A Diet of Feathers by Paul Whyte

If a bar is not kept at all times moist to the touch it will grow feral, dangerous. 
       Think of it as a type of sessile organism, a compact colony surviving only on the odd sobs of stout and the dead skin of patrons.
     This particular bar has pulled the fibres from the knit of my jumper and planted them upright in the mahogany so that they sway like sea creatures. Poor thing must have been starving.
     It’s St Stephen’s day morning and I’m consulting the paper. First meet is 11. 
     I use an inch-long pencil to circle names. My first pick is a tip from the radio, 6/1.
 
     Neil returns from the bathroom preening with dull satisfaction. His paper wagging beneath his arm like the tail of one of those strange fish that sticks to the bellies and backs of sharks.
   I can see his picks, circled with red pen so that his choices cannot not be easily erased or forgotten.
   He pays for his drink and while he does I catch the contents of his wallet – a loyalty card for the only barber in town and a balance of cash for the day, all big notes. His bank cards are at home. He knows better.
 
   We leave and walk to the bookmakers, two doors down, last year it was five.
   Neil is shorter than I am and going bald in the most unfortunate of ways, thinning in strips instead of patches. This doesn’t seem to bother him. He lets it grow until it’s unbearably mossy.
He has pale pocked skin and a sturdy crest of a nose. Sometimes when you call to the house for him, his brother will answer and tell you that Neil is out the back breaking blocks with it.
   Right now he has the look about him of someone confident, canny.
 
 
   The bookies is packed and has the visual palette of a stuffed ashtray. It smells of insoles and devastated carpet. 
   The only female here is the cashier, Joanna. She has the kind of calm in her eyes that you see in nurses and first responders. 
   Once on the carpet Neil doesn’t respond to verbal signals. He will not discuss picks or winnings. Men are invisible in this place.
 
   At 2 o clock I tell him that I’m hungry. He seems agreeable. This must mean he’s up.
   We go back to the pub and eat vegetable soup, crumble in soda bread that’s thick as scones. We have a carvery lunch and a pint of free cordial each. There is discussion of Ibiza.
   He tells me that he’s going to get a job in the new year, that he’d like to come with us on the holiday. Says though, that it’s hard with the Mother the way she is. I sympathize, but secretly I know that if it wasn’t this it would be something else. Neil has the sort of mind that subconsciously seeks labyrinths. It’s not broken, it just does what it does with a ruthlessly efficiency.
   He’s never been out of the country. He’s never eaten pasta or drank barista coffee. To my knowledge he has only ever been to the cinema that one time with school. He likes football and playing poker online, thinks he’s better at both than he is.
   We step outside for a smoke. I rub my belly and tell him what the Father told us over Christmas dinner.
   He told us that when he was thirteen years old his Dad organized a job for him in a plant nursery somewhere between Aherlow and Lisvernane. They supplied food and accommodation for the summer and a couple of quid would go back home.
   The meals weren’t much, spuds and bacon, mustard from a tube if they had it. Breakfast was porridge and tea without milk or sugar.
   He told us that he would be so hungry that by lunchtime he would start to eat chips of wood from the handle of his shovel and in bed at night he would sometimes chew the feathers from inside his pillow.
  The story has Neil shaking his head, ”Different times.” he says.
 
   Back in the ashtray the smell has evolved to include the bizarre body odours of farmers fresh from the field. 
It’s not wholly unpleasant. It has a spicy quality to it, something cheap splashed against a hairy throat on the way into town.
   Later myself and Neil huddle in the doorway as a heavy shower leathers the blanked out windows. Threads of rainwater drop from a clogged-up gutter and clap against the pavement. Even the smoke we’re blowing wants nothing to do with the weather, it circles our faces, seeks shelter in our pores.
   Neil is about as happy as Neil gets. Tells me he’ll put the deposit down on Ibiza tomorrow, maybe he’ll even get a deal in the sales.
   When the bookies close we make our ways back to the pub. Neil keeps walking. 
 
   I pat his back dutifully, offer to buy him a drink, curried chips if he’s hungry. He doesn’t answer me, just carries on down the street, trans-illuminated by a connect-the-dot forest of birches wrapped in fairy lights.
 
Once inside, I go to the bar, run my hand across its skin. It feels dewy, fed. I knock it once to see if it answers, thumb the vinyl-like groves in the wood. A voice comes; I order a stout. 
 
 I think of Neil, walking alone in the country dark. I bet he’s starving. 

Paul Whyte is an emerging Irish writer. Originally from Tipperary, he currently lives in Dublin with his wife and two children, where he is working on his first short story collection – Brazen Head. Paul has been writing for about 10 years. He works mostly on speculative literary fiction.

Image Source:  Tommy

Robert R. Thurman

Vertigo Moment

3

Focus

Return

Last Exit

Robert R. Thurman is an artist, musician and poet. His work has appeared in such publications as Coldfront Magazine, 3:AM Magazine, Columbia Journal, Ars Medica: A Journal of Medicine the Arts and Humanities, Rune: The MIT Journal of Arts and Letters and Exquisite Corpse.

Gone, Light Passing by Kaylen Forsyth

There is a gap in the treeline reminding me of a door. I don’t stare at it because I have never cared for doors. Light, in just one instance, struggles to make its way past the cluster of leaves and stays on the other side, the side I cannot see. However, I suspect moving further up the bank would grant me greater vision. Still, I don’t move. The sunlight is often too much at this time of day anyway- always low in the sky and dying arrogantly. The cold can have me instead. And of course, it does. It’s not that I necessarily concede to the winter wind, I hardly say oh yes, freeze me but the cold translates even silence into negation. Doesn’t it?

My baby boy cries. His tiny legs look like they’re kicking out, thrashing as a wild boar does, fighting at the cotton blanket around him. I continue in my own peace and mutter, deliberately, I don’t mind, it’s all fine, and I don’t, I don’t mind anything in the world. Only am I thinking- when will it be midnight?

His wailing continues outside of my personal quiet and my shoulders bear the brunt of this sharp Icelandic evening. When I was a child, I imagined coldness would have died before I grew up. Is that not what it is to be young, I mean, achingly young, to believe age carries the ability to minimise the brunt of frost, that with time bodies become immune to cold. My Grandmother gave me her gloves to wear in the park once because I’d forgotten my own. I didn’t think her hands would suffer much, they would not go blue like mine, she would not go cold like her granddaughter- so young and innocent. The babe, sobbing, ceaseless. He feels the cold but doesn’t even know the word – so what is his right to cry so hysterically? It is nothing other than a sensation to him.

Gradually, the sun falls on its last legs. My proof God is fiction, right there in the sky. The light stops behind the trees. Surely should it not burst through treelines and drown me in warmth? If His design were adequate, should it not drown us freezing ones in what we need to be drowned in? I was cold when I was first told about God, too. In a Church, mid-December. Singing simple little hymns, trying to mask my jealousy, terrified the others could smell it on me. I was jealous of them all, everybody else in the church and the world, for I wanted to be His only child. Adored in my unique humanity, given everything like a brat. I was twisted even at six. I knew if He truly loved everyone, then He truly loved no one.

The baby doesn’t cry at this moment, only whimpers in small cat-like murmurs. The hysterics will begin again soon though. They always do, but the sunset’s beauty assails. Fog carries inside itself an element of the unknown, which is lost with urgency as soon as it smears the waters icy surface. Think of a pianist. Think of his hands, having composed wonderfully intricate and revered music all of his life, suddenly fingers crippled by arthritis mere days before his transcendent masterpiece meets completion. And he never can finish it, obviously. This is the only way I can describe how fog touches the water. All fog touches water this way and shall do for evermore. I, too, have been touched like that. Touched and lost a great dream afterward.

Do you know, Freyja, you shouldn’t eat so much and you shouldn’t eat it all so messily? Both parents had scowled at me with fury. I was eight years old and around my little dry lips was a thick mess of dark red sauce and between them long strings of pasta hung out. My cheeks were bloated like a fat dog’s, but I continued, stuffing my hands with sweets and cream and chocolate and whatever else was on the table in front of me. I kept going, hands full of food flying to my mouth and back to the plates, and when my sister left her fish I ate that as well. Later, as night lapped into morning once more, as though one were a river and one were a bank, I thudded into the bathroom as it all came back up again as vomit. I made sure to be loud as I retched and retched, clutching my belly and sniffling, the tiles cold on my scared skin. I hoped my Mother would hear and either rattle me or hold up my hair and kiss my cheeks. Singing it’s all right, it’s all right but she didn’t come. And I don’t love her very much now, not like I used to, and I think it’s because I remember that night. Everything adopts a nihilistic quality when you cry for somebody and they don’t come. You give yourself over to a default apathy, which is of course the ugliest and easiest thing.

Screaming from the edge of the lake; the child is upset again. When will there be just one moment without the damn sound of bawling? I want- I think- dawn. When everyone is either silent or sleeping. The night deafens with its noise. Baby, just shut up, please! For your Mother- please be quiet! You cry, you cry, you cry, nothing changes you.

The sun now just a white circular bone- it takes ages for me to realise that in fact it’s a freshly born moon. Sun is gone. I am dizzy, full of milk, and hungry. I will fish tomorrow. At first light, when there are red marks on my skin from how deeply these rocks dig into me when I’m laid upon them. Sleeping.

He screams and this time the shrill sound bleaches me thoroughly. I stand and walk to him, and I look and wait, wait for him to look at me too. He does eventually, with eyes that- for me- are just right. No other eyes I’ve seen are as right. If I were to take a single photograph into the ground with me or with me into cremation, I would take a small polaroid of his darling face. I stand there and love him. Simply, unmoving, loving him. Then, I feed him milk, holding him against my chest for a very long time after he has stopped suckling. His mouth smiles and his hand grabs my thumb. I think this means he forgives everything I haven’t done. I run his small waves of hair through my fingers.

Upwards, at the high point of the bank where the treeline is, we become a huddle together. With its ferocity, the wind has blown some of the branches free and the gap is so wide I couldn’t possibly mistake it for a door now. Just a wide open window with light streaming through. Of course, it must be city light. City light or moon light. I hold up the boy so that whatever light it is- it finds and warms him first.

Once he smiles at me- beautifully and innocently toothless- I rest him on my belly, which is a fairly soft place to sleep on. I would say as good as a bed. I lay back on jagged stones, arms crossed like wings over him. There isn’t one sound in the universe but my baby’s breath. Behind us the magnificent aspen breaks further in the breeze.

Kaylen Forsyth is a writer from Cumbria, England. She works with Spark Movement/PBG, an online platform dedicated to articles on gender and racial injustices in particular. Inspired by writers such as Hemingway and Woolf, and poets such as Celan and Sexton, her fictional wrtiting focuses mainly on different human relationships and ultimately- the human condition.

kforsythh.wordpress.com & Twitter – @KaylenForsyth

Image Credit: Lukasz Szmigiel

Raquel García

Dolls’ House Love

No More Pretending I

No More Pretending II

Inked Mantra

Love Makes You Shine

Raquel García is an English philologist and school teacher. As a photographer, her curiosity is piqued by intimate scenes. She is passionate about suggestive shapes, lights, shadows, bodies that stimulate our senses and invite us to imagine an intimacy that we ordinarily allow “our chosen” discover.

These works belong to her project “Love is Love”, created to celebrate love and sensuality. She tries to draw attention to love between men and between women, and its sensuality while also avoiding stereotypes. Her same-sex lovers fully display their masculinity and femininity in their body language . It’s  a minimalist project that focuses on a particular body part, avoiding faces.

A Silence Unseen by Gráinne Maxwell

In the doorway he stood waiting, waiting for a jump in her pulse at the vicious cold or the residual hang of the air or at the little pieces of him and those before him scattered and leaning and draping. But she waited with his hand in hers for nothing at all. On the perimeter they stood peering in at the space between four forgotten walls, where she saw the shape of a woman and her head bent down toward unfolding shapes of ink. Where the slick accompaniment of ball point scratching on paper played its rustic rhythm, woman to woman. There was no other movement amongst the living or the dead, just a concentration of authoritative wrist surrounding the stillness of a ceaseless hour. Nothing perturbed the silent cloak the woman gathered around her, not a shriek of the school bell, not the shrill echoing haunt of children, not even the two stripes of mineral and flesh in the doorway, one who saw her and one who stared through her into the abyss as he did every other day. They were all faint sounds or blips or nothing. A slight pause to absorb the pair of beats standing in the wooden frame between now and then before the silent rage of her cloak swooped by them down the deep black stain of the corridor behind.

And he was still waiting in his deity of the free

And she said nothing about the shape of the woman, her sweeping cloak or her feathering veins of black ink

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

An hour or half-dozens had passed and now they were in between those four forgotten walls both nurturing the hum of ravenous desire, a pair of flickering silhouettes; a strange girl with a pulsing leg whispering at him it’s time time time. Fibreglass crackers and wine.  Silent again but for the impatient rasps of breath in this new world without occupant, the coldest room she had ever found to be so warm. His beautiful face glowing beneath his dark angular trim, burning her with longing for his touch, his lips, his caress, the sweet press of his chin, telling her his story. All it took was his warm finger-clasp surprise in the cracker aisle followed by sharp conscious waves of stale air as he stood by her, showing her, waiting, oblivious

By now any sense of survival without the lonely dance in his eyes seemed beyond any bearable shade of bleak. Ripples gathered across his limbs sipping away her wintery-moon skin

Squatting

Exploring

It was like discovering a distant chimera of stars coarse in a midnight-blue watery sky or the unreal script of a reality dispossessed between the parting of her blood-red lips

Scarlet rugs and throws and paintings crawling upon the surfaces

her scent and taste wrapping his senses tight tight tight

in such dim blisters of light

‘Do you always shake your leg like that?’ he asked the shivering beats of flesh alongside him.

‘Yes’ she lied turning toward him again. ‘It’s a habit.’  But she wrestled with something new, something untameable, something her body could not hide from the iodine blots in his eyes.

He pulled her close into him, kissing the ice building on the curve of her nose

Somehow in the dead weight of the dark they both knew they would win.

Then she heard the scratch scratch scratch where the silent woman had been

Gráinne is from county Tipperary where she grew up with a love for reading and writing. The unrelenting love grew wings and brought her temporarily to The Netherlands where she is now thesis-ing. Follow her on twitter @Grainne93

Image Credit: Aaron Burden

Twenty Years of Boredom by David Roberts

To think he had thought the onion near essential as thumbs. That he had once dismissed all realists as false, considered Philip Larkin a minor poet. Life moves on and we within would do well to remember ourselves objects, ever stuck, our principles such flux. Worrying now about each quid that he ruins. Decisions consigned as past having to be made again and yes again we’ll just be getting on with it. Money enough for scran or booze so buying a pizza and pocketing the wine. To think he had thought the onion near essential as thumbs.

Longsince twenty-six and each journey by public transport a minor niggle, some taunt enough to distract him in those minutes lapsed waiting for the bus. Even, even knowing, even with the knowledge that he should be above such words letting it affect him, minimally even, even if but a distraction, just a gripe. Suspecting it a throwaway comment, wondering over context. Those journeys too long for foot.

Daylight bleaching through the earlycusp of morning and his first hot drink steaming from the cup. Dreams in the night of a slightly disappointing sandwich. In his notebook an imitation moleskine copying out words, pages they’d called it at his school but for him now in this his time this time belonging to him it is not punishment so much as affirmation or plea bargaining, grasp towards hope.

Workboots on the doorstep so as not to muddy the house. He wonders about the sandwich. Was it too dry or over abundant with mayonnaise, craply sliced. So many ways to be disappointed. Idiots everywhere in this life. They do not offer returns so he gets a day ticket, never remembering whether they are called savers or rangers on this service, rovers maybe. Growing up near a county boundary so asking for a fare to the border and a day pass after that. No fizzy drinks allowed. Not punishment but plea bargaining.

To think a future could open up, some twisting of the forking paths through which this his notebook an imitation moleskine might be worth something, serious collateral. Becoming a higher state than being. Hemmingway’s stories misplaced on a train.

Home again tired worn thin. No longer amongst the scattergun insults of bricklayers, encumbered by the wheelbarrow. Really each day he should clean out the shower, do more than swill dirt from the bathtub. Grime thickening like guilt postponed. Washing-up a matter of appeasement, means of considering himself yet useful and civilised, some worthwhile property within the household. Such things to be done in that hour before collapse. His ordering of the task handed down, an inheritance from his mother, her mother beforehand. Glasses then cups, plates before cutlery. Living once with a man who went first for the pans, what his mother taught him. Was a sieve, where did the sieve belong in that lesson. What did Jim’s mother have to say. Now with it the sieve in hand and the end of the water, residual meats fixated on wire. Maybe it belonged before the ceramic, this sieve in his hand and not worth a fresh sink. Certainly it should have come before the baking tray. This sieve in his hands and the spongescourer gone soft, fat in the water solidifying white, the spongescourer soft consumed, useless, the scouring face of it abraded to ruin by past sieves, this same sieve but elsewhere, former, another sieve in time as he was then another man in time opening out so possible, with so much potential beyond sieves to be cleaned, fats mottled on dank water and his hands clammy soft with the sludge of this hour his time before collapse. Dreaming that it is he who makes the sandwich.

Still there clogged through the sieve come the morning as it bleaches struggles to bleach through nightborn mizzle. Workboots dampwaiting on the step. The sieve remaining as he himself remains himself a man with so many futures open and permissible, to be stepped into with spongescourer soft consumed, in damp workboots and this sieve to be cleaned, brought through the door and into mizzle in which it might be scrubbed again, achieve purpose. To think he had thought the onion near essential as thumbs.

Biographically speaking,  David Roberts is a writer, poet and artist currently based in Sheffield, England.

In Light of the Sun by SP Hannaway

A whisper of blue: a light, soft and shimmering. It floats in from a place beyond the rise of mountains, the wilderness of rock – from somewhere out there.

Blume’s glad of it; the company. It feels familiar. It gives life to his roughened hands. It electrifies the blue in his eyes.

 

His glasses are taped together, grubby. There’re smudges from the night before; touches of fingertips – he always pushes them up off his face as he checks his work, steps back, dives in – flecks of acrylic, gesso. He grabs the end of his clammy shirt to wipe them. He has to see this new and delicate light.

It’s shy. It slips through the wrought-iron grille and hovers next to Blume. It has a texture; body. He reaches out, tries to take it. It throws little looping shadows on the bare floor, across his bony feet. It seems to pulse. Or else Blume’s in a daze. He has one of his morning heads. He’s not getting younger: the years pile up like stones. He can’t remember much about the night just gone: the hit of sleep. He remembers working, feeling alive, possessed.

Outside, the light swells. Blume pushes up his specs and peers through the opening. He doesn’t know this place, or its ways; hushed talk of mountain gods, a high cave. He’s the outsider, the loner. He isn’t trusted. He took the empty upper room as a retreat; somewhere to be unseen; to see. Rugs hang from a half-built house across the way. There are diamond shapes, ladders: reds, browns. Electric wires hum high up, swing from a sun-fried pole.

 

There’s panic in the air. Black sickle shapes dart across the sky. Swifts scream. Blume leans his lanky frame further in, desperate to see. They shoot past his window – an explosion of birds. Three, four, a multitude. They’re fleeing. And Blume wants to fly with them. If they can fly, why can’t he? Retreat to the mountain shadow: escape the sun.

*

Where’s the flat brush? And the palette knife, the pointy one: the scraper, the digger? Blume roots about, scuffing his heels. He’s lost: distracted by dreams. In the dead of night, it’s a grim world: the abandoned room, the naked bulb dangling low, crackling in the cooling air. He has to get going. He folds the mattress up, kicks it to the side. He rummages in the mountain of paints piled in the corner, and grabs the pumice. How did it get in there? He needs the ground-up rock for roughness, for bulk. And it’ll draw the light. He can’t work in the day. The heat rattles him: the sun cooks the tiles over his head. The light blinds.

With a rag tucked in his jeans, a plastic bucket by his feet, he looks down at his work, at the six-foot boards lying next to each other, laid out. Already – it’s only been a day – he doesn’t recognise it, what’s happened. It doesn’t belong to him. It’s someone else’s palette: hard, forced. Someone else’s brush. He doesn’t know how to approach it, what to do.

Then, in the dim umber light, they gather; the company. Blume can feel their presence as they shuffle in, dragging slippered feet, as they find a spot, a place by a wall to stand, to wait. Some stay behind, huddle near his shoulder. Some are on either side. He doesn’t look up, doesn’t see their faces.

–You’ve come, he whispers to the empty room.

He knows they come for warmth: to observe the living and the doing. Maybe they fear him, pity him. Maybe they come to wake him, to make him see. His father, his disapproving father, Blume knows his father the farmer is among them, is one of them for all time.

Blume grips the handle of the painting knife. He’s ready to hack, to cut away.

 

–Blume! Blume!

Shouting, banging. The door rattles, shakes on its hinges.

–Blume, you there?

The knob twists furiously back and forth.

–Open!

It’s Melon Man. That’s the name Blume’s given him, but not to his face. He runs the place: operations. His name’s Barq – that’s what he goes by. It has a certain ring.

–Barq, I’m busy?

Blume slides the bucket, scrapes some pots.

–You pay Barq. Cash.

–But … I have a painting, it’s nearly done!

–Picture! No good. No one wants, Blume. Can’t sell. It. Dead.

The door strains against its frame.

–Months. No cash. Piss me off.

A fat fist thuds.

–Many people, Blume, want room. Quiet. Fucking nice view.

Blume curls his toes. He can’t face another spat with Melon Man: his burnt-black eyes. And a quiet falls, looms. Outside, Barq: unmoving, wide as a mountain. Inside: Blume and his visitors. They linger. His father: immovable. Untouchable. How long can Blume live the wandering life: flitting from one hole to another, from the shade of one wall to the next?

Work. He has to bury himself in work, in boards and paint. Ignore what’s out there: Barq, lurking, laughing now.

–Blume funny … like joke?

He chuckles again, down to the tar in his lungs.

–Listen, Barq no joke. You … fuck!

Blume holds his breath, doesn’t budge.

–Pay double, Blume! Or Barq board up room. Good joke?

His laugh bounces off the door.

–Blume? Barq friends. Not nice. Don’t like foreign shit. Knock Blume’s lights out. Disappear.

And he does. Blume retreats from Melon Man and his heavy-handed charm. He buries himself in memory, a past time. He scans the boards lying on the floor. On each panel, there are darkish sunflowers: an army of giant heads seething in the sun. They’re witnesses. They bow and sway and strain towards a swirling mass of yellow. He has to fix the yellow: he’s struggled for days. It should flare and scorch. It should be indomitable.

At his feet, where the deep green stalks are, he’s splattered threads of ochre light, criss-cross lines of reddish yellow that slice through the stems, singe the edges of the heavy leaves so they shrivel, blacken. In the undergrowth, it’s cramped, claustrophobic: the thick stems fight for their patch of earth.

The sky, he’s not unhappy with. Above the nodding flower heads he’s thinned the paint, poured it. It’s a milky black with little succour, on the edge of turning sour. He doesn’t have a blue to speak of a distant, departed God.

So: to work. It’s all he’s got. Glasses up, his hands become his brain. On his knees, Blume hacks at the boards, at the stalks bursting out through the dark earth. He’s crackled it and the paint’s split. He digs into crevices to open them, make the earth look thinner. He wipes it with the rag, checks it through his specs. He’s pleased. But he hasn’t pleased the company. He thinks that some have left, disappointed – his father.

–Don’t go yet. Take me!

He throws his glasses off to grapple, to fight for something like a finish. The flowers should be weighted. He’s made some pumice, ground the rock, mixed in a thick burnt brown. He clambers between the boards and daubs it on, so the seed heads droop like clusters of stone. With a mars black he scores the petals, so they burn in the furnace of the sun, yearn for the thing that kills them.

*

He sees himself outside, up, past the village. Only he can’t see the sun – as if it’s lying low, camouflaged. This mountain world is barren, bleak. The summit is sacred and not for any living soul. But Blume’s dying to go: to follow the birds. Escape. And if it’s cooler, he can climb forever, he can struggle to the top, if there’s time. The day’s highly charged; the light quivers. A wash of turquoise floods the sky. The clouds look brushed-in: yellow, cobalt blue.

He ploughs on, finds the flatter bits on the mule path; his boots are dusty, coated. At times, he has to manoeuvre round a monstrous rock. His legs ache but get used to it. He’d love to stop, catch his breath, but he can’t. Something in him driving: desperation.

The trees spring up like sentinels around Blume. And he’s wary. They look oddly angled, parched. As if, somehow, they were upside down and their trunks, branches, their leaves grew down through the rock, into the earth; their roots above, flailing in the air.

He thinks it must be part of a tree, a gnarled bit. But then the wind rustles up from nowhere and he sees a feather ruffle. A flat, black bird painted on the branch with its eye fixed on Blume. On its way to the top, it’s exhausted, weak. And it busies itself with resting and sleeping and dreaming of the end. He doesn’t reach out to touch it. He brushes it away. He has to get up to the pass, to the cave.

The final bit is tough. The path disappears. He has to figure out a way; find a stone that doesn’t slide, keep an eye out past boulders for what’s beyond. He can feel himself cracking up, flaking. He’s not used to mountains: false peaks, tricks. Sometimes he thinks he’s arrived, about to touch the sky, and another stretch appears still to go.

A loose stone skitters by. Something’s coming: a shape, a mountain shadow. A figure leaps into view. A man. A goat. He springs from ledge to ledge then races down in free fall. Blume tries to catch his face. And it … it’s him. It’s Blume … running away. Scared. In a blur.

The air thins near the pass. Ragged rocks become open scree. It’s a steep, sloping desert: a forbidden place. And Blume trudges on. Every step is an effort. He has to drag the air into his lungs. It feels like he’s climbing into the wind, into its cold heart, taking it on. He angles himself to stay on his feet, scrunches his face.

A gust, like the hand of God knocks Blume over, flings him back, sends him flying. It’s light and wind joined together; the forces of life. A clash. A test. And Blume’s ready to fight, whatever it is, to make it past.

–Come on! he screams.

He scrabbles to his feet, faltering. His legs give way in the brunt of the gale. He slips on the scree, tumbles down. When he’s up again he launches into it. He grapples with the strength of the thing bearing down on him. He wants to overcome it, master it.

–Let me pass!

He tries to wrestle himself into a better position. His opponent comes at him from every angle, bombards him, blinds him. Blume somehow elbows his way on top.

–Please, he begs, –let me reach the cave … see what there is.

He gains a better grip, a stranglehold. And for a moment, Blume has the upper hand. But then his opponent slips away; becomes transparent, no one thing. And Blume’s left empty-handed. His body slumps forward.

*

And he stirs. He’s back. His neck’s stiff. It aches unforgivingly. He’s lying in a heap, face down in the paint; stuck to it. He has to peel himself away; his hands speckled, caked.

The company has left. They’ve slipped silently from the room. Until … they decide to return.

What happened in the night? It was a dream. A quest. He tackled the light: the sun. He pulled it down on the board. He fixed it, made it leaden. He can see it’s dying now too, burning out.

He clambers up, gets away from it. He bumps his head on the unlit bulb, has to duck when it swings for him. He feels battered, defeated. He’s at a loss now. He heads for the door but hesitates. The window. The intangible light, reaching in, embracing – it’s something for Blume to grasp. He doesn’t need to know if the door opens. Really, he has nowhere to go.

SP Hannaway is fairly new to writing short fiction. His first short story appeared in Litro Online in 2014. Since then his stories have featured in Dream CatcherThe Sonder Review, Gravel, Brittle Star, Selected Places (an anthology), Abstract Jam and Lighthouse. He’s completed the Short Story Writing course and the Writers’ Workshop course, both at City University. He’s worked as an actor for a number of years and lives in London.

Image Credit: Tobias Keller

David Rodríguez

Memory 1

Memory 2

Memory 3

Memory 4

Memory 5

Memory 6

From an early age, David Rodríguez was attracted to the art world, but his love for photography didn’t start until 2013— the year he bought his first reflex camera. Shortly afterwards, he began to train himself through several courses. While studying, he discovered new photographers including Guy Bourdin or Man Ray. He likes to photograph people and feels very comfortable doing portraits, but he always tries to go a little further with risky compositions and a touch of surrealism. 

Upstairs by Erica Gonsalves

The black mold is back on my bedroom wall. It grows in fuzzy patches that remind me of caterpillars. But the creatures that sometimes share my room aren’t fuzzy. Daddy longlegs nestle in my doorframe. Brown and orange slugs slime their goop trails on my windowsill. I thought moving to a place with endless rain meant I could burrow. No one told me I’d have to share my cocoon.

Last week, I got a new roommate. I didn’t tell him that our house grows mold. And during the tour, I didn’t show him my bedroom. I worry that he’ll try to interpret the black thought bubbles that have formed behind my headboard and cascade their way up to my ceiling. They lead directly to the off-colored, triangular patch where the rain has seeped through. There is a window upstairs that opens onto the roof above my head, and he asked if he could crawl through and sit up there to watch the sunrise. I warned him not to go too close to that corner. When I lay my head down on the pillow before going to sleep, I stare up at the ceiling and wonder how much rain it would take for the plaster to crumble and cave in.

It’s 4AM and I hear my roommate dragging a chair across the roof to set up and paint. I know he started an herb garden up there. Every so often he brings up a book to read; he loves rereading Bradbury and Kafka. One morning I woke up to the bottom of his bare feet just above the windowsill. I’ve watched him pluck an acid green slug about two inches long from our kitchen window, smile like a little boy and hold it right up to his eyes to inspect before his morning run.

I have never been up on the roof. He ignores the sudden gusts of wind that could blow you away and dips his toes in the puddle in the corner. Maybe he wears rain boots and splashes lightly in the water. No. He’d be the type to plunge his naked feet in the wetness and saturate himself entirely. He has a way of blurring boundaries.

Once when we were both in the kitchen, he told me that we dream more in the rain. I have spent ten months in this bedroom. I’ve fallen asleep most nights to the tip-tap snare drum of drops outside. Now, there’s the addition of the gentle thud of his pacing footsteps above me. He doesn’t sleep, and I haven’t remembered a single dream.

Erica Gonsalves, originally from Connecticut, U.S, is spending the year abroad in Ireland to obtain a Masters in Writing from the National University of Ireland, Galway during the 2016/2017 school year. Her work has been seen in The Galway Review. Before this year, she has been teaching high school English for the past six years.

Image Credit:Gabriele Diwald

Terrestris by DM Lynch

They stood with their faces to the bronzed-red canopy, listening. It was a beech tree, he knew, abstractly, though he could not connect the name with anything in the reality of this burning swell, its restless wind-pulse. Words like xylem, phloem, chlorophyll went up out of his memory to be consumed by the leaves like paper scraps. He was not someone who did this, stand and look at trees, this was the pose, head back, eyes wide, of someone else, and he didn’t know what was expected of him, what the tree demanded. Bronzed-red canopy, burning swell: this was all the looking yielded, as alien to the tree as its name, nothing further from the truth. But she had not brought him out here to look.

Can you hear them? she said.

The evening’s sounds were a texture in the air like the clinging softness of tissue, and there was almost a physicality to the work of separating them from what was audible deep in the foliage. The layers were falling away under his fingers, not his ears, the voices of dogs and children, the surf of traffic two streets away, the tree’s own breathing; he thought that if he listened hard enough he might strip the world down to a final silence, and that would be one way to answer her. But then, there it was, high overhead: a hum, a steady, shimmering resonance, so irreducible now he’d fastened on it that his bones were singing with it. He squinted, trying to pick an anomaly out of the shifting branches and the mosaic of sky they constantly erased and remade, but there was nothing, and as the twilight settled the leaves’ fire was dying, and soon it would all be lost.

They’re up there somewhere, she said, but I can’t see them.

Me neither.

I hope it’s not wasps.

As if on cue, a dark little knot detached itself from the body of the tree and faltered down, carrying its smaller drone like a dispatch from the sonic mass. He ducked away instinctively, and she laughed.

Bumblebees. They’re only bumblebees, relax.

He did, he relaxed, because they were only bumblebees, a soft-furred commonwealth up there in their paper cells, assuming they built their nests from paper, assuming they built nests. They must build nests, because they were bees, but he didn’t know. He didn’t know if bumblebees were pollinators, if they made honey, if they stung. He didn’t know what chlorophyll was, not really. He knew it was what made leaves green, so why were these leaves they colour they were, bronzed, bruised? How old was this tree, how long had it been here before the house and the lawn the tree stood in, before the tree itself, became theirs? Did their tree imply their bees? Where did the word beech come from?

It became very suddenly an article of faith with him that these were all questions she could answer.

I love the sound of it, she was saying. I don’t know why. It should sound like danger, in the wild it would be like a warning, but it soothes me. The life of it. Just listen.

He listened. It didn’t sound of life to him. It was mute, somehow, like a geologic frequency, a mineral tone. He knew that for as long as he stood here listening to it he would fail square the noise, the idiot perfection of it, with the fact of the bodies making it, all those limbs and wings wired to their rudimentary intellects. It was too much, a mathematical impossibility. He was failing and the air was buzzing and the separateness of their experiences of this was a cold space between them.

He turned his face to her. He said, How many bumblebees are there in a typical colony?

I’m not really sure.

Where does the word beech come from?

How should I know?

But her voice only had the structure of annoyance, a reflex; she was too distant for anything except the bees, her head still angled back, her eyes in bright communion with something he’d be forever looking away from. And bright eyes was just another fiction. Everything was only what it was, eyes like eyes, leaves like leaves, sky like sky, regardless of his own desperate gaze.

He could go to her now, he thought: she was only a pace away. But then he would have to arrive at her, and he couldn’t see what lay inside that, humming. As hard as he looked, he could not see it. And anyway, she had not brought him out here to look.

They stood under the tree long enough that it became an implicit game, each daring the other to be the first to break, to admit their boredom and go back into the house, until eventually they both turned away together, carrying different things towards different rooms.

DM Lynch is from Cork, Ireland. He studied at Trinity College Dublin and holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. His writing has previously appeared in Three Monkeys, The Stinging Fly, The Irish Times and the anthology The Best Small Fictions 2015, edited by Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Olen Butler. 

Image Credit: Morgan McBride

My Plastic People – Seigar

What looks beautiful is also right, the Dutch (land) Scape (Amsterdam)

Ants attack II (Barcelona)

Pretty (Munich)

Back (London)

The second walk (Bratislava, 2015)

I promise I am not the one to blame (Zagreb)

Ambition (Dublin)

Seigar: English philologist, highschool teacher, and traveller street photographer with a love of reflections & saturated colors. He is passionate about pop culture and this shows in his series. Travelling is his inspiration. His most ambitious project is his “Plastic People” that focuses on the humanization of mannequins. He has participated in exhibitions and his works have featured in international publications. 

Rise and Shine by Dee Lyons

He begins the day with several pre-emptive strikes against his own approaching anxiety.

Valium, shower, coffee. Text to his ex, asking her to come over after work. These tasks accomplished, he slumps dripping on the bed in the airplane brace-for-crash position. Wet patches seep onto the mattress on either side of him.

His favourite thing to do now, while getting drunk on his own at home, is to watch online videos of natural disasters.  In the past week alone he’s devoured six earthquakes and two volcanos, flicking from rubble to lava in a sleepless blue-eyed haze, letting the destruction permeate until dawn cracks through the shutters and it’s time to get up for work. He thinks now about the Indian Ocean Tsunami, his staple of a few weeks back, the tide sucked out initially and those poor fuckers picking around on the empty strand, strangers smiling bemused smiles: What’s going on here?  He remembers that in particular – the ominous camaraderie invoked by unusual events. Then the first hints on the horizon of a fast approaching mass, curiosity slowly turning to realisation. What was barely a ripple at sea becoming monstrous as it reaches the land, and then.

He surveys the carnage of his room: floor obscured by dirty clothes, half drank cups of tea with lilies moulding on the surface, a stray fork beneath the radiator. An empty naggin in his deskside bin with the remains of a Pot Noodle congealed like tentacles around the glass. The only chink of order is his wardrobe, doors ajar and empty but for two work suits hanging neatly, and five freshly ironed shirts. He did the shirts at 3 this morning, taking a break from Fukushima to clatter the ironing board out of the press, drag it into his room and kick a clear space for it through the clothes on the floor. He burnt himself a few times, created creases where none were meant to be but he got there eventually

Even in his drunken state he knew the task was crucial: he’d found that by maintaining the outward structures of an orderly life, the inner disintegration was rendered invisible. Dressing well for work was a big part of this maintenance, replying to people when spoken to was another. Yes, no, hmmm, no – kept it fairly quiet this weekend, yeah, yeah, good match, yeah. Not jumping out of his skin or screaming in public was a third. And that was it really: if he managed this well enough while out of the house then no questions would ever be raised, no concerns expressed. ‘You doing ok’, his friend text him with no question mark.  ‘Doing grand’, he replied, and that was the end of that. He’d fallen asleep without unplugging the iron.

He scans the floor for plausibly clean underwear and instead lifts the half mug of Jameson which he spies at the foot of the ironing board. He wonders idly about his public displays of effectiveness: whether they represent a last grasp at self-preservation, or a means of ensuring a undisturbed path to oblivion. Each possibility carries equal emotional weight for him at the moment – which is to say, none at all.  He’s still sitting on the bed, naked and wet, reluctant to stand. In another life, these would have been prime conditions for pre-work masturbation but he hasn’t touched himself in weeks.

He tucks a second Valium under his tongue, squashes a third down between the bank cards in his wallet. He doesn’t intend to take them but they will be good to have in case of emergency – a neighbour attempting to strike up conversation in the hallway, for example, or a colleague dropping by his desk with a query. A baby is crying in the apartment overhead now, and the first traffic rumbles on the motorway outside. He changes his mind and swallows the second tablet down with a large gulp of Jameson, follows with the third and the last of the whiskey. Fuck it.

He spends seven minutes brushing his teeth and is borderline late as he steps out of his apartment into rain. He checks his phone as he crosses the road and sees that his ex has texted a one word reply: “Dickhead”. He exhales deeply. That’s closer to a yes than a no. He stops in middle of the road, feels his brain chemistry readjust to the cumulative effects of his efforts. That’s ok, he thinks, that’s alright.  He’d been saving up some Midwestern tornadoes for tonight, but whatever, they could wait. He might even change the sheets, he thinks, mellowing out now as the cars approach at speed.

Dee Lyons lives in Dublin. She has a limited attention span and poor impulse control.  As a consequence her interests change frequently but at the moment she’s into running and the final third of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy – yes.  

Image Credit:  Shawn Appel

Ada McBride

The Custom House, Dublin


Rathmines Library, Dublin

Smithfield, Dublin

Fireplace in the Sky, Cork Street, Dublin

Ada McBride lives and works in Dublin. She is fascinated by facades. 

After Love by Shannon Kelly

I am sitting across from you at a cafe in Krakow, a cafe that I think is called Wesoła, but I can’t exactly remember, and it doesn’t matter anyway, because I don’t speak Polish. You do, and this gives you more power, but at the same time, I think you are a blossoming alcoholic, so the power dynamics at our morning table are confusing to me, and I am too hungover to consider them fully.

You start to ask me a question, but the waitress interrupts with our coffee. I hear her say “Ethiopia,” and this upsets me because I most definitely told you to order the Guatemalan. Guatemalan is creamier, nuttier, and has more of a chocolate undertone, perfect for a cold morning. I smile at the waitress cheerily, and the minute she leaves, I say this to you. You know how I am about coffee, and so I presume this mixup is intentional, and that hurts me in such an insignificant yet poignant way. You shrug and apologize. The coffee is served on a long wooden board that looks like a paddle. I wonder why it is so busy here so early in the morning and then realize it is probably almost noon. My lips still carry flaky pink residue from last night’s lipstick.

“I didn’t think the dad in that movie was really very funny at all,” I say. I am referencing the French film we went to yesterday with Polish subtitles, a film we saw only for that reason, so that you could scour the subtitles, and so my meager high school French could finally come in handy. Whenever my friend Natasha calls, she asks how we manage our relationship with a “language barrier.” I hate that phrase, “language barrier.” I want to respond that effectively, fucking and fighting are universal languages, but instead I explain how every couple has a language barrier in its own way, that it’s about mutual understanding, body language, being straightforward. I sound very actualized I think. You agree with me about the film and comment on how “great” your coffee tastes, and I am sure you say this only to enforce that the Ethiopia was the right choice. I respond, “Hits the spot,” precisely because I know that phrase will confuse you, and that you’ll be too haughty this morning to ask for clarification.

Last night, you took me dancing, something we’ve done many times. Once on an October evening, we went dancing on a boat across from Wawel Castle, and I had to wear a fancy red dress and meet your friend Mateusz. I felt good that night, because every man on the boat seemed enamored of me, but even better because I remember telling a girl from New York City that I was there with you, and I looked over at you and your beautiful olive skin and heavy eyes, and you winked at me, and she said, “Good work.” She sounded like she really meant it, too, meaning there was just a tinge of jealousy audible in her voice. Another time, you showed up at my flat on Karmelicka with a bag of freshly picked cherries, and you played Louis Armstrong on YouTube on your phone, and we danced while the sun set outside my dilapidated window and a round, tired woman hung her wash out in the courtyard behind us. We go clubbing together a lot and mostly just make out on the dance floor while strange men watch, and I don’t really care at that point, because we’re always drunk and I like kissing you. But last night, we went to see a cover band, Joy Division and the Smiths crooned with heavy Polish accents.

At some point, we decided it would be a fun and absolutely normal thing to trade shirts, like temporary couple’s tattoos, a visual “she’s with me.” I, as usual, was wearing a billowy white blouse with flowers I had embroidered all over it, and you were wearing a fitted black t-shirt, meaning the switch would be more noticeable on you. We threw our shirts off there on the dance floor and switched, and I didn’t care who saw my naked tummy or my chicken pox scars. We had already consumed two bottles of Soplica between the two of us, this after a three-day stint of whiskey each night while watching Nicholas Cage movies. On our morning runs, our sweat started taking on the sickly sweet smell of alcohol, and then this morning, we couldn’t even run we were so liquid-logged. I am remembering right now one of the first dates we went on, when you said I always smelled like coffee. You, running your fingers across my bare collarbone, sliding past the coffee sweat in the summer dark after love. Now our smells have merged.

I fly back home to Dublin later that day and pass out in the dark of my damp bedroom. In the early morning, I awake, confused because I am alone in my bed. Sometimes I have strange dreams that I am not alone in my room, but I think in comparison, being alone is more deeply frightening to me. I can’t get back to sleep, so I do some laundry, lacy panties, mismatched socks. I throw my blouse in, the one you wore, and then a strange desperation takes me, a need to smell it, to see if your musky, lineny, Soplica scent is there. My phone buzzes, and it is, of course, not you. It’s Natasha. Blouse up at my nose, I inhale, and there’s nothing but the smell of my own sweat. I notice a lipstick stain—my own—on the shoulder of the blouse. The phone buzzes again. Not you. I set the dial and start the wash. My own mouth, my own body, smells like coffee mingled with vodka. I roll the word collateral around in my mouth for some time before brushing my teeth, washing myself clean.

Shannon Kelly lives in Galway, Ireland. Her work has been published in Crannog and the Irish Times, and she was the 2016 winner of the Allingham Festival Poetry Competition.

Image Credit: Rob Bye

Beatriz Vöx Menendez

David Bowie

Frida Kahlo

Kurt Cobain

Patti Smith

Ian Curis

Beatriz Vöx Menendez is a visual artist and writer whose work has appeared or is upcoming in Cargo Literary, Roadside Fiction, The Referendum Rant and Foliate Oak Review, among others. In 2016, she published her first book of poetry, entitled Excepciones Universales, with Impronta Press, which won the Asturias Poetry Prize in the same year. Short stories of hers were also included in the Manuel Nevado Madrid anthology. Her work explores the creation of place through space and the constant negotiation of borders.

A Good Cry by Clíodhna Walsh

My love forever,

I would have preferred him to die; I would prefer the canal’s black water to be his own coffin, and as I sit here and watch its onward stream, I imagine, peeping so palely above the surface in the dark, a corpsey toe of his – a little green old toe. Let rough seas drag down his body during some courageous expedition; I would visit the pier from which he departed and contemplate the crashing waves, and perhaps a tiny tear would dampen my face and impress the stoic hearts of nearby fishermen. I wish that he had perished in some kind of noble exploit, but, of course, he didn’t. I am just drunk on a bench by the river, and, pathetic as ever, thinking of him. The first time he slid out of me with a wriggle like a worm, the theatrical force with which he pulled on underwear, my eye observed and my heart approved him. The smack of his boxer’s band against his stomach, the slap of his palm on my bum; I was from the first troubled by some unforeseen emotion, of which now I try to rid myself to no use.

 

Darling,

We had met in a club, all around us the unce, unce, unce of pop songs throbbing throughout the dark room like the deep sea against a submarine, when suddenly and forcefully I swooned into his arms. Unce unce unce… he had been watching me all night, he said. I was ill-prepared to grow so fond of him. Come here to me with that big penis, I’d say, and he’d run over and with it wriggling in his hand like an apprehended eel he would whack me on the belly and in the face as I’d squirm away and scream. So handsome! I was happy in the brown hairiness of his big arms. He reminded me of people from home. I wish that I knew more about him, that I was wise up on his childhood games or teenage disappointments or drunken misadventures, but all I really know is that he was from a small town in the midlands and that his parents seemed to love him very much.

 

Sweetheart,

What lovely breakfasts in his lovely apartment. The force of his electric shower and the softness of his towels soothed me immensely. But there obviously came a stop to all the niceness, which happened one night when the Euros had just begun, and he had gone out to watch the match with a few of his mates; I had messaged him: gwan the Romanians lol. From the office I watched the crowds smoke and laugh and mill around pubs in the June night while at my desk I awaited his reply. Up and down the ugly buildings tricolours were festooned in zigzag formations, the green, white, and orange reminding me of being strapped into a buggy, watching parades in drizzle. I stared at my phone. By the next morning, I had heard nothing from him still, and I felt like a dog that, while playing catch, jumps too ambitiously, miscalculating – and so the flying ball smashes into its throat violently, its windpipe shattered, collapsed. So you’re ignoring me then, are you? I texted him after four days had passed. I heard nothing in reply. Fuck that! I said. I went out and got hammered and kissed somebody else, I badmouthed him in front of the girls in work and said, well, I was glad to be single, and I felt shame’s heat discolour my cheeks for I already had made a big deal out of something that hadn’t lasted very long and had been a fool. But a chuisle, a ghrá, a chroí; I was so sad. I went out and got drunk, but I felt that it would have been easier to wear a black veil, and to clutch the cold hand of a bullet-ruined body at a wake.

 

My friend and my love!

A thousands confusions since the unanswering of the text. I drift through most of the day in a woeful condition; from the top floor of the building, I gaze down at the street, at the offices opposite which contain our counterparts, at the black electricity wires whose overlaps, if I close one eye, outline crooked diagonals of pedestrians below. I search his name, I look at photos of him, I study the uploads of his poached eggs and craft beers, I crumple over in my chair all day long as if my skin were tissue-thin, and I suffer dreadful palpitations. But my fingers itched over this nothing to be done about a nothing. Once, desperately drunk and finding myself in the ladies’ toilets of his local, I attempted to scrawl with my lipstick his name and some slander on the walls; but I was interrupted by three other girls, and feverish mortification quickly made me wipe it away. The girls laughed at me, I laughed back at them; after I turned to write UP THE RA on the wall for their amusement, we became friends. Out of the loo, looking down, I noticed that I had stained my hands red; terrorised by tears and snot, I shook, laughing.
Petal,

Nothing works, no photos of tiny animals can cheer me as before. I get drunk and I sleep, my heart always thumps in grief and hungoverness, my throat is always dry, my stomach evil. Tonight I have drunk substantial amounts. At first I was giddy, blooming in the pink glow of inebriation like a blushing bride, but the unce unce unce of the club and all the men there still in their work suits recalled him to me and squashed my happiness, and I fervently wished him attacked, for his dribble to run into the neatly shaven beard and for his knees to sink to the ground, for me to kiss his eyes and hold him as my hands became cups of blood. Mo ghrá go daingean thú! I fled from the club to the chipper, but its white tiles and neon signs closed in on me like some terrible hospital; I fled from the chipper to the canal. I get up from the bench, and I toss my bag of chips into the water as if a floral bouquet; I watch the chunks sink, but the spectacle does not satisfy. I return to ancient routines.

Clíodhna Walsh lives in Dublin and is a graduate of English at Trinity College, Dublin. She previously has been published in magazines such as The Incubator Journal and Corda Magazine.

Image Credit:  Anastasia Taioglou