Anna D’Alton

Night Session

In this room where
low-hung bulbs
and speaker thuds
shape the smoke

We sit and sip bottles,
my legs pulled
over yours in a
timid limb bridge

Your hand
rounds the dips
in my kneecap,
tracing down the bone,
calf held between
your thumb and fingers

Words tripping lightly
out over our limbs,
light chat to the others,
as if we did this every night
without thinking

My eyes held low
and fixed to my hand
where the cigarette glows
with each breath

Anna lives in Dublin, is in her fourth year studying English (literature), has had the odd thing published at home and abroad (Belleville Park Pages, Icarus, TCD Rant&Rave) and is PR officer for the Trinity Journal of Literary Translation (T-JoLT).

Dylan Brennan

Emigrant Haiku (i)

open tooth-yanked mouth
propped against a wall of heat
gumming at the stars

crumpled and bloodsoaked
recommendation letter
in left-hand pocket

ring finger hacked off
two fists tightened—
nightchilled/incomplete

those pleas for mercy
whisperscreamed repeatedly—
littered around corpse

Currently based in Mexico, Dylan Brennan‘s poetry, essays and memoirs have been published in a range of international journals, in English and Spanish. His debut poetry collection, Blood Oranges, for which he received the runner-up prize in the Patrick Kavanagh Award, is available now from The Dreadful Press.

Hugh O’Conor

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Hugh was born in Dublin in 1975. He studied drama at Trinity College, Dublin, and film at Tisch School of the Arts, NYU. He has exhibited at the RHA, Dublin, the RUA in Belfast, and was shortlisted for the inaugural Hennessy Portrait Prize in 2014 with one of the attached images, ‘Beckah, Dublin Airport’.

hughoconor.com

twitter/hughoconor

Sebastian Castillo

Clown Suite. (excerpt)

“You turn into a clown because you feel more and more like putting on a clown suit.”
– Chelsey Minnis

“There ought to be clowns.”
– Stephen Sondheim

“No…no…no…no…no…”
– from “Clown Torture” (Bruce Nauman, 1987)

CLOWN #1: And what do we think about sex?
CLOWN #2: God, please, let’s not.
CLOWN #1: And men in shorts?
CLOWN #2: We should send them to a country. Greenland.
CLOWN #1: And lollipops?
CLOWN #2: I’m in pain.
CLOWN #1: We’re both in pain. How could we not be in pain?
CLOWN #2: When are you going to come by the house and check out the trampoline?
CLOWN #1: Our face practically says it: “We are clowns. We are pain.”
CLOWN #2: All four of my grandparents were clowns.
CLOWN #1: I went to college for it.
CLOWN #2: All eight of my great-grandparents were clowns.
CLOWN #1: My parents were dentists.
CLOWN #2: My whole life, I’ve only seen one kind of shoe.
CLOWN #1: Clown shoes.
CLOWN #2: We just called them shoes.

CLOWN #1: The number of people I’ve spoken to increases every day.
CLOWN #2: Clowns don’t speak. We think about speaking.
CLOWN #1: I smile at babies. I feel like the president.
CLOWN #2: We’re the presidents of laughter.
CLOWN #1: No, we’re the presidents of something else, but not laughter.
CLOWN #2: We’re the mayor of an abandoned town in the middle of the desert.
CLOWN #1: Yes. Okay.
CLOWN #2: We run the amusement park.
CLOWN #1: Yes. Even if no one comes: there it is.
CLOWN #2: There it is. The amusement park. Someone should make a movie about us.
CLOWN #1: Yes, a movie.
CLOWN #2: A movie that makes lovers stroke each other’s necks.
CLOWN #1: Or strangle each other.
CLOWN #2: No kissing.
CLOWN #1: Never kissing.
CLOWN #2: We only kiss pies and pie product.
CLOWN #1: We ask very little of the world.
CLOWN #2: The smallest amount one could ask for.

Sebastian Castillo lives in Philadelphia, PA. He makes pop music at tigerinmytank.bandcamp.com. @bartlebytaco.

Rebecca Gimblett

Wildehearts

i

The glass is stuck to the bath
and the glass is coming loose,
water coming through,
we need to fix it.

The glass is stuck to the bath
and the glass is coming loose.
Water coming through.
We need to fix it.

I hope my cancer turns me
into something beautiful
Mutant
Bones smoking hot
Under all that new baby skin
Carrying everything important
in one loose pocket
Empowered by a world
predicted by film
Where quitting isn’t possible,
delayed hair growth means nothing
Time measured
in dusky porches
barefoot
crabs in my stomach
the only dinner bell
v [meanwhile]

ding.
the grid came down, the power went out. we entered the new terrorist society. Now became even more normal to fear death. Kids looked at phones as dead pets, buried them in the ground or carried them around, moulding, where their parents couldn’t see The rest of us back in the past tried to forget thousands dead and deaf to sensibility we fed on them. Food was everywhere, then nothing, then everywhere again we relearned what we forgot, why had we stopped eating some things. Women lost everything earned, the strong ones died first The weak died or became stiff then died. Clothes to rags then rags were clothes, or towels wrapping ragged bodies left out in the rain. The youth peppered. Prospered. Adapted. Old soldiers died fast, tired of the big nothing of everything changing, or didn’t die, became something else they had never imagined, something not so real. The only emails left we had opened the useless ones, bills and deals.
Things always seem important until
ii

It’s late
I want to taste 6.30am
from the dangerous side
so much putrid nutrients
I stay up all night
it exists perilously sharp.
I pinch my four corners and stretch,
pinning butterfly-like to
The Universe, it’s out there
in leaves, growing grass
it’s making eggs and bacon
for the war effort, is mending scraps.
Quit now before
you know better
what comes later
Why nothing worth quitting can be done
Not the hook nor the rod nor the bait or
nothing makes a fisherman from a sailor

you leave here with bad habits
or not at all
vi [meanwhile]

I have lined the pockets of my green trench coat with two-bit coins to buy small things with
when the time comes, I have three cameras to take it all in, a cigarette freckle near the orion belt
on my wrist, I am pulled before television screens to watch things and feel unreal and closer
closer we come
to true evil. Around me dance mad butterflies sent from the bush of The Universe. to be dealt with
madly because storms rage, later in time than where they really are, towards me. I have given it
the good college try
Lately I have been wondering about the origin of sayings. I spare my neologies. I choose harder partners
iii

The glass is stuck to the bath
and the glass is coming loose,
water coming through,
we need to fix it.
Girls who
opened up for love
don’t let their muscles cool too long
they have very little choice but to become
scouts, reconnaissance, pioneers, trough feeders.
Sex. All we can do is teach lessons
with weapons they call weaknesses.
where I suck the peach bone clean
til the poison sinks into me, anaesthetizing
evolving These women breed new seeds,
spartanned at birth Hardened
by fuckwind, mountain crush, rainspit
solid fruit removed of juice,
salted being worthy warriors. They’ll do.
iv

The glass will break and block
the hole eventually, water seeps and slops,
seconds on a clock, down down
the abandoned home not abandoned, paid for.

It’s late. for i
Picked a mad woman’s brains.
I hope her answers turn me
into something beautiful
a lieutenant
tones smoking hot
flirting from my tongue
freak and free
with strips of fluid
cooling me masculine and woman
making me ok
When she was young
her mother said her mother said
The wage of love is dying
The wage of dying is love

Rebecca Gimblett is a writer-poet. She is working on her first book which gets more complicated the more she writes it and thus she falls more in love everyday. She doesn’t expect to ever really finish it. But poems keep sneaking out. Poems are funny like that.

Kristin Leclaire

Acclimating

It’s Saturday morning, and hurricane clouds unravel in the fish tank next to my kitchen sink. Briny musk grows on the tank’s glass walls as I wait for the phone in my pocket to ring.
I never asked for a fish. Their bulging eyes wonder how they got stuck in such a plastic place, and our two cats circle the tank like sharks, rubbing their arched spines along the glass and leaving tufts of hair on my white kitchen counter. But this fish was a gift. My volleyball girls thought it would be the perfect present for their 27-year-old coach. So here we are in our gated community: Fishy, my two cats, my fiance Jason, my silent phone, and me.
I stare at the cloudy water, trying to block out my sister Stephanie’s message from this morning. She has been calling me for three days, but I’ve been ignoring my cell phone, as I always do. I hate the phone. I finally listened to her voicemail a few minutes ago, and her voice, normally as gentle as palms, felt like knuckles grinding into my chest.
“If you’d pick up your phone, you’d know that Mom’s cancer is back. It’s in her lungs and her brain, and she’s probably going to die.”
Since Stephanie is a doctor, I know that if she says Mom is going to die, then Mom is going to die. She always tells me the facts of my mom’s breast cancer without drama.
Usually, Stephanie’s medical facts are comforting. When I was a little girl and my Barbie’s arm had broken off, Stephanie wrapped it neatly to Barbie’s rock-like boobs with a sling made of Kleenex and Scotch tape. When my Cabbage Patch doll had crooked invisible teeth, Stephanie straightened a paperclip to make her a retainer. And when Mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer a year and a half ago, Stephanie explained to me that she had a 99% chance of living a normal, cancer-free life.
But lately, Mom’s thick voice has thinned over the phone, interrupted by wispy coughing. Less than a month ago, she collapsed from a headache and nausea, landing herself in an isolated hospital room where everything crinkled like plastic when she rolled over, tubes and wires tugging at her body, silver circles tracking her heartbeat where her left breast used to be. Apparently, she falls into the unlucky 1%.
When I tried calling Stephanie back a few minutes ago, she didn’t pick up. I dialed Mom and Dad, too, but all I got was their voicemail, Mom’s voice still rooted in a time where she was away from the phone for a golf tournament or a dinner party. I didn’t know how to leave a message.
I turn my attention now to Fishy, who stares with his big, depressed eyes at a plastic tree. It’s time to clean the tank.
The tank sloshes as I lug it to the sink. According to Wikihow.com, you’re supposed to leave half the dirty water in the tank each time you clean it. This way, the fish doesn’t feel quite so uprooted, I suppose. I slowly tip the tank while Fishy swims to the bottom, letting the top half of the murky water trickle down the kitchen drain.
A gold flash streams out of the tank and down the black drain. There’s an almost weightless thud and a frantic flapping against the still blades of the disposal.
“Shit!” I have just poured Fishy down the sink. “Jason! Shit! Help!”
Jason runs in, sliding to a halt with socked feet on the linoleum floor. He surveys the scene: an almost empty fishtank with pebbles scattered up its dewey sides, a miniature plastic tree uprooted like a tiny hurricane has ripped right through there, me grasping the cold edges of the kitchen sink and trying to peer down the drain. “What happened?” he asks.
“I was trying to clean the fish tank, and you’re supposed to leave some of the dirty water in there to help them acclimate–” I pointed to half-empty tank, “–and he just went down the drain. He didn’t even hit the sink first, I swear, he just went straight down–”
Jason rushes to the sink. Putting our heads together, we try to see through the rubbery black triangles guarding the drain. I can see a shimmer of Fishy’s golden scales.
Jason tries to shove his hand down the drain and tells me not to panic. When his hand doesn’t fit, I try mine.
“Too big,” Jason says. “There’s gotta be another way.” He opens the junk drawer and sifts through cards, batteries, rubber bands, leftover keys. He pulls out a skinny flashlight and shines a dull circle of light into the drain.
“Hold this and try to keep it steady on the drain,” he tells me, like a doctor handing a scalpel to his nurse. Whenever my dad, a heart surgeon, tried to command my mom to add bread to tonight’s dinner or to use more garlic, she’d reply, “I’m not your scrub nurse, Jerry.” Then she’d add some bread or garlic to the meal with a little smile.
Jason opens up the kitchen drawer next, the one where we keep the long spoons and the rubber spatulas. Breathing heavily, he pulls out a silver serving spoon. “We’ll just slip this right under and scoop him.”
I hold the flashlight steady while the spoon clangs against the outer rim of the disposal. “Too big.” He drops the spoon on the counter and shuffles his hand through the drawer until he pulls out the turkey baster.
“If we can just squeeze his tail in here, we can kind of airlift him out, you know?” He gently inserts the baster while I strain to see the scene I’m spotlighting with the flashlight.
“You’re squishing his tail, Jason. Be careful!” I splash some water down the sink to encourage Fishy to hold on.
Jason, keeping his eyes on the drain, asks, “Would you rather have a dead fish or a fish with no tail?”
I pause. “Neither.”
Jason drops the turkey baster next to the spoon, opening the kitchen drawer that holds the things we never use. He pulls out a black wooden box with a Chinese symbol on it, opening it to reveal two silver chopsticks. Perching the chopsticks between his fingers, he looks like he’s about to eat his orange chicken at the Hunan Lion. Instead, he slides them into the drain.
“I got him!” He slowly draws the chopsticks from the sink. But then his wrist jerks as the chopsticks chime together. “Dammit!” He rests his hand next to mine on the side of the sink. “I almost had him.”
The scene repeats three more times. The chopsticks soon join the spoon and turkey baster and the dark cell phone on the sidelines with me.
I whisper down the drain, “Hold on, Fishy, okay?”
“Hey!” Jason suddenly runs outside to the grill. When he returns, he has a long pair of tongs in his hand.
“Come on, little guy, quit moving,” he murmurs as he maneuvers in the darkness of the drain. With a gasp, he pulls out the tongs, and Fishy is hanging upside down like an overcooked noodle.
We admire him silently for a moment.
I flip on the faucet and stick the hurricane-torn tank under it. Jason releases Fishy, who falls into the fresh water with a soft plunk. He swims to the bottom and stays there, panting and glass-eyed.
I drop in a few flakes to reward him for his bravery, but he stays put. His fins move in shredded, skinny strips, and his scales are dull. The pale flakes clump together at the top.
“Give him some time.” Jason rubs the back of my arm. He traces his fingers along the white counter as he ambles out of the kitchen, looking back a few times not at Fishy, but at me.
I say, “We’ll need to watch him carefully for signs of brain damage.”
Jason, halfway up the stairs, chuckles. “And what exactly would we do if we thought he had brain damage?”
Nothing, I realize. There would be nothing we could do. I couldn’t make him a sling out of Kleenex, or a paper clip retainer. All I could do was watch.
Leaving Fishy to his fate, I take my phone and nestle into the cold leather of our couch, waiting for it to warm against my bare legs. Waiting for someone to call me back. Waiting to hear how far my mom’s cancer has spread, with the terrible lightness of knowing that there is nothing to be done about it.
I remember Stephanie’s fingers carefully fixing my broken dolls, and the thickness of mom’s voice when she could laugh without coughing, the click-clack of her footsteps when she could still wear high heels, the warmth of her left breast when she hugged me goodbye.

Kristin Leclaire is an English teacher in Littleton, Colorado. She recently won the Denver Stories on Stage flash fiction contest, and her nonfiction appeared in Literary Mama last May. One of her essays made the Masters Review shortlist last June and was selected as a finalist for the Bellingham Review’s Annie Dillard Prize for nonfiction. Two of her essays will appear in print anthologies next fall, and her writing has been featured at readings sponsored by Lighthouse Writers and Making the Mountain in Denver.

Oscar Bruno d’Artois

going for a walk alone by the river on a sunny/rainy day

land is like the bottom of the ocean
but for the sky

i thought, while i was crossing a bridge
so i could go for a walk alone by the river
on a sunny/rainy day

i saw a guy sitting outside a restaurant eating an extra large pizza by himself
it was 930 am
i thought, ‘my guy’

then i pictured my life as a chorus of simultaneously occurring alternative realities
several new versions of which would come into being every time i made a decision
but many of which would also lead to my
untimely demise

‘a cool game u can play with desire is
try saying u want a thing
u think u want
out loud
then watch as
the opposite becomes true’

is a recurring thought i also thought
while i was walking alone by the river
on a sunny/rainy day

since like most people i am privately convinced
that deep down i am right about everything

for instance, i know the idea
that harry & louis are dating
is Completely Ridiculous but
part of me still wants to believe

its just that i need a new thing to fall in love w/
so i can finish this book of poetry

its just that i need a new thing to
[?]

not that i’m saying it isn’t wonderful
to walk alone by the river
on a sunny/rainy day

especially when u’ve just been given
a brand new purple anorak

& u haven’t decided
wat to name it yet

its just best to ensure u r always
in some type of chemically-altered state

so u can continue to believe
that the calmer, truer version of the u
You Used To Be
is something u can always go back to

later, while i was walking alone by the river
on a sunny/rainy day

i realized that there were hundreds of tiny tree frogs on the path
& that i was crushing them
& that they were trying to escape
& that i couldn’t do anything about it

it seemed like a good metaphor for
stepping on hundreds of tiny tree frogs
& not being able to do anything about it

o well, i thought
who isn’t irreversibly stuck
in the middle of their lives, anyway

Oscar Bruno d’Artois (1989–?) is an American poet from Paris, France. His first book, TEEN SURF GOTH, comes out from Metatron Press this fall. You can follow him on twitter @brunoartois

Hannah Mamalis

Curses and Kisses

Having experienced the majority of her short life devoid of any semblance of feeling, Valentina spent her time watching her mother closely, to see if they were in fact related. Sometimes she’d think she’d caught something in the agitated flick of her ankle or the pinched way she sucked her lips in duress. But ultimately, her desperate trial to tread some trace of familiarity was in vain. A void existed too vast, too wrought with disappointment in a life that was never fulfilled, for Valentina to understand. One day when she came home from school to find the house empty, she knew that their paths had diverged for good. But as she hoisted herself up on the kitchen counter, nibbling thoughtfully on the end of a gherkin, something caught her eye. Sitting on the table was a blackish, lumpy rock her mother had once told her had fallen from the sky to curse their family and underneath it, a note that simply said, ‘I’m Sorry’.

Everyone in Valentina’s class knew that Jonathon Stubbs kept his scabs in a little wooden box. They knew that every day when he came in with a fresh cut it would be added to his queue of clotted clumps, grown, picked and stowed. His skin was a freckly field he wished could be fallow. Valentina found him one day behind the school sheds, bent in conspiracy. She watched as he took out his bits of curled flesh and laid them carefully on the ground. He granted each the same muttered, hated name and then one by one, he burned them, he watched them shrivel up and he cried. On that fateful day in her kitchen, as Valentina held the rock now insurmountably tied to her fate, she knew there was only one person who would know what to do.

Later that evening they stood in her back garden and took off their clothes. Jonathon took a litre of milk from of his bag and between them; they emptied its contents over their heads. Then he took the rock gently in his calloused hands, held it to his ear and closed his eyes. As the light caught his skin, it shone with the milky stains that covered his field of scars and she thought he looked beautiful. He placed the rock in front of her and told her they had to bury it, that that was the only way the curse could be broken. As they began to dig her tongue, framed by her lips caught a dribble of sticky milk as it streaked through her mulchy hair and he thought she looked mad. Their fingernails moved in tandem, a sacred scraping motion. Shallow breaths in a shallow grave as pulses quickened, work deepened, gaining ground and grit and gulping air until gasping suddenly, she stopped and withdrew a bleeding hand. They peered into the hole, finding the source of her injury to be the jagged femur of a long dead family pet. She laughed, it sounded odd colliding with the still air and he kissed her to save the silence. Fierce and lowered, they lay, new bones on old bones, forgetting.

Hannah is a small, often disorientated woman-child who occasionally acts and occasionally writes. The rest of her time is spent staring into the gaping, senseless void and being weird on twitter at @Hantmam.

Mike Nagel

There Is No Standing Up Straight

My stomach had been hurting for two days. A slice of pizza I couldn’t pass. I was worried that an organ had burst. I asked my wife where my appendix was again. I fell asleep on the couch and when I woke up the pain was gone but still no luck taking a shit. I looked at myself sideways in the bathroom mirror. Outlined the shape of my bloating stomach like I’d seen pregnant women do in TV commercials for I can’t remember what. My top half the shape of an S. I told myself to stand up straight and I stood up straight but then I slouched back down again because it’s impossible to force yourself to stand up straight for very long.

By Saturday night I had been sitting on my couch for two days. Not out of pain but out of boredom. Torpor. I finished season 3 of House of Cards and Emmanuel Carrère’s Liminov. My legs fell off. I felt a burning in my chest. Sorry, my legs fell asleep. (I wanted to tell you they fell off — does that mean something to you?) I stood up and stretched out and felt some of my bones snap into place and the pizza-slice-turned-rock settle deeper into my stomach.

I thought that since I wasn’t doing anything I might as well take the train downtown to see what Dallas looked like after dark. It had been a while since I’d seen Dallas after dark. I poured some whisky into a flask and found the pack of cigarettes we hide on top of the cupboards. J and I hide the cigarettes even though we’re the only ones who live here. I put a battery in my camera.

At the DART station a girl apologized for blowing smoke in my face. I lit a cigarette to prove it didn’t bother me. She said she was surprised I smoked. I looked too hippy to smoke. I said hippies smoke. She said not cigarettes. She asked how old I was and I said twenty-eight. She said I looked younger than twenty-eight. I asked her how old she was and she said thirty. I said she looked younger than thirty. I said girls want to look younger than they are and guys want to look older. She said maybe that was true.

It was hot. Probably ninety-two degrees.
She said she and her fiancé had just broken up. She kept doing bad things. Her driver’s license was suspended. Now she was back in Dallas living with her grandma working for her stepfather’s real estate company. She had a tattoo of a star on her left wrist.
The truth is, she said, I’m an artist.

I got off the train at Pearl Station and walked to Main Street which is the only place anything happens at night. All the clubs that are dark during the day light up at night. The inverse of the city as I know it. I’d thought these buildings were abandoned but they’re just on the flip shift. I got out my camera and took a few pictures but felt gross because taking pictures is gross so I stuffed my camera down deep in my bag and didn’t take it out again all night. I thought about throwing it away.

During the day people walk through downtown alone or maybe with a co-worker but at night they walk through downtown in herds of equal parts guys and girls. The girls wear dresses that are too short and that they constantly have to tug down. The guys wear suits but not ties and spin their car keys around their index fingers. I stepped into an alley and drank some whisky. You could say I was on a kind of Zapoi, a drunken Russian walkabout that I learned about from Emmanuel Carrère’s Liminov. In a real Zapoi you spend days drunk and when you wake up you probably don’t know where you are. I am still under the belief (a belief I don’t actually believe in but that I still choose to believe) that truth is more accessible through inebriation.

I walked past all the bars and clubs and found a courtyard at the foot of the skyscraper that’s outlined in neon green. The neon was changing colors. Green to blue to pink to white to green again. The past few years all the buildings downtown have been changing their lights to multicolored lights. It started with the Omni hotel and now all of downtown Dallas glows like late night television.

I lit a cigarette and thought about an illustration my Sunday school teachers used to explain good and evil. They would close the blinds and turn out the lights and we would sit in the dark for a while and then they would strike a match. See how the darkness runs away?, they would say. See how the darkness is powerless? Which also reminds me of a Bukowski poem. A poem I only know from a Levi’s commercial. There is light somewhere/it may not be much light/but it beats the darkness. I thought about that while I lit a cigarette and a man sat down on the opposite side of the courtyard and started shouting things I couldn’t understand.

And the thing I was thinking about re: darkness and light is that the metaphor still felt true but most of the things I thought of as darkness and light had changed. In most cases flip flopped. A few years ago my moral compass started spinning. I think I am passing to the opposite side of something.

I drank more whisky. Zapoi! Across the courtyard the man was still yelling and the only word I could hear was diarrhea. He stood up and walked around and rolled on the ground. Diarrhea! Diarrhea! I watched him while I smoked. The tip of the cigarette glowed and dimmed. Darkness and light. Something dislodged inside my stomach. If the man had walked over to me I would have looked him in the eyes.

Mike Nagel’s essays have been published by The Awl, Apt, Curbside Splendor, Switchback, The Crab Creek Review and elsewhere. He and his wife live in Dallas.

Twitter: @misternagel

Anna Walsh

Alone with Nobody

 

 

this is a bone house
it is painted all white
every wall and floorboard
the ceilings and shelves, sharp corners
sanded down
every point blunted and varnished.
we do not own any cutlery
any glass smashed is swallowed immediately

nobody breaks vases off doors in this house
nobody gets drunk and vomits
nobody throws declarations of love like punches,
the flesh of the bone is too near to us to touch

we have all given up smoking and staying up late
and looking for the one.

 

 

Anna Walsh is from Mullingar. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from UCD and has been published in the Bohemyth, Losslit, the Belleville Park Pages, Headstuff and Maudlin House. She is currently working on her first collection of poetry. You tweets at @annaw999.

Cristín Leach Hughes

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Cristín Leach Hughes is a writer, broadcaster and art critic with The Sunday Times Ireland since 2003. She lives on the side of the Galty Mountains. Twitter: @cristinleach

Susanna Galbraith

Mother and Babe after “Dead Mother” by Egon Schiele
“Everything is/ Living dead” – Schiele

Your hands are bloodied
Little glow-worm, blind seed-child
Your red hand the heart of your mother
Though what do you know of it

Your eye as clean as a salt tear –
You enveloped little butcher-bug
Folded in the black dregs of the universe
Bobbing bald and bulb-like in your element

Your mother a mere myth
You do not see your mother’s moon head
Nor its mangled reflection that is
Her dead hand crooked beneath you

But glowing and mindless
Only mindlessly drink its light
You a new vampiric little moon
Bubbled orange like spawn in black water

Susanna Galbraith studies English at Trinity College Dublin. Her writing has appeared previously in Belleville Park Pages, Abridged, JoLT and Icarus Magazine.

Marc Joan

Thirty-Five Dolls

All of us on Mabson Road know Mr Tanaka. Or rather (for it is very different), we all know who he is, this Japanese gentleman, and where he lives. His house, scrupulously maintained, stands in mute, reproachful counterpoint to the rest of the shabby Victorian terrace. Even the old bricks of No. 49 seem cleaner than those of its neighbours; the white wood of the window-frames paler, the roof slates darker.  And as for the tiny front garden, next to and narrower than the littered pavement — well, it could be ten square feet of Kew. Nobody’s ever seen an errant weed there, still less one of the cigarette ends or food wrappers otherwise ubiquitous on the street. Yes; good old Mr Tanaka. We all know who he is, this tidy man, alone on our street. And we all know about the one-eyed dolls; but we don’t know why.

You’d think it would be easy enough just to ask him. There’s certainly been enough opportunity. He’s been here for thirty-five years, they say; came to study in Cambridge, and never left.  And in each and every one of those thirty-five years, they say again, once a year, on New Year’s Day, he has done the same thing. As the city awakens, dull and grouchy from excess, Mr Tanaka’s front door opens, and the gentleman himself appears, clean and fresh-faced as ever. He sits in his front garden, by the pavement, wrapped up against the cold, on a small fold-up chair he brings out of the house. Always the same chair. Or, if it’s raining, he keeps the door open, and sits just inside, out of the wet, while his central heating warms up January. In either case, once sat, he rests a doll on his lap. Always a finely-made doll, a doll of quality. A different one each year, they say.  Some bigger, some smaller. Some pale as fresh bone, some brown as unhusked rice. Some in scarlet taffeta, some in vermilion calico. But all of the red-wrapped dolls have this thing in common, this one thing that they share. They have no eyes.  And so each and every New Year, Mr Tanaka sits a pretty, blind doll on his lap, by his front door, next to the pavement. And then, every each year, he paints an eye on the doll.  Just one eye.  Never the second.  He paints it carefully, almost lovingly.  And as he paints it, his lips sometimes move, as though murmuring a prayer or supplication: Let them see; o please, let them see! And then he gets up, smiles courteously if anybody is near, folds up his chair, and goes silently back into his house. With his pretty, ruby-swathed, one-eyed doll. But nobody’s ever asked him why.

Three doors down from Mr. Tanaka, there is a break in the hunched parade of Mabson Road two-up two-downs, where a narrow path shoulders its way between Nos. 43 and 41. This dim, littered stretch of fractured tarmac, permanently damp, soon meets and ends at a nettle-bordered track of mud and grass, favoured by cats and approved by the nodding blossoms of self-seeded buddleia, running parallel to but unseen by the road. A green vein bringing life and light to the squatting accretions of brick and slate, the track is a kind of no-man’s land that serves several practical functions. It gives access to the back gardens of the terrace, and thence to the houses, for emergency services and the like. It gives residents the option of entering or leaving their houses by a point other than the front door; even the possibility of emerging, via some tributary path, in a parallel street, as though slipping through a wormhole in space. And it lets them remove their domestic rubbish, accumulated in the council bins stored in their back gardens, by wheeling the bins up the track, onto the broken tarmac path and thence to the pavement at the front of the terrace.

I myself do this, each fortnight, trundling my cargo of wrappers and offal past the tight-shut gate set into the tall, shiplap fence of the back garden of No. 49. But, when performing this dull ritual one evening last week, just as the daylight was starting to fade, I paused, enveloped in the sour vapours of rotten food, momentarily oblivious to the following wasps; for (ye gods and little fishes!)  Mr Tanaka’s back garden gate was not shut. Indeed, it had swung wide open — whether through oversight, or wind, I could not say — and remained so, an invitation so unparalleled as to demand a double-take. How can this be? Mr. Tanaka’s gate has never been seen like this, never. But there it was; and I paused, and looked through, and saw, much as I had always suspected, a beautiful little domain, almost magical, no bigger than a large rug, wonderfully cultivated, in all senses of the word. Clipped bushes, neatly mown grass, and a patch of raked gravel; a bonsai yew in a shallow blue pot, a puddle-sized pond with water lilies, and flowering Hebe bordering a short path to the back of the house.  It was just so beautifully Japanese. To the left of the kitchen door was a brightly lit ground-floor window, through which I could see armchairs, and a table with a vase of flowers. And on the wall behind the chairs, there were shelves. Broad, deep shelves; perhaps four or five of them, supported by braces affixed directly to the wall. And on each shelf, leaning against each other, or propped back against the wall, in tidy abandon, in cloth of incarnadine, were the dolls.  All staring blindly out with their unitary eyes. I suppose there must have been thirty-five of them. One for each of his English years. But I didn’t stop to count; the kitchen door was opening. Ashamed of my inquisitiveness, I hurried on, the bin rumbling and bumping behind, the wasps disturbed into angry flight.

However, that brief vision of Mr Tanaka’s pretty, hidden world started me thinking. Mabson Road has a largely transitory population. Mainly students; some young professionals. They arrive, cause the normal amount of noise and annoyance, and leave again. They have no impact on the few long-term residents. Of these, I am one of the most settled, having been here seventeen years.  And we old-timers, who have lived by our quiet neighbour for so long, and called with him this road home, what do we know about Mr Tanaka? Only what was passed on to us by those who lived here before us, and who now have gone. And who was the last to speak to Mr Tanaka? Not I. I have never exchanged a word with him. And now I come to think of it, I know of none that have.  He is like part of the urban landscape. Occasionally visible, but always unseen; part of the road, but not part of the community. You would no more think of speaking to him than you would to the lamp-posts or the telephone box. Or to a doll on a shelf.

The next day, I knock on his door. A lovely Victorian knocker, polished brass, in the shape of a dolphin. It is stiff, reluctant to move. The knock sounds hollow, and I could swear that a faint echo returns to me from behind the painted panels. Even the door sounds surprised, I think. I hear shuffling from inside. It reminds me of something. Of course: Mr Badger. Mr Badger in his carpet slippers; grumpy, perhaps, at this incursion of Society, waking him from his long sleep beneath the snow. But he needs to know that summer’s here. The door opens. I realise Mr Tanaka is older than I had thought. Perhaps sixty? Certainly close to that.  He looks at me, gravely, somewhat quizzically. He seems a little tense; a person who waits, perhaps. But for what?  

Now that I am here, I feel slightly foolish. But the Rubicon is behind me, and I press on regardless. ‘Good morning, Mr Tanaka’, I say. And I introduce myself, in the customary way; we are neighbours, I say; we have been neighbours for many years. How silly it seems, that we close neighbours never speak! And I press upon him the chocolates and the wine; tokens of goodwill, and expressions of hope for the future. Mr Tanaka smiles. His English is accented, but clear and articulate.  We have a chat on the doorstep about this and that, and I invite him to dinner on the weekend. I don’t know why.  Hopefully the kids will behave. They’d better. Anyway, I leave, feeling, somehow, that a wrong has been righted. Again, I don’t know why.

Funny thing: later on in the day, driving back from the shops, I see Mr Tanaka sitting in his front garden, smiling.  It’s not New Year; it’s June. But even so, he is sitting in the front garden, with his paints. There is a doll on his lap. As I park up on the roadside, I can see that it is a fine doll, a beautiful doll. And Mr. Tanaka is painting an eye on it. A second eye.

Marc Joan is a biomedical scientist by training, and his background includes a PhD and post-doctoral research in molecular biology. He draws on this and other experience for his fiction, which is currently restricted to the more economical formats (short stories and novellas). Marc’s stories have been published in Madcap Review, Danse Macabre, and Hypnos, and accepted for publication in The Apeiron Review. Currently, he lives in England with his family.

Andrew Blair

Advertising Possibilities

The billboard

That faces down my street
Has been blank and the hum drum for weeks
A rectangle,
pale, into significance
This widescreen void
of content
This moonlighting, beckoning stranger persists perhaps
this is still
an advert?

So
who would advertise
nothing?

I have spoken to a Priest.
He says they do not publicise purgatory
Though I can buy shares

I have spoken to a White Supremacist
He says that the spelling
Is too good for it to be theirs

Such are the wonders of Private School education

I have spoken to a policeman
He considered arresting the billboard
for loitering
Then decided it had the right sort
of white background

I have spoken to a geek
She says she has received abuse online
For saying the advert shouldn’t be entirely white

They said she just loved the sound of her own voice.

I have spoken to a Customer Service Advisor for Tipp-Ex
She says their new campaign was cancelled
Because someone spotted a misprint on it
Yes

I have spoken to a salesman from Dulux
They said this was just the same joke as the Tipp-Ex one.

I have spoken to a Nihilist
She said it doesn’t mean anything
Of course you want to believe in it

Cheers Mum.

I have spoken to an advertiser
He said it was potential
A rescue flare
An exam
It was not merely promotion

I have spoken to a poet
It said an advert was anything I wanted it to be
A subject
Fit to verse
A canvas
A healing wound, hope that sustains creation
It was not merely promotion

Then the poet asked me
to like their Facebook Page.

Andrew Blair is a writer and performer based in Edinburgh, with credits in Valve Journal, New Writing Dundee and the Auld Enemies tour. Along with Ross McCleary he won a PBH Audience Award at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe, and runs the night Poets Against Humanity – dedicated to the destruction of poetry.

http://ablairlair.blogspot.co.uk/

Daisy Lafarge & Natalie Chin

Picture 30

Picture 31

Picture 32

 

 

Natalie Chin is a poet who lives in Singapore.

Daisy Lafarge studies in Edinburgh, works in a chocolate shop and volunteers in a community herb garden. Her writing has appeared in The Quietus, Clinic, HOAX and more.

@janepaulette

Oliver Mol & Lucy Waddington

I Used 2 Want 2 Fall In Love Now I Just Want 2 Be Punched In The Face

 

 

u know how the best thing about love is like ppl being unimaginably cruel to one another because of “ownership” and “sex” and “exclusivity” jk but not really lol

 

almost feel if u pictorially graphed the difference between the idea of a relationship and what most relationships are u would have like a pterodactyl bird with one focus point on the left side of its 12 metre wingspan and another focus point on the right side of its 12 metre wingspan and the pterodactyl would be flying directly into and then dying⎯in a “burning way”⎯ beneath a meteorite

 

we’ve got to b better we can b better we’ve got 2 b cute

 

imagine if we made the graph together n like coloured it in heaps nice w expensive pencils from ur university then pissed on it

 

like if we put the pterodactyl bird graph into a toilet would u sit on the toilet and pee while making a space between ur legs so that i could pee onto the pterodactyl bird graph at the same time?

 

i would say, “is this an activity you would like to do with me?” and if u said, “yes, hehe” i would say, “hehe” too

 

i would try v hard not to pee on u because 1 thing i am doing in 2015 is trying v hard w everything i do in general

 

i would aim v steadily and when we finished i would say, “hehe thank u for ur consent”

 

then if u told me ur ideal date involved me and u watching the 5th element and masturbating in separate rooms i would do that w u

 

and if ur ideal date involved me and u and both our parents sitting in the front pew of the local church just steady vaping i would do that w u 2

 

im such a fuck up sometimes i truly don’t know how i get anything done but i want to hold ur hand at a party in a way that we both giggle and smile knowing how good everything will feel when we go home

 

what if the sexiest thing ppl culd do was to plug their iPhones into each other’s computers then say, “im in lol”

 

the thing about people is that they’re fucked but it’s only because they’re human

 

the thing about you is that ur beautiful and fucked like all humans are beautiful and fucked

 

and the thing about me is that i am 2

 

 

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