Welcome to Issue Three! Featuring wonderful work by:
Sarah Miles, Rebecca Gethin, Noah Mendez, Stephanie Marcellus, Louisa Campbell, Stella Wulf, Daniel Roy Connelly, Rachael Smart, Orla Fay, and Andy Brown.
They say that if you swim deep enough
the water curdles and splits,
islands of dolphin’s laughter
emerge from the sea-bed and
fingernail fish squinting silver
shoal like glitter,
galloping seahorses trample your breath
and when it’s gone you find
an underwater voice
the echo of seashells
Sarah Miles lives in Sussex and has worked as an actress and a teacher. Her flash fiction has won a national writing competition and her poetry has been published in various publications and websites, including The Poetry Shed, Prole, Mslexia and The Emma Press.
Landfall in Co. Donegal – 1826
He treasured what he brought back to his treeless Thoraigh
from the big island off the coast,
where their boat fetched up in the storm.
From time to time he fingered its smooth surface,
the knobbly cup; when no one was looking
sniffed it, recalled the texture of the trunk
its bulges and ridges, the fissures;
the gush of wind in the branches
spiralling down the leaves,
their dazzle of copper and gold,
how he’d scuffed them with his feet.
In his pocket, he sensed the potential of oak tree
taking root, feared to plant it because
he didn’t want his secrets growing through the leaves
scattered over the ground.
(first published in the author’s collection A Handful of Water, Cinnamon Press, 2013)
Rebecca Gethin lives on Dartmoor. Cinnamon Press published her second poetry collection, A Handful of Water, in 2013. Her first novel, Liar Dice, won the Cinnamon Press Novel Award and her second, What the horses heard, was published in 2014. New poems have appeared in Prole, The Interpreter’s House and Lighthouse as well as Her Wings of Glass, the Exeter Poetry Festival anthology, the Battered Moons Competition pamphlet and The Broadsheet. Her website is rebeccagethin.wordpress.com.
It had probably been Concepción’s idea to go swim in the storm like the ‘Americans’ did. Sure he wouldn’t be able to tape it, and sure his twin sister was with him, but this was how all daredevils started out right? Unknown in their recklessness, scolded and insulted. The praise came later. Or, at least he hoped it did.
“You idiot, the sea is going to swallow you whole like it did to Tío Paulo,” Ascensión shouted over the wind. He paid her no mind—she never wanted to do anything outside of the house. She was proud and he knew that was the only reason she stayed with him right now, facing the chill of the waves.
Ascensión was also the more observant one and it was she who spotted the woman walking into the water—a bottle blonde, model thin, skin tone a shade darker than the white of her string bikini. Average in America, but to them she was foreign, a ghost from Los Estados.
“Mira, another crazy like you.” Ascensión said, nudging her brother hard with her shoulder.
“Mm. A sexy mamí.”
“You say something like that again and I swear te voy a darte un galletazo que nunca vas a olvidar.”
Concepción inched away from his sister diagonally, placing himself closer to the mysterious woman. He peered at her and beckoned to his sister with his hand.
“She’s going deeper into the water. Into the darker part.”
The woman’s head was slipping under the water now, blending in with the sea foam, barely breaching the waves before dipping back under.
“Jeez, some people have a death wish,” Ascensión said sighing. She turned to go but her brother stayed fixed in place.
“Concepción, oye, we should get going. Storm’s getting bad.” He didn’t move, just angled his head enough for her to read his lips.
“She’s going to drown,” his lips were saying.
“Espera!” he shouted, swimming diagonally in her direction. “Wait!” Ascensión was right behind him, her steps turning into kicks, slower than her brother’s.
“Concepción…maybe we should go back.” Her teeth were chattering slightly.
“Wait…I can see her beckoning to us. Perhaps she needs help.” And indeed, a pale hand rose above the foam and then vanished into it, entire arm swallowed by the sea, until nothing but flashes of white remained, a body turned to salt.
The sea threw him back with her arms a pushing force, sending him slamming into his sister. They cried out in unison and rolled under the waves until their back hit sand. Ascensión was the first to get up, dragging her brother along until he regained his footing, not letting go of his hand until they burst through the cabaña door, wheezing and shaking.
“La Llorona,” she whispered. “You almost got taken by La Llorona.” They stayed like that for a while, two fifteen year old twins trying to find some meaning to their mother’s garbled words, a mother shaking with a lonely atmosphere.
Noah Mendez is a 17 year old trans man who mainly writes poetry, art, songs, and the occasional story.
Where do they come from—
The things we find so precious?
The castle is split-level, the color of a robin’s egg,
with a two-car garage on a dead end street.
Its rooftop does not leer or loom or make the other houses
It houses no gold deplumes or magical keys
Its trappings are mediocrity and a crabapple tree.
Only—the egg resides:
White like fine un-cracked porcelain
with a glowing halo emanating from its protective nest.
Bluebeard keeps this egg to himself.
Everybody needs something to protect.
He never ventures off the ranch to go courting or trying
to out trick the cunning daughters of the neighbors
into marrying a man with a blue goatee.
He knows his place in a world no longer laced together
by the shoestrings of magic,
but he also knows that he is a wonder of science.
His production of an egg– a masculine phenomenon–
so he keeps the egg warm
in his fiery self-enclosed incubator of a heart.
Stephanie Marcellus is an assistant professor of English at Wayne State College, where she teaches creative writing and literature courses. Her stories and poems have been published in various journals and anthologies such as the Weekly Read, Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland, Alligator Juniper, and Blue Bear Review.
The Sleeping Beauty Poem
(Seven years on amitriptyline*)
Did Sleeping Beauty wake one hundred years later
in a nursing home, with a pink nylon tabard and sensible shoes,
the faint scent of stale urine and tea time’s boiled cabbage,
glimpsing the truth that her brain had shrivelled
from a plump, juicy walnut to a bitten-out core?
It’s not the being sedated:
it’s the discovery of it.
It’s your young daughter,
when you want to play waddling penguins,
saying, “Sorry, Mummy, but I am used to you being, well…
It’s your husband,
gorging on the silky newness of us,
so you wonder,
did he just turn his life down several jag-
ged, flagellating notches?
My kiss was advice,
My Prince Charming, a doctor;
my circuit board flickering;
thorn bushes withering.
What, years ago, did I need to block out?
Is anything really too hard to bear?
Come on out, monster from under the bed,
boogie on, bogeyman,
tango with me, agony,
I am putting the flags out for you:
spinning wheels, wicked fairies and all.
*Amitriptyline is a tricyclic antidepressant drug used for a variety of conditions, including depression and pain. It generally has a sedating effect and must be withdrawn from gradually and under medical supervision.
Louisa Campbell is a product of a weird religious upbringing, happily married (third time around) mother of two children, who hangs around spa towns. A psychiatric nurse in the past, she now has a bizarre illness that can make her everso slightly psychotic. Her ambition is to reach out with her poetry and connect with, or even comfort, someone. In the mean time, she adopts stray dogs, stray people and stray thoughts. And bakes cupcakes.
The Weaver’s Apprentice
Mistress could spin a fine yarn from a Suffolk fleece,
embroider tangled tales from Wensleydales,
knit a cable from a Black Welsh Mountain.
She’d spun her legend from remnants of the past,
twisted the loose ends of history into a coiled skein.
When she’d a mind she’d wind a warp,
hook threads through the horses heddles,
task me to pull them through the reeds,
all the while counting treadles, drafting runes,
Lover’s Knot, Buttercup, Monk’s Belt,
keeping the tension with a beat of each line,
Sea Star, Honeysuckle, Goose Path,
magic, rolled on the beam, row by row,
Dog Tracks, Sweet Briar, Sun and Moon,
patterns she’d learned by heart.
Once, she let me open the shed – send the shuttle flying,
looping its silky weft through the charted space.
She trusted me with a Lover’s Knot but my head
was a ragbag of tangled ply, snagged threads,
the worsted hanks of wool-gathering.
Mistress unravelled my artless web,
left me twisting on the fringes,
while she loomed like Arachne,
through taut perfection.
Stella Wulf lives in South West France and has just completed an MA in Creative Writing with Lancaster University. (She is awaiting, with trepidation, the results.) Her work has been widely published, both in print and online magazines and journals, and has appeared in several anthologies including The Very Best of 52, Three Drops from a Cauldron, and the Clear Poetry Anthology. She is also an artist and her work can be seen on her website: stellawulf.com
The Boeotian Hottie
Daniel Roy Connelly
for James Tate
Just because he fell in love with
THE reflection doesn’t mean
he knew it was his own. He’d never
been one to demand special affection
or prone to the type of personality disorder
that pushes young people, particularly men,
nearer to the middle of the world according to them.
Neither had he started shaving, he didn’t need a mirror.
All said, Narcissus had not the faintest notion
he had by the standards of Boeotian hunters
become a hottie, the kind he’d get with in a flash,
the kind who’d waste away for love – without
a thought of self-slaughter – while embracing
the rippled lips he saw foment on the
HERO OF HIS EVERY WAKING MOMENT
(who for some reason or other lived underwater).
His gaze unflinching from the seductive meniscus,
the kiss went on until the tip of his famished nose
broke the surface tension of the only thing he chose
to hold dear. Little is ever said of this.
Narcissus died distracted by love at first sight
of a stranger who readily accepted his kiss,
who with one eye pierced his dry lover’s delight,
with the other a ring of water to seal their future bliss.
A former British diplomat, Daniel Roy Connelly has worked around the globe. He has acted in and directed theatre in America, the UK, Italy and China, where his 2009 production of David Henry Hwang’s M Butterfly was forced to close by the Chinese secret police. He is forthcoming in Acumen 88, The Moth and Critical Survey 28.1. He is a professor of creative writing, English and theatre at John Cabot University and The American University of Rome.
(After L Frank Baum)
Butter wouldn’t melt
in her cherry split mouth, all blue gingham pinafore
and practical plaits, how it screams sagacious.
Notice her black eyes though, tourmaline cuts
that glitter more than the knock off slippers
she tore from the bones of that balding West witch.
She might hold her knotty terrier up high, her breast shield;
claims he wards off the male gaze but the mutt gets stuffed in a basket when it suits her
and didn’t she throw herself into a pig pen, her skirt hoiked up for Hunk
and Zeke and Hickory, the dense, emotionally illiterate, spineless voids
hoping on a wizard’s wand to help them grow a pair?
They should be ashamed of themselves
daydreaming that Dot will bend over in neon fields of rape
to take a lion, a scarecrow and a junk man from behind –
and her little dog, too.
Rachael Smart is a writer from Nottingham with a thing about words. Her short fiction and poetry has appeared in LITRO, Ink Sweat and Tears, Prole and other places. She is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at The University of Nottingham. Rachael is addicted to the writer’s website ABCTales.com where she goes wild about poetry and is also Associate Editor at the literary e-zine Cease, Cows.
Endymion Calls to the Moon
Running through the trees
I catch glimpses of the girl
Faster than the sunlight
Whose laughter is the river.
She is at once golden and green.
Stop a while please
That I might look on you,
Drink of your eyes as a well
And satisfy my heart
full of desert.
Listen so I may tell you a meeting place.
At dawn when it is grey,
Or at twilight,
Some between time
I expect to meet you.
Surely you are not so far from me,
Not Ch’ang O, goddess,
Who stole a pill of immortality
And took refuge in the moon,
Surely not that far away.
I will wait.
A moon is only a month
And write such songs
That the world will plead
That you are by my side.
Some between time
I will not fail
To hold what is whole:
Hecate, Selene, Diana,
Phoebe, Cynthia, Luna.
Orla Fay is the editor of Boyne Berries Magazine. Her work has been published in Orbis, Carillon, Abridged, Boyne Berries, Silver Blade Magazine, Shot Glass Journal, The Stony Thursday Book and North West Words among others. Crannog magazine nominated her poem ‘Look Back in Wonder’ for the Forward Prize 2016. She keeps a blog at http://www.orlafay.blogspot.com
Some Sayings About the Cormorant
The lone black huntress
senses the presence of prey,
dives and liquefies.
In the space she leaves
what can be said of the world?
She’s her own absence.
one eye in the Cretaceous,
the other in myth.
Owning the green buoy,
she extends her wings to dry –
a hook-faced Harpy.
There, the cormorant
fills her throat; rattles her song –
this raucous Siren.
Bound to our oar stroke
and the pull of shoaling fish,
we scull through her wake.
Andy Brown is Professor of Creative Writing at Exeter University. He has published over ten books of poetry, most recently Watersong (Shearman, 2015); Exurbia (Worple Press, 20156); The Fool and the Physician (Salt, 2012); Goose Music (with John Burnside, Salt, 2008); and Fall of the Rebel Angels: Poems 1996-2006 (Salt, 2006). He recently co-edited A Body of Work: Poetry & Medical Writing (Bloomsbury, 2016) and The Writing Occurs as Song: A Kelvin Corcoran Reader (Shearman, 2014). His first novel,Apples & Prayers, is available as an e-book from Dean Street Press (2015).
Thanks for reading! See you in a fortnight for Issue Four.