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.

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.

Who I’m Really Thinking About When My Grandaughter Assumes I’m Missing Her Grandfather and Gives Me that Soft-Sweet Look – Diane D. Gillette

 

I remember Rita in her pink kitten heels, her hair coiffed up in a lavender helmet, her lips leaving ruby stained proof of her existence on my neck. She tasted like merlot, and sounded like the sigh after a storm. I remember the pretty way she danced around my living room to the Nat King Cole record she brought over. Her hips entranced me, and I pulled her back on the couch so we could make love all over again. I remember the way her gardenia perfume settled into my pores for days after she was gone. How I could feel her skin under my hands, soft like butter, for weeks, for months, if I just closed my eyes and thought about her. I remember the taste of rain in the air when she drove away. I remember thinking that no matter what she said or believed, she’d come back. I remember finding the wedding announcement from the newspaper. Or rather, it found me. A manila envelope with no return address. No note attached. Just the announcement, snipped and clipped so sharp – a papercut right to the heart. It said the bride had been beautiful. But there’s no way Rita could have been as beautiful as she had been dancing in my living room.

 


Diane D. Gillette (she/her) lives in Chicago. Her work is a Best Small Fictions selection. Her chapbook We’re All Just Trying to Make It to January 2nd is available through Fahmidan & Co. Publishing. She is a founding member of the Chicago Literary Writers. Read more at www.digillette.com.

Living with parents – Christiana Sasa

 

My mum and dad call me

many times a day.

we live in the

same house,

but on different floors

when I’m working,

I hate to get interrupted.

They understand me

and I, too, understand them.

still….

it often makes me

erupt in a yell,

“What’s wrong?”

“Don’t call me now please”;

but my heart sinks,

every time I react like that.

An emptiness

bites on my nerves.

I know

One day I’ll miss getting interrupted…

 


Christiana Sasa has been writing poetry for three years. Her work has been published in the literary magazines Poetry Life and Times, Literary Heist, Rye Whiskey Review etc. and in two E-zines called Dark Poetry Society and RavenCage. Besides poetry, she’s interested in painting, music, short films, and comedy.

The Tree – Daniel Tobias Behan

 

I spoke with

the tree-man,

and he told me

 

how deep his

roots buried

into the Earth;

 

connected

through moss,

rock, and soil,

to places far

and wide –

 

they held

knowledge

humanity had yet

to even consider.

 

His trunk, he

told me, contained

layers in concentric

rings, infused

 

with memories

of all people who

had passed

him by over

the years.

 

His branches,

he said,

kept secrets

of the birds,

 

who sang him

tales of their

dinosaur ancestors –

 

his leaves

communed, with

the sun,

wind, stars,

 

sky, and moon,

about the

state of affairs

across the galaxy.

 


Daniel Tobias Behan is a London born-and-based poet. From 2017 to 2019, Daniel performed regularly at the London Irish Centre, Camden; in 2018 Daniel was interviewed by the Irish Post as part of their London Calling podcast series, and in 2020 had a short film made of ‘The Visit’ featuring acclaimed actor Nora Connolly and directed by Patrick O’Mahony, was interviewed for Wombwell Rainbow, and commenced a poetry series ‘Findings’ on channillo.com.

70 Seconds – Anna Ross

 

A small spark

A flicker, a flash

Blink and you miss it

A lone reaching flame

Small, steady, silent

Growing at both sides

A red hand waving

Calling for attention

Its journey begins

Rug, stool, chair, bookcase

Claiming them all

Flaring up, grasping

Ascending the curtains

Smoke pools above

Now unstoppable

All within is lost

Inferno rages

 


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.

You’re so cool – Anna Idelevich

 

A tear mist stettled on the city

and I can’t see, I don’t write for show-off,

I’m driving on the night road of interconnections, you can’t see

point blank,

but it is audible, audible as if the stars are pouring ointments,

on the rustle.

I am one of them small, millionth.

Communication with you is nothing but needles,

but it’s dark in the car, I’m sitting lit up,

let’s say lit, but the Universe was not enough

gunpowder,

and it’s just a silhouette filled up with you

light, do not remove all the sadness from the stains,

and you can call for a long time and pull your hands into the distance.

Such a nebula over the city

illegal,

your colossus is reinforced concrete,

but the song sounds not funeral, but restless,

as if window tokens were nailed through the air to

rest,

and if there is no time, then there is neither river nor bank,

turn your head, I am parallel to you, to the fire and

time.

 


Anna Idelevich is a scientist by profession, Ph.D., MBA, trained in the neuroscience field at Harvard University. She writes poetry for pleasure. Her books and poetry collections include DNA of the Reversed River and Cryptopathos published by the Liberty Publishing House, NY. Anna’s poems were published by BlazeVOX, Louisville Review, Salmon Creek Journal, Bourgeon Magazine, In Parenthesis, O:J&A, Gyroscope Review among others. She hopes you will enjoy their melody, new linguistic tone, and a slight tint of an accent.

The tender pines – Robert Beveridge

 

It is not far, not far at all beyond

the city limits where the road ends,

even the tire tracks peter out amidst

the wild-grown grass surrounded

by trees, invisible from buildings.

Just enough room to park, lay out

a blanket, pitch a tent.

 

Off to one edge, a ring. I thought

at first of mushrooms. But no—

of snails, their variegated shells

ablaze in the afternoon light.

I read to them awhile, until the sun

was low enough that it was time

to gather wood. Whether they

enjoyed it I’ve no idea.

 

A fire just long enough to warm

ramps, mushrooms, beans, a chunk

of bread torn to pieces, then to bed

and dreams of snails who aspire

to write their first poems.

 


Robert Beveridge (he/him) makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry in Akron, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in Blood and Bourbon, The Stratford Quarterly, and Stonecoast Review, among others.

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.

In the Archives – Charlotte Cosgrove

 

I keep a list of all the books I’ve ever read.

A catalogue of all the presents I receive.

It is not the reading of the book,

Or the opening of the gift,

That excites me.

It is the afterwards.

Like the look you give

After sex, days later, at dinner.

I write that down, too.

How many times, how long it lasted.

I don’t mark these things out of ten,

I don’t compare them to each other.

They are just there –

For data.

A hoarding of my history.

 


Charlotte Cosgrove is a poet and English lecturer from Liverpool, England. Her work has appeared in Trouvaille Review, Dreich, The Literary Yard, The Broadkill Review, Wingless Dreamer, Confingo, Beyond Words and various anthologies online and in print. She is editor of Rough Diamond poetry journal. Her first poetry book Silent Violence with Petals will be published with Kelsay Books in June 2022.

I Have Walked This Path Before – James G. Piatt

 

I am peering through raindrops, which are

washing away my memories watching the past

fade as I walk along an old path I have walked on

many times before.

 

I have walked this path before, in the springtime

when cheery trees were pink with blossoms,

giant maple trees were showing their pink buds,

and young animals in their new born freedom

loped along the river, carefree, and filled with the

excitement of new birth.

 

I have walked this path before when the summer

heat silently placed its warmth upon my

shoulders as I sat on a beach chair near a placed

pond thinking about the beauty of nature, and

listening to the sweet warbling of tiny songbirds.

 

I have walked this path before when autumn’s

slowly increasing winds started their polished

journey into winter with whispered hints of

fading time, and the sun was covered with dark

moisture filled clouds.

 

I have walked this path before when the chill of

winter blurred my footsteps, tiny birds took

refuge in bushes and I, bundled up in wools and

layered cotton, pondered on the coldness of the

season, and what I should etch onto the marble

face of my tombstone.

 


James is an internationally published poet, a Best of Web nominee and three time Pushcart nominee. He has had four poetry books; Solace Between the Lines, Light, Ancient Rhythms, and The Silent Pond, 1500 poems, five novels, and 35 short stories published worldwide. He earned his doctorate from BYU, and his BS and MA from California State Polytechnic University, SLO. He writes poetry to maintain his sanity, and sometimes succeeds.

Preserved – Stephen Kingsnorth

 

I dusted coal soot from the sill

and came across the brittle bee,

stuck, desiccated, frosted pane.

And yet, with yoghurt, muesli dish, –

a bowl of porridge not amiss –

I plunged my fork deep in the pot

and spooned gold honey onto mix.

 

The jams and pickles, sloe gin jars –

ghoul specimens of organs, blood –

thank God for vinegar preserve,

a promise realised before.

Those languorous, drawn heady days

of elderflower, drone buzzy gnats,

will come gain, blaze summer tastes.

 

For now, past future on the shelves,

swelt sweating stove for spreading loaf,

float gherkins, onions, sweet with cheese,

a ploughman’s grubby hand from sheaves,

slow thaw, then other layered snow

cannot remove year’s heavy brew,

sure harvest cycle, budding soon.

 


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.

Flowers and night-time flowers – DS Maolalai

 

camden. the bus

flipped like a swing

in bad weather

with somebody

kicking their heels.

11pm. earth gone

grey in salty

shades of orange.

the shops all closed, bars

curled open,

like flowers

giving way to night-

time flowers. someone

already hammered,

being sick in a corner

next to a fish shop.

pavement alive

like a pond

with ducks.

a part of the city

with evening in shades,

beautiful and busy.

stylish people

and shirts

bought from second

hand stores.

 


DS Maolalai has been nominated eight times for Best of the Net and five times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden (Encircle Press, 2016) and Sad Havoc Among the Birds (Turas Press, 2019).

Haze – Neil Fulwood

 

Soft haze hangs

over trees, over road,

view losing focus

near broken gate

at field’s edge,

rich man’s house

vaguely outlined

a half mile away.

The rumble

that trembles teacup

could be anything

passing at any

distance at any

point in time.

 


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.