Three Drops from a Cauldron: Issue Ten

Welcome to Issue 10 of Three Drops from a Cauldron – our last outing of 2016, and the last issue before our web journal goes monthly.

Featuring poetry and flash fiction by Noel Williams, Margaret Holbrook, Mary Bach, James R. Mack, Kristen Figgins, Sammi Cox, David W. Landrum, Nina Lewis, Cassandra Arnold, and Byron Haskins.

Noel Williams

He thought his soul was a snowflake,
a lace of light and ice
flickering and drifting.

She thought her soul was a flake of soot,
hot against the flue of her heart
spiralling in cinders.

Where could they touch but exactly here?
Exactly now, exactly always?

They walked the paths of each others’ dreams,
traced crumbs laid by strangers, danced under falling leaves .
He hooked her a ripple from the river for a ring.
She bound his head with the loop of a swallow.

His kiss between her fingers.
Her hair straying snakeless on his back.

When he came up for air? Soot on his lip,
as snowflakes flew into her mouth.

Are they impossible? Yet they are here, in your hands.
They could be racing in your skin,
erring underneath your eyes.



(First published in Decanto)


Noel Williams is co-editor of Antiphon ( 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:

A New Broom
Margaret Holbrook

A four foot length
of ash or oak
for the handle.

It needs to be smooth,
easy to hold
sure to the touch.

Be certain of the place
where the script
for flying-magic is stored.

Gather fine limbs of birch
for bristles, heather and herb
for fragrance and colour.

Mind to soak birch and herb
overnight, with slender wands
of willow for binding.

Hold fast bristles to staff,
build up in layers, and bind,
and bind and bind.

This new broom will sweep clean
from the heart of the house;
brush away darkness
through front and back doors,
brush away darkness,
brush away darkness.


Margaret Holbrook grew up in Cheshire where she still lives and continues to write poetry, prose and plays.

The Matriarchs’ Charm
Mary Bach

Take hungry grins full of spittle
place sticky, beating hearts in the middle
and twine with salt and pepper hair
through endless days and nights laid bare
Add pebble, bone, root and feather
then wrap in tales and bind together

Wipe your brow and bow your head
spill blood upon the marriage bed
Now cross yourself – once, twice, thrice
and you become the sacrifice


Mary Bach is a writer, animal lover, bibliophile and all-around nerd. She’s funny, but often her writing is not. She lives in The Middle of Nowhere, Wisconsin with her husband, blind dog and small herd of cats. Mary has been published in The Creative Nexus, Reflections from the Center, and Living with Nature. Connect with her at and her blog In Other Words,

The Advent of Symbols
James R. Mack

The first speaker thought in pictures. A twisted tree, a heaping bone mound, the brook with red stones. She apprehended a sprawling landscape through images. So it was with all humans before language.
Her most fateful day, the speaker left the bone mound and walked to the brook. Amidst her brethren she filled an aurochs bladder, but something made her recoil. The notion of collecting water—her image of it—was polluted.
A different vision forced its way into her mind: a bird perching beside the brook, drinking. Glugglug. She’d heard the sound countless times before but never truly listened to it.
“Glugglug.” She mimicked the noise, then put the bladder to her lips and drank. At that moment, she rose and pictured an infant opening its eyes.
The speaker lifted the bladder above her head and grinned. She ran to a large woman, offered the water, and said, “Glugglug.”
The large woman winced and crouched low, enraged that liquid noises flowed from a human mouth. She threw sand at the speaker to dry the sound.
Unfazed, the speaker spat and walked back to the bone mound, where she spied a boy coughing. She held out the aurochs bladder. “Glugglug.”
The boy frowned.
“Glugglug,” the speaker repeated, until the child glanced in the direction of the brook, then back at the bladder.
He took the bladder, drank from it, and said, “Glugglug.”
Later, the speaker sought others with whom to share the image-noise. She yelled it to a crowd standing before the bone mound, but a woman there ducked down and covered her ears. She turned, and the speaker saw it was the large woman from before.
The large woman glared at the speaker beneath a furled brow. Then, she reached into the mound and extracted an antelope femur. The crowd watched, motionless, as the large woman charged at the speaker. In four brutal swings, she struck the speaker in the face.
The speaker reached for the bone, but could not wrest it away. Struck once more, she pictured a crocodile eating a gazelle.
But then a noise-image crept into her mind. Unlike the others, it did not refer to anything she could picture. Though incongruent with any image, the noise corresponded to something. It aligned itself with what was happening inside the speaker—with a feeling.
The speaker howled a yawp befitting the feeling. The large woman leapt back and tensed at the noise. She raised the bone and charged again but halted at a new sound.
The boy from earlier howled a yawp of his own. The large woman pivoted and lunged toward him, raising the bone above his head.
“Yawp” howled the crowd. The first speakers’ eyes watered at the sound.
The crowd wrestled the large woman and used her antelope femur to beat her. The woman, broken and bruised, hobbled away from the bone mound.
The boy ran to the first speaker, aurochs bladder in hand. He raised it to her and smiled. “Glugglug.”


James R. Mack writes poetry and short stories. His work has appeared in such venues as Pilcrow & Dagger and Tower Journal. James lives in Binghamton, NY.

Kristen Figgins

I put the gingerbread girl in my shirt pocket,
whisper tidings of the world,
tell her, The sky is bleeding purple into the clouds,
and if you saw a photo-realistic painting of it,
you wouldn’t believe it was real.
The gingerbread whispers back to me,
What is real?
and that’s a pause as I open a plastic bag,
drop in a bundle of wet green cilantro.
The woman shopping next to me is staring
hard into the faces of the potatoes,
picking them up and examining them,
holding them too long,
as if she sees more than I do.
That’s real, I say. What you see.
But what about when the gingerbread girl disappears,
becomes crumbles in my shirt pocket,
a little dead thing,
if I bury her in the ground,
what does she become,
when I can’t see the difference
between sugared crumbs
and dust?


Kristen Figgins is the author of Nesting (ELJ Editions) and her work can be found in Hermeneutic Chaos, Sakura Review, Puerto del Sol, The Gateway Review, and more.  Her chapbook, A Narrow Line of Light. is available for purchase from Boneset Books.

The Old Man of Winter
Sammi Cox

At the withering of the year
There stands a tree in black silhouette
On a background of snowy white

Bent-backed, twisted and knotted
Like a man of great age
Wizened by the passing of time

Joints swollen
Limbs ending in gnarled fingers
Grasping icy teardrops come the dawn

Breath wheezing through
The leafless bough
Rasping and laboured

Can you hear him?

Whispering words of
Death and the darkness

Can you hear him?


Sammi Cox lives in the UK and spends her time writing and making things.  One days she hopes to find the door to a magical world where the things in her head might actually be real.  Until then she will happily scribble away, intent on ignoring the real world.  Some of her scribblings can be found here:

Cerridwen Tutors Her Son
David W. Landrum

Words embed the soul, I told my son.
They form us. We do not form them. They are
the yeast, our leven. Otherwise our hearts
are like a conch shell ruined by the sea,
a trumpet calling our worst passions to
a battle we cannot win—or if we
perchance do win, we are like Phyrris, who
lamented, “One more victory such as this
will undo me.” So then, the bard is not
a harp-plunker set by to entertain
a drunken troop of men who should be out
training for war. Nor is the song he sings
a space in time or an escape from all
responsibility. It is renewal.
The warrior’s heart needs tempering, just as
blades are not merely cast from molten iron;
they must be shaped and nurtured at the forge
and on the anvil. Words temper our hearts
so that they bend but spring back; so they take
the shock of fight and conflict. Poetry
is not an idle jest. It is the grit
and strength and substance of a life. It is
a weapon powerful as runes—a source
foundational, the utterance of self.
David W. Landrum‘s poetry and fiction have appeared in journals in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and Europe. His novellas Strange Brew, ShadowCity, The Last Minstrel, and Le Cafe de la Mort, are available through Amazon.

In Greenwood Shade
Nina Lewis

I lost my fleshy limbs
handsome face, princely hair.
Now, an ugly creature
leaping from bank to lily-pad,
touching water
in a way I never could.

After her drowning
no-one got me to the edge.
I washed in running water,
plugs detached from golden chains.
I drank hot drinks where water
ghosted, invisible.

Here, I feel the glory of molecules,
cover myself in water,
its Emperor cloak submerging me
from webbed toes to amphibious
bulging eyes.

Forced punishment has become
my spell of freedom.


Nina Lewis is published in anthologies and journals including Abridged, Here Comes Everyone (HCE) and Under the Radar. Nina was commissioned to perform poetry on ‘Urban Nature’ at the Birmingham Literature Festival, her poems have appeared on the poetry trail at Wenlock Poetry Festival, in Municipal Bank vaults for an International Dance Festival and been used in an Art Installation. Her debut pamphlet Fragile Houses, was published by V. Press this autumn.

Keeping Silent
Cassandra Arnold

There are not one but three lights in the cottage windows, lit for the sons of widows who already know how to cry. Lit for that one boat gone missing where the seals haul out on the treacherous rocks and the full moon smiles in the sky.

I take my own lamp and walk down to the harbour, battling the wind that tears apart the night, calling their soul names, their true names, that none but midwife and mother can ever know. I count dark heads bobbing among the rollers: one two, three four, five six… I call again. But a name is seldom enough to tempt a man back from below. I watch as they turn and vanish. Gilded ripples dance for a moment till all trace is swallowed and gone.

I want to say: blow out the beacons, batten the shutters, bank down the fire. They have chosen water and the silk of sealskin. They will return no more. But I hold my silence and grieve as they wish me to grieve: for shipwrecked sailors stolen cruelly away by the sea.
Cassandra Arnold is a retired humanitarian physician, who worked for Doctors Without Borders for many years. She has had several poems and stories published in anthologies and literary journals. More about her life and work can be found at

The Goodness of Winter
Byron Haskins

Way back in June,
after the long six-month awakening,
we began our journey
into the pseudo death, cooling board cosmos
the decline-in-strength, the fullness of birth,
the color of ripeness, the bounty of giving; the reality of living.
That journey is the shortest one – the fading hours of the sun,
the long and casting shadows,
the reminiscent breezes; the covering of arms and knees:
the baring of the sycamores and finally the ice and snowy chores.
But winter lifts the stars up higher
each day in death brings life a bit nearer,
the goodness of the winter is the hope,
not the dope of Spring Fever,
nor the Dog Days of summer’s quest,
but the trust that God bestow things
that come quicker than Karma
and gives the far-sighted rest.



Byron Haskins has written poems, music reviews, essays and short stories since 1975. The writer was born in Detroit, Michigan. He attended The Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut, Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut as an undergraduate, and The University of Michigan and Western Michigan University for graduate degrees. He has written poetry, blogs, and short stories, 10-minute plays, and has been a jazz and alternative music radio personality. His self-published books of poetry for Amazon Kindle and selected poems may also be found published at the online Cedar Gallery. The author resides in Lansing, Michigan, USA.

And that’s all from us at Three Drops from a Cauldron / Three Drops Press for 2016. We hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, and we will see you again in the new year!

With very best wishes ~ Kate & the team


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