It’s been a bit of a week at the Cauldron this week, so I apologise for the two-day delay on Issue Seven. This is, however, a brilliant issue and hopefully you’ll agree it’s still worth the wait.
This issue has Ancient Egyptian deities rubbing shoulders with characters from Peak District folklore, fairy tales and magic, a very corvid flash fiction, Greek mythology, and more.
Featuring work by Larry D. Thacker, Alyson Faye, Jessica Mookherjee, Elosham Vog, Stephen Bone, Noel Williams, Kate Briant, Nan Williamson, Mary Franklin, and Margaret Holbrook.
Father Winter Staring Into the House
Larry D. Thacker
I feel winter staring into the house at the back of my head,
its breath radiates a clear cool aura just close enough to not
offer a whisper. The feeling I get is not one of envy, cold
being cold, but more of a pity, that it shuns everything
that cold isn’t. Our heads are down all damn winter,
recoiling from the bite of air and ice, fearing the sluggish limb
and heart, curling around hearths with our silly illusions
of warmth. When we raise our heads up, finally, it’s too late
to notice the heart of winter as it beats a last chambered song,
handing a torch to spring, that tune tempting our heads higher.
Without us, I hear winter lecturing, you would have no concept
of appreciating a new warmth on your brow, no reason
to finally unzip your coat, scant cause for even bothering
to open your eyes were we not your dependable seasonal star.
Let us in so we can remind you of what you’ve nearly forgotten.
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.
We were strolling around the cloisters when we first noticed the crow.
It was just perched on the stone wall with its head cocked. It seemed to be watching us.
A black garbed reminder of the legions of dead monks who’d prayed here.
“Shoo.” Mum flapped her hands at it.
Billy chucked a stone. Mum told him off. “Show some respect.”
Wherever we walked in the cathedral grounds the crow came with us. An avian shadow.
It made me feel goose bumpy and a bit sick. Billy of course made a game of it, talking about crow pie for tea.
We wandered inside to gaze at knights’ tombs and jewel like stained glass windows. Which was when I remembered Grandma telling me years ago, “The crows know.”
She’d been dead a little while by then. I had never really understood Gran’s sayings.
The memory grew and ripened though. That night while our little household slept I went to her wooden chest and unearthed her cloak of feathers. It was an heirloom; the birds’ plumages interwoven. Fabulously glossy light catchers.
The crow was waiting for me outside. I perched on the six foot garden wall, wrapped the avian mantle around me and took flight towards the cathedral spire.
It’s a family tradition.
(first appeared at Iron Soap and ZeroFlash)
Alyson Faye trained originally as a teacher, but has worked as salesrep/waitress/carer. She wrote a couple of children’s books years ago for Collins and Ginn; Fast forward to 2016 – she now lives near Bronte terrain in West Yorkshire, where she writes noir Flash Fiction and spooky tales. Some of her fiction appears online and in anthologies. She lives with her son, partner and 3 rescue cats. She is a confirmed chocoholic and is still hopeless at maths.
Inside honey, inside is mixed with saliva, all my mother’s
chemicals and enzymes. I’m vomiting gold
slush and juicing flowers, blending
elderberry, blackthorn, plum, almond – a little wild garlic,
into my mouth, your mouth, then my mouth.
Let’s take it together, fill pots of it with our licking,
our glue, spit our paste into bowls
made from the fat from my waist, and seal it
with baby piss, clear water from a new born – add bacteria,
blow on it, turn it cool. Now let’s dance
to raise the heat, bake it in hot temperature, sweat
can pour from us to evaporate and harden all our work.
Our lives, we clap into existence, husbands, lovers, books,
dances, flights to far continents, this gold syrup of us
is inside honey. All this work, that work, for this.
Jessica Mookherjee is of Bengali origin, raised in Wales and now lives in Kent. She has had poems published in Interpreter’s House, Agenda, Under the Radar, Obsessed with Pipework, Brittle Star, Tears in the Fence, the Journal, South, Antiphon among others. She has a background in biological anthropology and her first pamphlet called The Swell is published by Telltale Press. She has recently won the Paragramer Poetry Prize 2016 with her poem; Beast.
A legion or more in orbit
as if by invitation, firefly warriors circling
little Icarus plummeting
with impractical wings.
Feathered bodies dropped about him,
his devotees caught in the fire.
He’d happily mistaken for moonlight
the bronze aura of a fury of lovers
grinding hapless men to dust.
Elosham Vog came of age in the surreal spaces of the American midwest and west coast. He now lives and writes in the UK and Greece. He is currently editing his verse novel Volcano, which plays with myth and legend; Volcano poems have appeared in a variety of places including Lighthouse, The Interpreter’s House, The Istanbul Review, and The Missing Slate.
flew off the rails,while our bespoke,
for those with an even more discerning eye,
filled lacquered wardrobes from Peking to Shanghai.
drooled over our diaphanous silks,
raiments light as air.
His Imperial Majesty himself was sold,
fell for our sartorial flair.
Like wearing nothing,he extolled.
a squawking brat,they say,
to pull the wool from their eyes; but,
by then we were too far away to care,
stitching up our clientele
in Savile Row,the Rue de la Paix.
The hillside is an animation cell
drawn for a dumb god
in limestone and grass.
I stand in a nostril haired with shepherd’s purse.
A wind of stone gallops round me.
I’m bare. I’m yearless.
I stride over clouds with iron on my back.
The bones of my feet rattle mountains.
The flint of my heels sparks stubble, burns books.
(First published in Envoi)
Noel Williams is co-editor of Antiphon (antiphon.org.uk) and associate editor of Orbis. He mentors other writers, reviews for magazines such as The North and Envoi and was Resident Poet at Bank Street Arts Centre in Sheffield, his home town. He publishes internationally and has won a few prizes. His PhD was on the word “fairy” in lore and literature. Cinnamon Press published his collection Out of Breath in 2014. Website: https://noelwilliams.wordpress.com
The Nine Ladies
Nine girls ignored the Preacher’s warning,
Left their homes one Sunday morning
To celebrate the Spring’s first dawning
And dance on Stanton Moor.
Tom the fiddler’s tunes were sweet,
They stirred the blood and twitched the feet.
A glorious way the Spring to greet
There on Stanton Moor.
Nine ladies in a circle tight
Spun and danced to their hearts’ delight,
A natural joy, a pagan rite
Long held on Stanton Moor.
As the sun rose Tom played faster
To summon his unholy master.
Did they hear the Devil’s laughter
Over Stanton Moor?
As they danced the sun hit home,
They felt a freezing in their bones,
The sunlight turned them all to stone
There on Stanton Moor.
Kate Briant lives in Sparrowpit, in the Derbyshire Peak District, and took up writing when she retired. This is her first publication.
curled in languorous sun,
sleek, black, dreams
of the other Egypt, burning myrrh
at sunset, and her father Ra.
Yawns, back arched, stretches,
pads on soft paws, rubs my calf,
purrs. Then, ears twitch,
head turns, she tongues
her fur, slouches off
to an unseen world.
now Artemis of Greece,
sits upright, presides,
eyes dilated, shine. She
watches tangled bodies
fondle soft flesh, feast
on apples, wine, curl exhausted
from their play or rise,
swaying to her faint retreating
music, dying on the wind.
In holy feline form,
she crouches, guards her queen –
frail sign of that bright world
where poets sang,
and virgins danced in praise.
There is no shrine,
no trace of temple rites,
but, stained with tawny red and gold,
on crumbling walls in Nefertari’s tomb.
(Published in the author’s chapbook, leave the door open for the moon)
Nan Williamson writes and paints in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. She is the author of many articles in educational journals and a book on research skills. In 2013, she graduated from The Humber School for Writers, Toronto, and her poems have appeared in Room, The Steel Chisel, and The Link magazines as well as several anthologies of Canadian poetry. Her chapbook, leave the door open for the moon, was published in 2015.
He settles into his old armchair
and lays out the welcome mat
for them all:
or anyone else who happens along.
He won’t numb himself tonight
with drugs or alcohol.
Let them come.
Mary Franklin has had poems published in various journals including Iota, The Open Mouse, Ink Sweat and Tears, London Grip, Message in a Bottle and Three Drops from a Cauldron, as well as several anthologies, most recently by Three Drops Press. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
… by the labyrinth, where earth
meets water, where paths
never cross, where knowledge
Meet me by moon’s light
and we shall fly.
Tell not a soul of our intention
for no one can know but us,
no one must challenge our secret
or find us out,
for we shall fly,
we shall fly!
Stay with me until the dawn
and our paths may cross
or light may divide us, yet,
we cleave, we two;
our hands shall be fast for life.
We will fly.
Pray by the hidden marks
aside your window,
beside your bed,
along four corners
of wainscot and threshold,
but tell no one of our plan;
no nearest family or dearest cousin
no acquaintance dressed as friend,
for no one must know
when we have flown;
that we have flown together,
joined as one beneath the moonlight,
gone from the labyrinth of like-minds
and bound for ever as
earth and water;
as fire and air, and
we have flown.
Margaret Holbrook grew up in Cheshire where she still lives and continues to write poetry, prose and plays.
Thanks for reading, and we will see you in a fortnight!