines the chips in her fingernails.

He demands to see me as if it were his right

to exact some revenge. My mother seems to grow taller

in the darkened hallway, as I appear sheepishly

from beneath her housecoat. He stretches to grab me,

she pushes me back, takes one step forward and explains,

that while she is aware her son is young and reckless,

he does not need to feel this anger to know

that he is wrong. Fear will teach him nothing.

The man harrumphs and walks away. I catch

his last regretful glance from the driver’s seat,

knowing that, for me, this is not over yet.

 

 

Personal PhotoWinner of the Trócaire/Poetry Ireland and Poems for Patience competitions, Maurice Devitt has been nominated for Pushcart, Forward and Best of the Net Prizes and been runner-up in the Cúirt New Writing Prize, Interpreter’s House Poetry Competition and the Cork Literary Review Manuscript Competition. He published his debut collection Growing Up in Colour with Doire Press.

Days – Ted Mc Carthy

 

Days are the spars of a shipwreck. Overhead,

the constant fear of looking at the sun.

No more raft of promises. Instead,

a decent life, an audience of one.

 

 

Ted - 008Ted Mc Carthy is a poet and translator living in Clones, Ireland. His work has appeared in magazines in Ireland, the UK, Germany, the USA, Canada and Australia. He has had two collections published, ‘November Wedding’, and ‘Beverly Downs’. His work can be found on www.tedmccarthyspoetry.weebly.com.

Highfield – Ted Mc Carthy

 

Remember this when names won’t come easily:

the patch of green too narrow for houses,

viewed from an upstairs window;

a flit of yellowhammers at year’s turning,

the long view east, milk-souring suns,

far unmeasured mornings. Remember these

when your name moves beyond you

like the sun behind a house.

 

 

Ted - 008Ted Mc Carthy is a poet and translator living in Clones, Ireland. His work has appeared in magazines in Ireland, the UK, Germany, the USA, Canada and Australia. He has had two collections published, ‘November Wedding’, and ‘Beverly Downs’. His work can be found on www.tedmccarthyspoetry.weebly.com.