The Writers’ Cafe Magazine – ISSUE 15 “Letters”

1 Ryosuke Cohen, Japan, Brain cell 857 A

Like Origami
by Rebecca Gethin

With their perished creases
care is needed to unfold the letters.
Each one is stretched
in a paper hospital
and models how to crease, fold
and smooth the creations
with precision.  I try
to read the prescriptions
they secrete under the flaps
without adding any flourishes
of my own. But in my hands
all her birds and flowers
turn into different figures
of her sorrow.

……………………………………………………………………………*****

Wait
by Megha Sood

………..Where are you from?
……………….There.

……….Where are you headed?
………………There.

………What are you doing?
…………….Grieving.
…………………—Rabia Al-Adawiyya

The clock has struck
and the old cuckoo has done her dance
the dust in the air is dangling
on the sliver of the sunshine
making its way from the frame of my broken window
the letters are piling up
abandoned
like a child on the footpath
and I ignore them every time
like that beggar by the side of the subway
avoiding the loneliness
in his gaze
the old skewed painting waits for the sun
for its due
for its share of the shadow
while the sun plays with the criss crossed pattern
on my parquet tiles
the apples are browning on the countertop
and the serrated ends of the roses
are dying slowly
in the vase
humming the songs of despair
everything is pristine and pure this room
but the time never starts
and those begonias have wilted in the sun
this wait never ends.

…………………………………………………………………………………*****


Written on Izal, Sealed with a Kiss 

by Angi Holden

Of course
I should have been concentrating
on the finer points of differential calculus
but the attraction of words
was always greater than the call of numbers.

I had things to tell my Grandmother
that burned in my mind:
the crisp snow across Fulford fields,
my Sunday morning stroll along
the empty pavements of Heslington Road,
the choristers’ voices soaring
into the roof vaults of the Minster.

‘Sorry to use hole-punched paper,’ I wrote.

A week later, her reply:
‘I don’t care what you write on. Just write.’

Clearing her roll-top desk,
my father found both letters.
The one on sheets torn from my ruled exercise pad
and my next, written on five yards of Izal

liberated from the ‘Ladies’ in Vanbrugh College:
line after line of news,
neatly folded into a Basildon Bond envelope
and sealed with a kiss.

…………………………………………………………………………*****

Fifty-Two Years in a Thousand Words
by Chloe Timms

Bea still had the taste of envelope glue on her tongue when she approached the post box. She stood, staring at its mouth, letter in hand. There should be more ceremony in it. Or someone to push into her from behind and force the envelope from her hand. She hovered. If posting it was accidental she wouldn’t have to think. It would be gone and its future would be down to the sorting office, the postman, whoever checked the doormat first.

Since reading the newspaper, she’d left it weeks, letting rain turn Autumn leaves to mulch.

‘Have you done anything about it yet?’

‘About what?’

Moore lifted his brow, placing down the coffee and a serviette. He had a face that hardened when he was tired. It was the new baby, his wife’s PND. When he’d told her, she’d wanted to say she could sympathise, but no – she’d already told him she was childless. His home life had all come tumbling out on the day he’d made her coffee all wrong, the same order she asked for every day. When she mentioned it, just casually to spare his feelings, she had to hand him a clean napkin. She’d never seen a man cry like it.

‘You know,’ he said. ‘The letter.’

‘Ah. That.’

‘Of course. What else?’

The name Moore came from his father, a British chap married to an Iranian woman, and her teachings had given Moore an accent, a fuzziness to the letter ‘s’. Bea liked it, liked his café too. But she was tempted to close her eyes and let his voice transport her to a little bistro, somewhere else, somewhere exotic like Morocco, where a man would steal the seat beside her and remove his wedding ring and she would say Non, monsieur but not mean it. She could imagine it vividly, the tremble of that gold band sitting on the table.

It was a day in late August when she saw the article. She never read the papers, too much gloom and pontification, but on that day she’d needed a distraction and one of the tabloids had been left behind. The doctor’s words were still floating around her head like fish in a bowl. The article was on page six, pushed underneath speculation on a new scandal in the Commons.

Desperate Plea To Find Mum Goes Viral

Bea was thinking about the word viral, about how words change meaning over decades, when her grazing eyes stopped dead, dead on her own name printed on the paper. She rubbed over the text with her fingers, as if this was a clever trick of modern tabloids, but then she read the paragraph again. A man in his fifties had posted on his Facebook page hoping to find his birth mother, a Beatrice Holland originally from Cornwallis Road, Sheffield. He’d developed a drinking habit, it said, had lost his daughter in a car accident and realised now, more than ever, he wanted to make contact with the woman he’d never known. All he had left was her name and the hope of a nation clicking away and launching him into the news.

Moore had found Beatrice entranced, crying, unmoved from the same sheet of newspaper and when he’d touched her shoulder, she’d let all of it flood out, the whole mess of it. Her age, Paulo, his wife, coming back to England and not wanting to do anything about the baby, hoping her misery would scare it away. Then, when it didn’t and the bump kept growing, she bought dresses in larger and larger sizes until everyone knew what kind of woman she was, what she’d done. She’d given him away, yet that made it sound simple, like she hadn’t spent every day since imagining him growing into the world, looking at faces of men in the street and on the television hoping, and dreading similarities.

Two weeks after the newspaper and Moore presented her a printed sheet of paper with an address.

‘I called the newspaper,’ he said. ‘I think you should write to him. I think you want to.’

She wanted to throw the coffee over it, shout at him and never return. Instead she took the address and hoped she might tear it, or lose it on the way home. She didn’t. It sat under a TV guide for another week, until the day the doctor called, telling Bea he was clearing space in his schedule so she could come in for an appointment.

She sealed the letter and condensed fifty-two years into a thousand words. A thousand more berated her on the way to the post box. Things she should have said, things she should have left out. She told him what the doctor had diagnosed, not because she wanted to trigger his forgiveness through sympathy, but because it felt like something he should know, something to add to his medical records.

Bea slipped the envelope into the gap, thought of how he might read her voice, wondered if he would even reply in time. And she let go.

……………………………………………………………………………..*****

Dyslexia: the River
by Helen Kay

She cannot understand how everyone
is taken in by letters ……how people believe
that ‘s’ and ‘t’ together make a perfect ‘st’.

Let’s talk about ‘s’………more snake than letter;
you’re never sure which way it slimes
or whether it hisses or buzzez.

Furthermore it hides at the end of words
where she does not hear it
making the letter-problems multiply.

She cannot believe that people trust
the snapping jaws of v’s and k’s
the dangling hooks of f’s and t’s

the letter- river that she is drowning in
and no-one sees it ……as if it’s a ghost
where she is the h’….. ..unrecognised.

……………………………………………………………………………*****

Dear Girls
by Susanna Lang

…………I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
…………in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
…………count themselves out, at too early an age.

—Adrienne Rich

Dear Jessica,

You must have seen the church though you may not
have paid attention, looking out the backseat window
at the white dome. I watch for it each time
I drive into the city, Mary dancing in a round
with her angels, each winged and robed figure
holding something precious in one hand, an orange
or a ball to play with, while she reaches with the other,
open, an invitation. I’ve never been inside.

……………………………………………………………………….Years ago
I taught in a Catholic school, plain squat building
beside an extravagant church, and led each class in prayer
before the lessons, blessed is the fruit of thy womb….
None of us thinking about the words.

………………………………………………………………Friday evening, you
and your sisters and brothers, your aunts and uncles and cousins
were praying the rosary when I came to the visitation
for your father, each distinct voice lost in the murmur
of voices, as I remember from the years I taught in that school,
evenings spent in rooms that hummed with sorrow
and with the words spoken to assuage sorrow. Not to deny
the empty body lying in the open casket, but to carry the living
along with the dead.

………………………………….Now you write in the hall outside the class
so you can cry into your notebook without your friends and me
asking if you’re alright, which you are not though we all know,
even you may know, that you will be, one of these days
that we cannot begin to count off on the calendar but must
simply endure. They count themselves off, these days,
and meanwhile you write your smudged words
and hiccup a little now and at the hour of our death.
……………………………………………………………………………………..Amen.

Dear Mimi,

You have already spent hours staring at that blank
screen, clutching your extravagant hair in a drama
of wordlessness—hours, not just in class but at lunch
and late into the winter dark after dismissal. I’m sorry,
but there is no magic to fill a screen with words.
Look up now. Let me tell you a story.

……………………………………………………………..I was 19, with a voice
that came and went and was not always my own, when my father
lost his to cancer. He was a storyteller and a teacher, now reduced
to a pack of 3×5 cards, primitive version of Twitter.
He’d never trusted the permanence of words on a pad
of lined yellow paper, like pinned insects that could fly
or crawl off on their own. Took a full day to write
one sentence, tore it up the next morning. Yet at dinner,
while he still had a voice, he’d draw out the tale
of one weekend leave during the war, too much bourbon
and a roommate who wanted to pick fights. It took
thirty minutes in the telling, left us speechless with laughter.
………………My roommate’s mother fell ill the same month
as my father, and my friend retreated into her own wordless
prayers, filling the communal bathroom with hymns
rather than say good morning. For my part, I filled notebooks
with poems, pages it was easy to lose in the age
of manual typewriters, no hard drives or clouds
with expandable memories.

……………………………………………….My father refused the surgery
that gave him better odds to live, but only if he lived without
vocal cords—and he won that bet, told the story for decades.
He’s silent now, except for those odd moments when the dead
find a kind of voice in the sound of traffic on the road outside.
But this story is meant as a promise: you will unearth your voice
as I did, finally—and when you do, it will deafen us.

Dear Emma,

I have been thinking about your desire to be a tree
or perhaps a cloud, it doesn’t matter as long
as you can leave off being human. After eleven years
you are already done with humans, two legs
and a pair of wires hanging out of our ears, dirty words
spitting off our tongues.

……………………………………….So I want to introduce you
to the maple that stands in our garden. My son named it
king of the garden when he was little, but of course
that was his story, not the tree’s. If the tree reaches its arms
over more and more of the garden, shading the beds
where daylilies can no longer bloom, that is not
ambition but the unthinking patterns encoded in its cells.
Our neighbor has cut it back on one side, where it shadowed
his yard, and Com Ed on another, worried about the wires
that span the alley. It can only stretch in our direction,
though a branch or two grew back toward Didier’s yard
when his back was turned. This maple was an adolescent
when we arrived twenty years ago, slender, tall, with that sudden
spurt of growth we watched in our son much later, but these days
it is thicker at the base, a survivor.

…………………………………………………………..The wind makes music in its leaves
as it does in every tree, but that is only one of the voices I hear:
rhythmic whir of a tool in someone’s hands, siren speeding down
Irving Park Road, jazzy riff of the squirrels, the robins and sparrows
that rest a moment in its branches. Fewer since a feral cat
moved in beneath our house, untroubled by the old bones
of our sweet Dilly who lived to 19, then called out to us
as she left to die by herself in that comfortable darkness. And now
the bell of an ice cream cart that someone pushes hopefully
down our block, looking for children.

………………………………………………………………..The maple’s voice is accidental:
it cannot answer the squirrels chittering too high for the sated cat to climb,
or the ice cream cart and its bell, the siren and the moan of the patient
on the gurney, almost too low for the paramedic who bends down to hear.
I hear it only in imagining this story for you. The tree is here
but not as we are. If it does not spit filthy words into the world,
nor does it collect the gleaming jewels that you found
as you read about Tolkien’s dwarves and Louisa Alcott’s
little women, long lists of words you locked into your notebook—
your treasures, hoarded as a dragon hoards its gold.

………………………………………………………………………………………..Next door,
Jamie calls Didier in from the yard, away from the chicken coop
he half-built under the maple that is partly his, too,
despite his best efforts. He may finish painting the coop red,
uncoil the wire he’s left in a roll, or he may leave it like that,
the knot holes and annual rings visible in the wood, a tribute
to his dream of fresh eggs and to the forests that grew those beams
taller than our maple. We are here, too, where the tree stands
in the world. Be here with us. The maple holds out its arms,
at least in the story we make together, and the robin calls to you
with the thin voice of the ice cream man, the music of the words
you gathered from your books. Be here with us.

Dear Kayla,

It’s true—I’ve never lost a brother.
Mine emailed me this morning
before I left for school where
you would read us the story
of your brother’s death, in a voice
we strained to hear.

…………………………………I haven’t lost
a brother, but I have gone deaf
rather than hear the same words
your father used, sitting with you
in the kitchen. I have hung up the phone
to shut those words out of my house.

………….My dead were not family
but they were my children: the girl shot
in the passenger seat of her boyfriend’s car,
the boy who stole arsenic from the science lab.
Children I sat with as I’ve sat with you,
our two heads bent over a notebook—
many blank pages, a few sentences
forced between the lines.

…………..It’s been more than twenty years.
I do not say their names as often
but their murmuring voices have
threaded themselves into the hollows
of my bones. Sometimes they sing
a little louder.

……………………….You’re right, I do not know
the truth, not yours. But I do know,
many of us know a truth in the same family
as yours. Your brother, shot in the eye
for a phone? My girl, for the right
to claim a stretch of pavement?
Not fair, you cry. Not ever fair.
I would undo it if I could, would wish
your brother sitting at the kitchen table
when you come home today from school,
my kids slipping into the classroom late,
homework forgotten but their hearts still beating.

Dear girls,

who stand in the doorway, looking in or out,
hair pulled back or hanging past your shoulders,
straightened or braided or thick with curls and knots;
…………….who stay after school to practice your clarinet,
to draw a bow across your violin’s strings, to spike
a ball over the net or send it spinning into the goal,
to audition for the lead role in the musical, to record
and re-record the voice-over for a documentary, laughing
at your own misshapen sentences and the unending
series of mistakes;

………………………………who tell, or try to tell, your difficult
stories, your night visions and the worries that hide like grime
in the cracked tiles; you who assemble the words one by one
into a new pattern, or scatter them willy-nilly onto the page,
not sure what should go first or last;

……………………………………………………………..who stand up
in the classroom, silent for a moment before the others
hear what you have to say, head bent, paper trembling,
wondering what your words will change or leave
unchanged;

……………………you pause in the doorway, where some say
angels rest, before running outside at recess, earmuffs
or stocking caps on your heads, bright coats zipped up,
one glove always missing; you run outside to the snow
that pillows the swings, that tufts the fence, that waits
for your shaping hands and the strong thrust of your arms.

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,*****

Letters, My First Love
by Sally Hewitt

Dear Alfie, (You don’t mind me calling you that do you, Alphabet sounds so formal)

After all these years you want me to accept you back.

I have strong, fond memories of our childhood meeting. The feel of your singular letters, those I carefully hand sculpted between printed straight lines. They were very neat my teacher said, my book filled well with them.

I have confessions.

I didn’t really mind if a pencil broke as I was shaping you, I loved the smell as I sharpened it. I know I used to complain but it was all for show. Those pencils were part of an incense cedar tree once, I liked breathing them in, savouring the sacrifice they’d made. Without them we’d never have met.

I don’t regret or, feel guilty.

Fascinated by the way their hardness unfurled into delicate ribbons I admit I was sometimes over-zealous, reduced several to unusable. I learned, eventually, not to imagine I was peeking into nests of cedar waxwings because whenever I day-dreamed I was, bark beetles bit you didn’t they, blanked my page.

I was young, I didn’t realise.

Do you remember how on Fridays we earned the privilege of using a fountain pen? Although I sometimes smudged you even that was agreeable to me. My inky digits showed our relationship was strong, celebrated it. It made you look a bit scruffy but, hey ho. On those Friday’s accidental smudges didn’t come I made some, jolted my pen, splattered on you. One day I shook too hard. Two entire pages of you, by one big flood, became cobalt-blue, illegible. I picked my book up, flapped it, was horrified to see wide blue rivers drowning your ancestors.

Drowning your ancestors was disastrous. Nothing for show and tell.

Worse, as my teacher walked towards me, she caught some spillage on her dress. Sunny yellow cloth of it turned blotchy, green.

When I got home that day, a handful of your cousin (S, O, the R twins and Y) helped me form a letter of apology, three times. I kept the neatest one and on the following Monday gave it to my teacher. (I threw the other two on the fire).

After she’d read it, she asked me if I wanted to print or, handwrite with you that day. Although she said she knew I hadn’t done it on purpose and that my sorry note was a lovely thought, I sensed her annoyance. She wanted to know how close you and I had become. (We’d kissed in that joke love letter to you know who remember?) Knowing I wasn’t pregnant I said handwriting please. She looked surprised. Well, my hands had been playing with you for weeks by then, why wouldn’t I? Is that why you called me a pen-tease?

It was rude of her not to explain properly, unkind of you to be so awkward about it. Trying to join you up without deforming you was nearly impossible. Your best ‘a’s fell into my book like squashed apples wielding rotten cores. Your ‘b’s were buffoons booting bananas away. Your ‘c’s were cat’s tails, angry. I had no idea what your ‘d’s ‘e’s and ‘f’s were.

You gave me no clues. (If it was because of what I did to your ancestors we could have discussed it instead of fighting about it, I might have apologised).

It crossed my mind to admit my confusion to her about us two ‘joining up’ but I was too ashamed, soldiered on.

And on.

So on, that my hand cramped.

I swapped to using my other hand. It made little difference, led me to think I might be ambidextrous.

You knew I wasn’t, didn’t you?

You could have told me, I trusted you back then. Instead, you just lounged about on my page as though you owned it while I proudly announced, TO THE ENTIRE CLASS*, that I was ‘two-handed’.

*The capitals are NOT a grammatical error, they’re deliberate. I was ANGRY with you.

You knew I was desperate to get back in my teacher’s good books. You also knew I loathed the class teasing me, shouting out ‘Dumbo soars again!’.

SOMETIMES I HATED YOU.

Having glanced your way my teacher raised an eyebrow, declared me not ambidextrous, by any means, but highly creative, certainly. She pointed to a group of your friends, the ones I couldn’t name, “At first” she said, “I thought it was a shoal of fish here, but now I see it’s a first good effort. Well done! Keep going.”

I didn’t mean to make your friends look like fish, it was luck. If it’s any consolation, when she said what she did I wished I was a mermaid, could have swum off with them. (You were right, I fancied several of them, thought I might become an artist one day)

But I couldn’t swim off, and even though your friends looked like guppies now her praise encouraged me to keep seeing you, risked bumping into them. To avoid flirtation, I even spent time with you when I could have been playing tennis. I hope you’re grateful.

Truth be told it fascinated and exhausted me in equal measures to see you, us, create meaningful, descriptive words together. Stringing words with other words came next. We made sentences, built paragraphs, scribed poems, penned literary childhood masterpieces – sometimes, when the electricity ran out, in the dark.

Aged eleven we were so in love. You promised that when we grew up, we’d marry – you’d show me how to write erotica, mysteries, thrillers.

I believed you, was willing to do anything.

I was so naïve. You seduced me, then abandoned me, left me to live and survive a conventional working world alone. A world of factories, shops, agencies. And now, after all these years you want to come back.

It would be difficult, I’m with Keyboard now. He’s slick, smart, productive.

But we’re both open to experimentation.

I’ll ask him and be in touch.

……………………………………………………………………………….*****

Dear Patient:
by Lisa Rhodes-Ryabchich

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..7/19/2016

We are hereby trying to collect payment for the following services:

Recommending you get a colonoscopy,
……………………………….which removed a cancerous tumor. ………………..6/6/2002

Psychological services, to help you analyze a message,
from your now ex-best friend—
………………………………..a former Air Force doctor, who told you to go
back to smoking, because your flora, was damaged and quitting
………………………………..then, wasn’t the right time.……………………………. 6/6/2003

Defaulting on making a payment to your now ex-wife after putting a stop
……………………………….on a $29,700 check, you gave to her, for
……………………………….her share of money, from a lawyers check made out to Mr.
……………………………….and Mrs.… after she helped you win, a personal injury
……………………………….lawsuit.……………………………………………………………..6/6/2004

Using your ex-wife to bypass the lazy, New York City ER hospital staff,
……………………………….to call a New Jersey hospital, & impersonate a nurse
……………………………….to get your medical records sent STAT, when you
……………………………….were in cardiac arrest.…………………………………… 6/6/2009

Emergency Defibrillation and open-heart surgery from a Washington,
……………………………….DC hospital, after you drove back home to New Jersey
……………………………….from Florida with your girlfriend.……………….. 6/6/2013

Multiple stents to unblock years of cholesterol damage to your left arterial
……………………………….valve, which you complained, prevented you
……………………………….from getting an erection.……………………………….. 6/6/2014

X-ray films, showing black chalky cardiac tissue—

………………………………..the last photos of your life……………………………… 9/6/2014

And for the following requisite services:
………………………………..Mending of your daughter’s broken heart.…… 2/5/2004

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..– 3/27/2015

Sincerely,

Collections Department
…………………………………………………………………………..*****

Open Leter to my Father
by Fatma Latif

At the shores of silence, we are embraced by all the words we lost to time, the most painful; the ones that never really stood a chance

**********

Father, a part of me, parted into the deep in search of you, undoing tongue-ties of you, sewing threads to memories of you

Mother broke over night, I prayed for peace, I watched the moon turn grey-blue, lost in grieving you, on her shoulders I cried for you

Your voice still lingers in the mist of morning, awakening the ruins of people; buried deep in colorless dreams. Your people, turning, tossing each day, learning to live again

I glimpsed your ghost, wandering in passing, waving in difficult distance, without a mere willingness to surrender to my alone crumbled longing

I’m half chained, sleepwalking, this  world seems larger than my knowing; pale, plain and printing expired meanings to a season of dwelling

Your secret language haunts me, I hardly squeeze your name in conversations anymore, my heart is lost, looking for its missing pieces, echoing for a place of belonging

You left without a warning, without the comforting sound of a final promise, in the deserted haze of a hushed hour, nobody was ready to let you go, Father

How could you just leave…

Because of you

Faith stood suspended on a tightrope, I forgot the sound of heavens, hollow hazy promises tweaked my dry throat, because of you

People twist the mountains to sweat the sadness temporarily, to wipe memories off their tired eyelids they laugh furiously, because of you

These walls wrapped themselves in breaths of you, emptying a home that killed every sound in wait for you, wouldn’t stand on its own two feet, because of you

These corners plunged to blank days crushed in secret sorrows, voiceless weeping, thickness that aches for you, bursting with agonies, because of you

Every lullaby ends with words; heavy scattered words, drifting into the vague unknown, containing only one wish: to have you back home

Father,

This weight is slowly smoldering me, I stopped kneeling for The Lord of mercy, mourning unanswered prayers, mourning the past and a frozen present, settling in the strangling stand-stills

‘Life is too short to live in isolating anger’ you used to tell me, but anger  is chewing, spitting me out to the frightening fears, there’s so little hope left here, an innocence that ceased to exist, estranged in perish

The ink dried on my hand, Father.. Who do I turn to now? when the days grow colder, melting into one another, the urge to fight this, fading away, one day after the other, I’m not okay, I’m not okay, not at all and you’re too far to hear this, too far to see this, too far to relieve this

They all hear my cries but you, the only one I look for is you, all I want is to be reunited soon, and I’m trying.. I’m trying, because of you, because of all the dreams you had when you held me in your hands, because of the lessons anchoring me to the ground, because of the name I proudly wear, the legacy I carry on my back. Because of you, I stand

Perhaps goodbyes aren’t scripted in life, so we stand, in the brilliance of silence, to embrace loss as a part of love, death as the darker side of life. memories of you, run deeper, deeper to cut the wound in half, for the heartache, the healing, rushing my way

I’m stretching my pain in the waters, to an image of you smiling down of heaven, to say: we’ll meet again my loved one, to reminisce with lighthearted laughter, in the warming shade of the hereafter

This is the only reassurance that keeps me going,

Father,
I miss you.

…………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Letters
by Leela Soma

On rocks, palm leaves, leather, vellum, paper,
epistles penned with a chisel, quill, pen,
the beauty of words to express feelings
all human experience forged in many ways.
Blue crinkles of the Basildon Bond airmail pages of a letter
crossing the oceans, with words inscribed with love.
the delectable thud as the postie drops the envelope
heaving heart as one is transported to another world.
The rustle of a foolscap paper with blotches of ink spills
the fun of deciphering the scribbles on the lines
the joy of reading the good news and smiling inwardly
or the teardrops making patterns of hurt, a smudge.
No more scented letters, a pressed flower enclosed
or a satin ribbon-tied bundle of emotions, kept
in secret boxes, locked and lie secure, untouched
for years and traces a life in another century.
The pretty stamps collection, the world in tiny thumbnails
Philately, a hobby that expanded one’s horizons,
stamps a thrill to own, on the Stanley Gibbons
albums, painstakingly and lovingly created.
Lost now, in the techno world of emails, Instagram, Twitter
Switch a computer on to get an invite or a sympathy card
The joy of, ‘Lost in post’ gone forever now, a globalised world
of instant moments, sated, forgotten in the ether.

……………………………………………………………………………………*****

At home with Mrs MacIntosh
I’ve got talent, Margaret’s a genius

by Finola Scott

I decide on a nice piece of fish
for his tea, after I take in the post.
Finnan Haddie. He likes it coddled
in milk. Only one letter today. Its whipped
-cream envelope is fontanelle soft, soothing.

The writing’s firm, no secretary’s. On the back
an embossed crest. Neptune, cormorants. Fishy
stuff from Liverpool. He mutters Everything
depends on this commission. Balancing sturdy
buttresses, pushing, to God. So much work.

Everything. And Gothic. That estuary-wide
nave, all too big I fear, and colleagues competing.
Bloody Gilbert-Scott. I’ll see if I can get
Ayrshires. Boil them in their silk-thin skins. Then
to the studio. But my hands are gesso-sore, so today
I’ll set the beads and shell, ready for that air-bright
space. I’m desperate to draw

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,………………………………………………………………….*****

Cleopatra’s letter to Antony
by Jackie Biggs

When your guts discharge from your ripped flesh
as you lie dying on the battlefield
I will suck up the slick of fetid innards
and viscera will spill from my mouth,
slide down my chin and trickle over my throat.
Your entrails will slither between my breasts
and blood will slime over all my skin
as I kneel beside you in your nomansland
and take your putrid entrails as my own.

……………Isn’t that the love you wanted?

As your life fails you will see
in all your bile-braided grief
the woman who smashed asunder
the rock that was your heart.
You will see the eyes that made you reel
and fall drunk into stinking gutters,
hands that gripped yours until they burned,
the body that made your gaze cruel with craving,
the face that murdered the child in your soul
and made you a man of war.

…………….Isn’t that the love you wanted?

I blew to bits your safety shields,
shelled your life to smithereens,
fractured your careful kindly dreams,
strafed the fields of your homely possibilities,
bombed your too-fragile fantasies,
obliterated all your familiar existence.
Now, as I suck out your rancid guts
and spill them all over myself
you know, you know, there will never be a treaty.

……………………………………………………………………………*****

The White Envelope
by Ayfer Orhan

The sounds of desks slamming, the loud screeching noise of chairs pushed, the rushed palpating of footsteps, excited groans and murmur of staff moving towards the exits transfused with the loud deafening shrill of the fire alarm.

It was late afternoon by the time I returned to my desk and as the only complaints officer in the council I was feeling very annoyed about the whole thing. I thought the fire drill too loud, the test inconvenient and on top of it all, I had a throbbing headache!

The edge of a white envelope with its familiar and colourful stamp of a country scene was visible from beneath a pile of brown envelopes and mailshots with their printed addresses and official electronic postal stamps.

I reached out and removed the white envelope from beneath the pile and instantly recognised the sender. The Council’s post address, spanned across the envelope in an elegant script and on the reverse side was the sender’s address printed on a small label and carefully secured in the centre of the seal.

I eased the letter opener under the top flap and slid it slowly across. Inside were two sheets of quality white paper, folded once, which I teased out and gently unfolded.

For a few seconds I cast my eyes over the letter and admired the beautifully crafted calligraphy and then started to read the complaint.

25/06/18

‘Dear Sir,

Regarding: Excessive noise from 21 Orchard Grove – Poppy Lane

I refer to my letters…..’

I stopped, feeling resentful of having to spend any of the precious time left reading. My head was throbbing and I found I was unforgiving in mood and temperament. Why the complainant didn’t simply do what everyone else did and send an email for God’s sake. Isn’t it common knowledge that an email would require almost no time at all to read and to respond to? ‘Oh well’ I muttered and decided that it was much easier to return the letter to the ‘in-tray’ for another less stressful day.

By the end of the working day, I had actually responded to hundreds of emails, large numbers of texts, several phone calls, binned all the direct mail and reduced the ‘in-tray’ to a single white envelope with its stamp of a country scene.

The following day the white envelope, buried under the morning’s mail was forgotten and it wasn’t until late afternoon that I saw it again. I was suddenly seized with a sharp sensation of guilt in the pit of my stomach and with a sigh of resignation I settled down to read it.

25/06/18

‘Dear Sir,

Regarding: Excessive noise from 21 Orchard Grove – Poppy Lane

I refer to my letters dated 25/8/2016, 30/6/2017 and 01/9/17 in which I am yet to receive a reply.

It is unfortunate that I am having to write again and I hope that now you will find the time to investigate. As stated in earlier letters, I have lived in my current house for eighty years. My husband and I moved to the Borough as newlyweds. Having purchased the house within a few days of its construction, indeed, the house next door was yet unfinished as too were the landscaping of the lane and surfacing of the surrounding streets.

Ever since I can remember, home owners respected their neighbours and the area was always quiet and peaceful. But two years ago a family moved into Mrs Peter’s old house and the noise has been unbearable since.

I cannot recall the numbers of times the children have ‘played’ ball against my fence, or the excessive noise of the ‘rock’ music reverberating from the bedroom windows or indeed the shouting and screaming or the endless barking of the bullterrier.

I find that I no longer enjoy my garden; I am confined to the front room and keep the doors and windows closed to reduce the noise levels. It is worst in the summer months and I am at my wits’ end to know what to do.

This year I have taken to increasing the volume of my TV to drown the noise, much to the annoyance of Mr Anderson who lives next door! I feel quite a nuisance, as he keeps on recommending that I should look into getting my ears checked!

I understand that the Council is busy, but I implore you to do something about this as a matter of urgency as it has caused me countless of sleepless nights and much distress.

I am home most days except when I have to go to the post office on Monday mornings and every Thursday at noon I am at the hairdresser’s.

Yours Sincerely

Mrs Janet Reed

A quick check of both addresses showed them as owner occupiers. Oh dear! This is not going to be easy, if neither will compromise and if mediation becomes the best and only option, I should at least try and get the noise levels monitored, I thought.

Almost six weeks after the last letter and with the funding approved by finance, I was finally able to sign off the official letter informing Mrs Reed of the date the installation of the noise monitoring equipment will take place.

A week prior to the agreed date I received another white envelope and instantly recognised the stamp. Too busy to open it that day, or the day after and only able to read it on the morning prior to the installation, I immediately cancelled the order.

10/10/18

Dear Sir,

Regarding: Excessive noise from 21 Orchard Grove – Poppy Lane

It is with deep sadness that I am writing to inform you of the death of my dear wife.

The Council will now not be required to monitor the noise levels, as I have decided, after much deliberation and with deep regret to move into sheltered accommodation.

Yours sincerely

Mr Adam Reed

I scanned the letter to archive, closed down the case and returned to a stream of emails waiting for a response.

…………………………………………………………………...*****

EPISTLES [5]
by Gerard Sarnat

  1. Dearest Great God of Depression*

“My days were pervaded by a gray drizzle of unrelenting horror.
— William Styron

Despite novelist accolades,
this gorgeous man’s genius-y
pompadour tilted windward
of heaven, more often than
not living some ‘fraidy cat
existence before CAT scan
or MRI were available to fail
tracking down undocumentable
phantoms great mind besieged.

*thanks to New York Times, 5August18

………………………………………………………………….*****

  1. Septuagenarians’ Dialogue Devolves Back Toward Teenhood?

LJ:

I re-read your “review” of my book and now realize that your asbestos mention was an attack, an effort to demean me in front of the others. This is, as you know, not the first time you have attacked me. You’ve also done it to others from our class; there have been conversations about it.

I don’t know why you feel this malice — perhaps you know. But you might consider a little behavior modification — step back before the bile comes out of your mouth; just swallow it back.

We’re not in high school anymore, so this is not a question of being popular with the other kids. At our age, it’s a question of how we’ll be remembered. I don’t think you want your epitaph to be “Gerry did so many wonderful things in the world but he could be a really nasty guy.”

GS:

L, I can’t argue with what you feel.

But you mis-reread my motivation to start a goodwill dialogue and encourage others to buy by humorously engaging your own characterization of “insane career” as a corporate PR fixer.

However, obviously my words fumbled the ball — sorry. If I had wanted to attack your book “as dumb or boring,” I imagine there would have been ways to send them up the flagpole.

Originally you seemed pleased (or at least not-mad) when you responded to me.

I figured the Johns Manville Inc. asbestos case was what you were alluding to with “the little miasma of formaldehyde that wafted from the boards…poison and carcinogen…really nothing harmful for your little Swedish tots… All the homeowners had to do was rip up his house, remove the old boards, and install the new ones at his own expense. What a deal!” Sorry if I got that wrong, if as you drolly put it, “I just did tobacco!”

I wish you had closed the bluebook after your first two reactions, which did not take offense, instead of looking for “nasty” over-analyzing (your gerund might be Correctly-analyzing) in your last email.

In any case, given our past run-ins and sensitivities, in retrospect perhaps I should have been more restrained, or not responded at all. You are still clearly triggered by me, so maybe at some level I’m not fully in touch with how I am still playing my “sibling rivalry” role.

Although I do acknowledge a competitive streak I wasn’t fully aware of when we knew each other as kids, generally those who know me as an adult wouldn’t know what you’re talking about “malice”wise — in fact most often just the opposite. But to be sure, I/we at times revert to adolescent selves when interacting.

During the last bunch of years, I’ve actually made a project of trying to revisit folks where there’s unfinished business, some good some bad (some of whom your “conversations” may be referring to), to assure more loving and trustworthy relationships. Although not always successful, on the whole it’s worked. In fact, I tried what felt like unsuccessfully to begin that process with you at recent reunions, but my attempt was ineffective/feeble and you didn’t seem to notice.

I am sorry for when I didn’t treat you considerately. One index case from grade school has become a touchstone of more global regrets that has energized me to do better. Perhaps some day we will meet face-to-face alone to begin to reconcile. I would like that, and would be happy to travel to facilitate.

Apologies for my part in causing you tsuris, Gerry.

………………………………………………………………………………….******

  1. Dear DHHS,

If you are truly dedicated to health and human services,
why would Trump’s agenda require I be assigned some gender
determined by the sex of my external genitalia at birth?

It’s understandable your department’d like an, “explicit uniform
definition determined on a biological basis that is clear,
grounded in science, objective, administrable.”*

But why make me fret by discriminating against those of us
with incongruities between newborn s/he assignment records
or internal non-binary fluid identities such as they, them, theirs?

*https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/21/us/politics/transgender-trump-administration-sex-definition.html?action=click&module=Top Stories&pgtype=Homepage

……………………………………………………………………………………..*****

  1. Dear BHHS Class of ‘63,

As a kid during the I Like Ike Silent Generation era,
against my druthers, Dad and Mom moved me
from playing happily on concrete city blocks
in the badlands of Chicago’s Southside
to the Jewish Promised Land
of Beverly Hills, California

which at 1st wasn’t so different – 3rd story walkup apt,
kids playing in the alley and on the school ground,
nothing reeking of rich folk, more about
working parents wanting to give
their offspring the very best
public education possible

though that two thousand-plus mile drive from Chitown
to Olympic Blvd had less impact than the two miles
north bike trek where rich folk lived, where no one
played on the block or in the playground
because most everybody had backyards
lawns, swimming pools, tennis courts.

In Little League, a touch guy who played 3rd base
on our Indians was always in and out of trouble.
Gene* never said much but turned out his dad
was a fast-talking lawyer at the epicenter
of almost everything of consequence
in the LA show business industry…

Here we are over six decades later, and his surname’s
flashed on Rodeo Drive letterhead of the glitziest law
firm representing The Prez’ [idle?] threat against
Michael Wolff’s Fire & Fury: Inside The Trump
White House. Now is he a coy Bitcoin Russian
money-launder ne’er-do-well sorta made good?

*Last but not given name changed to protect the innocent

……………………………………………………………………………..*****

  1. Dear Santa By Way Of AstraZeneca,

Though this doc never believed in Tooth Fairies or you, now that molar’re falling out (plus hair)after a lifetime’s pipe-smoking — bowls at first filled with tobacco then another kushier kind of weed
I imagined a healthier toke — please leave under the tree an eternity’s worth of Anti–Programmed Death:

“This phase 3 study compared the anti–programmed death ligand 1 antibody durvalumab as consolidation therapy with placebo in patients with stage III NSCLC* who did not have disease progression after two or more cycles of platinum-based chemoradiotherapy.

Progression-free survival was significantly longer than with placebo. The secondary end points also favored durvalumab, and safety was similar between the groups.(Funded by AstraZeneca; PACIFIC ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT02125461.)”**

Unfortunately, it’s just a little late since the first love of my life died of this sixteen years ago.

*Non-Small-Cell Lung Carcinoma ** N Engl J Med; 377:1919-1929 November 16, 2017

……………………………………………………………………………………*****

Crying the Banns
by Maggie Mackay

Hattie, heavy with wedding plans,
looks out at Paisley Canal Street
as the train draws in, looks for
her signalman betrothed.
She speaks better than she writes,
spinning a pencilled letter to her dear Jim
with Mrs Love’s children around her feet
and house removals on her mind.
Try the firm at Sugar House Lane, she suggests.
The Glebe Refinery crosses her mind.
Raw sugar. Filter presses. Charcoal kilns.
Marriage – a mutchkin of sugar,
a filter press of tact, a kiln of hot affection.

…………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Ephemera
by Shirley Bell

My daughter found a fallen Blackbird nest in the garden when she was three years old, and carried it home enraptured, as though the mysteries of the universe had suddenly been unveiled to her. Her chubby little hands cupped around the thing and proffered it up for me to look, which I disinterestedly as her triumphant face beamed.

Bits of broken shell were stuck on the inside, snatches of feather, foil and what looked like a piece of bus ticket all woven in amongst the twigs. She placed it on the mantlepiece where it remained, protected furiously against threats of the bin, for years, until almost completely crumbled to dust, then we put it back at the bottom of the garden, in the same spot where it had been found.

Today the Sun is everywhere, everything is transparent, still, a mist clings to the earth, making a secret of it. From the mist rise trees like turreted castle ruins, like ancient things. In the sky a smoldering Autumn sun, one you can almost stare into. I hear the crick crack of crows waddling a noisy patrol up and down the cropped brown fields ahead. There are so many crows and ravens here, corvids, gulls, fat woodpigeons, and sometimes, if you’re quick sighted, a buzzard or a kite. I sit on a cagoule leaning against a gnarled Yew tree surrounded by tangled masses of withered foxglove, which slope exhaustedly earthward.

In the distance, the three bridges, layered and also misted, weave themselves into one indecipherable engineered mass and the sky arching above them quivers with gulls. Above the gulls an aeroplane flies a neat white streak across the skies vaulted blue. I hear a rustle in the trees, and then a squirrel darts out of the foxglove to my left, swiftly followed by a second. They chase each other frantically along the path, up and over the wall that runs around the field and then dart back into the undergrowth and up another tree, I hear them above me, they are everywhere at this time of year, playing tag and marking their territories before the Winter.

The trees are losing their leaves and revealing previously hidden crows nests, big tufted things, built into joints of the thickest branches. They add to them year after year, come back to the same place again and again if they raise chicks successfully. Eagles do the same; they add to the old nests each year, the pair bond over building, sometimes adding up to a meter in diameter or height each year, until one day, inevitably, the whole thing collapses under its own weight.

I don’t know why the word nest is used with such warmth and idealism linguistically, why the word ‘nest’ conjures in us such images of warmth and security when they are horribly open to the elements and so often fraught with folly. Sticks and spit and bits of metal and sheep wool pulled from fences, sometimes sweet wrappers and bits of silver foil, high and buffeted by wind and rain. And then to sit there determined and beleaguered, with chicks that want feeding endlessly, endlessly.

The pages of the notepad which sits on my lap flutter in the slight wind drawing my attention. I look down at what I have written;

To sink voluptuously into,

Inertia, while;

Silently and,

Impotently,

Grinding your teeth

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………That alone gives,

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….It birth and form;

………………………………………………………………………………………………………..he neurotic knows better,

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….How to take a stance;

……………………………………………………………………………………………………..Mother is an animal thing.

I am writing. Words scribbled on paper, purposeless, as yet, thoughts and ideas and half formed poems. They unfurl across the pages, fill notepads, a hurried lexicon, homeless words and phrases, all looking for somewhere to abide. Words like ‘trampled fantasies’ are written, and ‘Yom Kippur’ and there are things on previous pages which I don’t remember writing, for example;

I will build an imaginary house of all the rooms I have ever slept in.

And;

A poet is more suggestive than a philosopher.

And also;

I sit cross legged at the bottom of the swimming pool and scream fit to burst to see if anyone will hear.

I collect words and thoughts like a person might collect stamps or china, cup them in my hands like my daughter cupped the Blackbird nest. I am infested with words, fascinated by the parasitical things, we all are, language tethers us, without it we would be lost. With it we draw the essence of things from the shadows. I layer words like sticks and bits of wool and foil, press down with spittal and layer some more. Collect new words and thoughts and press them down with the others, and then there I sit, surrounded by them, not quite sure what to do next.

…………………………………………………………………,,,,,,,.*****


The Whipping Boy

by Tom Sastry

Dear Mish,

I tell people I had a brother who went away
and I mean you. I tell them my father
was cruel to him. I say we were friends.

I tell them about the night we stood
on top of the Black Hole Box, under the skylight.
I showed you which house was Joe’s.
You asked me what Joe’s house was like inside
so I gave you the piece of kitchen roll which Joe’s mother
had wrapped around the cake.
I could tell you loved it and I felt like a king.
Do you remember? It had pictures on.
You must have liked them
because when we went up again you showed me
the outlines of rabbits and cups in the stars.
This is hard for me to write but I think I showed you my space book
so you would know you were wrong
and you cried. I was so scared when you cried
I shouted at you to stop but you wouldn’t.
I shouted and shouted and I was crying too
so they came up and after a while
they asked if I would like it
if they sent you away and I said

yes.

I’m sorry.

I have not always had a good life.
I hope you have.

Your brother,

Rex

……………………………………………………………………………….*****

Yours, with love
by Vicky Allen

Dearest

Let me give you this gift
learn the liturgy of solitude:

Breathe in a sky-full of air
exhale until you are empty

linger in your emptiness

Sanctify yourself
with salt water

……taste how it stings and heals

Robe yourself for now
in blessed invisibility

……savour this

Anoint yourself
with a balm of peace

……dwell in this place

And finally
a benediction:

Go into the world
whole again

Yours, with love

……………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Yin Yang
by Gráinne Daly

Runny egg drips over a
hard boiled offering
that comes from somewhere
else ……..somewhere unknown
alien territory where white is
greenish-black and black is
opaline-sage and yes means
no, or maybe eadame beans
perhaps or pea shoots whatever,
whatever it is you want to
believe take and add a
sprinkling of maybe then
leave to set for a while
before accepting it is
unfathomable like the
O in airplane you want
to believe but it is just not
there. There is no way
of knowing why some things
are better boiled than fried
the reasons are all scrambled
anyway …………….any ….way
a way

…………………………………………………………………………………*****

Letter to my Mother-in-law
by Rosemary McLeish

I want you to know
that your son is the light of my life.
I know you won’t believe me –
You know as well as I do
how annoying he can be,
\with his secretive habits,
his archive of tapes,
his promises, promises,
his messy, untidy ways,
and we both know very well
he wouldn’t walk off with any
prizes in the sharp dresser department.
It’s no secret that
we’ve had our troubles,
and a marriage in which
many a cross word has been spoken,
and not only spoken, but repeated,
yelled, shrieked, hurled.

I know you had your hard times,
felt the cold edge of his disapproval,
put up with him moving on,
taking up his own life,
leaving you alone and lonely;
and I know that our ways
are not your ways.
Well, they’re not even our ways,
just a bit of his ways, a bit of my ways,
adding up to some weird byways
trying to find a give and take
to get us through the days.

But now that you are nearing
the end of your life,
and don’t see so well any more,
I just want you to see this:
your son is the light of my life.

………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Letters from Kleppe, Norway
August 1988
Gerry Stewart

Torpo was great,
67 of us from US, Italy, Thailand,
West Germany, Uruguay, Australia.
Like 66 brothers and sisters,
half you can’t understand.

I’ve learned a little of the language
Hvordan har du det? Jeg er fine.

I’m in Bryne, not far from Kleppe.
My family is on vacation.
My luggage made it fine,
only casualty my mirror.

Six hours to NY, thirty hours
to Brussels with time change,
six hours layover, two-hour trip to Oslo.
Three-hour bus ride.
Ten days later ten and a half
hours train ride to Bryne

I cannot wait to get home
and unpack for six months.

*

Er du bra? Eg er.
It gets the point across.

Things have been . . .
I don’t know a good word
but weird will do.

I met my family today.
We went to a beach
on the North Sea.
The girls went topless,
it’s normal here.
I didn’t. I don’t have the guts.

Far is in Poland,
don’t ask me what he’s doing there.
No one is able to explain.

They only have one channel here
it starts at 6.30 and goes to about 11.

I watched Rebel Without a Cause.

I came here and my picture
was sitting on the TV.
Instant family.

Don’t worry, I’m not homesick.
It’s hard to remember Iowa.
I haven’t forgotten you.
Clinton just seems
thousands of light years ago.

I can see you looking
for mail from me, biting your nails.

Mor is teaching me to knit.
Far is back,
nothing exciting in Poland.
Russian caviar
and Havana cigars cheap.

*

I start school tomorrow,
Bio, Chem, English, Norwegian.
Sorry, I’m not taking Spanish.

Send my winter coat.
No rush, still in the upper teens,
but I will be needing it.

Please quit making me feel guilty.
I’ve sent two letters already.
Yours make me feel like
I haven’t thought about you.
It takes about a week from here to there.

*

I’m eating cauliflower soup,
rhubarb soup, mashed kålrot (turnips)
mackerel. Weird things, not to bad.

It has been raining almost every day.

Tell Rick I got
his missing person’s report
I love it.

I shall be doing homework on Henrik Ibsen.
Reading Norwegian gives me a headache.

I ate pig’s feet today.
Isn’t that wild?

*

I’m starting a Hardy Boys book in Norsk.
It’s easier than my homework.
Some of my books are in Bokmål,
some in Nynorsk. I speak a mixture.
They speak Nynorsk here
but my dictionary is in Bokmål.

Television stinks here.
I’ve become addicted to Dynasty,
the only American series
they have besides Jessica Fletcher.
The Saturday night movie is the best.

I better go Bergerac (Britisk crime show) is on.

Rick, the people here
are more advanced than we thought.
they go to school, eat with silverware,
even have indoor plumbing.
We’ve underestimated these Norwegians.

Anything exciting happening?
Doubt it. Clinton is about the same as Kleppe.
Instead of sitting on the dyke for fun
here they go to diskoteks.

*

School is getting easier
I keep looking up the same words,
after a while I finally remember them.
Speaking is different.

We had a field trip in Biologi,
tramping around the skogen (woods)
Collected bugs, plants and dirt.
don’t ask me why.

September
Thanks for the shoes,
but thanks more
for what you wrapped it in.
Nice to sit and actually read
the newspaper.

Maybe you’ll get this humour
In Norsk lemming is lemen,
imagine a lemon with hands and feet.
The snowmouse hunts lemmings,
imagining him screwing up his face
because they are sour,
thousands of lemons jumping into the sea.
We were dying laughing.

I hate Norsk class, the teacher is boring
My Historie teacher is funny.
He’s been to the USA a couple of times
and thinks he knows everything,
brings it up every class but never asks me a thing.

I took a test in Biologi,
first question how to stop erosion,
stupid question for someone from Iowa.
I answered it all in Norsk,
four pages worth.

If Rick gets a chance
have him send some Dead Baby
or Grosser than Gross jokes.

Instead of senior pictures
we have Russkort,
cards with our pictures
and a funny saying.
Mine says, Hvis du forstår meg ikkje,
bare smile. Eg ikkje forstår du heller.

A boy asked me if I was going
to the Pig Party in November,
a party where we bury a pig’s head.
The poor guy had a lot of trouble
explaining it to me in engelsk.

I’m getting so I can’t even think in engelsk.
My spelling has got worse,
if that’s humanly possible.

*

Have you ever wondered
what the American Dream is?
Kitty Dukakis was on TV,
saying how everyone wants one.
I thought, I’m American
and I don’t even know what it is.
Does anyone?

We went up to the mountains.
I took pictures, don’t worry.
We kind of went off the road.

Did I ever fight with you a lot?
I mean rebel against everything you said?
My siblings fight constantly.
I sit between them
because they can’t sit next to each other
without bickering.
Rick and I were never that bad, were we?

*

Please have Rick call Grandma,
she’s giving me the guilt trip,
‘Ricky hasn’t called me’.
She wants to know if my family
have taken me to church.
I almost wrote back
‘No, I don’t believe in God anymore’
but that would give her a coronary.
Don’t say anything.
To anyone, word gets around.
If she finds out, I’ll feel terrible.
She’s the only one who writes besides you.
All the rest of my family
drop off the face of the earth?
Pass it on.

A lot of cute guys here,
dark hair and eyes.
You don’t have to worry
about me running off
with a tall blond, just a tall brunette.

I actually raised my hand in class today,
talking about the A-bomb
on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Unfortunately, I had a minor panic attack,
just enough to make me stutter and blush.

There’s a trip to England but I don’t think I’ll go,
900 kroner, litt over 120 dollars.
Not worth it, I want to save up for Bergen
and the mid-year stay.

Everybody went nuts in Lillehammer
when they won the OL for 1994.

This weekend we going to visit
farfar and farmor,
isn’t it a neat way to say
grandfather and grandmother.

I hope you mailed my coat,
it’s starting to get chilly.
The sun isn’t up
when I go to school at 7.30

I’ve been spending a lot of time alone,
with mor and far working,
with the kids’ games and practices.
Doesn’t matter, it gives me time
to talk to myself in peace

I don’t try to talk much in norsk,
it takes so much effort.
I’m also getting used to
not understanding a thing
in conversations.
I blank them out
because if I listen and translate
I usually get a headache.

………………………………………………………………………….*****

Anne Pierrepoint (née Fletcher)
Wife of Albert Pierrepoint, 1945
by Natalie Scott

His next letter rests peacefully
on the mantelpiece, officially
stamped and sealed in black
like the news poised inside.

He’s only just told me his secret
but really I rumbled him long ago.
I unearthed his thick black ledger
with all those names and particulars

scribed ever-so-carefully in straight
and regular lines. I pretended it was
a book of condolences at first
but the hard facts breathed out.

After those times away he always
comes home with a hunger and I
always have his favourite ready.
Then he sleeps like a full tankard.

His money tin’s beginning to swell
and I have plans for our future. We
will invest in a public house and I’ll
be landlady, keeping things steady

while he does his duty. Better
than delivering groceries, surely.
He’s the quickest in the country
– did he tell you that? Hanged

a man in seven seconds. He takes
such pride in doing a decent job.
But it’s brass tacks with us only.
Down to me mostly. If I know so much

that I can sketch pictures of them
in my mind, I am surely unlikely
to ever get it back. It’s best that way.
No, I never, never ask any questions.

Hush now, I hear his key in the lock.
Don’t let on that you know anything.
He hates people knowing what he does.
I’ll just put that letter back where it was.

………………………………………………………………………………….*****

 

Fred Pethick-Lawrence
Husband of Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence: she was
Guilty of conspiracy – sentenced to 9 months, 1912
by Natalie Scott

I see you, dearest Em, lying
on that corpse bed in Holloway,
the walls closing in on your thinning body,
and I want to revisit that time when
I fell in love with a gloveless woman who
jumped prematurely off buses.
A woman whose name I took
as my own, to be as much
a part of her clan as she was mine.

Society calls me a hen-pecked husband
because it refuses to understand
my mind. Sexism makes my ordeal
in prison unnoteworthy, expected,
certainly not a martyrdom. Though
I suffer the same pain and exultation
I’m not supposed to
express either of them.

So I’ll remain stoic
until my release
counting my fingers
and thumbs, taking comfort
in numbers and imagining,
dearest Em,
your sweet, darling face.

Fred received the same sentence as Emmeline and was imprisoned at Brixton.
He was force-fed twice a day for more than ten consecutive days.

…………………………………………………………………………..*****

May Caroline, Duchess of Sutherland
Guilty of contempt of court – sentenced to six weeks, 1893
by Natalie Scott

A social climber, moi? I sell your papers, do I not?
Your creative juices flow, do they not, each time you

think of what I did? The next salacious headline dripping
from your lips. Does it not pay your wages? It’s not my

fault he fell for me. I’m easy to love, am I not? It’s not my
fault that a man far more tender and powerful than

you granted me the power. (That’s the only way women
can get it, you know.) I was made executor of the will.

Should I have disobeyed my beloved’s last wishes?
The family jewels were left to me and they didn’t like it.

It must have been a mistake. “Why would Father pin a
legacy onto a woman so far, far, far down the chain?”

Was I not the victim here? Yes, I did destroy the letter.
The law doesn’t protect people skilled enough to

write things that may or may not be true. They are
always taken as fact when the time comes. Is this not

a miscarriage of justice? You would sell your soul
to know what it contained. A murderous plot or just

a string of obscenities? Either way you would be
satisfied. Does that not make you worse than I?

You have lust in your eyes for my suffering in this
dungeon, mixing with commoners. Imagine me,

with tears pricking my eyes, slipping out of his late wife’s
underwear and donning a pair of knickers stained

from the last inmate. Well, dream on, red-faced boy…
I’m First Division! I have a veritable palace, with articles

specially selected: couch, curtains, mirrors, flowers.
Surrounded by dainty things. I dine courtesy of caterers.

Satisfy my healthy appetite thrice daily. I see whom I
want when I want. It seems unfair, does it not? So take
it up with the authorities! Or have you lost your

vigour for fighting now? A social climber. Let’s see.
If you want to call me that, do. Because there is no

suitably fitting epithet for a woman who falls
in love with a man who fully deserves her, despite

their differences in station. But, do try to remember,
it’s more difficult climbing a ladder wearing a dress.

……………………………………………………………………………*****
Official Letter Format
by Natalie Scott

Official Letter 2 (1)

Official Letter 2
……………………………………………………………..*****
Edith Thompson

Guilty of murder – sentenced to death by hanging, January 9th 1923 at 9am
by Natalie Scott

Once upon a time I used to dream
of fairy tales. I wanted to be
a Bluebeard damsel, not seeing
what I would suffer to be saved.

Happily ever after.

Percy was my Bluebeard. I loved
his power at first but it turned to bruises
that wouldn’t whiten. “Only husbands
get divorces Mrs Thompson.”

Happily ever after.

Freddie was my knight storming the castle.
I’d fed him with tales of wifely woe
so he’d slay the beast and catch me
fainting in his arms.

Happily ever after.

I didn’t think he’d actually do it.
Foolish boy kept my letters. So here I am,
about to join Percy in Hell. Let’s see
who burns blackest.

Happily ever after.

But, you see, they won’t hang me.
…………..They can’t as I’m heavier now.
I’ll get a stay. Yes, it’s Freddie’s.
…………..And I was sick with it yesterday.

Happily

………………….ever
……….
…………………………………
after.

That’s me.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Granny Bridget’s Telegram    
by Sheila Jacob           

She kept it on the mantelpiece,
slotted so neatly between
her rent book, kitchen clock
and wadge of Co-op receipts
it might have arrived
with last week’s gas bill

not in December 1939,
her fingers wet and swollen
from peeling potatoes
as she grumbled to the door
and opened it to a stranger
in a postman’s uniform.

One Sunday visit, she waved
a fold of flimsy paper
into my hands. I knew its story.
How Dad caught pneumonia
in the War and was given
the Last Rites. Gran expected

the worst until an Irish nurse
tucked a Lourdes medal under
his pillow. His breathing eased
and Doctors said  He’ll live!
Post-War, T.B.almost destroyed
one lung but that afternoon,

Dad hadn’t coughed for months
and praised my reading skills.
regret to inform you. son
seriously ill. come at once.
Should I have kept silent?
Gran snatched back the telegram.

Custodian of his past and arbiter
of a future she’d foreseen,
perhaps. A morning six summers
on when he’d send for her and cry
out from his bed  Mom, don’t let
them take me to hospital.

……………………………………………………………………………*****

Golden Eagle
by Liz Mills

Dear Golden Eagle,

You won’t remember me, the little girl.
In fact I doubt if you even saw us
as we sat in the car without a sound
or a muscle moved as we looked at you.

I remember it well, how large you were
with that great hooked beak which could tear
my flesh as easily as it could crush a mouse,
and bear it away to your needy young.

On that post, you looked so strong and regal
a foot from where, with bated breath, I gazed.
Each feather a testament to your name,
as you rested there with unblinking eyes.

Then all at once, you left without a sound,
so we, like the fieldmice, could breathe once more.

………………………………………………………………………….*****

From a Letter to a Friend in New Mexico
by Lorraine Caputo

It is now evening ….

Since last night
……it has seemed it was going to rain
……with the clouds gathering into blankets
But this late morning / early afternoon
……sometimes the sun came burning through
…………..drying the thoughts away ….

The ground is brittle
……the brush dry
Limbs shatter at the lightest touch

For the past few hours
……a gentle rain has been falling
Lightning pulses almost endlessly
……across the sky
…………..silent lightning
… There is no thunder …

How are the lightning storms
……there in the desert of New Mexico?
Is it as silent ashere?

The night I left Austin for México
……torrential rain flooded the streets
………lightning endless
……………………..endless
…………..& still the silence …

In Missouri
……the heavens seem to be ripping apart
…………when the storms come …
The lightning sharply tears at the sky
The thunder cracks in great explosions

I have had many truck drivers tell me
……that nothing compares to
……….the intensity of
…………..Midwest / Great Plains storms

P.S. After I wrote these lines
…….I drifted on the rays of night
……….into the Dreamworld
….Then I was shaken
…….the very foundations of this house
…………were shaken
……..by thunder

First published in River King Poetry Supplement (Spring 1998)

…………………………………………………………………………….*****

Into the Shadows
by Lorraine Caputo

Nuu-Cháh-Nulth woman
………………………Nuu-Cháh-Nulth woman
………….Nuu-Cháh-Nulth woman
You, my Spirit sister
there
in sepia tones
you confidently paddle
your canoe
along the West Coast
of Vancouver Island
there
you gather berries & fishes
for your village
you carry messages
to another village

…………..Nuu-Cháh-Nulth woman
Into the shadows
of a reed-bedded cove
you paddle alone
your hair laying wild
down your back
your lean muscles
working first one side
then the other

Nuu-Cháh-Nulth woman
…………..Mr. Curtis
captured your Spirit
many moons ago
on this postcard
I send my blood sister
only a moon away

Nuu-Cháh-Nulth woman
You paddle
across the shadow miles
carrying my message
from my village
to the village
of my sister

………………………………………………………………………………………*****

Climbing the Outer Range
by Lorraine

I.
Climbing
climbing
over the rocky ground,
through stands of aspen, willow & birch
miniaturized by the
cold long winters,
short cool summers,

Winding,
switching
back & forth,
back & forth
across the tundra landscape,
permafrost crunching
beneath my feet.

II.
Over on a protected slope
of a small valley,
a patch of snow,
dirty with earth, willow leaves
sinking into its surface,
dully gleams
in the bright evening sun.

I walk cautiously towards it,
stoop, put my bare hand
upon that surface—
Gently, gently
it melts slightly
beneath my warmth.

To grab a handful
of this iciness, to mold it
into a dense ball
& throw it to the wind …
I fight the temptation

III.
In the growing shadow of clouds,
I sit atop schist mounds
on this ridge to the mountain top.
The wind is strong & chilling.

I think of when I last touched snow—
Was it when Sarah & I left
that cold, rainy December morn,
hitching from Missouri to the Mexican border,
in our search for Quito
almost two years ago?
Had it snowed before we left?
I do not remember …

I think of you, Sarah,
how you would be grinning
atop this ridge,
taking in the wind, the valley
below, the mountains beyond
& wanting to go on, to go on,
wanting to wait
& become one
with this landscape.

…………………………………………………………………………………*****

Yet in my Words
by Lorraine Caputo

The silence of
this midnight hour, the
vallenatos abed,
all asleep & I
yet in my words

Silence … except
that cool wind now
& again
breezing past,
crinkeling the
bronzed mango leaves

I thought
perhaps it presaged
a rain to come
to wash this courtyard,
my dreams

But yet the stars
shimmer in that
charcoal sky,
comets whizz
around our earth,
Mars bright crimson

This night the dreams
are eluding me,
restlessness, urgency
driving me to be
yet in my words

……………………………………………………………………………….*****

Firewood
by Johanna Boal

As I gazed into the flames of the fire,
surrounded by home comforts needs
an image was presented to me.
A dark, dark wood,
with a cottage and a big bad wolf
the wolf had a letter in his hand
words where typed very clearly in bold
EVICTION NOTICE- BY ORDER
Granny got her glasses, popped them on her face
at first, she could not quite believe
because legend had it, the big bad wolf was vicious
ate everything in sight, she eyed him more
he did after all, looked a little bit like that tale.
Reading it said-
I HEARBY GIVE YOU NOTICE OF 28 DAYS
TO LEAVE THESE PREMISES,
“What, what!” granny muttered to herself.
The wolf stood grinning, enterprising, not like in that fable
his big canine teeth, sparkled in the dark, dark wood
the salvia, drooled to the top of his lip,
then dripped on to his powerful chest and shoulders.
“I have lived here forever, happily,
you can’t make me go,
and besides, it was me, who had some say of the planting of these trees.”
“I am sorry it is progress.” The wolf replied.
“Well times have changed,
Look at you all proper and dapper in that blue suit.”
“If my granddaughter with her red cloak was here
you’d go all weak at the knees.”
This notice says, you are going to build a road,
granny pointed to the trees and said-
“These Oaks and Beeches, will probably be fine furniture,
The Silver Birch, floorboards and rafters,
The Larches, Spruces sold at the timber yard,
Willow, Hazel, a garden fence
and the scraps that are left over,
bark and sawdust made into mulch,
for some national garden, making a path to their woods”
“But we have negotiated a plan for you.” The big bad wolf said.
“You can choose any of this wood here,
To build a brand new, top of the range house, for you
with easy access to this road we will build.”
Granny gestured with her arms and said,
“But surely you won’t use all of the woods?”
“We will, the rest will be firewood.” The cunning wolf said.

…………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Oh, and So You Know…
by Steve Urwin

I have emptied our
savings account,
shagged your brother
and chucked a

brick through the
windscreen of your
beloved Toyota.
I don’t want your

forgiveness –
I enjoyed every
second, you two-
timing rat!

…………………………………………………………………………………*****

Wings
by Akankshya Pradhan

That caterpillar, so frail, not too frisky,
On the base, worming with
sluggish pace, from one
end of time to other;
Bespoken to be sucking the benefits,
A parasite, reliant on other,
An object of ignorance,
An object to be detested,
Its deformed body,
Its protruding eyes,
Its tiny hair of inquisitiveness,
Engendering the awful
sense of touch;

Swamped with melancholia
and despair, hemmed in.
a room, pupating;
In the fullness of time, a taste
of cognizance and discernment,
Growing into a butterfly,
Jutting out its wings
of ambition and acuity,
Triumphing over the meadows,
Over the multifarious hearts,
Inclusive of a slice of
the majestic sky.

…………………………………………………………………….*****

Sonnet in Infinitives
by Yuan Changming

To be………………….. a matter when there’s no question
Or not to be……….. a question when nothing really matters

…………..To sing ……………….with a frog squatting straight
On a lotus leaf in the Honghu Lake….. near Jingzhou

To recollect all the pasts, and mix them
Together like a glass of …….cocktail

…………..To build………………….. a nest of meaning
Between two broken branches on …..Ygdrasil

To strive ……….for deity
…………………………………….Longevity …….and
…………………………………………………..Even happiness

To come …………..on and off line every other while

To compress ……consciousness into a file, and upload it
….Onto a nomochip

…………………………….To be………….. daying,.. to….. die

………………………………………………………………………….*****

Towards Enlightenment
by Yuan Changming

With a storm
With a gull
With your breath

Goes the thought
With a vague vision
Beyond the bogland

With your heart
Hawking aloud in the wild
With dripping blood

An unformed concept
A shoal of consciousness
Bubbling with feeling

With a photon
With a quantum
With your mind concentrated
On a twisted other

…………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Monody to the Murmuring Mountain
by Yuan Changming

Twenty minimeters of pink petals.

Twenty minimetres of stretch and reach
…………………………Floral foil, twenty minimeters
………………………………………..Of soil, grass, dew, bush

Sitting in green meditation about

……………………..The balance between yin and yang

Myriad of leaves,
………………………..Falling down with mists

………….Of last night approaching – twenty minimeters

Of ethereal presence, kissing
…………………………The thick ridges – is the soul

…………………The melody of equanimity?
Insects sloughing off

In chameleon-rhythms.
………………You stopped as you heard them

Twenty minimeters of dandelions rolling against
………………………..The vastness of sky and mountain

…………………………………………………………………………*****

Cracking
by Yuan Changming

Between two high notes
The melody gives a crack
………………………Long enough
To allow my entire selfhood to enter
Like a fish jumping back
Into the night water

……………Both the fish and I leave no
Trace behind us, and the world
Remains undisturbed as we swim
Deeper and deeper in blue silence

Upon my return, I find the music
………Still going on, while the fish has
Disappeared into the unknown

…………………………………………………………………………………*****

Directory of Destiny (2): A Wuxing Poem
– Believe it or not, the ancient Chinese 5-Agent Principle accounts for us all.

by Yuan Changming

1/ Water (born in a year ending in 2 or 3)
-helps wood but hinders fire; helped by metal but hindered by earth
with her transparent tenderness
coded with colorless violence
she is always ready to support
or sink the powerful boat
………………………..sailing south

2/ Wood (born in a year ending 4 or 5)
-helps fire but hinders earth; helped by water but hindered by metal
rings in rings have been opened or broken
like echoes that roll from home to home
each containing fragments of green
trying to tell their tales
…………………..from the forest’s depths

3/ Fire (born in a year ending 6 or 7)
-helps earth but hinders metal; helped by wood but hindered by water
your soft power bursting from your ribcage
as enthusiastic as a phoenix is supposed to be
when you fly your lipless kisses
you reach out your hearts
………………………..until they are all broken

4/ Earth (born in a year ending in 8 or 9)
-helps metal but hinders water; helped by fire but hindered by wood
i think not; therefore, I am not
what I am, but I have a color
the skin my heart wears inside out
tattooed intricately
…………….with footprints of history

5/ Metal (born in a year ending in 0 or 1)
-helps water but hinders wood; helped by earth but hindered by fire
he used to be totally dull-colored
because he came from the earth’s inside
now he has become a super-conductor
for cold words, hot pictures and light itself
…………….all being transmitted through his throat

………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Dear Father Andrew,
by Julie Galosy

It has been a very long time since we’ve spoken. Not just that, it’s been a lived-life since I was the little girl squealing in delight when you tossed me over your head. I still cherish those feelings about you. They are disassociated now from the child- tossing; they’re just strong feelings on their own. You were always the first choice in our family: The first choice for advice; The first choice for comfort; The first choice for explanation and truth-seeking.

Somehow you are still the first choice, though things have changed. The years have been full. I did finally get to play many roles in life: wife, mother, scholar. All of the usual boxes were ticked—marriages (two), children (three) dogs (two), education, travel, charitable works, civil disobedience, and some real adventures. Turns out I am an adventurous soul, who knew? You might have noticed I didn’t check religion in my list of boxes. It used to be there. It was there when you threw me to the heavens. It was there when you were the first choice. Not now. It decayed and blew away.

The first hint of the illness that would kill it came in North Carolina where I was one of the values workshop teachers for a human sexuality class. We were going to focus on rape that week and the four of us grad school students met to discuss how we were going to grapple with the topic. One of the students, Tom, was 34, older than the rest of us, with a wife and kids, he’d entered grad school mid-career. His age is important to this story.

In the middle of our planning he suddenly began sobbing. No amount of comfort reached him and we all emotionally withdrew to respect his privacy–or maybe not. Maybe we were just uncomfortable with the grown man crying among us. Finally the sobs subsided. He recounted the now-familiar tale of being raped repeatedly at ten years of age by his much-worshipped parish priest. Covered in the mist of sanctity, dressed for the sacraments with his earthly spiritual father, he was still not safe. Instead of the nameless legions of boys marching through the abused ranks of the last years—this was Tom. He had been married happily for sixteen years. He had three beautiful children.

He’d worked two jobs to put himself through undergrad and now grad school—all with an anvil weighing on his heart. Our discussion had unlocked the chains of his private hell. The demons of guilt and shame and betrayal imprisoned there for the last 24 years came pouring out at that minute. Unable to fathom what had happened to him at the hands of God’s representative on earth, he’d shut down. No one ever knew. Until now.

But as I said, Father Andrew, Tom was just the first whom I actually knew. I had a friend who walked this path from another angle. She was involved from the legal side in Ireland, unearth what happened when horrified parents, unable to get sustenance from their spiritual leaders, turned to their legal system for help. Not even justice, father, just help to stop the plague from ravishing the trust and innocence of their young boys.

This work went on for five years, peeling back layer after layer of artifice, justifications and obfuscation, as the Church tried desperately to bury the truth under an avalanche of conspiracy, while all the time nurturing a sheltered path for these priests to move on and vampire the virgin peace of new victims. The tales would put Poe to shame.

That’s not even the end of it, father. Are you getting uncomfortable with this letter? Do you want to put it down, to throw it away? That is exactly what the church did to the young people who sought refuge within its professed beliefs.

There is more, of course. The Magdalenes in Ireland, the poor girls whose parents, instructed by Mother Church, didn’t discuss the sex act with their daughters, until the fruits of those fumblings in the dark sentenced them to incarceration in convents across Ireland. How long did they get to be washer-women while the church sold their children, or worse, let the bastards die?

Stop. Stop. I have to stop now. So sorry there is no stronger word than “incredulity” no more powerful emotional response than “outrage” and “anger.” These are mere whispers in the deafening blast of disbelief in the extent to which an unfeeling church protected the worst and trampled the least.

I don’t really know why I am writing now. Perhaps I miss the halcyon days of purity, joy, safety and innocence: being tossed in the air in a starburst of giggles. Instead, I feel I, and all of us, have been dashed to the ground just when we expected to be lifted up.

Missy

………………………………………………………………………….*****

Letters from School
by Steve May

Dear Stephen,
What some people do to get extra attention! What a boy!
I had a completely miserable day and night on Wednesday,
until I heard that you had had a good night and were on the way to recovery.
The boys are writing to you and intend to send you something.
They do not want the girls to join in; so don’t think it’s the girls who are mean.
As a treat, we had another musical comedy yesterday, called “The Sound Of Music”.
. I told them the story and the record gave them the music.
You should have seen Fred’s face, or better still you should not,
as it was enough to make the cat laugh.; sheer boredom
and of course he managed to get a few others bored too.
Yours with love,
A Tillman

How much longer for that clock
to reach
………………the hour?
Why does it tick
……………………….so much slower
than the one on the mantelpiece at home?
I’d like to pull that big hand round,
just give it a little help
to get where it wants to go.

Dear Stephen,
I have a joke for you to tell your mum:
If it took a chicken an hour to eat a plate of eggs,
How long would it take to eat a heap of sawdust?
I give up. So did the chicken.
Yours sincerely,
Paul Whitehead.

How come my mum’s
never first
………………..in the queue?
As they all pour through the door,
I scan each face in the rush and tear,
with a nagging fear that she won’t be there;
but she always is, with a smile,
a bag of treats, a new toy
and news from those who seem
so distant now.

Dear Stephen,
At school we have been praying for you to get better soon.
The boys in the class are saving up to buy you a present.
Mrs Tillman made Fred stand by the boiler with a handkerchief on his head yesterday.
Yours faithfully, 
Anthony.

So many wires and tubes,
it’s hard
…………….to move.
Watching pale yellow pus
ooze bubbling from
……………………………a plastic tube,
through a hole in my stomach.
It’s called,
getting all the bad
……………………………….out of me.

Dear Stephen,
We had another musical comedy yesterday, but Fred wasn’t keen.
Best wishes,
Christopher Hegarty.

So this is what it’s like
deep inside,
……………………..under the skin.
I’m opened up; the bad comes out
and something new goes in;
clear stuff that looks like water,
that’s supposed to make the bad go faster.
How much longer for the bad
to all
………..come out?

Dear Stephen,
I and all the other people in the class hope that you will be out of hospital before Christmas.
Every night I kneel down by the side of my bed and say a prayer for you.
Yours faithfully,
Andrew Parker.

As hours, days
weeks
…………..crawl past,
it’s Christmas; another target missed;
complications, apparently.
The Sally Army’s here and nurses, dressed
in festive drapes, trying hard
to supply what everyone’s missing.

Dear Stephen,
Pity you were away on Monday because we had a great game of soccer.
Mrs Tillman is going to let us have extra football on Monday.
Your pal,
Fred.

Football,
my new-learned craze;
a pile of football monthlies and annuals,
kicking around
in the bedside cabinet,
whetting the appetite.
At least the tubes are out now
and I can just about move.

This new world,
where muscled gods
ran, dribbled, tackled and shot
bolts of lightning across
a vivid green backdrop.

Subutteo dreams
On that pitch of green baize.
I’ll be Coventry,
If my pal Fred’ll let me.

………………………………………………………………………………………*****

The Last Morning
by Anca Segall

She lay delicate, brittle, dried.

Gone only if I forget her kiss
a timid peck, but warm.

She tethered me to family
with knots made of letters
on flimsy paper, syllables woven
into a shroud of memories.

Behind us, we left soup bowls: a lone
carrot pale in thin broth, wilted
parsley moored on a potato, gristle
and a chicken neck, floating, its skin
peeled bare to the bones and sparse meat.

She would fill the tube of neck skin
with flour and giblets, seasoned it
with salt and pepper, with every Sabbath meal.

Immobile, a symbol now.

Then came the stranger: packed her
into a vinyl envelope, zipped
the body safely in, a letter
I know not to whom

as dreams, hopes, yearning, compassion,
anger,
everything
escaped, the last bit of vapor
through the teeth of the zipper.

For Naumi I. Segall, 1924-2012

……………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Shell Beach, Shark Bay, Western Australia
by Mantz Yorke

Ruffled, the sea has swilled away
part of the initials and the heart
carefully embossed at the edge
of the long white cockleshell beach.
Is N loved by F or E? I can’t tell,
nor will anyone crunching after me
across these shells. Ridges above
tell of the reconstructive power
lurking in the sea: there’s no chance
this truncated affinity will survive.
Shell Beach Initials.JPG

…………………………………………………………………………………*****

Keeping in Touch
by Ann Howells

I catch her reflection
in splashy parrot tulips,
perfect wax camellias,
furl and fall of iris,
touch gently the oak Hoosier cabinet —
her wedding gift —
and four flow-blue bowls
left from dinnerware dropped
as she cleared a family table.

Hers, now mine.

I know her, too, in intricate crochet
spilling from her hands as I sat
swaddled in stories: her girlhood,
house on the hill,
two sisters, four brothers.

Letters to her are written in whispers,
return unanswered.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Dearest Annie,
by Ann Howells

I don’t expect you had rain down there in Texas
last week, but we had a terrible storm on Thursday!
It toppled an eighteen-wheeler on Morgantown bridge,
right at the very top. I know how you feel about that bridge!
You always told us, Sit down and shut up!
every time you pulled onto it. Nobody dared say a word;
even the kids kept quiet. Anyway,
there was news footage of the cab dangling in mid-air
over the side. They had to call in a crane to move it.
I wish I had a picture – you could put it in the album
with those shots you took last summer down at Lizzie’s.
Jack has been sick, just a cold, but you know how he is.
He’s sure it’s pneumonia, and Lizzie is waiting on him
like he’s some Grand Pooh-Bah.
(And that’s what I say to him: Pooh! Bah!)
But, you know how men are when they’re under the weather.
Lena’s lemon-coconut cake took another blue ribbon
at the county fair. I think this is the fourth year in a row,
and her show of modesty grows less and less convincing.
Mae-Anne came in second, again. She puts on a brave face.
I’ve been copying those recipes you wanted
from Grandma’s cookbook –
she did have a lovely handwriting, didn’t she?
I’m enclosing the ones for streusel cake and bread pudding
but can’t seem to find the one for that mocha frosting
Dee likes so much. I’ll check the little scraps
tucked down between the pages when I have more time.
Write when you get a chance. I long for news
from the Great State of Texas.
Miss you ever so much,
………………………………….Jo-rie
P.S. Jamie and Delores said to say “hi.” Jamie got a drone
for his birthday and has been terrorizing the neighbors.
I expect someone will shoot it down sooner or later;
either that or we’ll get a visit from the police. Won’t George
be pleased when that happens!

…………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Word from New England
by Ann Howells

I’ve received a letter from Chris –
yhhis familiar script as full of loops
and wide angles as his conversation.
My photo, he says, hangs on his wall
between Russell Crowe and Jesus,
and I think that a good place
for one who twists on a thread of her own making
between sacred and profane.

He’s left Connecticut; settled in Vermont
among congenial people:
visual artists, sculptors, a few poets.
Bought an electric fan, Anglican prayer beads,
met a plumber named Mike.
Six poems enclosed: new work
that rests easily on me,
a down-filled duvet to cushion or enfold.

Outside a weary windmill barely spins,
yhprehensive weathervane fidget
alert to any shift of inconstant wind.
Chris sends a T-shirt from Julio’s in Montpelier;
I bake brownies to mail after the holiday.
We trade comfort for comfort:
he, my open shutter on the world;
I, his anchor to the familiar, the safe.

……………………………………………………………………..*****

My Dear Ms. Nature
by Ann Howells

………………….As a fervent fan, I hesitate to bring this up. I admit you’ve done a splendid job rolling out lush carpets of bluebonnets, selecting agates’ thousand scintillating shades, raising delicately fringed pine forests — not to mention coordinating our western landscapes with a delicate and muted palette, even including a fragrant, sage-scented breeze. Several summers ago, however, you presented us with seventeen triple-digit days in a row, thirty-four all together. Now I don’t mean to point a finger, but these hot flashes of yours have become uncomfortable for the rest of us. You needn’t try to pass them off as global warming either. And your mood swings . . . Houston drowns in tears while Lubbock cries for moisturizer. Abilene wizens and withers. Crow’s feet develop around Midland, and bags form, dark and unsightly, beneath Lake Lavon. Gravity has taken its toll. The thickened mid-section around Dallas can no longer be passed off as urban sprawl! Your lethargy has extended spring into summer, summer into fall – seasons all out of whack. Perhaps you should plant a little black cohosh. Valerian. Plan a spa day. Invest in some B-12 shots or high colonics. Botox. Mud wraps. And dare I suggest a little nip and tuck? Darling, I wouldn’t even mention this but for the desire to keep your reputation elevated above mere tattle and gossip-mongering. Honestly, I’ve only your best interests at heart.
Sincerely,
……………….A. Texan

…………………………………………………………………………………*****

You Betrayed Her
by Rabi’atu Yakubu

Maybe being an only child indulged your belief that everything had to be the way you wanted it to be. You are to blame for Hassana’s death. Maybe you were not involved in the act, but you certainly were the catalyst. Do you see what your infatuation has caused? You must be seething that I did not start this letter according to your ‘standards.’ Are you wondering why I chose to write it? Do not bother yourself with inconsequential matters. Ah yes, I learned a new word. You must be proud. Do you blame yourself? No. I am certain that you think it’s Hassana’s fault.

I am well aware that you chose Hassana and I as your friends because we were naïve enough to seek your approval. She trusted you. She loved you. Why did you betray her?

Remember how her body was shaking with anxiety? I do. Remember how I had to hold on to her shivering body so my warmth could calm her down? I saw the disbelief in your eyes, but I hoped that I had imagined it. She was a scared seventeen year old, a fragile mess. You betrayed her.

Did you really think that it was a smart thing to do? Must your verdict always be the truth? Are your feelings superior to that of others?

She said she was sad, life had no meaning anymore, she wanted to end it and she needed our help. Her voice broke as she narrated the story, and we cried, do you remember that? Your face blew up like a balloon, puffy. It had been occurring for five years, she said, and now she was pregnant. I could see the judgment in your eyes. Shockingly, when we were leaving Hassana’s house and we saw the culprit coming in, you bent so low to greet him that I assumed you wanted to converge with the floor, ah yes, converge, another new word. You liked to taunt me didn’t you? “Oh Saima, read more books, expand your vocabulary. You are so dull, so predictable,”

When we entered the car, you said you did not believe Hassana, Uncle Sadiq had been kind enough to accept Hassana as his child when he married her mother. I asked why you cried, you answered that you were crying for the poor man, whose good name was about to be destroyed. I knew you had a crush on him, but I did not expect it to mess with your brain. How could you dismiss the honesty in Hassana’s eyes? I wondered as we drove away, then I realized how stupid we had been, leaving Hassana when we saw Uncle Sadiq going in. She was alone in the house. You refused to drive me back to the house so I could be with her.

What possessed you to do what you did? I saw you both. I overheard you over the phone informing him. I am so sorry, you said, she is being so ungrateful to all that you have done for her. Then you said you loved him. I heard you Zainab, I did.

I had my doubts when I heard that Hassana had ended her life. Your text, warning me to keep my knowledge of her pregnancy confirmed my fears. Did you help him? Or did you do it all by yourself? I will find out the truth. Be prepared, because I am not letting this go.

………………………………………………………………………………………*****

The Heart in Winter
by Eugene McCaffrey

She entered into the diligence
required of those who live on,
counting the small change of life,
putting out the bins, alone,
when Wednesdays would arrive
unattended and unheralded,
bearing no gifts, leaving no calling card,
no invitations to the dance.

A scuffle of pigeons in the eaves,
a scratching and cooing,
a flutter of wings against weatherboard,
roused her from sleep, stealing her from
a girlish dream of teenage summers:

…she was walking by the lakeside again,
past crowded stems of olive bulrushes,
staring down at the fierce yellow florets
amidst the heart-shaped water lily palms,
lain supplicant at the lakeside,
the blue-berried blackthorn
growing by the dusty towpath
drowsy with sleepy bees…

The kitchen clock dissected the hours
of gloomy, eventless, letterfree mornings,
wind tussling clothes on the line
aimlessly, like a browsing shopper
sifting through secondhand smalls,
a congregation of thick clouds
processing slowly across the November sky
during the afternoon recessional,
the trees fringing the park
shivering in their flimsy garb
of shattered leaves.

She eased herself up the ladder,
into the cold, woody smells of the loft,
her torch roving over bundles and boxes,
until she found the cord, jerking it
to drench everything in cold white light:
the dusty tinsel and boxed ceramics,
the little stacks of framed prints,
the camphor-musty clothes trunks,
the boxed books and stale souvenirs.

And in the tea chest, muffled in layers
of moth-balled blankets,
she found the shoebox of love letters,
nestling as if in hibernation,
opening them to read them there
in the soundless eminence of her loft,
as if returning to a country chapel
she prayed in as a pious child,
remembering the forgotten liturgy,
some past discarded reverence of her heart
tugged again by the unseen thread
that bound her to the renounced faith,
lips moving silently again to shape
the words of these old hymns to love
in warm breaths that formed wisps of mist
in the chilly attic air.

………………………………………………………………………………*****

Bad Mother’s Countdown
by Jennie E. Owen

My loves, allow yourselves to………….abandon
gravity………… float……………..for a moment.
Let my voice drain and run red, before the
congeal begins, sendingmebacktobed
to dream of quiet verse:………..Laid
…………………………………………………Out
………………………………………………….In
………………………………………………….Order.
Not a tumble of socks, and ‘We’re out
of milk’  baby choking, and LegoLegoLego.

I promise I will pay my part.  Keep mum, sign
forms, pack swimming bags, bleat spelling tests.
I will listen to all you satellites.  ‘It’s not fair!
to hover your ‘O’ traps just now. Catch glottal
stop consonants…………………………..elsewhere.
Give the vowels……………………………some Space.

……………………………………………………………………………..*****

Letter to Next Door’s Cat
by Catherine Graham

Dear Sir,

I am writing to you re. your antisocial behaviour.

The whole street thinks you’re cute, like Six Dinner
Sid in the much-loved children’s story book.

They all feed you; take you in when it’s tossing down
but this neighbour’s not taken in by those big green eyes
and dashing black coat –

I had you weighed up from day one.
You singled me out, the fall guy in your game of hide and seek,
you little feline James Bond.

I’ve tried scattering orange peel, alas to no avail
and lion dung just makes you laugh.
One day I’ll flip and come at you like a banshee
wailing a warning to bugger off!

If you really must venture into my bedding plants
can I ask you to leave my favourite alone,
the one behind my garden shed; smells a bit like tomatoes?

I regret being forced to put pen to paper
but Pussy you never answer your phone.

………………………………………………………………………………………*****

Doo Da Stamps
by Mark Hudson

………….In 1994 I went on a train trip to Canada.
I had to smoke in the car that was the special
train car for drinkers and smokers.
I met a drunk man who claimed to be a writer
and artist, and I was skeptical. I thought
he was just a drunk.

…………..It turned out he was a famous artist,
and also a drunk!

…………..I got his phone number and address,
saying, “We should collaborate.’

…………..Which sounds crazy. But I contacted
him when I got home. He was the founder
of the Doo Da postage stamp art movement,
in New York City.

…………. I ordered stamps from him with my
art on it, and they were cool, but you couldn’t
use them as real stamps. They were just cool.

…………..His summer home was in Michigan.
I wrote him there.

…………..It was from his summer home in
Michigan that I received the most unique
letter I ever received. H e needed to write
me something, and he had no stationary.
…………..So he took a paper plate, did
a painting in one corner, wrote his
message, sent it through the post office.
and I got a paper plate in the mail with
a letter an a painting on it!
………….I’ve lost contact with that man.
I just wish I could find the paper plate.

………………………………………………………………………….*****

Stitches
by Penny Blackburn

If you had told me two years ago that I would become a bit of an expert at
embroidery, I would have laughed at you. Probably would’ve tapped the side
of my head to show you were barmy and told you to ‘Bugger Off!’ as well.

My hands are rough – made for farm labour, not for handling delicate threads.
I keep my hands cleaner in the trench than I ever did on the farm. I find myself
a bit of hot water and a rag before I pick up my silks. I don’t want to spoil the colours by muddying ‘em all up.

This last one has been hard. It’s the most detailed one I’ve done – all them
flowers and fancy birds took some doing. But it’s served its purpose I suppose –
kept both my hands and my brain busy in this hellhole. I don’t know who first
started the craze off, but loads of us do it now. Nobody laughs, nobody cares.
You do whatever you need to, to keep yourself sane. We all know that.

So I’ve just got this last bit of lettering to do. I hope Elsie smiles when she gets
it. I hope she gets it before the wedding. She’s marrying a teacher – protected
occupation of course – and I hope she’ll be happy. A girl can’t wait around
forever, but I’d kind of thought …

But there, I never said anything to her. Never told her how her face is the one I
conjure up at night to take my mind somewhere other than this blasted trench.
Never told her she was always the one, that I would’ve asked her myself if the
War hadn’t come.

So I embroider in the letters on my gift. And each stitch holds a secret word of
love. She will not read them, will not hear them, will never know they are
there. They will hide forever in the words I have stitched: Dearest Elsie – Good Luck.

Inspired by embroidery from the trenches of World War 1

……………………………………………………………………………………*****

Writing Life
by Ann Halvorsen

The aerogramme, red-blue border aslant,
No match for the once dazzling colors of its stamp,
…………..Postmarked Torremolinos,
Unfolded to your familiar hand
On glazed paper crinkled to the diamonds of an ancient’s face,
Then flattened out again to its indestructible skin,
Adding weight to your first words:
Don’t let this incident destroy you.

Back then, barely freed from teenage bogs we’d waded
Through years that grew crises like kudzu
Killing the idols of our youth,
Wresting unrest from campus sidewalks,
Hosing rights down city streets;
Years that spawned streams of nomads,
Music makers who laced our anthems with hope
And notions of future joy;
We wrote our lives over these events
Like the jazz your sister sang,
Melodies replete with riffs and roundabouts,
…………….detours and returns;

And into this mix your letter landed, spanning broken time
Sketching the ad-hoc cadence of your days,
Chronicling gulls as they sliced a kerosene wash of sky
While color ripened to braided cords of light;
Steering me back toward the fullness to be had.

Writing for our lives this half-century,
Your words still fly
While incidents balloon and breed
…………….like bloated forests of slate and glass;
They teeter over landfill, the bones of sunken ships,
Bankrupting the light, leaving shards of sky-
Flashbulb pops that blind us
……………to what plays behind new walls.

I reach for your words through time and again
For your prescient grasp on what has come,
And what may follow; for a path through the breaches
……………and up the facade
Where we’ll sing the demons down.

……………………………………………………………………..*****

Red Letter Day
by Mark Connors

…………I check Charlie’s shopping list. He’s been settled of late but he’ll go ballistic if I forget something. “Check the list, Tom,” he said, earlier. “Don’t forget anything.”

Tomatoes

Oranges

Milk

Detergent

Independent

Eggs

Sausage

Tuna

Onions

Dates

Apples

Yellow Post-It notes

I’ll have to come back if I do forget something, so I check the list again before I head to the checkout. If I didn’t come back, Charlie would have to. Either scenario would cause him considerable anxiety. But he couldn’t bear the thought of not having what was on his list either. He would still require any missing item. That’s the type of bloke our Charlie is. And he couldn’t be governed by his fears of changing the course of what should have happened with what might happen. Not being afraid of such twists is a part of his recovery. It’s been a long way back for him. But this is when the fucked-up shit happens. A little twist of fate here and there can set off a new chain of events. This is what happened when Tania died. She was on her way home from work and he asked her to pick up some coffee. If he hadn’t, she would have avoided the head-on-collision on the A59 and she’d still be here. And they’d still be stupidly happy. But he did. He’s paid for that little fate twister ever since.

After the accident, he reverted to childhood and started with his obsessions again. He began his impromptu word searches, scouring the papers for portents and signs, hounding me and mum on the phone, telling us to avoid certain foods or routes to and from somewhere. Just before his admission into Swan House, his living room was covered top to bottom in yellow Post-It notes or cut outs from the complex networks of connected words he’d discovered in the Daily Telegraph, with that familiar scruffy frame of a biro’s red ink.

If he’d read the paper that morning, his eyes would have picked out what they had the morning after, when he read page 5 of The Daily Telegraph. He had stopped all that nonsense years ago. But it was back. The word that screamed out at him from a vertical pattern in an article about climate change was CIVIC. The car driven by the other driver in Tania’s fatal crash was a Honda Civic. But I’d hazard a guess Charlie found the word, rather than the word finding Charlie.

His fixation with prophecy via words in print began as a child. I don’t know what triggered his love of word searches but he went through so many, he had to start making puzzles of his own from Dad’s Daily or Sunday Telegraph. He found words in word searches that were not on the grids at the back of books, words formed in unusual and complex patterns, again, of his own design. But when something big was about to happen, he said the words were usually conspicuous in more traditional patterns. They would scream out at him. He’d try and convince us he’d foreseen some tragic event by showing us a word he’d picked out which vaguely related to a specific tragedy. The trouble is we were never sure if he’d found the portentous word before the event, or after. He stopped talking about this stuff as he got older but we all knew he was still at it. He’d just shake his head as if any cataclysmic event was just another of a long line of events he’d foreseen amongst the morass of words in a daily broadsheet.

A woman who looks a bit like Tania scans Charlie’s shopping. God, I miss Tania. I loved Tania.

Outside, I sit down on a bench for a smoke. I check the list again with the items in the bags. It seems I’ve forgotten to pack the yellow Post-It notes. I’m just about to walk back to the supermarket when I see Charlie across the road by the newsagent. He’s shouting something I can’t make out and gesticulating. I stub out my cigarette, get up and step out into the road…

*

When I come to, people are standing over me. I seem to have acquired a coat from someone and I hear a familiar voice insisting I stay awake and say An ambulance is on its way. I make out Charlie’s face. He’s holding what was in my hand only moments before. He seems calm, considering. As he puts the shopping list in my line of vision, a member of my little trauma huddle asks what he’s doing.

“It’s okay,” I squeak. “He’s my big brother.”

I look at the list again.

Tomatoes

Oranges

Milk

Detergent

Independent

Eggs

Sausage

Tuna

Onions

Dates

Apples

Yellow post it notes

I feel myself slipping out of consciousness. I wait for my best bits. There are no flashbacks, no scenes from a life well lived, like the two of us on our backs on Otley Chevin as kids, watching meteors teem an incandescent sky. Or the last time we were on holiday in Mallorca with Mum and Dad. Or, when I first set eyes on Tania when Charlie brought her to Mum’s at Christmas a few years ago. Or the first time I watched her eyes close when I kissed her. Or the time I woke up to Charlie’s face six inches from mine and him saying, ”Stay off the railway tracks.” Or the face of Shaun Gibson from my class in the paper two days later, who had died on those very railway tracks.

And then I try and figure it out. Was it having to go back for the yellow Post-It notes that led me to this? Or was it Charlie, outside the bakery, distracting me as I crossed the road before the van hit me? Either way, I have my big brother to thank.

……………………………………………………………………………..*****

”Beetles and clouds of silence”
by Christiane Morphine

In times of applications, Molly
when the envelope protruded under the door.
He stared at the sender and looked at the sender.
It was a letter from Mark.

Two years without pronunciations, the knots burst
and not even a drop of the love liquid
which they both used to experience.

But now
the format, the letters and each line typically made
by the disastrous love of his whole existence.
He began sweetly and gradually was exhaling
all the old acidity that was taking hold of his lips.
Despite being intoxicated by a peculiar atmosphere
of a certain passion, the letter was dominated
by the skeletal melancholy of those who have stepped on the clouds.

As he parked in the last few sentences, his scream seemed silent.
for a beetle in his throat,
grabbing with his rawness the air of someone he loves.
He waited for declarations and even an anxious excuse.
Mark left in the sentences, just the terror of the blades
He waited for the grateful goodbye and even the surprise of a joke.
Molly touched the stain of last supplications at the end of the letter.

…………………………………………………………………………*****

How to Customise the Past
by Tina Cole

Sometimes I turn these pages
and you are freewheeling
down a country lane, the trees jangling
to the sound of your bell.

On another you choose
something bright for that first dance,
smoke Senior Service for a dare
paper cups branded with tangerine lipstick,
the vivid print of lips never kissed.

Dandelion clock years blow away,
all those tepid Ovaltine nights spent
with the whine of the Home Service
and waking to lavender polished quiet

yet it is the fickle nature of memory
that pleases me most, the possibility
to customise the past, thread life
with gossip ribbons, create a bottle blonde
risking all on G.I. promises.

………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Cuneiform
by Peter Clive

Everything lies in ruins. This Glasgow
is an ancient ruined city by the Euphrates
after some rival, or barbarian invasion,
or simply the passage of time has had its way,
gap sites where ziggurats once stood, shards
scattered across the brownfield yesteryear
whose damp tubercular breath
condenses on the back of my neck,

but this shattered and scattered clay
whose pieces you pick up and hold
is not some Mesopotamian jigsaw
of the sort archaeologists like to solve.
These marks are not cuneiform pressed
upon the cold hard fragments in your hand
that you try to fit together and decipher.

It is you. It is your own living tongue
after it has been turned to stone,
and after the sledge hammer and wrecking ball
have had their way, and broken you,
and dumped all your words in a midden
and left you able to meet your mute self
only behind glass, in a glass case, in a museum,
reading how others have captioned you in labels:
their interpretations, educated guesswork,
accidental errors, deliberate falsehoods, lies,

in some nostalgia palace
where the passage of time is frozen
to hold the living captive,
saying, “this is how things were
so this is how they will always be.
This is all in the past. It cannot save you.
You are only what we say you are now.”
The word “no” lies untranslated
on a cuneiform tablet out of reach, hidden
behind something lurid and embarrassing,

but there was a man who turned it back
and raised your words from their bones and ash,
lifted them from this disintegrating clay,
breathing life into them with poetry,
restoring their voice and making them laugh,
and bulldozing museums with basic facts.

Though all that’s left of any life, once gone,
is an unfinished jigsaw, its missing pieces
now forever lost, we’ll fill the gaps
with pieces of our own rescued from obscurity
and the impertinence of casual oppression.

………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Dear Pinsley,
by Chris Kinsey

Friend from birth – you echoed my gurgles,
shushed me to sleep always flowing between our house
and the railings along the street.

Before racing to town – shucking your history
of feeding monks’ fish pools, being a priory drain
and, later, fuelling a mill – you led me on

following through spears of tall rush and wild iris
your pools brought a transfer of heaven I couldn’t enter
though sky-coloured dragonflies rose from reflected clouds.

We only fell out when you swallowed my marbles
(some big boys made me roll them on the bridge).
I feared losing you when we moved house

but I could still run down to a new stretch – a stretch
so still that in spring it jellied with spawn, in summer
was amphibious and emerald with duckweed.

I came everyday to discover your teeming depths.
As I grew you took me further afield to meanders
where coiled water-snails let go of milfoil

in a slo-mo sinking to soft silt. Above, your air
was graced by lacewings and mayflies. Trout
leapt, leaving a tease of target ripples.

From my look-out in a cracked down willow,
I watched over you until diggers came to divert you.
Nine years old, I foolishly trusted you’d survive.

……………………………………………………………………………..*****

Sisters
by E.V. McLoughlin

I wasn’t there. My presence –
half a dozen pages on your desk.

Wake up, yawn, put on a dress –
black with a sprinkle of pink flowers,
brush long, straw blonde hair –
a good morning for a walk in the fields.
A gentle slope, long grass on your knees, sunshine.
Don’t go, stay inside
You meet him on the way, a target
is the tree on top of the hill (a fir tree, I think).
Cheeks flushed from walking,
throw yourself on to the grass, resting.
The whole world is new, yours.
Walking home you laugh
at the escaping time.

Your favourite uncle (he used to prop you on his knee),
why does he stare and ask
‘Where’s your shame?’
The Pillars of your world fallen.

this was the day my childhood ended…
Flowing script squared paper.
One of the last letters, before brief emails
replaced fat envelopes.
But what could I do? An ocean away,
my own pillars crumbling?

If I could, I would have turned flesh into feather
and flown day and night to collapse exhausted
in your room that morning just in time to warn you –
Don’t leave your room! Please!

……………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Words in a Time Capsule
by Alwyn Marriage

Dear stranger,
I know you’ll find it hard to believe,
but I want to persuade you that the world
was not always as you find it now.
Before the waters rose, the sea was celebrated,
children played along its margins, pebbles worn down
by countless ages formed sand of sunniest yellow
or of purest white; and fishermen and women
sailed out to harvest food that swam the depths.
Although the villages and towns that hemmed the shores
have long since drowned, there once was life and song
around the sea.

You won’t remember our jewelled inland waters:
little lakes reflecting ocean life, without its salt immensity.
These cracked and fissured planes are where sweet ripples used to flow;
and humans now far separated by this arid waste
were joined together in community by sharing
a safe and navigable channel.

Can you imagine music tumbling from the sky or treetops,
from birds whose bones were light as air, whose hearts
were formed of semiquavers, but who lacked
defence against the poison of humanity?

On a May morning dew sparkled the grass, the air
smelled sweet, sun warmed the earth but didn’t burn
her creatures. All this was gift.
We squandered, smothered, burned and killed it.

So now, all I can send to greet you
in a future I will never see, is empty words
that cannot hold a fraction of the grace and beauty
that through our greed and profligacy has been lost.

……………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Anchored Trust
by Steve Harrison

Before the millions of mobile phones –
landlocked ones-
tied by two corded strings
to Bakelite pyramids with world changing rings.

Post boxes safe deposits for future stories
Wallets padded with stamps
Ears alive for the gravel crunching postie

Pockets bagged with change,
allotted times
ueued in student halls
or outside boxes
awaiting piss-stained calls in
phones big enough to stand or snog in
air-tight vacuums.
…………..A time of anchored trust-
promises of station meetings
in four awaited days
with nothing between
except a careful phrase
on a slow-chosen card,
a kiss-sealed envelope
and that letter of reassurance in your familiar green ink –
“you’re the only boy I stay in bed with
when the phone rings;
Cos with anybody else
It might be you.”

……………………………………………………………………………………*****

The Telegram
by Raine Geoghegan

Dear Granny

When I was eight, playing in the garden with my sister,
you called us in for a snack.
You were cooking a plum pudding in a cloth.
Steam filled the house, like a laundry.
I ate a ham sandwich, picked up a banana and pretended it was a gun.

‘Stick em up.’ I said to my sister.
She poked her tongue out.
I carefully peeled the skin, breathing in its creamy bananary smell.
Whenever I eat this type of fruit I always bite off tiny pieces and nibble.
I take my time.

This is what I was doing when I heard a knock at the door.
A few moments later I heard you wail,
a strange guttural sound, like a fox’s cry.
Bev and I jumped off the sofa and ran into the hallway.
You were on your knees.

Your head was moving up and down like a clockwork toy.
In your right hand was a brown envelope.
Bev and I didn’t know what to do.
You flopped onto your side and lay motionless
apart from your chest which was rising, falling.

Bev took one of your hands, I took the other.
Your face was white.
You smelled of violets.
We sat with you until you calmed.
When Grandfather came home we were told of Ricky’s death in Cyprus.

The house was full of sorrow that night.
It hung in the air, tainted everything we did or said.
The plum pudding didn’t taste right.
I got indigestion.
I tried to picture Ricky in my mind which took a long time

then I saw him, his short cropped hair,
his big brown eyes.
He was rocking to and fro on the sofa
just like he used to and singing.

……………………………………………………………………………*****

Note to My Sister
by Liz Dean

Just so you know, the piano lid
was up, Fugue in D minor
open (Dad’s schoolboy marks
pp, sf, dim, mp).
Keep the cake stand,
why don’t you, it’s all dust
and tea-time crumbs.
I’ll of course throw away the
hoard of Sunday People, I mean
just the racing pages
with those other codes:
SP, double, each way
as if we’ll one day work him out
and I won’t remember how everything
smelled of damp cardboard,
like walking into a box.

…………………………………………………………………………*****

Stick-Stuck
by Liz Dean

My thumb won’t stick
the stamp at the right angle
– it’s impossible to perfect –
and surely the queen’s head
with its trim of half moons
should not be purple,
or first class, or Mister Men.

Your hand-written name
is not parallel with the upper
edge of the envelope.
The words slope downward,
a plea for safe landing:

your hallway, your hand.

By the post box,
I hold my letter at arm’s length
until I’m stuck enough to let go.

……………………………………………………………………………………..*****

How James Came To The Long Sleep
by Rachel Galperin

seeing this lapse while I’m
reading no time for the
dogs my parents are trying
to mate downstairs. Locked
together in the bedroom
she’s barking barking
barking. Never quite
arriving at the end it’s
always the beginning here
she doubts the passing of
her time locked in the
bedroom. I know
this without having even
seen her – she claws on
the door crying then yelping
then barking. A small bark.
Doesn’t want to mate with
our dog. I think she must
be in the wrong stage of
her cycle for not wanting
it.
What else would be the
reason unless dogs really
do possess some level of
consciousness. Dolphins are
descendants of camels and
flamingos. They used to
have feet and walked on
land prior to their trans-
ition into water. I saw
one walking on the beach
last summer, his legs sprang out
from under him as he
sauntered right past me.
Mating is this thing we do
to pass the time. Some of
us, like dogs, don’t care
who we fuck. Others, like
elephants, form attachments
and need commitment.
What a terrible thing to do
to an animal – forced mating
like arranged marriage
is it awkward for the dog
too. She must have been
floating around in a different
time, disconnected from her
16 foot magnet self. I feel
that way too sometimes
& just wish it was
appropriate to claw
through furniture attack
doors with my razor
sharp nails.

You were like this bitch
we brought for Jasper to
fuck. Not like a dog, but
out of time caught in-
between ping ponging the
back & forth ball on a
tennis court. James lost
his 16 foot body, someone
would shout. Another
would reply oh here I’ll
help him but then you’d
claw at it on your
hind legs until someone
opened the door back up to
your eight foot, then five
foot five body.
Below to the bottom of the
ocean where the rest
of the unwanted bitches
Fuck gender you said
when you descended past
the long sleep. I’m partying
with the girls tonight. Are
some dogs gay.

………………………………………………………………………………*****

Caught / Off Guard
by Rachel Galperin

what amazing brilliant
light glow there is
after a shower.
The sun sets here just
the same, tames
Sets beams of
midmorning. Now,
we’re back to being
lovers.
Snap!
You’ve caught me. I’m
essentially the same
glow of glitter walls
projects & makes us
less hetero.
I know you are but
what am I? Sorry,
those words just came
out. I didn’t mean to
call you hetero
though it’s true. I
imagine your phallus is
gone & you’re just the
glittered air on
those sandstone walls
in the middle of Goddess
fire where she lays.
We’ve caught each other
off guard or all
wrong or not at all or
not at the right moment.
The air doesn’t
collapse & the water
doesn’t run out.

………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Ghosting the Ghost
by Rachel Galperin

I see him in the
fringes, shuffling
circles around
Like a lark
trilling in my ear.

The bud of your
laugh grows the
longer you’re gone.
Can we cement our
shoes right here. To
stay planted this way
forever.

What is death anyway
but a cementing of
life; binding of
duties; overturned
to come again
for you at a
later date and in
infancy what
will you remember anyway?

James dies. He’s
died again & again
in my mind. Reborn
somewhere else each
time. And I imagine
astrally appearing
at the funeral; like
a ghost haunting old
memories. But I’d be
the memory not the
ghost

taking them by the
hand and for
With me,
this is what he
was like

………………………………………………………………………*****

Letters That are Hard to Write
by Kellyn Crawler

There are too many words, sharp words
Syllables slicing gullets on their way out
So I muzzle myself to protect from their razor edges
And write letters instead because fingers punching keys on a keyboard are blunted
Safe from the sharp words but bare to a truth
that stings eyelids and swells behind clavicles, unchecked
……….and insistent.

i To my father, and to faded denim and fresh baked bread.
The words I choke on for you are sloppy, the maroon of suppressed anger
I refuse to be the rope in your tug-of-war
Stretched taut for your amusement or to vindicate imagined grievances;
My refusal means I must fall limply
to dew-soaked fresh-mown grass,
And you may think this is an attempt to escape you, which it may be.
I must fall before you see this rope as a noose of accusations.
This letter was never about you, or me.

ii To my mother, and to tawny brown leather and old perfume.
Your words are scrawled on old paper with a turquoise letterhead
Please let out a breath or a sigh or a scream and release the past;
It has become a plague after all this time and you are raw.
And I’m sorry for my armour, worn to protect me from your trauma;
I told myself it would remain until you learned to protect yourself,
but it is embedded in my skin now.

iii. To my brother, and to aquamarine waves and salty water.
On sun-warmed cement are your words, written in pastel chalk
Beside a hopscotch, a heart, and our names.
This letter is the hardest to write,
and the simplest.
I love you because and not in spite of.
I will hear you and your thoughts and your fears
when no one else will and without flinching.

iv To myself.  Your words are written here, in this poem,
in letters that are hard to write.

………………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Used to Get
by Mark Edwards

a signal, warning of rainfall,
if I was deaf to the forecast,
blind to cloud formation,
it might’ve served some purpose,
no one ever says
I miss the auld arthritis.

40 hours of dreich. Not a single flicker.
If it wasn’t for the angle
of the metatarsal,
you’d never know that leaf spring
broke my toe last winter.

Frost on the ground, no one around,
mechanic gone on a breakdown.

I must’ve been cursed
that day in Knockando,
should’ve swallowed my pride,
bought steel cap shoes from Tesco,
cause delivery driving beats split shifts
under the whip at Walker’s.

Yon auld boy, fistful of shrapnel,
would tell the shop quine
– Take it fae that.

But the warders said
he was wrong, should forget
where he was from

forget ye were born,
sing Silent Night, let’s hear it
all night long.

There’s always one
that locks themselves in,
the key having vanished,
according to them.

Don’t want me disturbing
their private excitement,
yet order online,
my screen needs signed.

The wrist I did down the Den,
inch of ice over concrete.
The lassie cared only for mobile phones
told me she never used that door.

It’s me that forgot September,
the smirr still soaking me through,
this lonesome, smirking, stonefish
scoping what it was due.

……………………………………………………………………………………*****

Dear Mother:
by Calum Cameron

By
now, you’ve heard all the terrible things circulating through the media, about things I did and things people say I did and I’m not here to assure you that none of it’s true and I’m still your Little Snowflake because I’m not. Not anymore. I think they expected me to fight my corner, even a little. Tell the judge it’s not true and that they’re lying but what would be the point?

Why,
as humans are we so hellbent on lying and making up our own version of events? Why are we so desperate to make the world into all the little fantasies in our heads that we no can never come true but imagine anyway just because we can? If I told you I was smart and kind I would be lying and I wouldn’t brag about being an honest man either because I don’t know that I am. A scientist or whatever type of doctor does that sort of thing can still succumb to all the same mental dysfunctions all the rest of us suffer from.

So,
I’ll tell you exactly the same story I told the judge, who probably thinks I’m lying now because I didn’t cover up for anyone involved or even myself or even try to justify myself. Maybe he thinks I’m trying to reduce my sentence but I’m not. I just think it’s about bloody time we stopped running away from the truth, cowering in our own neat little fantasies of what’s right and wrong and actually faced up to it.

We
parked outside the warehouse in four cars and a van, twelve of us in total all in balaclavas and all armed. We got out and our person on the inside turned off the security allowing one of my friends, one of the men I thought I was my friend, to use a welder and get the lock off. Then we stormed inside, knocking people out one by one and rounding them all up in corners, taking their phones and smashing them and screaming at them, waving our guns around whilst some of our other guys reversed the van in and all the cars and we loaded them up with everything we could get our hands on. I was terrified, but also pumped on adrenaline so I guess it didn’t even begin to hit me then whilst I was chucking boxes into the back of that pickup truck and the others chucked stuff into the van, full of tablets and god knows what else.

Then
we heard sirens, distant but coming closer almost certainly and our guy in charge starts yelling at the guys that we’re supposed to go wrong the whole place, search it top to bottom and they argued back until it they were shouting at the top of their voices we were getting edgy, waiting to get in the cars and go.

Eventually,
the boss just snapped and punched the guy in the face. The guy staggers back and we’re all getting more and more worried because the sirens are getting closer. This guy though didn’t know when to quit and punched the boss back. He had this stupid mask on, probably trying to look all intimidating but it smashed after the guy punched him and everybody in that room saw his face. Of course, we’d seen him all the time, of course, but all those workers cowering in the corner, they were sure as hell gonna tell all about it when the police arrived.

Boss
stays still a few seconds, watching those people watching him then takes his gun and shoots the guy. My ears are still ringing from it but we all just froze as he slumped to the ground, gasping, blood bubbling out of his mouth and we all started to panic as the boss snatched some guys rifle and starts shooting the workers. Maybe he thought if they told the police, that would be it, game over for him. Life behind bars but he thought if he got rid of this lot, they’d never know. Maybe it was some frenzy of madness but by that point, the guys were getting into the cars and starting to drive off, bolting across the field as the cops blocked the main road. I can’t say why, but I never got in one of those cars, I just stood there. These people, screaming for their lives as he shot them one by one, some trying to run and getting a bullet in the back but I stayed and only even blinked when the last car was pulling away.

You,
of course, remember what a natural I was shooting clay pigeons. Didn’t take two seconds to blow the wheel out of one of the cars, causing it to veer into a ditch and I didn’t even think when I levelled that gun at boss and shot him, clean through his head. I feel sorry for those workers, I couldn’t apologise for more to them if I tried. There they were, cowering there, as about seven people lay dead around them and they were all covered in their friends and coworkers blood and the blood of the man who killed them.

I
didn’t say a word unless they asked me a question and I’ve said over and over that I was not sorry at all that I was there. Otherwise, that man would have killed all of those people so I have no regrets and I won’t apologise to you either. People show their truest colours when you least expect them too and in the way, you least expect particularly when those infamous instincts kick in. To be honest, the worst part was just how dam easy it was. With that, goodbye mother. I don’t expect to ever see you again. I don’t expect you to visit and forgive me and I’m sorry to say you probably won’t still be around in twenty years. And that’s what I’m sorry about, not getting to spend that time with you but if I had to choose all the time I could get with you or saving those nine people…. To be honest, I don’t know what I’d do. Think whatever makes you happiest.

Yours sincerely,

George.
………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Cats in the Cradle, 1994
Reece Ayres

having a dad that writes (a lot)
means you always know
what he had for tea
what Radio 2 played at#
2:07 Monday morning,
Cats in the cradle again?

so much, in fact, the letters had their own box.
only to be seen at 4 in the morning, when sleep evaded but the mind was weary.
these letters, dated & signed,
are pockets of time, released like hot steam, in the opening of an envelope

a pocket, a capsule, started May 3rd 2005,
“your photo is taped to grandad’s bed, he will see it when he wakes up”
I don’t think he ever saw it. but he took it wherever he went after that sleep.
………………………………………then jump 7 years
2012, the teen in me grew stronger with every grunt & slammed door
11th June “we are so opposed. we feel frustration. maddening in its extremes”

the letters that followed my wings from the nest, a growing distance between a father & his son
10th March 2017 “just look after yourself ok? I can’t do that well from here”
5 April “do try & look after yourself. for the sake of your health”
the words that were too large in scale to fit through your teeth

had to find a home on an oxford lined pad
………………….and that’s why we do it
car ride confessions up the M6 can only go as far as we’re going
but an envelope can go as long as we need it

and then that letter. bottom of the box. face up. Yellowed with loving fingers.
23rd May 1994.
a picture of me, barely a squiggle in black & white, folded into a movie script of an expectant mother
to her mother
a script of hope & life
how her bump would be so loved
how her little guy would be so cherished.

20th January 2019.
now the letters of grief
and the writings of pain
are from a family who adores
a household that protects
& even 4 hours of M6 traffic can’t halt that.

so let’s sing Cats in the Cradle again, Dad.

………………………………………………………………………………..*****

To my First Love 
by P. A. Livsey

The other night you were engrossed
in animated conversation
and then –
you shouted, ‘look’
and pointed towards me,
people turned.
Returned their gaze to you.
An audience engaged.
Silence raged as you stepped
on the stage.

You sang, your blasts from ‘our past’.
‘All I see is you’ and ‘I can’t help losing you’
and ‘stay awhile’.

Why are you doing this to me?
I live in a veil of tears.

……………………………………………………………………………….*****

Mills
by P. A. Livsey

I think, I’m goin back, to…
yesterday when I was young.

In private I close my eyes and re-count to ten,
those days  which were bits and pieces
when all, I wanted to see, was you.
Then, I was afraid of losing you.

If you go away, and return,
you won’t be coming
back to that time we once knew.
I just don’t know what to do!

Little by little…I see that look
of love in your eyes.
You know I only want to be with you.

I’m not asking you to say you love me;
but I kept wishin and hopin and prayin,
again, for those mornings not to come
when you were with me, hoping you’d
stay awhile.
You said,
‘you don’t own me’ that’s true,
but I’m a brand new me.
Trust me, I’m not the same girl.
Anyone who had a heart,
would still love me; just give me time.
I’ll never fall in love again.
But,
In the windmills of my mind?
How can I be sure, about you?
Long after that night was all over,
I just know!  I can’t help losing you.

What’s it gonna be?
Will you still love me tomorrow?
Cos, all I see is you.

…………………………………………………………………………*****

My 1st
by P.A. Livsey

I can’t be your girlfriend anymore.
I can’t cope with those female fans.
I didn’t think it would bother me,
but sharing you is not an option.
Life with you is fraught with strife.
I will always treasure you, my first love.

…………………………………………………………………………..*****

Hi Jojo, 
by P.A. Livsey

how long has it been?
I was gobsmacked to see you at the club.
You looked stunning, love the new hair.
Was that your new squeeze hanging on
to your every word?
It was an electric night, wasn’t it?
The place was buzzing, with your presence.

You’ve lost weight since you left the street,
suits you.
Give me a call if you have time for a chat
Mx

***

You two-timing witch; you’ve got a nerve.
You dumped me for that Irish bitch, remember!

You never said, I love you.
Whined when I wouldn’t show
you affection in public.
I got bored with your games and                                                                                                your pretentious numerous names.
You’re a faker a prolific taker.
Used my fuel, ate my food,
fucked me with rules
and blackmailing tools.
I saw you flirt with other skirts, charming other cunts, until your lies tripped you up.

I’ve cleaned and cleared the house,
nothing remains of you.

We separated, like a rusty zip on a jacket.
I’m no longer corkscrewing; adrift on,
no-woman’s raft. I am, simply at ease.

DON’T contact me – EVER.

…………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Love Letters
by Denni Turp

C19th:
My dearest G.
If only you could be with me
today and always,
then my life would be complete
All the stars that shine at night
are put to shame
by the radiance of your smile.
Your lips beguile me.
I am in chains that only
you can loose.

C20th:
Darling F.
You can’t imagine how much
I miss you.
The days are long,
the nights are longer.
I try to dream of you each night
but often fail,
and I feel
so lost while we’re apart.
Think of me each midnight
and I’ll think of you
and will feel you in my heart.

C21st:
hi hun
did u get my msg
miss u lots
c u soon
xxx

…………………………………………………………………………………….*****

FAO: Parks and Open Spaces Department, May 2018
by Mandy Macdonald

Dear Sir/Madam,
We write to let you know
how very gratified we are
to learn
that the allotment site
you reclaimed from us
in the year 2000
and which has lain empty and wild since then
except for an annual mowing
to keep the wildlife down
has now
finally
and inevitably
been turned into
a car park.

…………………………………………………………………………………*****

Letter to a Father’s Daughter
by Linda Goulden

Crown heavy, cloak worn thin, Princess,
how long must you serve to keep the peace?
Rules learned too soon, too well, till
any word of love sounds like a sentence.

When he calls his little angel whore
– he will – don’t hide away, handcuffed.
Don’t live stitched up. Unhook.
Watch how he walks the plank.

Or – better – simply disembark,
leaving him alarmed, shipwrecked,
ticking in his own bad time.
Believe. There is no never land.

…………………………………………………………………………………*****

Dear Richard*
by Linda Goulden

Millwrights copied your invention to the world
and left your own mill standing, a picture
that’s seen better days, a place
of history, holding on by nut and bolt.

Though stout, distempered, roof beams give
the nod to younger boards, they hang in there,
throwing their full weight about, and cracking
on about the spread of nipple, scab and prop.

Cast iron stays lace stubborn stone.
Machinery turns over enterprise to heritage.
Above an outlet, awkward customers in plain clothes,
spin yarns by foot and metre, word and page.

*To Richard Arkwright, whose water powered Masson Mills, at Matlock Bath, came to house a heritage museum, retail outlets and the publisher Templar Poetry.   

………………………………………………………………………………………*****

The Backroom
by Xabiso Vili

I have not received your package. The post office is on strike. I know you said you sent it, I went to the regional offices. The crumbling lady at the counter eyed me disdainfully, I failed to mention how her half-moon spectacles made her look like a stereotype. She told me to check in the back, cankerously tossed me the keys as if they would rot her arm and carried on reading The Times. I think the headline story was something about burning post boxes.

In the back, there was a tumbling highland of undelivered parcels. Nothing had been sorted. Even in times of war, we seek contact, love, affirmation, reminders. Nobody has stopped writing just because the men on bicycles who deliver our mail have slashed their own tyres. If only hope was a valuable currency. Even those that build bridges between and amongst us need to eat, and drink, and dance, and fuck, and eat some more. Money is an elusive love letter for most of us.

I thought of swimming in these parcels, a hidden Scrooge McDuck, hoarding all his coins. Maybe if I touched each one I could feel which one belonged to me. Think of all the memories these poor things carry. Each one tied with invisible string to an owner, kilometers away that sends psychic energy to this lost thing, willing it to attach to someone, anyone. I too would give up on trying to find the real owner. Any owner is good enough, to be owned is all we seek. I am sorry I said I love you. I was lonely, misguided, no captain at the helm. I have since learned to store my love, in nooks and crannies, in screeching lockers at the gym, in charred post boxes, in undelivered letters.

Maybe if I touched each parcel, it would open up its story. Reveal the secrets of lovers, hidden in the folds, show the tears of loss, carefully stored behind capital letters and full stops, spread out the laughter of friends, untidily tucked into wrinkled envelopes. Thank you for trying to return my jersey. Winter has been cold without you. I do not know how to send this. Facebook just feels so impersonal, an email just wouldn’t be able to hold the weight. I wonder if I could convert it to light, then it would find you in a storm. Or maybe smoke, but how would you know which burning thing was yours. The postmen and women are sending letters to the sky. They should know by now it never responds. Maybe god just doesn’t recognise their handwriting.

She should. Don’t you think that handwriting reveals so much more about a person and the state they wrote in? How you pressed softly here because maybe you were distracted, the deep grooves over here, I can almost smell your focus. You did not want to be misconstrued when you delivered the final nail in the coffin. The final nail in the palm. The final goodbye. I have been letting all my relationships trail off recently, I find these to be far kinder than goodbyes. There is still some hope in the silence. Maybe God doesn’t respond because she wants us to hold on. A rejection letter for your miracle must suck the breath out of your blood. How many more goodbye notes written in red would line our streets and hold up our walls if we knew the saviour isn’t coming. I am not asking you to save me.

I did not swim through the parcels, ripping off the wrapping paper, laughing at the destruction, some manic demi-god holding everybody’s memories, fighting Morpheus and stopping all dreams. Without a lifeguard present, I feared that I might drown. I feared that everybody’s undelivered promises would suffocate me, would strip my chest dry, would find me heaving on the ground trying to make room for all that disappointment. I left quickly, feeling the futility creeping in. I chucked the keys back to the receptionist without looking back. I rushed through the rain and slush, fumbled with my keys and raced home, listening to the music of the oscillating wipers. I am drying in front of the fire. Writing this. I think maybe I will fold it into a paper plane or a boat, I don’t know which one will reach you first. Or do you think they will sink planes and burn boats next? I have no pigeons and sending a bottle into the ocean does not seem environmentally friendly. I think I might not send this one either. I have a shoebox beneath my bed and it is starting to overflow. When there is no more space in the box, I will send you that letter that refuses to fit in. Or maybe I will buy another pair of shoes, I need to get a new jersey anyway.

………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Delinquent Account
by Debbie Peters

I had an insufficient childhood.
……………………Mary Oliver

Dear Adult Child: your personality has relapsed into
emotional bankruptcy, causing us to return your
latest failed attempt to transact an intimate relationship.
We wish we could forgive this mental overdraft as we
have in the past, but new regulations require us to close
all accounts suffering from an insufficient childhood.

Sincerely, People, Places, and Things


Biographies

Jackie Biggs’s first poetry collection, The Spaces in Between, was published in 2015 by Pinewood Press (Swansea). Her second collection, Breakfast in Bed, will be out with Indigo Dreams Publishing in late 2019. She is a member of the Rockhoppers poetry performance group. Blog:  http://jackie-news.blogspot.co.uk  Twitter: @JackieNews

Susanna Lang’s third collection of poems, Travel Notes from the River Styx, was published by Terrapin Books in 2017. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Little Star, Prairie Schooner, Verse Daily and American Life in Poetry. She lives and teaches in Chicago.

Mark Connors is a poet, novelist and writing tutor from Leeds, with a pamphlet (OWF Press, 2015), a full length collection (Stairwell Books, 2017) and two novels to his name (Armley Press 2016, 2018).

Gerard Sarnat MD’s authored HOMELESS CHRONICLES (2010), Disputes, 17s, Melting The Ice King (2016). He’s widely published including by Gargoyle, Oberlin, Brown, Columbia, Wesleyan, Johns Hopkins, Margie, Main Street Rag, New Delta Review, Brooklyn Review.  Mount Analogue selected KADDISH for distribution nationwide Inauguration Day. Poetry was chosen for his 50th Harvard reunion Dylan symposium. Married since 1969, Gerry has seven grand/kids.

Mark Hudson is an American poet and writer, who has 50%ancestry from England, thus the name Hudson. He has had poems published on-line, in books, and internationally. In England in particular, he used to publish sci-fi poems in the English sci-fi newsletter “The Handshake,” which since has gone out of business. From there, he discovered Atlantean publishing U.K. and it’s sister publication, Tigershark Magazine U.K. where through both he has had some luck publishing. He loves it when the English accept his work, because he knows how bright they are, based on some of the British television shows and books he enjoyed.

Lorraine Caputo is a documentary poet, translator and travel writer whose works appear in over 100 journals in Canada, the US, Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa; 12 chapbooks of poetry – including Caribbean Nights (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014), Notes from the Patagonia (dancing girl press, 2017) and the upcoming On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019); and 18 anthologies. She has done over 200 literary readings, from Alaska to the Patagonia. For the several decades, she has been traveling through Latin America, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth.

Finola Scott is published in The Ofi Press, Obsessed with Pipework, And other Poems and  Clear Poetry among other places. Mentored by Liz Lochhead on Scotland’s Clydebuilt Scheme, she recently read at The Edinburgh Book Festival.

Maggie Mackay, a jazz and whisky loving Scot is a recent MA graduate with work in Algebra of Owls, Amaryllis, Atrium, Prole, The Everyday Poet, Southlight and Three Drops Press, and forthcoming in the #MeToo anthology, March 2018. Her poems were nominated for The Forward Prize, Best Single Poem and the Pushcart Prize in 2017  Her first pamphlet Heart of the Run is published by Picaroon Press.

Calum Cameron is a sixteen-year-old writer from Fortrose. When he’s not writing, he’s probably thinking about writing or wondering what kind of things go on in people’s heads.

Leela Soma was born in Madras, India and now lives in Glasgow, Scotland. Her poems and short stories have been published in a number of anthologies and publications, and has published two novels and two collections of poetry, from ‘Madras to Milngavie’ and ‘Tartan & Turmeric.’  Her work reflects her dual heritage of India and Scotland.

Megha Sood I live in Jersey City, New Jersey. I’m also a contributing author at GoDogGO Cafe, Candles Online, Free Verse Revolution, Whisper and the Roar, Poet’s Corner and a contributing editor at Ariel Chart. My works have been featured in Dime Show review, Modern Literature, Five 2 One, Oddball Magazine,KOAN ( Paragon Press), Pangolin review, Fourth and Sycamore, Visual Verse, Vita Brevis, Poets Corner, Modern poetry, Literary heist, Little Rose Magazine, The Quiet Corner, Writer’s Cafe Magazine, and coming up in Piker Press, The Stray Branch and many more. I recently won the 1st prize in NAMI NJ Dara Axelrod Mental Health Poetry contest. I blog at https://meghasworldsite.wordpress.com/

Tom Sastry was chosen by Carol Ann Duffy as one of the 2016 Laureate’s Choice poets. His pamphlet, Complicity was a Poetry School Book of the Year and a Poetry Book Society pamphlet choice. His first full collection will be published by Nine Arches Press later this year.

Natalie Scott is a Teesside-based poet and educator. She has collections published by Indigo Dreams, Bradshaw Books and Mudfog, as well as many appearances in literary journals. Natalie’s latest collection Rare Birds – Voices of Holloway Prison was awarded funding from the Arts Council of England to workshop the material with a team of West End theatre professionals. https://www.facebook.com/rarebirdsvoicesofhollowayprison/

Shirley Bell currently works in a public library in Edinburgh where she runs a creative writing group, and is working on her first novel called ‘Then We Became Interesting’. She studied Philosophy at The University of Edinburgh while bringing up her two children as a lone parent.

Gerry Stewart is a poet, creative writing tutor and editor based in Finland. Her poetry collection Post-Holiday Blues was published by Flambard Press, UK. Her writing blog can be found at http://thistlewren.blogspot.fi/.

Rosemary McLeish is an outsider artist who has been writing poems for about 20 years now. Some of them find themselves becoming works of art and some have been published in anthologies and magazines. She lives in Kent and is currently writing a book of memoir, ‘Not Doing The Ironing’

Sally Hewitt’s publication includes with Jessica Kingsley Publishers, That’s Life & Best magazines, Daily Mirror, Pattaya Guide, and as a regional newspaper columnist. I love travelling, anywhere, and writing, professionally. Redundancy this year allows freedom to indulge, leisurely, in everything.

Rebecca Gethin lives in Devon.  Two pamphlets were published in 2017: A Sprig of Rowan by Three Drops Press and All the Time in the World  by Cinnamon Press which is based on her mother’s last letters written from her hospital bed.  She has been a Hawthornden Fellow and undertook a residency at Brisons Veor. Her next pamphlet, Vanishings, will be published by Palewell Press in 2019 www.rebeccagethin.wordpress.com

Helen Kay’s poems have been published by Stand, The Morning Star & The Rialto. Her debut pamphlet, was: A Poultry Lover’s Guide to Poetry (Indigo Dreams). Sometimes she has success in competitions. She is doing a poetry  MA at MMU.

Steve Urwin http://steveurwintalkingpen.blogspot.com/

Vicky Allen lives on the south east coast of Scotland, which often inspires her poetry, particularly the land and seascapes and Scotland’s rich heritage of story and folklore.New anthology “Reaching For Mercy” (Proost 2018) features several pieces of her work and she was involved in the poet-led launch of the anthology at this year’s Greenbelt Festival in England. She performed her spoken-word show “Wonder-Lines” for the 2018 Edinburgh Book Fringe and regularly participates in local open mic events. She has work published online and in print with Mslexia and Vox Poetica amongst others

Johanna Boal has published in various online magazines, websites and hard copies. Lives and works in Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire.

Yuan Changming published monographs on translation before leaving China. Currently, Yuan lives in Vancouver, where he edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Qing Yuan. Credits include ten Pushcart nominations, the 2018 Naji Naaman’s Literary Prize, Best of the Best Canadian Poetry and BestNewPoemsOnline among others.

Gráinne Daly holds an MA in Creative Writing from UCD. Shortlisted for the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize, Maeve Binchy UCD Travel Award and Robert Monteith Poetry Prize, 2017, her work has been published in a number of publications.

Akankshya Pradhan I am from Odisha, India. I love writing poems and stories. My poems have been published in the international magazines, ‘TAJ MAHAL REVIEW(issue 33 & 34)’, ‘MUSE INDIA’, ‘I AM NOT A SILENT POET’ and ‘SCRYPTIC MAGAZINE’. My first published book is “THE ABDUCTOR OF MY HEART”. I have done my B.Tech from Silicon Institute of Technology and my MBA from SOA University. I have found my love in writing poetry and adorning the world with my words. I have started writing poems from the age of 13. Indubitably, I listen to my heart while scribbling poems. I also like listening to music and reading stories and poems.

Steve May With a modestly checkered career — from Coventry to Leeds to Wigan to Sunderland  — as  drama teacher, youth theatre director,  performing arts leader and acupuncturist , Steve May now sticks to making points points about people and their dramas in hid poems. He has regularly performed  his poems around Wearside, Tyneside and further afield. He has had poems published in The Writers’ Café and the anthology Mixed Emotions. Winner of Shelter Poems for Home Competition 2019.

Anca Segall Born and raised in Romania, arrived in the US as a chain migrant in ‘72. Her poetry has appeared in The Coachella Review, Sediments Literary-Arts Journal, and Streetlight Magazine. She is a microbiologist on the faculty of San Diego State University, and is working on a MFA in Creative Writing.

Chloe Timms is a writer from Kent. After recently completing a six-month course at the Faber Academy in London, Chloe is finishing her first novel.

Mantz Yorke lives in Manchester, England. His poems have appeared in a number of print magazines, anthologies and e-magazines in the UK, Ireland, Israel, Canada, the US, Australia and Hong Kong.

Mark Edwards lives in Lossie in the north of Scotland. He has a few kindle books available via amazon. A Short Time Dead and Sireadh are the most recent.

Lisa Rhodes-Ryabchich is the author of two chapbooks “We Are Beautiful Like Snowflakes,” and “Opening the Black Ovule Gate” both fromhttp://www.finishinglinepress.com. She has published recently or has poems forthcoming in WRATH by Pure Slush, Ancient Paths, Poetry Leaves Exhibition and their 2019 Anthology, Transcendent Zero Press and elsewhere. She is a volunteer English instructor with the University of the People and received a MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College.

Ann Howells edited Illya’s Honey eighteen years. Her books are: Under a Lone Star (Village Books Press) and a D/FW anthology she edited, Cattlemen & Cadillacs (Dallas Poets Community Press). Her chapbook, Softly Beating Wings (Blackbead Press), was published as winner of the 2017 William D. Barney Contest. Her latest collection, So Long As We Speak Their Names, will be released in spring from Bowen Books. Recent work has appeared in Chiron Review, I-70 Review, and The Langdon Review.

Julie Galosy lives in the middle of Mexico and writes about ordinary people facing life’s challenges.

Eugene McCaffrey was born in London of Irish parents in a family of eight children. She has lived in London all her life and work as a lawyer. She is married with three children.

Jennie E. Owen’s writing has won competitions and has been widely published online, in literary journals and anthologies.  She has MAs in both Creative Writing and English.  She teaches Creative Writing and lives in Mawdesley, Lancashire with her husband and three children.

Catherine Graham lives in Newcastle on Tyne. Her latest collection is her L.S. Lowry-inspired pamphlet Like A Fish Out Of Batter, poems that bring Lowry’s people to life. (Indigo Dreams Publishing). Catherine’s awards include The Jo Cox Poetry Prize.

Rabi’atu Yakubu is a fiction writer based in Abuja, Nigeria. Her works of fiction have appeared in AFREADA, The Kalahari Review and Nantygreens.

Penny Blackburn lives in the North East of England and was the winner of the 2017 Story Tyne competition in North Tyneside as well as being runner up in the Readers’ Digest 100-word-story competition 2018. She also writes poetry, which she enjoys performing as part of local open mic and spoken word events.

Christiane Morphine Brazilian writer. Graduated in Production of Electronic Music. First place in a competition Japan Haicai and Third place in the Flibo Prize.Her book of poetry ”Distorções” was launched in 2015.

Tina Cole lives in rural Herefordshire. Her poems are mostly about relationships and how we manage in times of crisis. Her first collection, I  Almost Knew You was published in 2015. She is a member of www.borderpoets.org. and the organiser of the annual children’s poetry competition – poetryintenbury.org

Peter Clive lives on the southside of Glasgow, Scotland with his wife and three children. He is a scientist in the renewable energy sector. As well as poetry, he enjoys composing music for piano and spending time in the Isle of Lewis.

Chris Kinsey’s first two poetry collections, Kung Fu Lullabies and Cure for a Crooked Smile were published by Ragged Raven Press, her third, Swarf by Smokestack Books.  Muddy Fox came out from Rack Press in 2017 and a fifth collection is forthcoming from Fair Acre Press.

E.V. McLoughlin I am a writer who dabbles in visual arts. My poems were published in Awkward Mermaid, Bangor Literary Journal, and Rat’s Ass Review; longlisted for Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2016 and shortlisted for the Fresher Writing Prize 2017.

Alwyn Marriage’s 10 books include poetry, fiction and non-fiction. She’s widely represented in magazines, anthologies and on-line and gives readings internationally. Formerly a philosophy lecturer, Director of 2 international NGOs and a Rockefeller Scholar, she’s currently Managing Editor of Oversteps Books and research fellow at Surrey University. www.marriages.me.uk/alwyn

Steve Harrison was born in Yorkshire and now lives in Shropshire just off the M54 or in The Shadow of The Wrekin on his poetry days. His work appears in various forms from The Emergency Poet collections,Emma Press, Pop Shot, Riggwelter and Strix to Wetherspoons News. He regularly performs across the Midlands and won the Ledbury Poetry Festival Slam in 2014. He has two pieces on youtube as steve harrison poet https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=steve+harrison+poet+youtube&view=detail&mid=47C31BC9DF54BB77683347C31BC9DF54BB776833&FORM=VIRE

Raine Geoghegan, MA, lives in West Sussex, she is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee poet and prose writer. Her work has been published internationally in journals and anthologies, most recently with Poetry Ireland Review, The Curlew, The Travellers’ times and Ofi Press. Her pamphlet Apple Water: Povel Panni was launched in December 2018 and has been well received.

Liz Mills has been performing since she was very young and teaching since she was 21. Now finally writing her own words, which have been in a few anthologies, and reading them aloud whenever possible.

Fatma Latif is an aspiring sudanese writer, she has been writing since she was 18, in a personal blog in which she documents her journey of becoming.

Liz Dean is a writer and professional tarot reader, living by the sea in Roker, Tyne and Wear. Her poems have been published in Magma, South Bank Poetry, Fourteen and Obsessed with Pipework. She spent her early career in London, working as an editor in illustrated book publishing, before happily returning north.

Ayfer Orhan Having left the Civil Service a few years ago, Ayfer spends her time helping and supporting residents. Her devotion to travelling and reading helps widen her understanding of diverse cultures and global issues.

Rachel Galperin is a poet and former television producer in New York City. Her work has been featured in Cliterature Journal and is forthcoming in others.

Kellyn Rose Crawler is a 20-year-old author of fantasy fiction and—when her brain is amenable—poetry based in Newcastle, Australia. If she’s not hunched over her laptop writing, she can be found at the gym, at work helping homeless people find safe accommodation, or studying her double degree online. (Or lecturing her two cats on why 2AM is not an acceptable time for play-fighting).

Reece Ayres hails from Cambridge, but has moved to Manchester in the last few years.His love of poetry has only grown since then, as he has pursued more and more spoken word & poetry nights.This poem describes the letters between him and his dad over the years, charting changes in relationships and feelings towards his own family.

P A Livsey’s writing is a mixture of raw, playful and surreal about life’s generalities. Poems and short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies, including Poetry School Campus, Erbacce Press and Best of Manchester’s Poets vol 2 & 3.

Denni Turp lives in north Wales with the two latest of her rescue dogs. Her poems have been published in a number of magazines and webzines. She has been rubbish at getting round to submitting work but intends to do better.

Mandy Macdonald lives in Aberdeen. Her poems have appeared in a wide variety of anthologies and journals, most recently Vaster than Empires (Grey Hen, 2018), Noon (Arachne, 2019, forthcoming), Multiverse (Shoreline of Infinity, 2018), Firth, issue 2, and The Ramingo’s Porch, issue 4,  Coast to Coast  to Coast, issue 5.When not writing, she makes music.

Xabiso Vili is a performer, writer and social activist. His writings explore his inner world to relate to the outer world. He released his album, “Eating My Skin”, created with Favela Ninjas in 2016. His one-man show “Black Boi Be” has travelled extensively to critical acclaim in 2017 and “Laughing In My Father’s Voice” is his first collection of poems released in August of 2018.”

Linda Goulden is a Derbyshire poet published in magazines, on line, in anthologies, competitions and  an occasional hand made book. She is also rather fond of receiving letters and postcards by snail mail.

Fatma Latif is an aspiring sudanese writer, she has been writing since she was 18, in a personal blog in which she documents her journey of becoming.

Angi Holden is a freelance writer and creative writing tutor. Her work includes adult & children’s poetry, short stories & flash fictions, published online and in print anthologies and in 2015 she co-edited the National Flash Fiction Day anthology. She brings a wide range of personal experience to her writing, alongside a passion for lifelong learning and was awarded a PhD in Creative Writing by MMUC in 2016. Her pamphlet Spools of Thread, published February 2018, won the inaugural Mother’s Milk Pamphlet Prize.

Debbie Peters lives in New York City. She is an attorney by profession.

Ann T. Halvorsen A New York native, Ann relocated 40 years ago to San Francisco for doctoral study in disability. Research and inclusive schooling were themes of prior publications. Now, a Professor Emerita, I have time for poetry! Poems have appeared in Broken City and in Poetry Quarterly.


 


7 thoughts on “The Writers’ Cafe Magazine – ISSUE 15 “Letters”

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