Armel Dagorn

Escape

 

Space. And other such reveries. The Gobi desert. The American West. The Sahara slipping towards the rainforest, but never quite making it. Thoughts about the room available somewhere, anywhere, just ballooned in Dom’s mind until they pushed against the inside of his skull and he’d feel the weak sutures between bone plates creak, and then he had to go. It happened every now and then. Happened tonight.

He walked outwards, from the city centre, and soon passed by all the bourgeois houses built on slave-shipping money, then the bland little rich suburbs of old houses, the more middle-class ones recently made.

The last time he’d tried he’d failed, reaching the maze-like streetlets of the business park belt, and he’d got lost in it, lost his bearings, lost touch with the strong instinct he’d had that fields were to be found near, that no matter where you were the country was within reach, if only you were strong enough, willed one foot in front of the other and repeated enough times. But that time the city had won. Sent him back into its maze, to his life of getting by.

He had been weak, let his mind wander, stopped and stared at the prefab cubes sitting dead, cold. Lunar bases in the dark. He’d stared and thought of other lives, not his, not previous, but the lives of the people who worked there, confined neon-lit lives, employees driving through winter mornings, parking as close as possible and rushing in. How could they not be scared of the scant atmosphere? Inside they’d pretend they were home, that the sharp angles and carpeted partitions were comfortable. Dom had seen a few bus stops, but he couldn’t believe anyone used them, that anyone would dare to stand there looking in, like he was, from the outside, hoping for a way out. The stops had to be part of the pretence, the act of appearing normal.

A police car had driven by, and they had surprised him like this, standing there, looking into the window of a cube from the roadside. They’d checked his ID, asked him what he was doing. All he could say was that he’d come out for a walk, yes, at two in the morning, through the desert acres of the business park. He didn’t tell them he wanted to reach the fields. They’d told him to go home, and watched him start inwards from the stuffy heat of their car, back to the centre.

He knew it had to be possible, though. In another place, another country, he’d done it, reached fields up on the hills that overlooked the city, and he’d looked at it laying there, cosy in mist, like some magical baby one starts a religion with. He’d stood there, breathing in the morning fumes of the city, neutralised by the filter of trees and grass and cow shit, and he’d called it town, then, tenderly, town and not city like everyone down there took pride in calling it, city this and city that, and not a glance above the skyline towards the greenery clear days conjured.

He understood he’d been weak on his first attempt, had let his mind wander when all the wandering required was his legs’. That second time he prepared more, spent the first few hours of the night up on a bar stool, neutering doubt and even thought, and it seemed to work at first when he started walking. He had a raging spring for a step. He got over the ring road fast, but as he entered the business park he tired, felt his strength falter. The roads here winded around in waves, for no good reason. The planners of such limbos had no doubt thought it dulled the wounds office cubes stabbed in one’s mind. Dom kept walking, but now and then he found himself back to the same pointless roundabout he thought he’d just left behind. Or was it yet another perfectly identical roundabout? He couldn’t bear the idea. He had a drink from the naggin he’d brought with him. His feet hurt, the blisters from his previous walkabout having had no time to heal.

He couldn’t just give up this time. He passed a bus stop. The bench called out to him, the sanitized promise of rest. He tried it, but it was one of the narrow, inclined kind, and it didn’t relieve his legs any. He let his body slide down the glass pane and sat crouched in the corner of the manufactured shelter.

He couldn’t give up. He saw up ahead a cube smaller than most, with letterings he couldn’t decipher, and a tall plastic baguette outlined in the moonlight like a raised arm. It would be opening in a few hours, Dom thought. If he could find two coins to rub together, just enough to give the impression of solvency, he might be able to get some breakfast in that counterfeit boulangerie. It wasn’t believable, too clean for the business of baking, the flour clouds, the shrapnel of dough and chocolate. Had to be a front for some accountancy sweatshop, Dom thought, falling asleep to rows of dusty men typing away, half sucked into oversized grey monitors.

He woke up blind in headlights. It might or might not have been the same cops as before, but this time they took him in. He’d failed again. Got put in a tight concrete cell. Square one. Dom zero.

 

Armel Dagorn is now back in his native France after living in Ireland for seven years. His writing has appeared in magazines such as Tin House online, The Stinging FlyThe Penny Dreadful and Popshot. He has a little place at armeldagorn.wordpress.com

Anna Walsh

sharing a film with you

 

we are propped beside each other

backs crookedstraight

our elbows, spread legs

 

the heat beats in my teeth

 

i wonder what it would be like to fuck you

like you fuck one night stands and

exes, brutally, for not long enough

 

the way your bottom lip juts

 

i would put my hand on your mouth

slip my finger in

we could lie beside each other

all wet mouths drifting limbs

no movement accidental

 

you would make a business of

the fuck to come

my touches coded to yours

 

our clothes shed

stickily, at first,

 

the rest

shake off like feathers

i direct

nipple mouth fingers back

he props me on him, crookedstraight

i’m not ready yet but my favourite part is the thunk

so you feel the tightness and the swell hurts

your moan

it sings better than it says

please

oh

my fingers slide

through your hair and i pull

up and down slow

the air is jungly

it seems right to lick your entire chin and neck

just under

 

this is where i own you

this is where you own

the rock ache in my stomach

 

my mouth, my legs

gawked open

i could brim with you if i dared

 

Anna Walsh is young, dumb, and wallowing in a lack of direction. She tweets at @annaw999 and wants to fuck with your head (with her words).

March 2015

So here it is, the new issue, the first compiled since the addition of two new editors. And that’s just some of the changes we’ve undergone since we last published an issue of new work. If you’ve not yet made yourself familiar with the new editors, extended links and updated submissions guidelines then please do so.

Our first issue in 2015 is full to the brim with excellent new poetry, fiction, essays and photography. As well as choosing from open submissions we decided to ask a few of our favourite writers and poets and photographers to collaborate with each other in the hopes that it would inspire them.

We hope the words and images in this issue resonate and inspire you.

Dylan Brennan

BONES OF ANONYMOUS CHILDREN

 

At the southwest corner of Tlachihualtepetl
the skeletal remains of two sacrificed children
were unearthed. There was evidence of cranial
irregularities—deformed babies skull-smashed
for ritual. Everyone knew the stainless
souls of the very young were the messengers
that Tláloc could never refuse. When the rains
fell hard upon Cholulan farms it was clear the murder
of youngsters was a necessary horror. It made sense.
It had purpose. I suppose we can’t really judge the past
from our point of view, from our lens. All we can do is mark
it appropriately and make sure there is a suitable place
here where people can come and remember the babies that died.
And so it is marked at the foot of arguably the largest
pyramid on the planet (church plonked atop)
and tourists can know the ancient evils of sacrifice.
A child asks a guide why the pyramid—with its trees
and grass and squirrels—looks still like a hillock.
He is told (and the adults listen too) how a proper
excavation would untangle the muscular roots
of millennial trees, upsetting the soils of gods
and men. An unholy mess. The spiritual and physical
constructs of all those years would come crashing
down around us. We’d never clean that up.

 

 

Dylan Brennan is an Irish writer currently based in Mexico. His poetry, essays and memoirs have been published in a range of international journals, in English and Spanish. His first full collection, Blood Oranges, for which he was awarded the runner-up prize in the Patrick Kavanagh Award, was published in November 2014 by The Penny Dreadful Press. Atoll, a mini collection of poetry, is available as a free download from Smithereens Press.
In 2014 he was shortlisted for the Fish International Short Memoir Prize.
Website: http://www.dylanbrennan.org
Twitter: @JosephDjb

Sharlene Teo

Gold

 

 

Buzzing July lunchtime. It is getting so hot the back of my thighs stick to the seat. I miss pause-glacial winter, I miss slap-nasty rain, I miss whatever doesn’t make the insects come out and cause my brain to feel like it will melt and sidle down my neck, catching on my ribs and making me forget whole periods of my life and the names of common zoo animals.

I am sitting in a Pret with my new colleague Lisa. Lisa is maybe two or three years younger than me. She is slight and wiry, a mousy atom of a person. She has a sharp, pretty face and bitten-down nails. She has chosen a three-storey calorific blockbuster of a BLT and I have opted for a “seasonal selection” sandwich. Two bites in and I regret my choice. It is the middle of the week and I am sweating and I have food envy and I am a novelty-cuckold. A dribble of wasabi mayo escapes onto my body con skirt. Now I have a suspicious stain on my body con skirt.

I’m worried about my health, says Lisa.

Woah there sister, I don’t care and I hardly know you, I think, but on my face I affix a concerned expression.

Why is that, I ask.

I know we are eating, says Lisa, but.

But?

She leans in.

Lately, when I urinate, my pee is, my pee is golden.

Uh, everyone’s pee is golden.

No, it is gold. It glitters and everything.

You’re kidding.

No, I’m not kidding, Lisa demurs. She tells me that when she looks in the toilet bowl there is a liquid in it the colour of fine spun manuka honey, of overpriced salon blonde (Lisa and I are brunette and dyed auburn respectively)- Academy Award hued, iridescent, glimmering piss.

With gold flecks and everything, says Lisa.

That is so weird.

I know.

Have you seen a doctor?

I have. I sent in a sample. The doctor said the test results were all normal, and by the time I had sent the sample in it looked dull and ordinary, just like normal urine, but trust me, it looks amazing when it is fresh. Really beautiful.

This is a really odd conversation.

I know. I’m sorry. I just had to tell someone.

Why did you have to tell me, I think. I consider Lisa. I consider her brown eyes, her gray nail polish, her chiffon blouse, and the crumbs strewn before her on the table.

I have only known, or barely known, this small, strange person for two weeks. Before that she folded neatly into the ether of unimaginable existence, living and breathing and drinking and crankily commuting around this harebrained, labyrinthine, people-choked city.

For at least eight hours a day, we sit opposite each other in an open-plan office. We online window-shop and read the Daily Mail website in minimized windows, we nod along in team meetings, and daydream separately by the kettle. But for the most part we drain our energy over desks of cheerful fake wood using in-house operating systems to analyze Risk.

I have seen Lisa more than I have seen my dying father. I have seen Lisa more than I have seen my friends. I have seen Lisa more than I have seen my boyfriend, who seems increasingly bored and disinterested, drifting away on an i-Calendar of overlapping schedules and chronic fatigue, terse texts and football matches.

I wonder if Lisa’s life is a bare shelf bereft of boyfriends or otherwise, people closer to her and/or more suitably appropriate to discuss her urine with. I feel sorry for her and wonder if she has several screws loose. I remember Tim, my colleague who interviewed her, saying she was totally impressive, switched on, on the ball, on the money, that one, he said. I wonder if he said all that because he didn’t really know what he was talking about/ never knows what he is talking about, and he was tired of interviewing people near the end of the day, and she was attractive.

I feel spiky and tired, and like I will wilt. Lisa is looking at me with a concerned expression.

There’s a bit of mayo on your skirt, she says. She puts some water on a napkin and hands it to me. I dab at the stain but it only makes it worse.

I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable, Lisa says. I just really wanted to tell someone.

That’s okay, I reply. Maybe you pee gold because you are a really good person.

Lisa doesn’t seem to understand it is a joke and looks so stricken that she might cry if you gave her ten minutes, and froze that moment.

I took a picture, as evidence, Lisa says, glowing with encouragement, with cloying earnestness. I put down my sandwich. It is disgusting anyway, £4.50 of cosmopolitan disgustingness. Lisa fiddles around with the screen, scrolls through and hands me her phone.

I look at the screen, a high-res Android screen. I tilt my head sideways, this way and that, like a caricature of someone in a French gallery, the Louvre perhaps. The Mona Lisa! Behold! Ancient oil paints, and gilded frames. Halogen glow, no-glare, pixels and pixels.

It is a clear shot of a toilet bowl, white ceramic, containing a pale yellowish liquid. Nothing out of the ordinary; nothing too revolting. I could have seen worse, I have seen worse. I look at Lisa. Her small face is a cryptic, hopeful moon. In ten minutes we will need to cross the green, scan our cards in, take the elevator up to the fifth-storey office.

You’re right, I say, smiling slightly, holding on to her phone. That’s really something.

 

 

Sharlene Teo is a recipient of the David TK Wong Fellowship and Sozopol Fiction Seminars Fellowship. Her work has appeared in places such as Esquire, Eunoia Review, Amelia’s Magazine and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. She is working on her first novel.

Morten Søndergaard & SJ Fowler

Open Mouth Surgery

 

 

PLEASE READ THIS CAREFULLY. IT CONTAINS VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION.

 

Adjectives:

Look: A very tall tree is about to come crashing right on this spot where we’re standing.
According to Pharmapoetica, you lost the bet, and so you must take the pill. And you owe me a San Pelligrino.

Avoid double adjectives whenever possible, since they tend to dilute rather than reinforce the effect.

Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I will be injecting each of your eyeballs with flax, to make them bulge, like a pugs.

Look: A big jerrycan full of extremely corrosive hydrochloric acid. That’s not bad.

 

Adverbs:

Do not breastfeed if you are using Adverbs® since this could harm the infant. Speak to a poet.
The sugar pills are free, starring Jude Law and Lupita Nyong’o.
In the case of serious side-effects, requiring an immediate response from you or your family: call the emergency services.

The blue pills are from China, they feature a little dying stork engraved on the upper face. In China, a dying stalk represents incurable incontinence.

 

Articles:

You can use Articles® in any conversation, text or other exchange of words.
I get so angry sometimes. I become so volatile. I blame my shift pattern at work. Sometimes I kick my friends right in the thigh, but I’m getting better at not taking it out on people that I know well and see on a day to day basis.

You can use as many Articles® as you want, wherever you may be or whoever you may be. And that goes for all of you too.

The red pills are from China, they feature a little engraved dying chinese woman. In China the upper face symbolises the many chins of the crying octopus.

 

Interjections:

Shout. Scream. Whisper. Sing. Do whatever the hell you like. Interjections are completely different from other words in the language anyway.

I itch relentlessly. I have ICS. Itchy Crotch Syndrone. I got it in a Copnehagen glory box.

Interjections® are your first words and in all probability also your last.

When angry I let nothing go. If you make eye contact with me, I will glare right back at you. If you do not look away I will ask you “what the fuck are you looking at?”

 

Conjunctions:

Conjunctions deal with life and death. Conjunctions are very philosophical, they tell you what position to take in relation to something else. They have to do with relationships, connections, coordination and classification. They can be your friends or your enemies.
I can smell farts everywhere today. I am starting to worry I have Perforated Colon.
At the first sign of serious side-effects call an ambulance, contact a poet or visit the library.

When I learned once British people shot cannons at Copenhagen, I felt awful. I phoned Mads Mikkelsen right away to say sorry. He told me to take a chill pill. I’m glad I read that Sharpe book, swashbuckling history.

 

Nouns:

Nouns can easily close in on themselves, but will open up again on repeated use of the Noun in question. Try, for example, repeating it so many times that it turns into chewing-gum in the mouth: blow it up into a bubble.
Doctors are so sick of the sight of me, but when they tell me I’m perfectly fine, I feel an inexpressible sense of joy, apart from that one time when I was diagnosed with ICS.
Generally speaking, Nouns do however have a pleasant way of laying the world open, with their countless associations, recollections and concrete connections. Using Nouns causes your world to expand.

Viggo Mortensen is a poet. He also has his own boutique publishing house. It is closed to submissions but I texted him and he agreed to look at my manuscript “David Bowie in middle earth” It’s a collection about Russian mafia in London invading the Ukraine on flimsy pretext. He said he’ll get back to me in 6 to 8 weeks.

 

Verbs:

Things happen. The skies are happening blue, the flowers happen on the stems. Come into being. Human being. Verbs have a special relationship with the words to and I. Verbs are dependent on these two words in many different contexts. To for the world and I for you.

The green pills are from China, they feature a little engraved image on their upper face. It is of a lemming in a viking helmet. The image is inaccurate, the helmet has horns. If the lemming wore this helmet into battle, other creatures would grab the horns and breaks its neck. In China the colour green symbolises bonelessness of the penis.

 

Prepositions:

Please note: you must use Prepositions when you are breastfeeding.
I know a friend who loved Dane. I once dated a Dane, but she was mental and I had to flee as she said she wanted to have my child, which I told her wasn’t possible as bear sperm cannot fertilise a human egg.
Don’t give it a thought. Prepositions store themselves. You may have to put them in their place, though, and they might not stay where you put them.

Yeah I really like the Wordpharmacy Morten, I’m just not sure it’s appropriate for a psychiatrists waiting room.

 

Pronouns:

Fainting fits. Cramps. Can be serious. Awareness disorders. Loss of place. Loss of self. Dilated pupils. Ischuria (urine retention). This can be, or can become, serious. Speak to a poet.

The yellow pulls made me realise that “don’t eat yellow snow” is a pretty sound rule but I would warn against eating any kind of weather.

Sense of personal unreality or personal alienation. Loss of place. Loss of self. Loss. Pathological euphoria. Mania. Retarded ejaculation. Impotence. Orgasmic difficulties. Diminished sexual desire. Anxiety, confusion, indifference. Increased sexual desire. Lengthy, painful erections. Male lactation.

The noun to torture is not exclusively used by poets but was invented by a poet. His name was William Piper, his own father was a chemist, and after a successful music and acting career, he said to torture when trying to describe how hard it was to write verse in German after the second world war.

Oedema (fluid retention), hypersensitivity. Hair loss. Increased sensitivity to sunlight, photosensibility. Minor haemorrhages in skin and mucous membranes. Panic attacks. Teeth grinding. Namelessness. Heightened risk of bone fractures. Aggressiveness.

What Michael Kohlhaas taught me was that Danes love words, they love pharmacists, and they love milk, and this inspirational tale of a pharmacist who uses words to milk a goat taught me that a man should follow his dreams, at the expense of women, down the darkest pharmaceutical wordhole available.

 

Numerals:

They know when you were born and they will know when you die.
Fizzy tears, meat tornado, the only gold digger I’d sleep with would be a literal alloy stormshovel, the kind used to clear yellow snow
Over-consumption of Numerals can diminish the body’s ability to absorb minerals.

I am deaf, destroyer of worlds. Whatever doesn’t kill you, gets you later.

 

 

 

SJ Fowler is a poet, artist, martial artist & vanguardist. He works in the modernist and avant garde traditions, across poetry, fiction, sonic art, visual art, installation and performance. He has published five books, including Enemies: selected collaborations (Penned in the Margins 2013) and been commissioned by the Tate, Mercy, the Liverpool Biennial and the London Sinfonietta. He is the poetry editor of 3am magazine and is the curator of the Enemies project.

Eamon Mc Guinness

´I can´t write about him´ – Writing in the Silences: Beckett, Grief and Art

 

 

It started with reading the letter Beckett wrote to his friend and poet Thomas Mc Greevy in Paris after his father died. It opened up things for me and gave me the strength to start expressing myself in new ways. It was 2010 and I was doing an M.A in Anglo-Irish Literature and Drama in U.C.D. One of the modules was ´Beckett and Contemporary Irish Drama´. My father had died earlier in the year. I was teaching English in Spain when it happened, came back in June when the academic year had finished and threw myself into the masters in September. I read every book and article recommended. I spent hours in the library and would often be there when it opened. I didn´t know what else to do. If I stopped I didn´t know what would happen. I didn´t allow myself to properly think or write about what had happened to me and my family.

Beckett was 27 when his father William Beckett died aged 61 on 26th of June 1933. Beckett wrote to McGreevy in Paris on the second of July. That act itself was comforting; the writing of the letter was an important gesture for me. Putting pen to paper was a conserving act. When I returned to Spain after the funeral I gave myself daily writing tasks. I wrote long letters and e-mails to friends and family. Communication was vital. There is, I believe, an honesty and space to letters and I sought that out. Whenever I´d been away before my father and I exchanged letters and my time in Spain was no different and we wrote to each other regularly. In reality, I wrote anything just to keep myself busy. Quotes, shopping lists, dreams, memories, plans, regrets, books I wanted to read, song and film titles, places I wanted to go, to-do lists; anything.

Beckett´s letter to McGreevy is concise and direct. It also contains more overt emotion than I´d up to that point encountered in his work.

It opens with:

“Father died last Monday afternoon after an illness lasting just under a week, and was buried the following Wednesday morning in a little cemetery on the Greystones side of Bray Head, between the mountains and the sea.”

He then goes on to briefly describe his father´s death and the practical matters that needed to be taken care of. One of his main duties was to help his mother and respond to the “endless letters on her behalf”. His own uncertain future is alluded to: “My position of course is vaguer than ever”.

In the final paragraph he mentions some memories he has of his father´s final days, “joking and swearing at the doctors”, “in bed with sweet pea all over his face” and most poignantly his father´s assertion that “when he got better he would never do a stroke of work. He would drive to the top of Howth and lie in the bracken and fart”. I could relate to all of this. In the weeks preceding his death I would speak to my father regularly on the phone. I was living in Santiago de Compostela and would constantly see the relieved and joyous faces of pilgrims who had finished El Camino de Santiago. I told him that many people who had been sick would walk the Camino when they had recovered. We planned to do this together when the treatment was finished and he was better. He too promised that he´d never go back to work.

Beckett says that his last words were “Fight fight fight” and “What a morning”. I´ve racked my brain for three years but still can´t remember our last conversation or his final words to me. In a strange way that makes me happy, there was no ´final ‘conversation over the phone, no ‘goodbye’ moment. Our last chat was I´m sure filled with trivial matters; the weather, family, news from home and work. One thing that sticks out though and that I wrote down in a journal at the time was something he said to me. We were talking about friendship and falling out with people and he said “Eamon, there is no time to make enemies”. I don´t know why I wrote it down but I did. Beckett finishes the paragraph with the beautiful sentence: “All the little things come back – memoire de l´escalier.” The French phrase refers to, according to the footnotes, “an inspired afterthought that comes to one only after leaving, that is, on the stairs”. It was and is true; all the little things do come back, at unexpected and surprising moments.

This letter was read out at the start of class by Prof. Anthony Roche and needless to say it numbed me. Beckett was 27 when his father died, I was 24. His father was also 61. I´d been in a haze, working hard, and trying to avoid the pitfalls that accompany grief. I wasn´t drinking or going out much. My girlfriend and I were living in my family home and we were all supporting one another. Beckett´s letter brought me back to my own letters and writing in the weeks and months after my father´s passing. I tried writing poems and stories about him but they all ended in failure. I was, perhaps, too close to the incident. In his signing off Beckett heartbreakingly states: “I can´t write about him, I can only walk the fields and climb the ditches after him”. In a letter to a friend afterwards I remember writing about my dad: “I am always in his shadow”. I think of that line often and try to figure out what I meant by it but writing it made me feel better. The letter floored me and gave me the most intimate reading of Beckett´s work I could hope for and I began looking at his work from the perspective of ´not writing´.

That final line has stayed with me the longest and I return to it often. The next day I went to Prof. Roche´s office and he photocopied the letter for me. We then began speaking about death and expression, how or when a writer can begin to express certain topics. When does the grief settle and the expression become clearer, more objective and less filled with raw emotion? There was and is no concrete answer. For some, that expression comes quickly and clearly, for others more slowly and for some it never comes.

The final line is telling. Beckett has just written three paragraphs “about him” before telling McGreevy he “can´t write about him”. However, we know what he means, “write about him”, in poetry, prose or drama. Beckett´s work is full of allusions, glimpses, memories that linger, small incidences that remain in the unconscious and will not go away, the little things that “come back”. In Krapp´s Last Tape Krapp speaks of a lost love and wonders “What remains of all that misery? A girl in a shabby green coat, on a railway-station platform? No?” and later on “I lay down across her with my face in her breasts and my hand on her. We lay there without moving. But under us all moved, and moved us, gently, up and down, and from side to side.” Krapp is haunted by these images and returns to them constantly. The death of Beckett´s mother in 1950 is alluded to in both Rockaby and Krapp´s Last Tape.

In Rockaby we hear v reliving old memories:

“at her window
let up the blind and sat
quiet at her window”

Later, we hear:

“in the end went down
right down
into the old rocker
mother rocker
where mother rocked”

Similarly, in Krapp´s Last Tape death and blinds are again referred to:
“I was there when the blind went down, one of those dirty brown roller affairs…I happened to look up and there it was. All over and done with, at last.”

The letter to McGreevy allowed me to write about things at my own pace, if at all. There was no pressure but simultaneously a reminder that these feelings would remain and would re-emerge again and again. It was the willingness and bravery of Beckett and other writers to mine, investigate and confront these memories and emotions from different artistic perspectives that was and is the most inspiring to me.

In my shock and sadness I saw grief everywhere in art. I returned to albums and songs that dealt with loss, most notably Bob Dylan´s ´Blood on the Tracks´, Beck´s ´Sea Change´ and The Streets´ ´Never Went to Church´. I actively sought them out. Czeslaw Milosz says: “When it hurts we return to the banks of certain rivers.” Everything was re-shaped and sounded different, as if seeing or hearing things for the first time. I saw Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses not as the portentous arts graduate with literary aspirations but as a lost child whose mother had recently passed away, who is wandering the city, going from one de-energising group of men to another. A case in point being his friendship with Buck Mulligan who dismisses Stephen´s grief in the ´Telemachus´ episode: “You saw only your mother die. I see them pop off every day in the Mater and Richmond and cut up into tripes in the dissecting room. It’s a beastly thing. It simply doesn’t matter”.

Bloom has himself suffered great loss. The suicide of his father, the death of his mother and the tragic early death of his son Rudy. Throughout the day he is constantly reminded of his suffering: “Something to hand on. If little Rudy had lived. See him grow up. Hear his voice in the house”. Soon after, in ´Lestrygonians´ Bloom says of Rudy: “Can’t bring back time. Like holding water in your hand”. Bloom has the wherewithal to walk away from groups (the newspapermen in ´Aeolus´ and the drinkers in ´Lestrygonians´) and his ability to keep his own company marks him out from Stephen. It is little wonder that it is Bloom who saves Stephen during his drunken escapades and brings him home to 7 Eccles St for a cup of cocoa.

What intrigued me most was the idea of mining and confronting one´s past. There are certain incidences and memories we constantly fall back on and remember, certain people we can´t quite forget. I became intrigued by artists who not simply revisited their pasts but allowed these references to reappear in their work again and again. To some it may appear futile or even easy to go over the same ground but I see it as an act of bravery. In John Mc Gahern´s work there is a constant re-examining of his childhood in which his mother died at a young age and he was brought up by his aggressive and domineering father. We see this theme in both his short stories and novels throughout his career and again in Memoir.

As we see with Krapp´s Last Tape and Waiting for Godot, there are different versions of the self constantly at play. Our old selves die, we improve in some ways and dis-improve in other ways but the key point is that certain memories remain. There is a willingness and an acceptance on the writer´s part to return to the moments that define us as humans and tackle them again with fresh perspective amidst new experience and more objectivity. What differentiates this mining from simple repetition is that the standards are high and never frivolous. Stephen Fry, speaking about music, said: “Listening to music may inspire an extraordinary emotional response, but extraordinary emotions are not enough to make music”. Essentially, when Beckett or McGahern re-examine a moment from their past it is not simply through emotional laziness but more so a desire to view that moment again through a prism of change and new experience, from a more mature vantage point. It is not enough to simply have these experiences and write about them, a poem about a dead father is no more valid than a poem about a lamp, it depends on the execution and this is what characterizes the great from the good in my opinion, that determination to return again to the defining moments that shape us and attempt to create great art from this.

For example, knowing that there is biographical detail in the works of Beckett, Joyce or McGahern doesn´t improve the work. It has to stand alone on its own terms. Being aware that Bruce Springsteen´s ´My Father´s House´ is a personal story doesn´t make it a better song. Similarly, in Guy Clark´s ´Randall Knife´ he sings honestly and directly about his father´s passing, using the knife as a metaphor for his loss. Knowing that Clark´s father owned a Randall knife doesn’t artistically advance the song but strangely adds even more pressure on Clark to write universally. There is an impetus with the great writers to take their experiences to the next level, where it becomes useful not just for the writer but for the reader or listener too. We see this also in Patrick Kavanagh´s ´Memory of My Father´, Raymond Carver´s ´Photograph of My Father in His Twenty-Second Year´ and with Seamus Heaney´s ´Digging´ and ´Dangerous Pavements´. They are not simply diary entries but nuanced and crafted poems that work on both a subjective and objective level.

It was Beckett´s letter which gave me the mental space to express myself. It allowed me to face things at my own pace. I have written many bad poems about my father´s passing but have also written some lines that I am extremely proud of. By simply writing and examining the silence I feel I have made some progress. Where will it end? Will it end? Everyday there are reminders, “all the little things come back”. For me it´s about remaining open to the experiences and feelings, being aware that something will re-emerge that will throw you off course, get you down and open up old wounds. Grief gets quieter and becomes consumed by life and daily routine. It´s rarely as loud as it was at first but the desire to express and examine those feelings is still as valid as ever. The oft quoted Beckett phrase from his 1983 novella Westward Ho: “Ever Tried? Ever Failed? No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better” encourages us to persevere both mentally and artistically.

People have different ways of dealing with grief but for me it is returning to the page, to the clichéd notion that art saves. I even question this at times. Does it save or merely distract us? Either way, I still see the desire to write in the silences everywhere. Dermot Bolger´s recent collection The Venice Suite was a masterly collection of poems he wrote following the sudden death of his wife Bernie in 2010. He said he didn´t remember writing them but wrote them in a daze on “multiple scraps of paper” and “barely legible lines scribbled on envelopes”. Bolger says: “Reshaping them into poems allowed me to confront that initial grieving process and try to imagine myself into the different life I now lead”.

The bravery to return to these memories inspires me. In my view, the great writers write in the spaces, tackle the silences and go to the dark places. Speaking about his life Beckett said “Nothing matters but the writing. There has been nothing else worthwhile…a stain upon the silence”. It was this silence that I wanted to explore, the ´not writing´ and emptiness that consumes us all. It´s seeing it as a part of the human condition and once that space is accepted it is like having the end of the story, the in-between is there to be filled, to be written in, walked in and loved in. There is a pervasive loss that everyone feels, that everyone will go through, a search for meaning, for stability in the world. Filling it up as best you can becomes not only a means of survival but also a duty.

 

 

Eamon has had poetry published in wordlegs and Bare Hands Poetry. He has been writing for the last few years and is currently working on a series of short stories and poems.

Holly Isemonger

my week in haiku

 

 

can’t imagine a

face, too tired, masturbate with

a ‘vague male presence’

 

it’s fine to use a

bag of crisps as a pillow

look I’m fine ok

 

the band is playing

a song but all I hear is

‘I have a penis’

 

dream I am pregnant

again and I drown the baby

in the sink again

 

can’t tell if it’s poor

punctuation or dirt on

the computer screen?

 

clouds often look like

cellulite, god’s mammoth white

arse suffocates me

 

how to get the man

to touch me when I don’t want

to talk to the man?

 

3am open

the fridge and think ‘who the fuck

buys this much salad’

 

he touched my hand while

giving me change, imagine

spooning for ~3hrs

 

heat forces grime through

pores, we sweat like kids making

play-doh spaghetti

 

walk away through trees

that are Nintendo green, turn

smile and wave at me

 

she said to me once

the ones that matter, count them

on one hand, not two

 

count the syllables

on two hands, but people, those

who matter are few

 

 

Holly is usually confused, embarrassed or lost. She can be found at hisemonger.tumblr.com and twitter.com/Hisemonger

EM Reapy

The Evening Donal Broke His Arm

 

 

We were told not to be going around with our tops off anymore. Mrs. McNamara next door went squealing on us to our parents. Dad said nothing but the shake in his hands was shakier.

It was Ma who called us in that day and sat us down and said, ‘Ladies, ye’re reaching a certain age, well, where things have started happening, and ye can’t be taking yer clothes off anymore,’ and Dad was eyeing everything in the room around us.

Ma flattened down her white hair and said, ‘Tell them, Martin,’ and Dad coughed and snuffed a bit and muttered, ‘What yer mother said.’

Skittering, we fled and ran down upstairs to our room. The itch to take our tops off even stronger now. Because it was illegal. And it was fecking hot. It was still hot outside even though it was after the 6.1. and the weather saying it was the biggest heatwave since seventy-six. Auld ones. This was ninety-five and Mrs. McNamara has no business to be running in panicking. She was just worried about her Donal. Her Donal would be out watching us and wanting us and playing on his flute because of us. He told us before he did that.

‘I was thinking about the pair of ye, at the one time.’

We laughed and called him a perv. The age of him. Just finished Fifth Year. Peeking at us. He’d want to go play football or join a band or do something normal. Not be holed up mashing his Sega buttons and drinking TK, having the sconce at us, tugging himself blind.

Ma and Dad always say, ‘Ah poor auld Donal, the poor lad,’ always feeling sorry for him and that. He was grand like. Just when he was a bit younger, he saw some drug addicted Sunday World people try to rob the bank, while he was in it. And they made a point of holding a gun to his face. Coz he was a small one and it would break the heart of the manager to see a kid with his head all over the soft carpet so the robbers got loads of money.

‘Let’s sneak out to Donal?’

‘Plan.’

We went out through the window, right beside our bunk. We’d a ladder left beside it though Mrs. McNamara tried to make our parents move it. We said we’d launch ourselves onto the ground if they did so they didn’t. Donal’s room was almost parallel to ours but it was a lot bigger. We sometimes caught him having a sing or a look in the mirror. Though mostly, he’d be in the corner where his TV was and we couldn’t spot him. The curtains weren’t closed this evening and the window was open. When we got down to the garden we shouted up at him.

‘Donal. Hey, Donal, ya header.’

There was shuffles and the closing of a wardrobe door. Donal came to the window with a NYC baseball cap on his head. It made his ears stick out like two rashers stuck onto the side of his face. The rest of him was okay. He’d no acne and no braces. His black hair was shaved except for a bit of a fringe he spiked up with Shockwaves and we called him a fag for that.

He wiped his eyes. ‘What are ye two up to?’

‘Feck all. Did ya hear your Mammy was over? Giving out. Saying we shouldn’t be inappropriate.’

Donal flashed a smile. ‘She was now. What were ye doing?’ He was leaning over his window sill. Honking down.

We elbowed each other. ‘We were doing a bit of this stuff.’

We giggled and started jumping around the garden. There was only a small flower bed the length of the lawn to show which was McNamara’s side and which was ours. We were humming The Sign by Ace of Base and going daft. Donal was laughing loud. We were dancing for him. We were wiggling our bodies and shaking our arms, hips, our legs. We walked like Egyptians, did the Macarena, the Hokey Pokey. He was smiling at us. He opened the rest of the window wide, staring down. We danced with each other and span each other and then we grinded up against each other.

Donal was clapping and wide eyed. He was loving it. It made us start messing more, putting our arms up and going slowly down, moving our hips in and out, copying some Madonna. We weren’t really thinking about anything except Donal and how pervy and happy he musta been watching this.

So we whipped the tee shirts off and changed from singing to running around the yard like Native Americans around a fire. We stomped all over the flowers. We were rubbing ourselves and hollering and Donal was in bits. The slobber coming off him like a dog looking at a barbeque. It was a bit of a frenzy so we just went for it and took the whole lot of the clothes off. Shorts and knickers and all.

And Donal was shrieking and it was great but then it wasn’t because Mrs. McNamara musta heard the rumpus. Next thing she was at the window behind him. We stopped suddenly, not a stitch on and Donal turned around. He stared at his auld cow of a mother and his face went Casper white. Then he straightened up and passed out. He fell clean out the window and hit the ground with a crunch.

We were trying to get our clothes on again or cover ourselves because the commotion had got Ma and Dad out and we were racing to be dressed now. Tee shirts stuck on us coz we were trying to shove our heads out the arms. Shorts on one leg tripping us over as we got the other foot in quick as Sonia O’Sullivan, trying to hide a bit behind each other but we were pissing ourselves and couldn’t do anything right.

Mrs. McNamara went missing from the window and within a split second, like she was a genie, she was picking Donal up off the ground and his arm was half towards her and half towards us. He made moans and his cheeks were pink.

Ma and Dad were blessing themselves and saying ‘Holy Mother’ or ‘The Lord God’ and there was mention of the big ‘C’ – them sending us off to board in the Convent, but we knew they wouldn’t. They’d miss us, weren’t they lucky to have us, the age of them. That’s what everyone around the town had said. Sure they said it themselves.

Mrs. McNamara shouted, ‘I’m having a mental catastrophe. Your daughters are stark lunatics. Ye better keep them away from me and away from my Donal.’

Ma said, ‘Ah Mrs. McNamara, they don’t mean it. They’re good girls really. Do you want a lift down to the General?’

Mrs. McNamara told Ma to ‘feck right off’ and ushered Donal inside. We had our clothes on again but our hair was gone all static and wild. Dad looked at Ma with his lips pressed tight, barely making any red show.

‘Get up to yer room. Now,’ Ma said and we legged it in case she’d threaten us with the wooden spoon she threatened us with but never used since we left primary school two summers ago.

We weren’t crying or anything either. Mrs. McNamara was always having mental catastrophes, mental breakdowns, having her mental courage and strength tested, becoming a mental patient. We’d heard it all already. But we never got Donal hurt before.

‘If we make him a card, ‘Get Well Soon,’ And her? ‘We’re Super Sorry.’

‘Yes. We should put in some God shite too. She loves God.’

We took down the Art box from the top of our wardrobe and found glitter pens and yellow card and took our time making pretty designs and doing our neatest writing on the inside.

All night, we waited for the McNamaras to come home but they didn’t before our bed time. But we stayed awake, sitting on the bottom bunk, pinching each other if one of us nodded off and finally, we heard a car pull up, its engine vibrating and then doors slam. Mrs. McNamara thanked the driver and blessed him. We couldn’t see her, just hear her big voice. We waited. Donal finally came into his room and switched on his light. He pulled the cap off. His hair was flat and his arm was in a big white sling. We opened our window.

‘Donal, psssst, Donal,’ we shout-whispered over.

‘Hey ye,’ he said. He looked sleepy.

‘Can we give you a card to give to your Mammy? We’re awful sorry like.’

‘Yeah, tomorrow sure.’

‘We’ve one for you too. Is she still mad with us?’

‘Nah, she’s okay now. Here, I’ve to go to bed. Ye and yer mad tittie dancing. No wonders I got hurt.’

‘But ya shouldn’t have been looking at us, Donal.’

‘I know, I know,’ he sighed.

He was about to close the window, and it was like we were psychic, because we probably were a bit being from the one egg that split to make the two of us.

‘Hey, Donal, wait.’

Yawning he asked what we wanted and we did it again. We pulled off our tops for him, our boobs pointing up at the stars. We didn’t dance or move. Just stood there, half naked at our window. Donal gave us a big smile and then said, ‘Good night, ladies. I’m on so many painkillers, I don’t know if any of this is even real.’

We blew him a kiss as he closed his curtains, hoping he’d sleep well, hoping Mrs. McNamara would give us the hundredth thousandth chance tomorrow. We’d charm her, like we’d charm Ma and Dad. We put our night dresses on then and we said nothing to each other getting into bed, because both of us knew that the other was completely in love with poor auld Donal and neither of us knew how to let him go.

 

 

Elizabeth Reapy was born in ’84, has an MA in Creative Writing from Queen’s University, Belfast, and edits wordlegs. Her work has been published nationally and internationally, and she has read at events in Ireland, the UK, the US, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand. She was an Arts Council Literature Bursary recipient 2013, and represented Ireland, making the final 6, in PEN International New Voices Award 2013. She is currently completing her first book – RED DIRT. http://www.emreapy.com @emreapy

Tracy Hanna

Disembowelment

The man had a friend. Over the course of a number of years they became very close. Gradually he began giving his organs to his friend. After three short years of doing this his insides were diminished and he was hollow. The friend now had two of every organ, holding inside him the internal structure of the other man. The friend’s functioning was increased two-fold.

The man was angry. He had to grow his organs again because he couldn’t take them back. He was angry with himself and with the friend. He will know better than to give the new ones away.

 

Foliage

She put her whole arm into the bush. The branches and leaves scraped her a little but she didn’t mind. She decided she would leave her arm in the bush for as long as she could. Nobody was around so it was the perfect opportunity.

 

Invisible things in the life of a man who lives alone on a hill in Leitrim

He told me that fairies live in the ancient trees that line his driveway. They tell him secrets about his land. He said that an underground stream runs beneath his house and that this little river creates a magical threshold within the building. When he crosses over it his short-term memory is stolen from him. There is a solution, he told me, to his problem. He could drive a long metal rod into the stream at a point before the water would travel to his house. It would divert the energy into the atmosphere – relieving him of his situational forgetfulness. He hadn’t done it yet though.

 

In the ground

There is a hole in our garden. This is the central hole that other holes stem out from. These holes are occupied.

Moles live in these holes. The moles have babies. As the babies grow the moles need to find more food. They channel other narrower holes away from these secondary holes. Sometimes they find worms, whom themselves have tunneled holes, smaller than the holes made by the moles.

 

After Eight

Every evening at approximately 8pm he switches his light on. This is my signal. I leave my house wearing next to nothing. I knock on his door. He answers and in a rather embarrassed manner asks me to leave his doorstep, so I do. But every evening after 8pm he switches his light on.

 

Something Happened

My lung fell out, my knee dislocated, my hair follicles became uprooted. I couldn’t see my toes anymore and I wasn’t sure if I could feel the ground. My tongue was missing so I couldn’t tell if the roof of my mouth was still there. I started to cry. I couldn’t feel the tears on my cheek. I grasped to hold on to anything but there was nothing there. All of the sounds around me were slow and muffled – I felt that my inner ear had slipped slightly out of my body so that what was audible were only reverberations. My head felt heavier than it had felt before and forced my body into an angled incline forward. I screamed, I tried to scream, my tongue wasn’t there and my throat wasn’t there. There was nothing there. After a few moments everything began to blur. My vision turned to grey – an averaged out mush of everything that was visible moments ago. I stumbled forward head first traveling in unknown space.

 

Gravity

Gravity happened when I was eight. Everyone in the village reacted badly to it. Feet and hands stuck to the ground, it was hard not to drag your belly as you pulled yourself forward. It wasn’t calibrated properly – someone had made wrong calculations. After a while somebody new took up the position, things changed and gravity became an enjoyable force.

 

Ooze

I took both of his eyes from his head, dropped them on the floor and stamped on them aggressively. Each broke and tore open – gloopy fluid oozed out and when I had drained them I picked up the empty sac membranes and put them in the bin.

Later, my mother lifted the black bag filled with rubbish out of the bin. There were some small holes at the bottom and a brown liquid oozed out and dripped to the floor.

 

 

Tracy Hanna is a visual artist based in Dublin. She graduated with a BA in Fine Art from DIT in 2007. Over the past number of years her work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions in Ireland and the UK. She recently exhibited as part of Futures 13 at the RHA, Dublin (2013) – a group exhibition that highlights strong emerging talent in visual art in Ireland. In 2013/14 her work is part of a touring exhibition in the UK entitled ‘Walk On: 40 Years of Art Walking’. She will have a major solo exhibition of her work in 2014 at Highlane’s Gallery in Drogheda, Co Louth. She has just started to write. http://www.tracy-hanna.com

Doireann Ni Ghriofa

In IKEA

 

 

Here, doors lead nowhere. Daisy-print curtains open to concrete.

No spiders build webs, no dust falls. From a forest of frames,

the same strangers grin; soon they feel as familiar as cousins.

We find their belongings strewn around each fake room.

 

My feet are tired. I start to imagine myself as one of those

framed strangers, cardboard. We wander the floors

like bored burglars, lifting things and putting them back again.

My breath is hot. Come closer, let me whisper:

 

In my pocket I’ve hidden an assembly key. It will fit

every flimsy flat-pack here. It unlocks every slot.

I could dismantle all these doors and beds and floors.

We could watch it all fall.

 

You know, I could take you to pieces too.

I could slip this key between your collarbones,

your earlobes, your thighs. I could unlock all your sockets.

Come behind this cupboard. Open your buttons.

 

Let me unpack you.

 

 

Doireann Ní Ghríofa is an award-winning bilingual poet based in Cork. She was recently awarded the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary by Paula Meehan. A first collection of poems in English is forthcoming from Dedalus Press. http://www.doireannnighriofa.com

Sheila Mannix

The 23 Verses of Signior Dildo

 

 

Nick wore a waistcoat, as many intellectuals do when they live in the country. His floppy grey hair and silver-rimmed glasses weren’t my style, but at the food table I overheard him say he’d worked with Lindsay Kemp. I knew about Lindsay Kemp from David Bowie Black Book, the first biography I read as a teenager. Bowie made his theatrical debut in 1967 in Kemp’s mime Pierrot in Turquoise or The Looking Glass Murders.

*

This was 1995. Everyone at the party was still in the kitchen or upstairs doing coke. I was off the drink and feeling shy. I went to the sitting room and took a book off the shelf. Nick followed me. He introduced himself and asked what I was reading. I showed him the volume of poems by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. He knew Rochester by heart. He recited the twenty-three verses of Signior Dildo. Then he told me he had a house in the south of France; I could go and write there, any time I wanted.

*

At Violette’s one night, we met a guy who toured with Lindsay Kemp at the same time. He said Nick was Kemp’s favourite. Later, Nick says it’s because he was the one who always got Kemp his drink; he was his cupbearer, his Ganymede. There are photographs of Nick from that tour, taken on a cruise ship in Italy. He is wearing a brown suede bomber jacket and aviator shades. He has floppy blonde hair. He looks like David Bowie.

*

He writes about the dark-haired girl in the tartan jacket: lyrics for a song, or a poem, he’s not sure yet. Two days after the party, I am housesitting for Simone and James. They’ve gone to South Africa for Christmas. Through the letterbox comes a book called An Intimate History of Humanity: inside is a card saying, ‘Call me!’

*

I am chopping mushrooms when I fall in love with him. He is sitting at the kitchen table, drinking red wine and rolling a spliff by candlelight. His voice is soft, beguiling, almost a whisper. He is telling me a story about the kindness of strangers. The story is this: he was driving from France to England for his mother’s funeral when someone (a woman, perhaps?) was kind to him. There may have been a snowstorm. There may have been a missed boat, or train, or a breakdown on the motorway. I have no idea. Every time I hear him whisper this story into a woman’s ear, I forget another detail.

*

My only defence is idealism and naivity; I would like to add youth, but I was twenty-nine years old.

*

Raoul Vaneigem proposed a revolution of everyday life; Leonora Carrington apparently made a festival of it; Nick did both: he acted spontaneously, he was politically motivated, and he could make crisps and olives and a bunch of irises into a sumptious tableau vivant. He was beautiful naked. He had Iggy Pop’s body before the big workout, perfect sallow skin.

*

The first time I sleep with him, I’m spooked. I see the same-shaped face of a man who put me in hospital. The same hollow cheeks, the same vertical lines. These visual clues I will later pay attention to, but already I am in denial. I have met the man I am going to spend the rest of my life with. I want to marry him. I tell him so, our first weekend together. Hell, he wants to marry me, too.

*

My female friends are charmed. My male friends think I’m mad. This new man has two young children living with their mother in France. He has an ex-wife and a sixteen-year-old daughter in Devon. He is old, penniless, and he appears to be an alcoholic.

*

The first time he invited me to lunch, I cooked. He had six of us round to Miller and Virginia’s house, where he was renting a room. Miller was another art school friend. He bought a mansion with orchards when he was on a roll in the eighties, directing videos for Depeche Mode. He was now living like an minor aristocrat fallen on hard times, showing guests around rooms without furniture and pointing out the splendour of his mouldings. We were all seated at table. Nick went out to get a couple of ingredients he’d forgotten, and came back two hours later, drunk. At the end of the meal, I wrote Miller a cheque for Nick’s outstanding electricity bill.

*

We’re in his bedroom. He’s standing by the fireplace. He’s wearing a white cotton jumper, denims rolled-up at the bottom, and converse sneakers. He looks like a lesbian beatnik; like women I’ve bedded in the past. He’s smiling. He hands me a perfectly rolled spliff.

*

At his drawing table, he shows me plans for the play he is working on with Sarah Kane at The Gate. Kane’s new play is called Phaedra’s Love: a reworking of Seneca’s Phaedra, it becomes notorious for its violence; she calls it ‘my comedy’. She will commit suicide three years later, at the age of twenty-eight.

*

Nick has poetry collections stacked either side of his futon. I open one at a poem called Sheela-na-gig. This is fate. I am planning a novel based on these female exhibitionist stone carvings. What it’s about, he asks. I say, it’s a surreal erotic comedy about a bisexual performance artist who develops gigantic labia and becomes a reluctant serial killer when she starts to swallow people’s heads up into her vagina. I try to sound excited, but I’ve already said this two hundred times at parties. Nick says, is there a male version of Sheela-na-gig? I say yes, it’s called a Seán-na-gig.

*

James warns me off Nick. They’ve been friends since they were seventeen; they’re now forty-five. He’s friendly with Nick’s ex-partner, Jane, a former BBC costume designer. They all lived together in Soho when they left the Royal College. He tells me not to fall for Nick’s sob story about Jane having an affair with a local punk musician heroin addict half her age. They both had affairs, always.

*

Nick is spending most nights at my flat in Hampstead. While he is at work, I throw out all his waistcoats and shirts. He is stupified when he discovers this. He can’t believe my gall. He tells me the navy crombie I despise is worn by all lighting designers; or maybe all electricians, I can’t remember.

*

He is perfect naked, but I can’t cope with the seventies folk-singer. I want a French philosopher. I buy him black polo-neck jumpers, cashmere scarves and an Armani tweed jacket from the charity shop. The glasses go. He gets contacts so you can see his soft brown eyes. He slicks back his hair; it’s no longer grey, it’s silver. The teeth are bad, the look of the wrecked dope-smoker doesn’t ever entirely vanish, but it adds a touch of rock ‘n’ roll to him. He now looks like Jeremy Irons.

*

One evening, he runs a bath for me. I’m under the bubbles smoking a spliff when he walks in and hands me the latest edition of Vogue. What’s this, I say. I never buy women’s magazines. He says, you appear to be interested in fashion.

*

Before I met Nick, I wrote a film script most of my MA class thought was pornographic. One girl couldn’t read it. The film featured auto-asphyxiation, sado-masochism, and a man who bites lumps out of his own arm when he suffers attacks of sexual jealousy. It was based on my relationship with an experimental jazz musician. I found it embarrassing afterwards, how much I’d exposed myself.

*

I come back from Nick’s house in France without a written novel. I have sat by the fire for the winter reading every single issue of Art Forum magazine published in the seventies, and the biographies of Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Jean Genet. I have written dozens of starts to Sheela-na-gig, none of which go beyond a thousand words. My friend Saul, fresh out of the University of East Anglia’s Creative Writing MA, tells me I should publish a book of beginnings.

*

Nick is pissed off with me. That generation of Englishmen seems to have had a thing for Edna O’Brien. He says, I thought I’d met an Irish writer. He is a better writer than I am, which makes it even worse. He has a fine line in poetry and his letters to me are art. To inspire me, he reads aloud the work of Kenneth Patchen and B S Johnson and then he shows me the sentences on the page. There is one I remember about a leaf falling to the ground; the eye of a rabbit has seen it, build me such a machine.

*

I’ve just spent the day with Ralph Fiennes at a read-through for a film. He arrived at the door in the same outfit he wore in The English Patient; he says they let him keep the clothes. Nick rants about Ralph Fiennes. He tells me what I am doing is fluff. He is designing a virtual theatre for a London University. They are applying for Lottery funding. His theatre is politically committed; he wants to name it after John Berger. We drink wine and argue into the dark. Next morning the portrait I took of him is on the floor. The glass is smashed. I do not know if I smashed the photograph or if he did, to indicate that portaiture is worthless. Nick has devoted his life to radical theatre and avant-garde art. The only time he is interested in my work is when we do a Friedrich Dürrenmatt play called Frank V with members of Theatre de Complicite.

*

I am on a beach: the mean, stony beach in Hastings. It’s not cold, but I am displaying the first signs of hypothermia: I am shaking uncontrollably and I am disoriented. Olaf has gone to buy chips. He has driven me here so that I can keen by the sea like a good islander. Behind me are beached half-deck trawlers with ragged black bunting; they look like a fleet of anarchist boats. There are gulls flying over the shore. They’re squawking loudly. One breaks away from the flock and flies off on it’s own. The flock of gulls squawking loudly is Nick’s wedding party right now, chattering and drinking champagne. I’m the gull who’s flown off, solo. In the wake of my flight, he has speedily married a former children’s television presenter. All I know is she wears Doc Martens, has a very pretty face, owns her own home, has a gay father, and does PR for a museum. He says, she’s very spiritual: you would like her.

*

Seagulls always show up. They showed up in the sky above Kentish Town High Road at six in the morning when I walked it, unable to sleep. I pleaded on the phone with Nick to come home. I said I’m not ready; I can’t handle it; it’s too early in our relationship. I was hysterical. I telephoned so many times he turned off the phone. The man he spent the night with answered it the following day and handed it to him in bed. He was exultant when he came home. He told me it was my fault for encouraging him to explore his bisexuality. I said I meant as a couple, together. Not for you to go off on your own.

 

 

Sheila Mannix lives in West Cork. http://www.sheilamannix.wordpress.com

Sophia Katz

don’t ever be honest to your body

 

 

tonight i wore a short skirt

with no panties underneath

and looked into the eyes

of every stranger that walked by

 

i sat down on the subway platform

and the floor got extremely angry

 

i sat down on the subway platform

and the concrete bit my bare skin

 

i sat down on the concrete

and a rat crawled inside of me

and fell asleep

 

i put all of my baby photos in a trash can

in a city i don’t live in

 

you aren’t as good as you think you are

yes you are

 

i have so many scars

my entire body is a scar

i can’t remember where any of them came from

all i know is they came from my fingers

 

i am writing

i am also dying

please come back

no wait go away

come back

don’t touch me

stop it

keep going

put your hand inside me

ball your fist

grow out your finger nails

scar me from the inside

scar me where i can’t scar myself

you just need to sleep for 3 days

 

talk to me after you do that

 

 

Sophia Katz is a Toronto-based writer. Her work has been featured in print and online. She has a Twitter account that is funny sometimes.

Laura Cleary

Day Return

 

 

Last night I dreamt.

Dreamt I was found.

Love found me. There.

In that dream.

In a doorway.

Maybe nine was too early.

But I’d been awake since six. The sun had been shining in through my bedroom window. The birds had started hours before, they were in full chorus by then. I had lain there, playing the dream back over and over. By half past seven I was fully dressed and ready to go. The house was still as a tomb.

Ten to nine and there are three of us at the bus stop. A young Romanian woman, her buggy, me.

There’s a baby in the buggy. I’m sure that there is. I just can’t quite tell. All the puffed pink vinyl, femur-thick frame. It’s like a grounded spaceship next to her Romany skirt. I wonder whether the velvet is uncomfortable. If it itches. If it soaks up the damp, rain, piss, swinging as it does so close to the ground. I hope she doesn’t see me staring at her buggy. Or at her hemline.

The bus arrives late.

The woman boards first. Well, her buggy, the baby, then her.

Then me.

I stand alone in the doorway. The driver is the old man that used to drive the bus to DCU. Years ago, back when I’d been in college. The driver that had asked to see my student ID every time he punched my ten journey ticket. The same one I’d bought from him the Monday before.

I stood in the doorway.

Then paid the fare.

Nine was too early. But it meant an empty seat in every direction.

The dark side of the bus in Naas is the bright side on the way to Dublin. And it’s bright this morning. We’re having a June for a change.

The bus follows the slip road’s curl out of Naas. Holds my window to the sun. I open the case and put them on. The case is much sturdier than the glasses. Two skulls safe inside a motorcycle helmet. I bought them back when I still worked in the shop. A spree on store discount. Two Calvin Klein bras and a pair of Chanel sunglasses.

The bus twists into Johnstown. Swans through and out. Past Kill. Rathcoole. Over the spot Veronica Guerin was shot. Under the speed cameras Da had us watch. Arches round the Red Cow and on to the Long Mile. Through Bluebell. Inchicore. Bless myself past the statue of Our Lady and wait for the first breath of air born of concrete.

Heuston.

Drink in the length of the Liffey. Wave to the sunlight buoyed between ripples.

Voodoo.

Bargaintown.

Bridge after mismatched bridge.

A man in a blue Puffa jacket raises his fist in the air. A woman in worn runners and a rain jacket shuffles over to him. They stand very close together, crossing and uncrossing palms.

Nine was too early.

We stop at O’Connell Bridge.

I offer to unload the Romanian lady’s buggy but she hands me the baby instead. She smiles at me. The baby. Smiles and winds her little fingers in my hair. The lady says thank you and takes the baby back. Straps her into the spaceship. Tiptoes away.

All of the doors on Bachelor’s Walk are closed.

O’Connell Street isn’t a pleasant walk but I love to make it anyway. I love all of it. Bulletholes in statues’ breasts. Weather burned faces beneath them. Piss pooled on the streets. The layer of old Dublin laid on top of store fronts.

The Hugh Lane is open. I’m sure of it. It’s quiet in there. Restful. Nice coffee shop. I round the corner, pass the Writers’ Centre.  I must have walked too fast. Its door is closed too.

I stand there, still for a few minutes. Turn around. Walk back the way I came.

It isn’t warm enough to sit in the Garden of Remembrance. I walk around it anyway. Remember taking my sister to see it years ago. She didn’t know the story of the Children of Lir. She took pictures of the sculpture while I told her what I could remember. Which wasn’t much. It’s even less now. Really just that the girl’s name was Fionnuala. That she looked after everyone else. Well, that and they were swans. For ages. It’s one of the Sorrows. I forget how many there are.

I leave the garden and turn down onto Parnell Street, through the birdshit and sunshine. Cross over onto Moore Street. Fresh flowers, fresh fruit, fresh fish, y’alrigh’ luv? Two for a tenner, lovely arndey? Isn’ir only glowrious ou’? Der yar luv Goblesha. Enjoydesun t’day luv shure itcouldbe raynin t’mara, wha?

I wave and walk on. Shop shutters are beginning to rise.

Weave through flocks of young girls on Henry Street. Making sure not to look right at them. They’re wearing tights they think are leggings. I know by the raised gusset outlining each twelve year old pubis. I don’t look. I can’t. They’d stride up to me just like they’re striding now, shouting about how I’m some fuckin’ sick lezzer ye bleedin’ queer paedo my da’s just ourathe bleedin’ Joy an’ he’ll fuckin’ come down here a bather ya watchin’ my arse ya sick queerass lezzbeen.

Duck into Arnotts. The piped music and designer handbags are soothing. Wander through aware that it’s only half one. There’s a bagel stand at the back, wedged between Menswear and Abbey Street. A turkey bagel for every day I worked here. The seat beside the far door is empty. Drape my coat there while I order.

The windows have been washed. The passers by can see and the door opens out. Perhaps Love will pass. Maybe this is the doorway.

They bring my order too quick.

Green tea, plain bagel, toasted, butter, jam. Just me and Huck Finn.

This is my third time through. It’s like going home. It’s more home than Naas. Like here. Maybe that’s it. A viscous Mississippi, the greasy Liffey beyond. Jim on the run, my cousin’s five years. Snakeskins, NAMA. Sivilization.

A second green tea.

I usedn’t feel able to get up and order seconds. Then one day, here, on my break I saw a mother send her eight-year-old son to the counter. He almost turned purple waiting at the register. But then he turned around and came back with hot chocolate.

A third green tea. The pen is for marking out passages but the Grangerford’s feuding doesn’t keep my napkin bare.

love                    Love

lOVe                                         loVe                                     LovE

LOve                                                                                     lOVE

loVE                    LOVe

lOVE

LOVE

I leave.The chair opposite me is bare. I need it to work. Need love to find me. Want love to find me. Sitting by the doorway. Want love to. Want to be found. Wantwantwant—

There’s a bar across the street. I used to go there often back when I worked here. It’s still bright out. There’s no football today, so it should be quiet. No washed out T-shirts. Bookies’ slips. Deep swallows. Roaring at the screen.

Just me.

An empty seat in every direction. I sit in view of the door. Just in case.

Liffey street is just beyond the glass. It’s fluid, Liffey street. Moves at a constant pace. If it stops, it smells. It’s gorgeous to watch. Even abandoned shopping trolleys caught up in the current.

Soda water and a chicken stir fry. Too salty and over far to quick. A gin and tonic. A man in white pants walks past on his way to the bathroom. Huck won’t tell me about Buck Grangerford’s murder. I’m glad Jim’s okay. Another gin. It’s still bright out. I’m sure it’s getting later. Liffey Street flows strong. Another gin.

Huck and Jim begin to swell, then sink. They soak into the river and pull apart like tissue paper. I mark the page and fumble for my jacket.

“You can’t be leaving?”

The man in white pants stands beside me, smiling. He is short, grey haired, shirt collar unbuttoned to the order of wealth. Not that common these days. This side. Anymore.

Uninvited, he sits down. He strikes me as the type of man to put his voice into a sneeze. The type of man to decide when companions cross the street. The type of man to explain things.

I tell him I have to leave soon. That there’s a bus in ten minutes. He hands a green banknote to the waitress holding my bill.

“Wait for the next one?”

I hold my breath. Ten seconds pass. I take off my coat.

Two more gins.

He tells me he’s a businessman. CEO of a web design firm that specialises in translation software. You know when you enter a website for any big cosmetics brand a stack of different flags unfurl across the screen? You click on your own nationality to understand what to buy.

They deal with that. Dior, Clinique, Chanel. I run my fingers along my sunglasses case.

He asks about me. Maybe I’m hopeful. Or maybe it’s the gin. But I tell him. Everything. Mammy. Home. The Baby. Why not?

It doesn’t matter at this stage.

I don’t matter at this stage.

He listens. Says I’m remarkable. Surviving alone in a home like that. He tells me that living in a place where no one believes in you makes for remarkable people. Most of the time.

I think I’m supposed to ask about him.

Another gin.

I ask does he have children. He admits to a grown up son. Attending Rutkers in New Jersey. Was eager to leave home (Colorado) after his mother died. Car accident, 2010. Drunk driver. Killed instantly. Very tragic. Very tragic indeed.

I ask him is he enjoying Dublin. He says he hasn’t had the chance yet, looking at me from under his eyebrows. He reaches across under the table. Hooks a fingertip into my waistband. Grunts softly, just loud enough for me to hear.

There’s a bus in ten minutes. It’s still bright outside. He insists on walking me. I notice on standing that he’s shorter than me. A green note to the waitress. His hand on my waist.

We join Liffey Street, are carried over the Ha’Penny Bridge. I tell him about the time I ran, drunk, across it. That I didn’t notice the change from long steps to short ones. That I skidded the whole way down and didn’t fall.

He tells me I’m remarkable. I tell him he already said that.

I point down a laneway into Temple Bar. Tell him there’s a Lebanese restaurant he should visit there. A great gallery right beside it. He asks me to show him. I say it’s just a couple of steps on, but he insists. We turn down the laneway and he pulls me aside. Against a metal door. The rust nips at my shoulders.

There’s a bus in five minutes.

His breath is hot on my neck.

A bus in four minutes.

I don’t want to go back.

Bus in three minutes.

Want love to find me.

Here.

 

 

Laura Cleary’s poetry and fiction has appeared in a number of Irish and international publications. She received first prize in the inaugural Heart in Mouth competition April 2013 for her performance of her poem “Note to a Mislaid Friend”. Her first play “And You Expect Me To..?” was featured as part of 10 Days in Dublin 2013.

John Mortara

NASA’s INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT JUST POSTED A PHOTO OF THE HORSEHEAD NEBULA AND – F*#K – NOW I MISS YOU

 

 

i apologize in advance of this poem / i have been dreaming a lot lately

but i’m just gonna say it

the ‘if you love them then let them go’ cliché needs to end right here and right now

i’m looking at you / band called ‘Passenger’

you are always on the radio when i’m trying to let go whilst obviously not letting go

and why do i always write about the stars as metaphors for me needing to leave someone

that’s a rhetorical question

i have some pretty obvious theories with regards to stars and why we can’t be together

so hello new universe

hi i’m john

this is the dating profile i do not even want because my heart is light years away from here so i apologize in advance

i ride my bicycle all aimless when i’m upset with myself

i like long walks on the beach

directly into the bottom of the ocean

i would say my sexual identity is

uncertainty principle in the streets / heat death of the universe in the sheets

sooner or later everything will become water

my ideal date is the two of us

on a romantic evening

looking at the stars

thinking about how

if we could only touch

those beautiful lights

we’d both burst into flames immediately

i definitely had a dream about that recently so i apologize again

the problem with accomplishing your dreams is that eventually you will run out of dreams

i’m trying to get a handle on the balance of waking and sleep

so i apologize in advance of my inevitable stellar implosion

when you get too close to black holes you get all bent and stretched and it’s called ‘spaghettification’ which is ridiculous

i’m sorry i am stretching this out until we finally rip

it’s too delicious to stop

and all the songs i’ve been listening to remind me of outer space

and outer space always reminds me of kissing you

not just sounds-like

but smells-like

it’s the ozone smell of rain and kissing you

it’s old book smell and kissing you

sweaty basement punk show smell and kissing you

the christmas tree has been up for so long that it’s definitely a fire hazard smell

and kissing you

your jacket reeks of pall malls and i missed that smell and kissing you

even those memories on their own make my skin feel like all the butterflies in the world suddenly replaced by similarly-sized rocks

i apologize again / this time / in retrograde

i have been dreaming a lot lately

i leave my curtains open and when the morning sun wakes me i always mistake it for you

i am trying to hold my horses because i don’t know the destination

there’s this dream i keep having wherein you tell me to hold my horses

hold all of your horses, you say hold your horses close

 

 

 

john mortara is a big ol’ rain cloud. john mortara is a big ol’ burrito. john mortara is a bagel sammich in northampton massachusetts. john mortara edits voicemailpoems.org. john mortara has a website that is conveniently johnmortara.com. john mortara is a world in which good and evil battle to gain control over the dark crystal. john mortara would never use karate in anger.

@johnmortara