Welcome to Issue Four of Three Drops from a Cauldron!
Featuring new writing from Larry D. Thacker, Louise Larchbourne, Jude Roy, Jane Frank, Daniel Roy Connelly, Lesley Burt, Mary Percy-Burns, Enodia Black, David J. Costello, and Bethany W Pope.
Sweet Potato Lore #1
Larry D. Thacker
Plant one extra slip for every three you desire to live, a fine and healthy one and don’t be stingy with this sacrifice, child. Plant on the evening of a promised full moon, but don’t spy her that night, though you’re tempted, even if called to speak of things only the night should hear. Take an antique photo of a couple you’ve never met, bartered without money from an antique shop, torn in half at their shoulders, tossed into the soil and full covered, one on one end of the crop mounds, one on the other, so their whispers thread the soils all summer long. Choose well an uneaten specimen from last harvest’s crop, sprouted inside your home in the dark among where you thrive, wrapped and un-spied by anyone. Plant it whole bodied in the center of the potato mound field. Stake the spot. Let this lovely mess of vines grow high and wild, all the loosed leafed eyes in watch for the first killing frost.
Larry D. Thacker is a writer and artist from Tennessee. His poetry can be found in journals and magazines such as The Still Journal, The Southern Poetry Anthology: Tennessee, Mojave River Review, Broad River Review, Harpoon Review, Rappahannock Review, and Appalachian Heritage. He is the author of Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia, the poetry chapbooks, Voice Hunting and Memory Train and the forthcoming full collection Drifting in Awe.He is presently taking his MFA in poetry and fiction at West Virginia Wesleyan College.
The Young Man Lost in the Forest
A young man was loose in the forest
and all through the forest he strayed.
The sun it was hid by the treetops,
his mind it was cold and afraid.
He came to a shadowy hollow,
as deep and as dark as the sea
and he felt near to fall down inside it,
to sleep, from the darkness to flee.
He stood at the edge of the basin,
he walked all around it in pain,
for he could see nothing within it,
and his foot stopped again and again.
Then a night owl flew over his shoulder
and blinded, he fell from the rim.
He rolled into the darkness of slumber
and the forest trees curled over him.
For now this young man lay a-dreaming.
He dreamt himself under the sea
and his tail was the tail of a fish’s
and his body, a lovely lady.
He swam through the sea without blinking,
the salt, it awakened his bones
and the waves were a chariot for him,
their motion the snatch of his soul;
and as he rose up through the water,
the water, it ceaséd to be,
he was spinning in circles of brightness
and his head like a star it was free.
And the light, it could only awake him –
he opened his eyes in the wood,
and there in a circle about him
the trees all so lovingly stood.
He rose to his feet in the hollow
and cried out, ‘What angels are these
who are moving in brightness about me?”
Ah his faith, it had lighted the trees.
Louise Larchbourne was published first a long time ago in the West Midlands, where she was a performing poet, exploring the difference between poetry for reading on the page and poetry for performance. She recently returned to the acting career she left for motherhood. One of her poems is included in the collection The Very Best of 52. She is the current organiser of ‘Ekphrasis Poetry at the Museum’ a series of themed readings in situ of work inspired by exhibits at the Ashmolean in Oxford.
The Winter Nap
When I awoke from my winter nap,
the bears stared down at me.
The stars had long fallen.
The sun stood high in the sky
when I awoke from my winter nap.
The beds were unmade.
The gruel had congealed,
and the chairs were bottomed out
When I awoke from my winter nap.
When I awoke from my winter nap
I begged the bears’ forgiveness—
Threw myself at their paws.
I swore by the sun above
when I awoke from my winter nap
that I would never sleep again.
All my dreams disappeared—
ran like tree sap
when I awoke from my winter nap.
The stars had long fallen.
(First published in The Dead Mule Magazine, August 2007)
Jude Roy‘s poetry has appeared in numerous magazines and journals including The Southern Indiana Review, Prism International, Ecletica, Niedemgasse, The Unprecedented Review, and others. Originally from Chataignier, LA, he lives and writes in Madisonville, KY.
Why do sea otters hold hands?
When we surface
it’s in a Hebridean sea,
whiskers piercing crystal,
the ferry’s vibrations a happy hum.
Wrap me in kelp,
anchor me from swirling currents
my shapeshifter, my love,
so we can find the way back
at night to watch our children
from stars, keep them safe,
leave a shell trail on each pillow
so they will swim to us downstream.
Jane Frank is a poet and academic based in Brisbane, Australia. She is the author of Milky Way of Words, published by Ginninderra Press, 2016. Her poems have appeared in Australian Poetry Journal, Antipodes, Westerly, Writ, London Grip, The Frogmore Papers, Nutshells and Nuggets, Northwords Now, Poets Republic, Eunoia Review and Bluepepper as well as forthcoming in Cordite Review and Takehē.
Daniel Roy Connelly
Isaac’s sacrificial lamb is a good example
with nothing but positive lessons to take away.
Though Abraham already made plans for his son’s bedroom
and the actual swap came late on in the proceedings
with some residual trauma likely in the child +
palliative care for the father / his seizure?
AS IF FROM NOWHERE
a massive u-turn, a 96th-minute winner.
Wheel away and thank your lucky stars, Abraham,
terror turns, war unravels, hunger sates, back doors close,
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.
This one’s about a lightning tree
CLOUD FIRE TREE FIRE
FIRE TREE CLOUD CLOUD
above threshing green-to-autumn limbs
a cumulonimbus does a dragon thing
races across the full moon, nose thrust
wings highlighted silver
bare roar release a jagged streak crack
the old pine shake complacent cul-de-sac
Lesley Burt’s poetry has been published online, including by Long Exposure and the Poetry Kit website, and in magazines and anthologies, including: Tears in the Fence, The Interpreter’s House, Sarasvati, Reach and The Butchers Dog. Recent awards in competitions include Chipping Sodbury 2014, Poetry Kit 2015 and Poetry Kit Members Competition March 2016. She is currently working towards the MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University (Distance Learning).
I’ve looked into these new hoovers
they look pretty good
now I’ve taken over the
kitchen and the money
I can start improving my life
I’ve been asked to the ball
but quite frankly
I can’t be doing with all
this pumpkin and mice
business dancing for a coupleof hours
then missing the deadline
doesn’t look good to me
the other sisters I’ve
chained in the cellar
with just food and water
I am trying cognitive therapy
but I am not sure it is
their mother is quite
friendly after I shut her in a cupboard.She
keeps saying I should
marry but if
a relationship depends on
a shoe size I am
not so keen.
At twilight I see her colors in the sky
rich saffron fingers merging into blue
I am not afraid of the dark,
the night, as black as her eyes,
the moment of midnight.
the sound of dogs howling
long ago, I saw the glow of Her torch
before I knew Her name, She knew me
I was torn away from a field of flowers
ate pomegranate seeds
She heard me, even when the sun
Her light erased the dark
and She embraced me.
Enodia Black is solitary Wiccan who has been practicing the craft for thirteen years. She is currently studying at the Magical Circle School. Her articles on magick have appeared in the Llewellyn Journal and Sage Woman.
David J. Costello
Life clings to me.
Disfiguring the man I used to be.
Emaciated, drawn and slack.
People stare and children shout abuse
behind my back.
I can’t unpick or tease apart
the complicated knot
that used to be my heart.
I hardly eat or drink yet I persist.
Mortality’s not easy to resist.
I grow, wood slow.
Beneath my skin
the green years turn
to cork and wear me
like an Arctic winter
wears a tree.
Its cold compressed
this fossil out of me.
Everyone I’ve known has died.
I’ve lasted longer than their
gravestones and their griefs.
They populate the afterlife
with their beliefs.
I’ve had enough longevity.
I need to die.
The world won’t miss a man
who cannot cry.
(First published at Open Mouse (Poetry Scotland) and also appears in the author’s collection No Need For Candles (Red Squirrel Press, 2016).)
David J. Costello lives in Wallasey, Merseyside, England. He is a member of Chester Poets. David has been widely published on-line and in print including Prole, The Penny Dreadful, Shooter, Magma and Envoi. David is a previous winner of the Welsh International Poetry Competition and received a special commendation in the year’s competition. His debut pamphlet, Human Engineering, was published by Thynks Publishing in October 2013. A second pamphlet, No Need For Candles, was published in September 2016 by Red Squirrel Press. Visit his website at www.davidjcostellopoetry.com
Behind the Walls
Bethany W Pope
Real stories can never be told straight. They need the darkness
Under the earth to show their truth. Once, a girl knew pain.
No one ever touched her. Her mother was dead, struck cold —
Youth still clinging to her cheeks. Her father loved the scent of blood
Over any perfume, and blamed her for it. The girl envied stones,
Understood the appeal of the moth and the worm. Joy,
Real joy, was as distant as a myth. But joy
Finds everyone, eventually, and drags them into the dark.
In the middle of the night, the girl heard the voice of the stones
Neighing like dying horses. Seeking to ease their painful
Groans, the girl felt her way across the wall. There was blood
Everywhere, splashed about in the shape of a door. She felt cold.
Right before she could pull away, the walls bent inward. Cold
Stale air blew into her face. The wind sounded joyful
As it swirled around her, stirring her blood.
Caught by a zephyr, she fell into the dark.
Rough, jagged crystals caught her skin as she plunged. Pain
Overwhelmed her. She blacked out, senseless as a stone.
Some hours later, the girl awoke, surrounded by tall stones
Standing in a loose circle. The sun was high, and very cold.
Treading carefully, she picked her way through. Pain
Had loosened her thoughts, but joy
Erupted in her when she saw the tall walls of a garden. Dark
Descended quickly — she hurried on as the sun sank into its blood.
A garden is always a healing thing. Flowers fuel the blood,
Make the spirit stronger. These high stone
Parapets could not dissuade her. Feeling through the dark,
She came upon an iron door. It was heavy and cold.
Using all of her strength, she shoved it open. Joy
Rose up inside her throat. The sight of beauty slaughters pain.
Flowers curled on vines across the rocks, gripping them painfully.
Arbours creaked, laden with round fruit the colour of blood.
Creatures skittered in the tall grass, throbbing with joy,
Embracing hard as they coupled on the smooth, white stones.
Opening her eyes in here was like being reborn out of the cold,
Faint nothingness of the life she knew before falling into the dark.
The garden seemed larger inside than out, as though cold stones
Heaved themselves into new shapes. No pain, or blood, could
Enter here or taint her dark joy, but she was not alone.
Waiting, under a heavy-boughed fruit tree, a dark,
Angular figure stood. His posture looked painful,
Legs bent backwards at the knee, ending in cold
Little hooves. The fur on his arms was the colour of blood;
Under his horns, his face was sweet and calm as a stone.
‘Never fear, girl-child.’ he said, grinning with joy,
‘There’s nothing here that will hurt you. There’s only joy
Inside these walls, and only one spot of darkness.
Look towards the centre. See the tower with the walls of stone?
You’d only need to get there if you craved pain —
Or more treasures than are waiting here. Be warned, there’s blood
Under every flagstone — in every wall’s a skull grown cold.’
Frightened, the girl felt her hands and face grow cold,
‘I don’t want any trouble. I want to stay here. Joy
Never knew me before.’ The faun bit hard into a blood-
Dark plum. When he smiled at her his teeth were dark,
Tainted as though he’d tasted raw meat. ‘No painful
Horrors can touch you here. Stay with me. The stony
Earth shall shelter you. We’ll build a hut out of peach stones.’
His laugh was high, ‘You won’t ever go home.’ Her voice was cold,
‘I hate my life, up there. My mother’s gone. Pain
Dances, every day, across my bones, but joy
Dances with it. If I stay here, I’ll forget the dark,
Exactly as you say, but passion will fade from my blood.
Never mind the risk. I must press on.’ Blood
Darkened the face of the faun. His hooves struck sparks on stone.
‘Ordinarily, I would dissuade a maiden from trying the dark.
Ordinarily, I would try my hand at satyrdom, but you are cold,
Relentless. The only way that I can bring you joy,
Prepare your heart for love, lies in risking you through pain.
Remember my warnings: the devil is afraid of pain;
Every window is a passage; not every wall is closed;’ Blood-
Salty tears ran in rivulets beside his flat nose, ‘Joy
Stands separate from peace.’ Turning away, he transformed to stone.
The girl touched his carved, fur-swirled shoulder. It was cold.
High above, a light flashed in a high window, shattering the dark.
Eight miles she tramped, through the cold and the dark,
Legs aching with pain, blood throbbing in her brain, she
Ascended the hill leading up to the stone joy of the tower.
There was a door in the wall, coated with dark,
Climbing tendrils of ivy. She peeled vines away, painfully.
Her small hands blistered and burned with the cold.
At last, the portal there swung open. The scent of blood
Nagged at her stomach, turning swallowed fruit to stone
Deep in her guts. Fear can feel, almost, like joy.
Every step she took made her tremble with that fear-like-joy.
Nearing the first turning of the stair, the darkness
Teemed around her like a swarm. She ran her hands along stone,
Expecting at any moment to be shattered by pain.
Reeling, dizzy, she climbed, following the scent of blood.
Far from the earth, she found her second trial. Cold,
Exsanguinated corpses blocked her path. Their cold
And empty eye sockets glared up at her in a parody of joy.
Rigid as puppets, their arms jerked out. Bloodless
Orders flashed in the desiccated fibres of their brains. Dark
Reached out for the girl and, ignoring her pain,
She ran right through it. Dead fingers fumbled, stone-like,
At her heels, grasping nothing. She followed the stone,
Terrible steps, up to the third landing where windows blew cold,
Icy air onto her neck. She heard the cries of birds in pain,
Screaming for release into death. She heard the joyful,
Frantic clash of battles raging in the forgotten dark.
At the fourth landing, she smelled the stench of blood,
Clotted and old, as though left there for days. The blood
Took on the consistency of jelly, the hard gleam of stone.
It seethed, alive, across the floor reaching for her legs in the dark.
Oceans of blood would not freeze this girl into a cold
Nothing. She leapt across the pool, shrieking with joy,
Waving her arms as though she could fly away from pain
And anger, as even birds cannot. In another world, she could. Pain
Is unavoidable for most of us. She slipped in the blackening blood.
Traction lost, she slid into the hard, damp wall. But joy
Followed despair, and quickly. The hard stones
Opened up, creaking. A passage led up, out of the cold.
Running up this new flight, the girl screeched out of the dark,
Yelling (crying) in pain and in joy. The dark
Opened up into something golden: a new garden, free from cold.
Under a laden fruit tree a blood-furred faun waited, sleeping in stone.
Bethany W Pope is an award-winning writer. She has published several collections of poetry: A Radiance (Cultured Llama, 2012), Crown of Thorns (Oneiros Books, 2013), The Gospel of Flies (Writing Knights Press 2014), and Undisturbed Circles (Lapwing, 2014). Her collection The Rag and Boneyard was published this year by Indigo Dreams and her chapbook Among The White Roots shall be released by Three Drops Press next autumn. Her first novel, Masque, was published by Seren this June.
Thanks for reading! We will be back in October with Issue Five…