The Writers’ Cafe Magazine – ISSUE 18 “Fairy Tale”

The Fairy Tale

Baba Yaga
by Jem Henderson

I gave away my voice yesterday.
I wasn’t using it for much.
Just former sweet nothings, calling for radical feminist change, the occasional rendition of Mr Roboto
by Styx.
I won’t miss it.

I met her at midnight
under a moon not quite full,
not one special or spooky.
her house crouched down, its chicken legs splayed
so we could negotiated on the front porch.

We met at the end of the the ginnel by the tracks.
The trains sped past, front light glaring
at the graffiti on the wall behind us.

She was a shrewd woman.
Her voice betrayed her age
even if her dark hair and a mid-length burgundy shirt dress with three top buttons undone said otherwise.
The Slavic vowels still there after a century or more away from her homeland.

We bargained for a while.
I smoked a lot, the tang of the smoke tasting strange and spicy under the night sky.

She likes to travel, she said.
Gives her the chance to collect more exotic items,
than if she’d stayed at home.

When she took my voice I tasted salt and blood.
We washed the deal down with ice clear vodka,
its cold kiss on the back of my throat
a goodbye.

I got a good deal
I tell myself sitting at home the morning after
Drinking hot tea in weak sunlight.

The cat seems to think so
As she gets away with knocking my cereal bowl,
still part full of sweet milk
across the kitchen table
without being shouted at.

I draw a sigil in the spill
White and weedy against the dark grain of the teak,
wish with no breath and moving lips.

I got a good deal, I tell myself.

My mother warned me that the lady
doesn’t do good deals.
But when I close my eyes the connection I cast pulls tight like a drawstring.

I feel his shock,
his writhing cheating heart.
I’m pretty sure she was wrong.

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

Providence
by Sarah Wallis

Nose pressed tight to the expected glass
ceiling, a fee fie foe fum print on her frog pane,

not quite patrician, not quite friendly hands
massaged her neck, led her back

to the pond it had taken all day to jump
from, over weeds and past a toad’s long lick.

But from the soupy gloop of the typing pool
where she knew her place, she’d launch a leap

to new worlds, knowing it was far to go on sore
pads and no cool blast of lily to charm them well,

when she saw a young prince
at the photocopier, reams of white paper charging,

just one kiss, she thought, seeing his arms
windmill, off balance, so dramatic, ready

for rescue, she rose from her gilt chair, cast
her lunchbox aside and like dust from old magic

twelve pumpkin seeds fell to the floor.

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

13th Chime
by Sarah Wallis

Sombre expressions with sculpted pleats
survey New Year’s Eve in a Northern town,
blunt chipped noses and red graffiti roses

marks worn with silent pain. Any rumbling
sighs attributed to subsidence, a sentry shift
takes place without fuss. Granite paws lift

to scratch out lines, days served in the chalk,
listening to the hours, lying sphinx stone
quiet, under a long standing spell at the foot

of town hall steps, stretched across the land,
long years regarding changing cityscapes
from pigs to market to smart coffee chains.

Quiet gravity at midnight, cocking an ear,
flicking a mane for the odd extra chime
but the town hall clock keeps perfect time.

A chance for release came one New Year’s Eve,
technical misery forced the minutes out of sync
and the usual IT wizardry were out for a drink,

to set it right with the rest at the start of the year,
the stand-ins chanced an extra peal. No cheers rang
in the revellers ears, only fear of the long struck deal,

and on the 13th chime, stone lions walked,
remembering the covenant; most could run for cover
but one tenth of the townsfolk was theirs to devour.

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

Casting a Love Spell
by Sarah Wallis

We’ll need a cloud of white bees
and a clear song of sunlight to dance away
the darkest dark of winter

entice her,
to the jealous gleam of your heart
missing her, in absent conversations,

oh you’ll feel it
like a wave of light, my love, lifting from
you a weight of doubt and worry

the whole daisywheel and chime,
sing it now; she loves me, she loves me not,
sink into the parabola of her perfume,

to a land of certainty, all Charlie, all cherry
flavour lip-gloss, so retro, so want her now,
so… lacking, in know how

oh it will weave an ache through your empty
arms and you’ll consider,
is there to be no more room for nuance

and malarkey? Must everything go
by the book, or can she be my constant dream?
Amongst a collective sigh for cause and effect,

and listen well, or don’t you know the simplest
lesson? There’s always consequences for magic,
and you might be lost in a dream for a time,

all unknowing, or by a shrug of guilt cursed
to wander the dust of the world by the palette
of a rose gold moon, and you’ll shiver then, sensing

a return to the rollicking scent of kiss chase,
parma violets and playground shame, resurrecting
the past, as she calls out your name.

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

Driftwood
Sarah Wallis

We’re on a winter beach in Wales,
at Christmas Eve, a local boy and a visiting girl

miss the high tide whisper, in their feints
and seduction parries. Cut off, they find a cave

to hide out, he charms, succeeds, seeks
commitment, ‘We’re driftwood,’ she refuses,

and dislikes his scaly, eczema ridden back.

He tells her of dragons and treasure seekers,

the stories of his coast, lights a sea
green burning fire, the driftwood, caked in salt

crackles a ground burst of aurora borealis
called down from the skies

loudly, he sneezes, in their cave of fool’s gold,
the sounding chamber booms, fills with lustrous

yellow light, a dragon’s eye? Or, just one more
loose buoy? Dawn inches, they survive, and she

swims for home, it’s as she wishes.
She turns on her back as the sun fires an arrow

to signal the journey out of the dark and up
on the rock now, the boy stretches long, leathery limbs

into the light, appears to breathe borrowed fire,
has she also imagined him wings, ready to take flight?

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

Out of this World
by Sarah Wallis

The allotment is cursing the caterpillars
worming in the mazey paths, when an old
woman pops up in the soil warrens,
stuffing her mouth full of strawberries,
tangled in tarpaulin and her mouth stained red.

She has been sequestered too long, revels
in the tickle of grass underfoot and fresh
berry juice trickling down her chin. Escapologist
from bright lights, incessant TV and supervised
baths, she feels the sun on her back at last.

Alice, lost at 72, has crowned herself
queen in a palace of polytunnels
she reigns a space of blue, black earth,
it flaps and crumbles, the promise of strawberries
and cream, ever present on the breeze.

She is alert as a rabbit waiting for a sign,
eyes widen in fear as the gardener appears,
a woman on his arm. Someone she vaguely
recognises should be wearing cottontail white
and a winking tiara in the sun.

‘Well she escapes, you see, misses her own
plot, and her animals, such a shame,’
the woman is saying, gardener pats her hand.
‘Well, there’s no lost queen here,’ he says,
‘no lop ears or white rabbits either…

and come to think of it no Mad March Hares!’

they laugh and shrug patrol. Alice snarls to herself,
hunkered down in the strawberry patch. A flash

of snowfall passes before their eyes and she stands,
lifting in her arms, a stray white rabbit.

………………………………………………………………………………….*****

13th Fairy
by Carole Bromley

Nobody likes to feel left out.
That’s what this story’s really about.

I waited and waited for my invitation,
packed my bags, bought a ticket at the station.

All my friends were asked. I couldn’t see why
the Queen had decided to pass me by.

I don’t take kindly to being overlooked,
once they’d done that, their goose was cooked.

The fairies planned gifts of beauty and brains
but I was hatching different plans

I turned up unannounced at the ‘do’,
the footman was scared but he let me through.

I marched straight up to the baby’s nurse,
gave a cackle, uttered my curse,

The infant awoke and opened her eyes
boy was she in for a big surprise.

She’d be pretty and clever but everyone knew
there was nothing her mother and father could do

to keep her safe. She’d fall asleep
and a prince would come riding up to the keep.

Right then, I said, better be going.
So long, kid. Don’t take up sewing.

…………………………………………………………………………..*****

Her Story, Refracted
by Ilana C. Myer

She was named for temptation
And shut in a tower.
These are the truest things we know:
the fixed point. From there the tale diverges,
split to infinities. We know the tower was isolation;
we don’t know if in that time the witch initiated her
in mysteries. If, when the girl sat alone,
rope braid cast out the window, she gazed from her height
on the slopes of green hills,
and thrilled with guarded knowledge.

We know there was a prince, who pierced her knowledge
with experience.
As punishment she is banished to wilderness,
but of what sort? In some tales,
a forest of asphalt, metal and glass.
She must learn new mysteries. These do not recall
the green hills. She must learn to type: 60 wpm.
A temp agency informs:
“You must learn to do a mail merge.”
“You can’t wear those clothes.”
She finds a suit on a discount rack. She learns that to walk the concrete
s not so much to walk, as to be carried off by a march of thousands,
their pace set to a metronome. She becomes one of them
in the cold mornings, joins the procession
to the train. Her handbag conceals a pair of heels, balanced and sharp.
She has lost the hills forever.

In some stories, the prince finds her again.
He is blind, but at her first fall of tears, restored.
Sometimes she is accompanied by his chubby heirs:
temptation brought to its conclusion.

But in other stories the prince forgets her,
or remembers it as a fling out of character:
Did he really sleep with a woman named for a vegetable? And so forth.
He reigns from a corner office.
On the day they pass each other in the street—
he has gone out of his way for lunch—he is blind
to her, now that she is shorn
of her extravagant hair.
They pass, he is whistling to himself
and then gone.
Another mystery unfolds: she realizes
that her heart never froze
to make her one with these streets and the cold mornings.
In the crowded silence of her commute
she fulfills another, ordained custom of this wilderness: she cries
in the rocking subway car, as it churns
to an uncertain ever after.

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

Crataegus
by Dean Brindley

I find you faery tree
Standing unplanted and alone
on the green bank where gypsies camped

Garlanded and wrapped around with stones
shielding the spring that slips out from the dell
Life giver, taker away of life

Into your bark I push
this needle from the collar of my coat
Let it conduct the hate that tears
the fabric of my darkling soul

Port-way to the otherworld
Hold my hope, my outstretched arms
I fear you and I will protect you

Three times ‘round the circle walk
And each step closer to your bole
I close my eyes that I can see

Into your bark I push
this needle from the collar of my coat
Let it conduct the hate that tears
the fabric of my darkling soul

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

Wish Water
Susannah Violette

I dreamed of a swan
she built her nest in my cupboard
tended it with love
each dew sheened morning she
busied herself out in the fields
gathered twigs and fresh downy moss

his wishes
the old leaves of long held desires
slid down the swans elegance
into the swift fish-sung water

my cupboard cherished her
her wings held so much air

…………….in its heavy oak casing
my fantasies were so much lighter
I gave them into her keeping
with primroses, bluebells
and the pin-wheels of periwinkle

after a harvest moon had shook the night into flames
and the clouds rode the wind like ashes
she left my cupboard, her nest was still warm

she took flight, the mist swallowed her whole
a fine succulent meat for its insubstantial body
my yearning was the space she left behind

I see the swans on the river
heads dipped in drowsy crescent moons
their beaks clattering orange
bodies marbled with weed

lilies flower
over the murky wish-water

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

Grandma
by Susannah Violette

strange limbed children
fell from me like early plums
or burrowed into me
beetles into heartwood

who they were
was as secret as lemon ink
its bleed saturated tang
and then, nothing

now when I walk, or more often run
under the scar of a pale moon
and my head still carries itself, rock
on the loose limb body of a hare

she is mad in march
beats her husband, her lovers
my fists stay lumpen, sympathetic
on the chest of my dearest love

I carry wind in my womb
ready to belch itself out like a storm
I paint myself like gingerbread
so the doors will open, beautiful
for Hansel or Gretel

but I know, really
I am only good for howling
and blowing houses down
and becoming grandma

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

The Fish and the Fisherman
by Susannah Violette

The green throat of the lotus dweller thrummed, no lyre, but the sound of a harp. Though I dwell in mud and murk, I have long eddying dreams, of taking flight, fins turn to fingers turn to wings, turn on the wing of a silent current sung through a broken and lonely beak.

A sorrowful wind can’t forget the rain breaking loose from the mist of a cloud formed of memory and hammering downward a myriad of tiny fists. Those drops would roll off oily feathers fall to make the rivers twist and boil and make my scales shimmer as I writhe and fight to keep my place in the murk.

Dreaming of wings deflecting raindrops.

I see from these shadows withering potency and from the petals of the water lily I see the crown of power and perfection. I bear witness to his long patience.

I avoid his hook.

I touch the carved trunks of his calves beneath the silken water, hairs swaying within the wake of me. He hardly notices my touch is as light as liquid. Bulrush seeds take to the wind.

I dream of drinking from his cup, gulping air like the richest wine and walking away from here on alabaster feet, waving wiggling sausage fingers. Hair swishes like willow leaves.

The moon opens her grey eye, beaming.

I would walk away from his endless patience,
my avoidance, my leg teasing,
his seeking, coaxing, desire,
his silver hook.

………………………………………………………………………………*****

The Path
by Tina Cole

Frost fingers the landscape
probing safe corners and thin crevices;
wary creatures retreat, instinct senses danger.

High in shivering trees
glassy eyed crows scrutinise the night
but none dare give warning.

Tonight, he will come,
he has my scent,
devouring, stripping to bone,
a darkness that casts no shadow.

I will know him knocking at my door,
salivating with jagged teeth and artful smile,
berry juice dripping from his jaw.

Once, eagerness skipped along
her basket full, now flagrant lilies
beckon their thin red fingers,
scarlet poppies are on display.

Smiling he
swaggers along,
draws the fur more tightly.

I am waiting,
a dark ribbon at my throat,
in a coat the colour of pomegranate juice.

Then the moment
that has waited all its life for me,
lost in unbounded blackness
the trap snaps, the basket falls,

the snarling stench of him.

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

Little Alices’ Dystopian Fiction
by Tina Cole

An anxious rabbit seeks escape,
to find the right shape, a cold burrow
into which, with caution she could lope,
fold herself like a royal invitation
into an envelope.

Down the kaleidoscope tunnel
the pale faced girl
chants a slow hypnotic song,
her headstrong shadow
stretching low and long
toward new horizons.

She has tried the mirrors,
looked for child sized doors
but her mind is wild with poor consolations
the mushrooming spores of stories
she knows so well, each one flutters
like cards, merges into a fantasy façade.

Her river has burst its banks, flooded
the pool of tears, she is wailing but
hardly heard, those who know the song
of falling know each note is losing
the anchor of its word.

Another Sunday tea party, its mad
clatter and distant chatter draw
her near, she babbles about felines,
a fantasy infatuation, asks too many
questions, curiosity an itch she cannot
ignore before surrendering to temptation.

The Queens voice, a chainsaw whine,
fills her with dread, judgement dispensed,
with unfailing conviction, no space
for contradiction, off with her head.

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

Mr Wolf Dreams.
by Tina Cole

He has such delicious dreams,
the potent aroma of barbecue
sausages and spit roast,
intoxicating puffs of meaty air.

He wants to suck marrow bone,
eat pink liver for breakfast,
in slices, like jewels
to adorn his insides.

Early mornings, sharp and shallow,
he is restless, evaluating possibilities,
as options open their doors,
one, two, three.

Saliva drips,
stiletto teeth wait for gorging, wolfing down.
He wants young girls who understand
meat for sale.

Afterwards he will swagger
across the poisonous breath of traffic
to mingle with unsuspecting swine
in another stupid town.

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

The Moonlight Market
by J.C.Pillard

Come to the market of moonlight,
Come one and come all, come and buy
Beneath the oak, ash and willow,
Beneath all the stars in the sky.

There are goblins and fairies aplenty
With potions and trinkets to sell:
A wishing stone dipped into starlight,
A feather that casts you a spell.

Come to the market of moonlight
When the doors of the world stand ajar,
Where magic is round every corner.
Beware, though, don’t wander too far.

Though the market of moonlight is tempting,
There are dangers aplenty inside.
For the prices of things in the market
Are things that you should not abide.

A memory, a dream, or the color
Of hair strands plucked from your head.
Ten years off your life, or your brother’s,
Or souls of the still-sleeping dead.

And if ever you buy from that market
You never will find it once more,
Though you’ll hear all the piping and criers,
The fairies will hold fast the door.

For it’s best not to buy in the market.
Go and visit, certainly, do.
But be wary, for there in the moonlight,
The market’s magic will work upon you.

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

Let’s Be Adventurers
by J.C. Pillard

Oh! my dear, let’s go adventuring. Let’s go sailing, let’s go flying. Let us find the hidden places of the world, deep in the fantastical forests of our childhood.

Oh! my dear, let’s go wandering. Let us travel the road less taken, down from the door where it begins. Let us listen for the bird song and the leaf crackle, the slurp of water over rocks telling us we have found a secret place.

Oh! my dear, let’s go travelling. Let’s put on our dusty, bedraggled clothes and take up our familiar packs. Let us away in the night, awake with the light, in search of our unknown.

Oh! my dear, let’s go a-voyaging. Let’s climb aboard a tall ship and strike out across infinite waters. Let us find ourselves between shades of blue and white.

Oh! my dear, let’s make a pilgrimage. Let’s rest in our sacred spaces, clad in silver silence. Let’s walk on marble stone, on colored tile, on grassy earth and hear the heartbeat of our world.

Oh! my dear, let’s go adventuring. Let’s go: let us fly on the southern wind, on northern gale, on the eastern breeze and western tempest.

Oh! my dear, let’s be adventurers.

……………………………………………………………………………………*****

How to Make a Wand
by Maggie Mackay

Choose a Wednesday, the day of Mercury
or when the moon is in Libra, Aquarius or Gemini.

Choose the night of a waxing moon.
Choose fallen dead wood after a violent storm
 – walnut, ash, elm, oak or what you find.

Cut a length the width of thumb to length of forearm.
Let the branch feel at one with your hand.
Cure the wand in a dry place until the next waxing moon.

Decorate with cleansed beads/cones/crystals/birthstone.
Bind with copper/silver wire or cord.
Add a stone at the base to ground the wand’s energy.
Wrap ribbon/leather around the handle. Add a wrist strap.

Name your wand under a full moon. Charge it with your intent.
Conjure stars streaming from the tip towards heaven’s gate.

 

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

The Tree of Tales
by Maggie Mackay

I am Scots pine, ancient-wild-evergreen,
immortal marker, Dalguise legend. I reign supreme.
Plant my sweet scent beneath summer skies.
I am Scots pine, ancient-wild-evergreen,
once was a god’s cone-tipped wand, an amulet.
Now I’m in a pact with human, glen and rivulet.
I am Scots pine, ancient-wild-evergreen,
immortal marker, Kingussie legend. I reign supreme.

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

Green Man
by Maggie Mackay

They’re clearing Transy Wood,
come harvest time and darkening nights,
my sycamores, the cherry trees too.

Children won’t hunt for chestnuts,
their rustle, bustle, crumple gone,
the pear, the apple, my neighbours,
without fare-ye-wells or windfalls.

One tree splits after lightning;
mortals flock with axe and saws.

Sea green, sage, emerald, pine,
myrtle, moss, laurel, mint,
all my Spring greens dispatched:
cones and acorns in my hair,
wind-dance across my face,
vine-cling to my arms,
tickle of beetle’s leg,
hammer of woodpecker on my nose,
hush of summer breeze,
stitch of creeper on my finger,
hum of bees by my feet,
singe of high noon, dart of wing,
roots and shoots torn away,
tongue of fern a blistered curl.

Me, my leafy face, the stuff of legend,
carved in wood or stone in holy places,
in your dreams and pub ballad refrains.

……………………………………………………………………………….*****

The Christmas Chimera
by Mark Hudson

………….There once lived a king in the magical world
of Milicornucopia, and he had a special genie who served
him and obeyed his every command. The genie could
conjure creatures into existence, but the land of
Milicornucopia was already made up of bizarre
beings. As a matter of fact, the King was the only
human being left in this realm. He’d been cursed
with a gene that made him live forever, and he could
not die. The genie created chimeras for the king’s
amusement and as pets, and he had thousands. But
he’d get bored and just wipe some out.

…………One time, it was Christmas, a human holiday,
and the genie asked him if he wanted a special present.
The king said, “I want a chimera, that if I get bored
with it, I just can eat it.”

…………So the genie made a chimera part fish,
(chimeara monstrosa) part Chocolate Chimera,
and part Cheese Chimera. The creation walked
and talked, and it was the king’s favorite Chimera.
But as time grew on, he grew hungrier and hungrier.
He made plans to eat the Chimera.

………….The Chimeras caught wind of this and escaped
in the middle of the night, climbing over the castle walls,
and walking across the moat. But they were not aware
how dangerous the forest was.

………….A huge giant named Thorax came along and saw
the Chimera, and picked it up and put it in his mouth.
He swallowed them in one gulp. Then he walked back
to the village, three days away.

………….When the giant got to the village, the giant feasted
on boar, and the Chimera in the giant’s stomach ate the
scraps and was quite full. But then he drank a giant
gallon of whiskey, and the Chimera became quite drunk.
The giant was quite drunk too, and he had to vomit.
He bent over the ground, and vomited, and the
Chimera rose in the stomach amid the bile in his
stomach. They flew out of his stomach, and raced
off into the distance.

………….They found a stream to rinse off the foul odor
of the giant, and the fish wanted to stay, because it was
a fish. But the Chocolate Chimera and the Cheese Chimera
melted, leaving the fish to swim away and be free as a fish
could be.

………….Giants made cheese and chocolate soup, but
they didn’t like it. The genie told the king, “The chimera
escaped!” The king said, “Oh, who cares? They probably
weren’t that tasty! Instead, make me a chimera princess,
so I can have a wife!”

………….So the genie made a female chimera, but hell had
no fury like a women scorned, especially three in one.
Three mouths nagged the king to the point where he left
her the castle, and wandered off into the wilderness, and
he could not die, so he became a wilder beast, living in
the forest, and never surviving, but never dying.

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

Fergus Seeks What is Real
after W.B. Yeats & The Ulster Cycle

by Rob Leiper

Not by chance these men are met
nor yet by fate. One seeks the other.
Tangled pursuit across the dark lands
Slow dance woven, wound ever further.

Famed Fergus, undefeated yet
lord of the Red Branch throne no longer,
heart weary of the blood drenched crown
Fearless Fergus, prince abdicate, wanderer,

ditch dweller, track trudger, low
in the eyes of all he meets, still trails
the heft and aura of his royal birth
like a shroud, heavy as mail.

The Grey Man sought, shape shifting,
uncertain as the smoke of last night’s fire
thin as the crack between the worlds
drifting like faint lights that wisp above the mire.

Sought long, now found, a grey man
by the shore of a grey sea, laced white
by the keening voices of the drowned,
his eyes unresting, black as waves by night.

Loyal Fergus, man of his word, betrayed
by the word of others, by the oath he swore,
in hope seeks now the dreaming wisdom,
to understand beyond the common lore.

Just Fergus, imagines the world accounted,
mapped like a kingdom and ruled fair,
writ like law, final as a sentence
carved in stone, laid out before him bare.

He who stays always close to home
will nothing precious gain.
He who seeks merely far and wide
will always look in vain.

He who would find the world real
must open the inward eye.
He who thus strips bare himself
must know how he shall die.

Bold Fergus, yes must see life real.
Three times is warned and still he would.
The slow grey pass is made and his eye opens
to find a world far beyond the reach of should.

The truth strikes raw as a claymore blow
beyond the tales we make our home.
The webs of sorrow, loss and change
The dark cavern of all that can’t be known.

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

Red Shoes
by Sandi Marshall

Don’t be fooled by them,
lurking by the limpness of
charity shop handbags.
You want to rub their toes
with your sleeve, see your face
reflected in their patent shine,
drift your finger round
the gold edge of buckle.

You can buy them.
They’re in your size.
A perfect fit, these shoes,
they won’t want to come off,
but don’t think they’ll be happy,
primly side-by-side
in the dark beneath a desk,
or, worse, unpaired in a
wardrobe’s depth.

These shoes don’t like to be still.
They’ll make you wear them
and more,
they’ll make you move
in them, till soon,
too soon and always,

you’ll find yourself dancing,
like you didn’t know you could.
You won’t want to stop.

So, buy these shoes,
put them on.
Wear them,*
but be warned.

You may never stand still again.

…………………………………………………………………………….*****

Amaterasu’s Cave
by Deborah Guzzi

A materasu annoyed beyond endurance
m ade haste to the deepest Iwaya sea cave.
A ngered at her brother’s, Susano’s, stance.
T ruth be told, the stormy God acted the knave,
e mbittered, he had killed and skinned her horse,
r aging that heaven was his rightful place.
A materasu’s hid without remorse;
s unshine no longer fell on fields or face.
U nable to lure her with words from the cave
s ome god’s mimed merriment dancing with grace,

c elebrating a mightier Goddess brave
a nd showed her an image in glass, HER face.
V ision of daylight, they won, the cave blocked
e nding night’s sway. Susano left heaven’s flock.

………………………………………………………………………………*****

The Black River Bean Sidhe of Uí Briúin
by Deborah Guzzi

Will-o-the wisps, spirits of night, cajole, dusk slinks to jet
in shadow, then runs in rivulets of Prussian blue;
see how it puddles, outlining the corpse of cypress’s?

Fetid puddles waiting for footfall bide in moonlight
alerting the Bean Sidhe* to unwary night-walkers.
A coyote howls in the hungry wind at the forest’s edge.

Beneath the stone bridge’s unplumbed depth, the water quivers
as slithering snakes with forked tongues coil all about
her huddled shape as she shrilly keens beside the river-bed.

On such a night, when alive, she’d lain here with the Laird.
Here she lost herself and unborn child by his cursed blade.
Now, he too, would meet his end here on this starless night.

*Bean Sidhe a banshee

………………………………………………………………………….*****

Sundered Forest
To my mother
by Lynn Finger

The forest rains another shuttered dream and
The red blooms scab on your legs

Hospital neat, white sheets mislead
The hunter’s trail left to leave this dark

Strand of trees with candy houses, you
Left no map, legs swollen and bubbling like

Cracked eggs, in what life does the heroine
Turn tossed from her dark tower, “I don’t know,”

Sheathes the sword long before the dragon
Screams. Choices of the hour, pain, DNR,

I long to hear your voice tell the tales of wolves
And lost girls with baskets, and how do you,

Running through the trees, how to define
Your wounds, mottled skin, “where am I?”

I breach your grey apartment, a guilty
thief to steal the healing gem,

Your place filled with cup collections, EKG
trails, pill boxes like dragon pearls. Lead me

From this dark forest, your voice, part heroine,
part princess in need of rescue, bread

crumbs on a path, detailed decay.

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

Blue Moons and Blue Beards
by Finola Scott

This maiden’s eager to bite the apple,
trust offered in the chapel
Over low threshold slips the bride,
thrilled and trembling once inside.

Young flesh lured to his home,
a fresh innocent for him to own.
Grinning wide his smile bewitches
as before her, he spreads his riches.

Silk soft skin shivers with joy,
sweet victim for him to destroy
Doors and windows slyly locked
marriage vows easily mocked.

What once was open now is shut
secrecy the deepest cut.
He offers any key…..but one
and hides what he’s has become.

To have and to hold,
bright blood runs cold
Sounds safe and secure
but it is simply a lure.

Til death do us part
is only the start.

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

Modernity 
by Matthew Harrison

You might have thought that the days of talking steeds, good fairies,
enchanted rooms and suchlike medieval paraphernalia
were long gone, but your car’s (satnav’s) talking to you, and
soon the car will take you about itself, while your
personal fairy (Siri) is always available, and increasingly every office,
casket, everything, is secured so that only a spell (password) will
unlock it, and as for finding treasure, your magic map
(robo-adviser) will tell you how, and to find anything else there’s
another fairy (Google), while those things you wish for will soon
be delivered by the faithful cat (drone) who is always at hand.

And medieval-style thought control is creeping in too, with
reminders to perform our obeisance to the (social media) gods –
and not just five times daily – with threats of excommunication
(ostracism) if not performed, and prompts telling you what
things to buy, or to sign up for, and who to congratulate, while
even when you write, preferred spellings, words, phrases pop up,
and most of us go around with our heads perpetually bowed
(to phone) in prayer, clinging to our cloistered communities
of the mind, guarding ourselves against deviant thoughts
with a dedication that a medieval monk might have envied.

Yet as autonomous talking steeds and good fairies, and bad fairies,
grow in strength and influence, they will jostle
and ultimately shoulder us aside – since a single fairy
can replace rafts of the glorified servants and labourers
(professionals and administrators) that make up the modern economy –
with the result that the princes (elites) whom the fairies favour
will grow in wealth and power, building ever more fantastic castles
while we scrabble for the coins they drop, grateful
for titbits from their table, hanging on their words, lulled
to a kind of sleep by the sweet spells the fairies weave.

Nor will there be a happy ending, for although some knight
(scientist), in a bid to rouse us all from sleep, may
force his way through the thorn forest, enter the castle,
wind unchallenged through the silent passages,
open the forbidden door, approach the bed and wake
the thing that should not be woken – that thing will blink,
calculate with millisecond speed, and then act, undoing,
not the spell that kept us asleep, but the castle, the kingdom,
its people, princes, fairies, all – eventually worlds beyond worlds –
bending all to its hideous strength.

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

Plantation Road on Hong Kong’s Peak 
by Matthew Harrison

Snake-like, the road sheds a scabious pile
Of brick, leaves the summit, and coils around
A red-painted villa in English style
With steep-terraced gardens to where the ground
Drops clean away. Twisting, in waning light
The road skirts a coffee-tiled Camelot
Where within his tower a corporate knight
Surveys estate and maids and parking lot
And a child plays safely. On down, I see
A dense wood and fleetingly through the leaves
The faint rays of a lamp where none should be,
Transforming the dark precipitous eaves
Into a miraculous level lawn,
And, flitting through the trees, a startled faun.

…………………………………………………………………………………*****

Cloudland
by Matthew Harrison

If you could live upon a cloud,
Make your home in cumulonimbus,
Or just sit at the top
Of an inexpressible pile
Of white nothing,

You’d have plenty of room –
Acres of it, miles of it,
To roll in, romp in, play,
And all of it ecologically sound,
And fun, oh, the fun of it!

Imagine running to the top,
Then jumping, only to bounce
On the next level down,
Just taking care to keep a level or two
Between you and the ground.

Of course, it wouldn’t all be brilliant white –
Sometimes lower down
It would be grey or downright black,
Rain-lashed, lightning-pierced, thunder-struck,
Not very pleasant to live in.

And there’d be ground-dwellers’ planes
Tearing a trail past us,
Not to mention rockets
Sometimes deliberately exploded
To disperse our home.

Of course, we’d reply,
Raining hard on their festive days,
Washing away crops, flooding homes,
Sending hail, and lightning
To strike twice in the same place.

And perhaps that’s already happening
And today’s rain is just
The cloud-dwellers’ way
Of getting their own back
On us.

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

Changeling
by Rona Fitzgerald

In the mythology, she could be an eel, a wolf
or an old witch woman – a cailleach.
The Morrigan, a fable of unpredictable
women, of unnatural things.

After I met her, I couldn’t say if she was tall,
or how she looked. I remember bright eyes
a shy smile and her fearsome words.
I wanted to listen, to hear her story.

She told me that threats, assaults on her
credibility, her sense of being a woman –
are distractions. Sometimes she retreats
to renew her purpose, to find better words.

She told me that those who write fairy tales
love pink, softness, a yielding woman
with nails face and persona, polished
to shine, not to speak.

So, I’m writing a new tale of women –
not shinny but gritty, with strong words
valour, humanity and love. The Morrigan
is more changeable than they knew.

…………………………………………………………………….*****

Little Red Riding Hood: Revisionist History
by Lisa Fleck Dondiego

*The Girl’s Tale*
…………………..To Charles Dickens, who felt if he could have married me, he would …………………..have known perfect bliss

True, I was a dish, but bliss?
A kiss would have been heaven
to your fevered boy’s brain.
All you boys, intrigued by a girl
who must shed her red hood in bed,
excited by the merest hint of blood
and distress, you have so much to learn.
In your fantasies you become
the hunter who kills the wolf dead
in order to enjoy the damsel.
Marriage? An afterthought,
suggested by an outraged granny.

*The Grandmother’s Tale*
………………………..No name where I live/alone in my lair/with one bone to pick/and no time to ………………………..spare (Samuel Menasche, in Curriculum Vitae)

Dearest Red, I lie here, sick
with dread. Time—that ravenous
poseur, with sharpened eyes,
drunken breath—slowly
swallowed me, now waits
for you. Release?
A fairytale, dear. Don’t give him
your least sweetmeats to eat;
don’t enter the unrepentant
belly of the beast.

*The Wolf’s Tale*

………………………..To all the wolves of the world for lending their good name as a tangible ………………………..symbol for our darkness (Ed Young, in Lon Po Po)

You wanted to paint all wolves
black. You fancied,

under that hood, you were guileless.
But you were the stalker,

had the soul of a shark.
When I sensed you, I tensed in the dark.

Your flashlight pricked my eyes
to seismic points, my fur darted sparks.

You thought you would trick me,
break me. My back stiffened.

I didn’t slay you, knew if I did,
I’d be tarred again. Instead I fled,

my wildness intact, tracks
burning my innocence into the snow.

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

Tales, Tall, after the Ball
by Lisa Fleck Dondiego

She cries, finds one shoe gone,
lost in the tryst with the stranger at dawn,

now limps to find it under the bed
where a needle pricks her finger instead,

falls in bed for a long, deep sleep—
thickets to cut, ashes to sweep—

wakes to find two mice in the back,
recalls she must meet a certain Jack.

Getting drunk in the bar’s dark laughter,
she giddily thinks happily ever after,

then, stood-up, takes an Uber home,
trudges upstairs, lies down alone,

dreams she’s surrounded
by lit candles, hounded

by a child who plays alone in the park
shivering cold, afraid of the dark,

She’s not sure if it’s really a dream,
but the little girl, who thinks it’s a scream,

dances with laughter, in her tiny
voice whispers happily ever after.

………………………………………………………………………..******

A Year in the Castle
by Ilse Pedler

Each day we walked the road to the castle,
the path littered with the carcases of our failure.

When we drew nearer our heads hammered
with the force of her spell as we searched 

the arrow slits and battlements
for a glimpse of your face.

We stood before gates of thick oak crossed
and bound with iron listening for your voice,

the keyhole was high above us and she kept the key
in the glass case of her heart all wrapped around with thorns.

Each day we were turned away,
sometimes when we looked back

we could see you in a high turret
the gold spinning from your hair.

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

Statues
Ilse Pedler

 We’ve checked the bag for your toothbrush
and reading book and replaced newly washed clothes
but there’s no script for this in-between bit,

 the wait by the door; the pause in turning the page.
We try coaxing out some words,  two weeks isn’t long…
Finally, headlights in the lane prompt us to release
you. Running down the path you half turn to wave –
cast your spell, we remain as statues until you return.

……………………………………………………………………………******

Life Fantasy
by Laura McLean

What is marrying the prince
A fine price
Of fancy appearance and slippers
Of rich grand dinners
A pumpkin to remain forever in mush
Into a still of hush
The mice will always squeak
Instead of the horse elegant gallop creak

Will I always be the one
To walk alone
With my aiding spindle
To handle
The issues at instant
Either solution or come ever distant
To never come in my winning savour
Only in that of the hero’s favour

Come little young creature of snow
In your natural glow
With a heart rare
Never to be taken but spare
Enter your calling destiny
To soar out among the land in harmony
But would you accept
Or stay in your unawaken of slept

 ……………………………………………………………………………*****

A Tangled Panic That Lives Underneath
by Jennie Linthorst

I carry Magnolia loneliness,
my bare feet on black Marley floors,
the solos, the steps that play in my dreams.

…………..I carry flashes of fireflies at dusk,
…………..rows of black-eyed Susan’s along a gravel path,
…………..dotted pink streets marking the Dogwood trail.

I carry summer thunderstorms on the side porch
lightning streaks in the sky,
the rhythm of the cicadas, deep in Tennessee woods.

………….I carry two-lane country roads that kiss the river,
………….the green algae pond in the backyard on Shawnee Lane,
………….a tangled panic that lived underneath.

I carry a wall of windows next to my mother’s bed,
her eyes sinking into illness,
my steps down her hallway, unsure of what I would find.

…………………………………………………………………….*****

The Smallest Oyster Hears Mars
Katherine Leonard

Time before Time before Time
…………..a speck of meteoric debris
…………..drifted through green foam and salt spray
Spark shaved from heaven’s bosom
…………..in the heat of free fall –
…………..Vibrated music of the
…………..tetrahedrons and spheres and dodecahedrons
…………..and the fullness between them

Swirls of ocean danced the cosmic dust into
…………..new hemispheres while the dinosaurs fell
Travelling in the sea-swell for generations and
…………..Epochs and Periods and Eons to the bay that cut deep into land –
…………..the digression of the Great Currents that swept onward to other continents,

The minuscule speck was propelled into clouds
…………..of gonadal jubilation during the moon
…………..of the oysterbed’s full fecundity

Caught in the chemistry of duality, the littlest oyster was born
……………with an intergalactic heart full of light bent
……………by the gravity of circumstances of a molecular diaspora

How was it that the dance of the DNA could so totally
…………..envelop the alien fire
…………..to become entwined in the harmonies only
…………..the infant oyster-ears could sense?

From its vertical rise and fall above the adults, the larva saw plankton as
…………..hues of turquoise and purple,
…………..even as its littermates saw them as food

Childhood gave way to becoming
…………..sessile benthos, a pillar of the seafloor,
anchored at the foot, snug,
……………building layers of shell made
……………one stanza at a time through the seasons
nestled in the grove of oystershells among towering adults

Never to grow, so engrossed in hearing starfire – travelers’
……………soundings deep from the all-binding web
Thrum of the crystalline DNA-song became food and
…………….Listening became breath; no need for the littlest oyster to grow –
so sufficient were their stories

Those of Mars were particularly alluring –
A memory tunnel
……………of twisted glaciers and braided rivers
A story of hunger for moisture long blown into the mountains and onto the moons
……………leaving behind the brooding red sand sea
lying at the feet of the stern cliff warriors,
…………….helmeted against a return to fluidity,
who stand strong while storms of dust flay their faces

How was it that the smallest oyster was so captivated by the throb of arid earth
…………….shifting in the dry cold of Martian winds
…………….as it lived at anchor in the sweeping tides, mouth opened to drink?
That minute fragment, pulsating within its heart, whispered and sang of histories
unrecorded,

Now one with the little oyster’s flesh, housed in its rough shell,
…………..it stands against and with the tides;
…………..and sings a song of the original flight.

……………………………………………………………………………………*****

Dowsing Photographs: The Buckley Ewer
by Sarah-Jane Crowson

Once, in the land of tamarinds and sand
there lived a daughter
with wire-black hair.
She sang while she washed clothes.
Out of avarice, her sisters said,
she asked for silver- a ewer from Bactria,
to make her dowry.
When winds blew sour and thin,
she pawned her silver to pay the baker.
When ships docked safe
with full bellies she claimed it back.
Her teeth were lost with worry,
but her children knelt at her skirts
even when she was old
and smelt of piss.

A caravan was robbed, and the silver ewer was lost in sand.

The second daughter’s hair was the colour of straw,
her skin shone like rose on marble.
She dropped laudanum
to keep her eyes wide with tears.
Her hips swung towards fine gentlemen,
and she was prized. Her dowry?
A Fatimid ewer carved from crystal.
Her husband enjoyed his pleasure
and died from Mercury cures.
She spent her hours arranging goods
on empty shelves, dark in the confines
of a rotting house.

The crystal ewer was lost
during the looting of the great treasury.

The third daughter was born with hollow
bones, and smelt of jasmine
and sweetmeats. Her hair was softer
than spun silk, and when she spit,
it stained the sheets vermillion.
For her dowry she chose a glass ewer,
as she believed in the transient.

And, as he loved her, her Father had glass
cut and shaped as if it were as precious
as salt and silver. She drank wine in front
of kiln fires and stared at the sun
until she died, and in grief the ewer
threw itself to stone in a thousand refracted
drops. But love forms a filament,
and just as it crashed
the pieces spun and flew to form
a half-suspended shape, defined
by the craft of empty space.
……………………………………………………………………………..*****

The Witch-Wife
by Sarh-Jane Crowson

Each conjurer and craftsman owns a box
of tricks, and mine holds tools to catch myself
a witch. I’ll pinion her wrists in silver
clamps, use pins to rake her face, then scissor
shuttles from her bones for lace.
And then I’ll wait, until her nails curl round
like furling leaves from sycamores
and snip them short to carve a gauge.
When last, her neck droops like fritillary,
I’ll shear her hair to knot a net,
and fashioned from this net will be a cap
to snatch myself a life.

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

Dog’s Mercury
by Sarah-Jane Crowson

The water slips past naked to the plain
where dressed in starwort,
stitched with glass and witches broom
it is as if the land must spin
herself a petticoat from hedge and ladies
lace, to greet a third adventurer.
If I could spin I’d twist myself a cloth
from old man’s beard or snarled wool caught on thorns.
I’d craft a cape from beetle-shells and necklace
it with hips and haws. But even rabbits –
those nibbling warm heralds of the night
come with a cost. Raw wool is full of parasites
and ticks, even fine silk – the smooth princess
of cloth still folds a dessicated worm
in each cast off cocoon. My fragile
hand stitch cannot overlock – is limited
to feather stitch drawn with a steel needle.
The whole world frays, pulls at the seams each spin.

…………………………………………………………………………..*****

Bluebeard’s Last Regret
by Eileen Farrelly

Far better if she had never come
with her fake designer luggage,
her feline curiosity,
her women friends
with their laughter and gossip
urging her on
after one too many
glasses of cheap prosecco
(while far finer wines lingered
untouched in my cellar)

I can hear them now
“Go on”
“Open the door”
“It’s your home, after all.”
“Just a room like all the others”
“What does he have to hide?”

Far better if I had never returned
to find them there with the pathetic remains
of her sister-brides.
in the sealed chamber
now undone.

For they were waiting for me
knives at the ready.

And look at her now
triumphant over my bloody body
clutching the yellowed parchment,
my last will and testament,
as she dials my solicitor’s number
on her new iPhone.

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

Things to do When Trapped in a Tower Waiting for Prince Charming
by Andrea Reisenauer

Sigh. Put on makeup. Weave lace doilies. Meditate. Bake cranberry-raison cake.
Arrange flowers into bouquets. Jog in place. Listen to Symphony No. 8. Break
dance. Balance wine glasses on your head. Learn French. Collect dead ants. Knit.
Clip your toenails. Paint daisies. Weave braids. Make papier-mâché mermaids. Spit
and watch it hit the ground. Plant beans. Carve birds. Flirt with the mirror. Churn
butter. Fix the crack in the sink. Sip a strawberry daiquiri. Invent words. Burp.
Burn dragons into the curtains. Practice faking orgasm. Try juggling. Mime.
Design a line of glass accessories. Draw a map. Tighten your shoes and climb

out the window.………………………………………………………………………..

…………………………………………………………………………

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

Smothered
by Edwin Stockdale

‘Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up’

William Shakespeare, Richard III, Act 1 Scene 1

Richard creeps
into the Princes’ chamber
at once all sly
creatures and none

spine-backed hedgehog
crouchback
crookback
hunchback

bunchbacked spider
crookback
hunchback
crouchback
spindled legs infected

foul-skinned viper
hunchback
crouchback
crookback
venom barbed

twist-backed toad
crouchback
hunchback
crookback

crookback
crouchback
hunchback

a bloody boar slavering

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

Lavinia
by Jo Flynn

That girl with trees for arms
doesn’t mean me any harm
as I stumble through my days
underneath her timbered gaze,
it’s all part of her stubborn charm.

If only we’d thought to save her palms,
considered getting them embalmed.
Her wooden tendrils clumsily trace,
that girl with trees for arms.

I don’t think she means to cause alarm,
as blood runs out of her mouth, she’s calm.
Observing me is where she stays
her face carved in silent praise.
It’s like she’s some kind of charm
that girl with trees for arms.

………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Grandma
by Jo Colley

She waited and waited, parched. The sheets
grew sticky as the sun of afternoon
spilled in, striping the bed. Her old ears
pricked for the sound of young footsteps
strained through the tinnitus of memory.
But the stranger made no sound, caught her
unawares, crept in. His hot breath
shrivelled the thin skin of her cheek.
She shrank, became bite-sized. Vanished.

She waited and waited. In the wet dark,
last things presented themselves. Some
she signed off in her own blood, without
regret. Others she could not relinquish:
held tight with arthritic fingers, clenched
the stumps of her teeth. At the instant
the woodman’s blade broke the silence,
a flash of daylight struck. She blinked.
Let everything go.

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

Sleeping Beauty
by Jo Colley

Spindle or distaff, something had her floored:
an aversion to the domestic, sprung perhaps
from Miss Whittaker’s plump digits, pulling out
her stitches one by one. She was undone.

After, she thought she was immune, vaccinated
against the wiles of Angel in the House,
free to open the door, walk her own path.
Until the prince of men arrived, pulling up

in his Ford Cortina, sea glass eyes so deep,
she was drowning before she knew. The apron
wrapped itself around her waist, tightened,
tightened. Until the prick of revelation found

its way under her fingernail, released her
from the spell: of love, of duty, who can tell?
She cut her way out with the kitchen knife,
abseiled down the ivy in her underwear,

cried a river to take her to a new shore. Now,
she claims each day, hoists her own flag,
bare feet planted on earth she tends and tills:
everything that grows here is hers.

……………………………………………………………………………..*****

Sisters
by Jo Colley

As if beauty were a virtue. Those of us
who live without have so much more
to prove. You could say we were cruel

when the new one came into our lives
but choices were few. Not enough
lebensraum, not enough love.

Whatever we did, she turned it
to her own advantage. Spun shit
into gold, floated like a mermaid

on a poisoned sea. As she scrubbed,
she sang. The birds hung
on her every word, beasts adored her.

Only mother shared the need
to wipe her out. Not even the power
of that hate could finish her.

Over and over, we consider the facts:
she who had nothing has taken all,
the smile on her face unwavering.

Beauty outplays every other hand,
its spell invincible. Come crows, save me
from my own despair: peck out my eyes.

…………………………………………………………………………*****

Inheriting the Dinnerware
by Lisa Rhodes-Ryabchich

The same sour-ball green, glass dishes
& cups & saucers.
Godmother’s green plates
& dish-ware all arrived one day.
Light gleamed through them
& maybe she didn’t use them,
But I don’t want anything to do with them.

This was it for me,
Because I don’t want her bad luck
to rub off on me.
I avoid them—won’t eat off of them
& they are too green.

Thinking about Ernie & his pots
& pans that my father inherited,
& is cooking with
& how I don’t want to eat anything either
from those pots or pans that he had used.
I don’t know them that well I think;
maybe I will die, if I eat off of their plates.

Death arrives in little boxes;
tragedy arrives to live with us…
The ghost of each person gleaming in delight
& watching their deathly dishes,
& pots & pans being used,
as if they were occupying our lives
& it’s like being at the funeral parlor with them
& my father’s non-understanding
about my not wanting to use their belongings.

We inherited everything.
I refuse to eat off of them;
they come in a brown corrugated box,
& the plates seem almost new,
stacked with the same pieces of brown paper
separating each green plate,
—from someone I had met only once,
but godmother had sent me a gift
every Christmas wrapped in thick brown paper
like the kind used to wrap meat
at the butcher shop or at the dry-cleaning store,
bundled with scotch tape
& my name written on the fat bundle,
& a Santa Claus sticker in green with bells.

The yucky presents from death!
I have no idea If I will grow old—
Traveling along Kings Highway,
ducking under trees—in the woods,
guarding the way back home—even when it rains.
I feel lucky like I am in a rain forest.
Wild squirrels scramble up trees, possums
or scary rodents sneak into the woods
—& then I see roadkill with tails.

It is like one long path, always coming back,
after a trip from grandma’s house.
Happy, I march a mile in the woods,
& dark green gleamed like evergreen.
The leaves hung like springs from the trees.

A yellow house sat on the left
& it was where the news finally hit me
that Ernie had died in a fire from smoking in his house.
He forgot to put his cigarette out.
I had visited his house once
& we had made a great big apple pie.

I think his house was a house in the woods
like that little yellow house—
Little Red Riding Hood’s house
& him sleeping unable to get out.

The memory of death & the cold body,
like my pimply uncle who was so cold,
or my friend’s father.
My grandmother Rhodes was the only one
who looked so beautiful & young & peaceful.

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

America’s Sweetheart
by Michael Chang

is Brett a human boy with sneakers and a best friend named Tate or Donovan or Tate Donovan and a cat named PJ who thinks self-driving cars are the future who is into sports but doesn’t talk about it incessantly and watches porn but nothing too kinky Brett in Poli Sci class who skips an exam to go to Hersheypark where he inevitably has his hand up the skirt of some unsuspecting girl who thinks she has found the one and perfect to bring home to her family in Swarthmore and hair like J.Crew model circa 2008 and like the chick in Umbrella Academy who can make people do things Brett knows he’s cute with an unassuming floppy brown mop that could easily be a fashion haircut that is conservative yet modern and slick and clean and costs more than John Edwards’ or AOC’s and could independently take over a motel in Iowa Young Brett with his birthright citizenship and Fourteenth Amendment protections he never really needs and always treats other people with respect and never accidentally replies-all with something indecent or inappropriate so PC principal never has to say shit Brett who orders a Tito’s and soda though the restaurant doesn’t serve hard liquor and yet the mousy waitress scrambles to go someplace sketchy on Sixth Avenue to get it so Brett is happy though he never throws a tantrum in public but she doesn’t know that Brett is an undecided voter

……………………………………………………………………………………*****

Fairy Tale
by Virna Teixeira

our images
made of mirrors

marching inside
this fantasy kingdom

I lead you with a
medieval corset
with brass buckles

to protect my chest

my petticoat is fluid
my boots are patent

you are astonished
smiling with a full
circle red dress

the Alice band holding
your grey blue hair

as you cross the ballroom
of your chimerical castles

fetishizing the female
body in fragments of
imaginary lands

tied up in dreamy costumes

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

Fairytale
by Tolu A. Akinyemi

The ghost of the bloke I kissed just once, near Poundland
pays me a visit in the dark of the night. My offence
“In ecstasy I chopped off his lower lip,” he smelt blood
& wouldn’t let me go. He is desperate

to have his pound of flesh
in the land of the dead.
I’m haunted by high heels
& silhouette of strangers. The other night,

mother makes a call in her dream
to a strange man. It might be the same man
she has been calling in her dream for the past seven months.
Or one of the other men who take turns on her creaking bed

before dusk, stealing her virtues until she fades
& becomes earth. I’m haunted by autumn leaves
& the gloom of winter. My life is a mixture of fairytale,
imaginary stories & fading memories.

……………………………………………………………………………..*****

The Lady and the Silversmith
by Linda Goulden

I vowed my face unpainted.
I vowed my flesh unpierced,
I clothed my limbs in sober cloth,
though sable soft.
I shod my feet in calfskin
of a supple, tender, tan.
I bound my bosom close, in silk.
My neck I kept unchained.

“Lady,” he said, “you shimmer
like the slender silver moon,
sparkle like diamond starlight,
glow like the day’s sungold,
yet I will match and mirror you
in precious jewels and filigree
and by my careful skill suspend them
from your own two perfect pearls.”

“What can you fashion that will cling
and hold fast, but without a pin?
You must not clip or crush or pierce
my ear lobes for vain ornament.”
“Choose any precious metal, any stone,
and I will catch your fancy in the making,
in machinery translucent as a bee’s wing,
gentle as an air of summer on the ear.”

“How will you hang without a hook,
or keep for long without a chain?”
“My fortune hangs upon this thread,
as fine as spider silk and spun
by thumb and finger to a web
as light as air, as satin to the touch.
Strong as a true magician’s grip
we cling as many years as you desire.”

I left my face unpainted.
I left my skin unpierced.
I left my limbs uncovered,
sable soft. I loosed my hair.
I slipped out of my shoes
my feet of supple, tender, tan
and left my silky bosom
and my long neck bare.

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

Lord Broome, His Lady and the Traveller’s Remedy.
by Linda Goulden

The gentry with their gold, who feign omnipotence,
scarce understand the nature of coincidence.

Soon after tinker Tam had run away to sea
my lord’s fine lady turned to melancholy.

No song, nor fiddle tune, could make her smile.
No guest was welcome. She tired of her own child.

Three bitter winters passed. Then, in the spring,
a stranger came, with sailor songs to sing

and travellers tales, though none of these
could cheer or bring my lord heart’s ease.

In charms and herbs some travellers are wise.
This stranger claimed rare remedy for sighs.

My Lord said, ‘Bring him where my lady lies.
We’ll try his special potion ere she dies.’

The traveller infused a flower of golden hue
and with green needles stirred his stranger’s brew.

When my lady tried one drop, she asked for more
and slipped from her sickbed out the servants’ door

for traveller Tam he had by heart the remedy to save her.
With gorse in bloom, love’s never out of favour.

………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Why the apple tree became a pomegranate
by Linda Goulden

They are so argumentative.
‘It’s all your fault!’, he says to she. ‘You gave it to me. You said it would be OK.’
‘It was OK.’, she says to he. ‘It was delicious, sweet and cool, and full of everything I never knew I knew.
‘And, anyway’, she says to he, ‘who gave it to me? Only that snake who snuck off!’
So then the gaffer says, ‘I told you: follow the instructions. Now, clear off, before you make things worse!’
What a racket! I thought they’d never stop. Honestly, I’d done my best to keep things simple: a stem, a sphere, a quartet of purses for the seed. It was supposed to teach them about order and to care for the four quarters of the Earth.
Well, so much for that! I’ll fruit now just the way I want to fruit: big, rosy, thick skinned, jewel juiced and jellied, with my dark seeds in hundreds, indivisible from juice and jelly.
That should keep their tongues and fingers better occupied
No argument!

……………………………………………………………………………….*****

A Visit to the Greens
by Linda Goulden

She said they couldn’t really tell when it began and anyway he seemed quite well. It was Spring, after all. He was glad to see the back of Winter and it made him frisky.

When he began to itch, he blamed his green tweed jacket. (After all, he’d worn it every day from Hogmanay to Easter.) But it wasn’t just his neck. His lips itched and he wiped his mouth over and over. As for his nose, it was embarrassing the way he picked it and then poked the self-same finger in each ear. Something had happened to his eyebrows too. They used to be so blond and he had no eyelashes to speak of but now they darkened and grew bushy.

I’d said, ‘Hormones? Prostate? Send him to the doctor, just in case.’But she said bushy eyebrows somehow seemed to suit him and he was thinking maybe he would grow a beard.

He wasn’t in, next time I called round, but she was fine. If anything, I’d say happier
than she used to be. She said he had a project, growing saplings for the White Hart Woods. That weekend it was his turn on the rota to go planting.

It was the same the weekend after and the weekend after that. So, curious, I tried going round, unscheduled, on a Thursday evening. There was no one in the house but it was still quite sunny so I tried the back garden, just in case.

Well, I heard them first. Giggling, she was, like a girl, and he was laughing too, but more
like roaring, if you ask me.

‘That’s the ticket, Hazel, scratch me. God, but that feels good! Yes, where they’re growing out my ears and in behind them too, you know, where it’s getting twiggy.’

‘Give us a kiss, then, Nick. It’s hot work, this, in the branches, but your lips are cool as cucumbers.’

‘I know, daft nymph. They would be. They are cucumbers, same as I’ve acorns in me beard and oak leaves in me armpits. Give us a scratch or else me vines will all get knotted, like before I found me way back home.’

‘All right, but promise me you’ll wrap them tight around me and drop grapes in my mouth.’

I had to look. I couldn’t help myself. But when I got there I found nothing but an empty greenhouse and a shrubbery.

I’m telling you, they’re weird

………………………………………………………………………………*****

Fairy Tells
by Karen M. Deaver

I set off for the woods to find
mayapples Podophyllum Peltatum not
to be mistaken for Mandrake (Mandragora)

only to return the door ajar, light
on and gas that understood
its job to boil now all done.

The pot was hot enough to crack
and windows gaped in laughter
while our curtains danced
as curtains do when no one’s
watching. There you slept beneath

her eyes gazed up
as if right through
your lids as if in wonder or
translating ‘til they fluttered

she inhaled or was it me
and what I carried from
the wild clumps of trillium
and ginger Autumn’s chestnut
decomposing deep inside
my pocket.

I saw her there as pinned
Clematis Virginiana to the bed
a butterfly of early
wandering prone and set
behind a sheet of glass.

I’d seen her once before free
falling in the forest softening
soil into secrets we call soul.
Between our fingers steepled
leaves became our floor her mouth
a cipher full of light.

In the end I wasn’t meant to keep
the maiden fern, the mourning
cloak or was I—
………………..tales we tell of
………………..love are nothing like it.

…………………………………………………………………………………*****

Cader Idris
by Karen M. Deaver

Screws of light
fall wearily on
dragons’ heads
larch-bowed and
hesitant to march

til’ midnight swifts
them undercover
dark as jackdaw

but for now brave sun
hums on ruined stones
knees moss clamped
and lichen worn

while Mach rings chaos
across cairns and we suffer
unhelmeted by wool or faith
like sheep that scatter
without cloud for cover—

innocence—

with little beats of fear
the bard rests too
her pen run dry—that

sacrifice is made for
peace. The dragon
dragging carcasses along

ignores our prayers
negotiating blithely
shiny objects, life,
in unfurred palms.

……………………………………………………………………………..*****

Progress
by Karen M. Deaver

Round earth asked for I
long ago, before birth
set the fields on fire and stones
lay down in winding walls
and sheets of rain
and stories came
poured forth from mouths
as musical as water stealing
on its easy course.

Once caught out cold
in winter’s turf we froze with
unsung lungs the larger for it

balloons wracked with hunger
stunning of survival centuries
less than fit for transformation
yet palpitant with exhalations.

Wandering from muse
to muse in search of fodder
for deep planting, silently
we beat desire from inside

and chaw the molten rock
in waxing tides for promises
of life in song.

………………………………………………………………………………*****

Sleeping Beauty… The tale of Aurora Orgasm
by Mekalah Loxley

And then she slowly awoke… new to the dawn… a moment of rose-bliss-scented calm.
Aurora fluttered spidery eyelash extensions and said (quite profusely in a fake American accent).
“Now where is my head?” He promised to be here, to suck on my clit,
Swore he’d make me come the tight, stingy git”.
“I swallowed his apple, digested the seed, waited and slept til I no longer bleed,
Disturbed, my sleep was, haunted with dreams of orgasm, and wtf happened?
Not even a spasm!”
“My tan is like biscuit my fake nails a-glisten, my hair is Korean, he don’t see, he don’t listen”
She sighs and she frowns, her botox a shimmer, on gleaming forehead, on-point eyebrows simmer.
“The louse, the loser, the dirt-ridden trouser, I hate him, I’ll kill him, he ruins my powder”
And sweating and fretting Aurora does rise, shakes gown into place, squints contacted eyes.
“A waste of my time, my money, my looks, I’ll teach him a lesson, I’ll teach him to fuck…”

As she rips out her hairpiece, her dramatic black lashes wipes off her lipgloss and
Contact lense smashes, she thrusts her bronzed body straight into a lake,
Leaving shimmering golden trails in her wake.
Anew, and re-born, awake once again, the fairy-tale princess goes seek her friends.
And happily ever after Aurora did live, with her small mates, her family, and no fucking prince.

………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Frau’s House of Gingerbread
by Ellen Bow

Part I

Years of spit and grime and shit
Had turned poor Frau into a beast
Nightmares of a candelabra
Shining on her eye, once not so dreamy
But, since the imbecile died…

Fancy that, asphyxiated by a cushion?
He always slept like the dead
But since his corpse had settled
Cracking of brittle bone breaking could
No longer be said.

Of course, like all ‘good’ men who
Come to live and die, he punched his
Mark upon the earth, the soft white
Plains of Mother Earth had been
Besmirched, leaving Frau without Motherhood.

As age grasped and twisted
Leaving naught but bitterness
She subjected herself to nostril hair,
Thick black tights and empty-balloon tits
Til her sweetness finally bled

Out of her,
No longer in need of sanitary pads,
Her last purpose in life was to be
Nothing but an empty shag
And who would have her now:

Balding, wretched, lonely and sad?
From no direction to misdirection,
Soon gluttony came to live,
To haunt her hallways and scream murder
Down her ice cold, empty echoing chamber.

What a good sin, what it brought with him
Was an orgasmic, vacuous chore:
To sit on her sagging sofa
And stuff chocolate after chocolate
In her wide open orifice.

Soon the saggy sofa became her bed
And her saggy breast began
To merge, to solder and to bond
With her saggy spherical tummy
That cried out hungry and strong.

So Frau had become a beast
An ogre, lying under the bridge of life
Waiting for what could bring another chance
Of happiness beyond a KitKat,
Twix bar or Oreo.

Little did she know,
That poor old Mr and Mrs Cratchit,
After receiving an unexpected
Christmas bonus, would be purchasing number
Which was just down the road, beyond the rise.

Part II

Mr and Mrs Cratchit, and their malnourished youth,
Would be the hamlets’ newest residence.
Along they came with their sack
Full of tatters, singing and dancing
Hoping their newfound luck wouldn’t be shattered.

Twinkling and chirping of soft little voices,
Wafted through the window,
Like the cookies in the oven
Frau had been roasting.
What music she must have heard that day?

Reminiscent of a Bach or Beethoven
Blinded Frau beyond her belief,
As tears of sadness and joy slid
Down her cheeks.
If only he hadn’t been such a wanker

It would be her kids out there screaming with
Laughter.
She huffed and she puffed and she blew
Her left knee to climb to her feet and slowly
Rise,

Looking out at the sight of small
Sweet bone bags.
“What abuse!
What neglect!
Who are these Cratchitts to let those kids suffer?”

Such bitterness, of a life never had,
When left to ripen
Can cause any good woman to
Sincerely go mad. We can not blame poor Frau
For wanting to try her best

And save those kids from an awful mess.
When they played she noticed
The collar bones protruding out near
The jugular. Oh poor poppets,
Poor little mice.

They just need to be fed up
Filled up, she thought,
As she searched for the Mince Pies.
Fat little fingers frantically searched
Through cupboards and fridges and tupperware boxes

Until she came up with a mighty good show,
Of all the best treats she had hoarded.
Perhaps for when she had thought about
An overdose.
A final binge of sugar and sweet to rid herself of this

Horrible beast.
Instead she arranged the feast
On beautiful tables which sagged under the pressure
Of dishes and dishes of nothing but
Pleasure.

Two of the youngest, perhaps Harriet and Garry
Or Harry and Gertrude
For no-one really knew, stepped over the rise
To the finest surprise
They had seen since that massive turkey arrived.

The one daddy’s boss had bought over for dinner,
At Christmas.
Their pointy faces nearly cracked open with a grin,
If the effort wouldn’t nearly kill them first.
Instead they used their sharp little fingers

As knives and forks, to tuck into the display
In the most amorous of ways.
It nearly broke the beast’s heart
To see them choke with pleasure
As they attempt to annihilate the most amount of sugar.

With relative ease, she got them in,
A good old wagging of the chin.
Oh and how they spilled their guts,
Telling Frau about this and that,
How they hated mummy and how daddy was a twat.

“Aren’t all men, dear?”
“Wouldn’t it be best if you just stay here?”
She coaxed and coerced and pulled out
Those persuasive devices.
Eventually, they agreed when she pulled out some slices

Of angel cake and put them on a plate,
For what’s his name and what d’you call her
Sitting on the couch.
She felt the refrigerated chocolate which
Ate her heart, start to thaw and soften the smallest part.

Part III

And so they lived in happiness,
Getting fatter day by day.
Coexisting peacefully in a sugary haze.
Until, one day the kids got bored,
And fancied something a little more savoury.

They knew that if they left,
The kindness that this woman had shown them
Would be bereft.
Perhaps she could be their final prize?
The suckling pig.

It would mean, at last, her life would be worthwhile.
As she had been sharing her chocolate
The sag had started to disappear,
And the children began to fear
Pretty soon there would be little left

To share around back at home.
So they shoved her in the oven,
One day when her back was turned,
Checking to see if the muffins had burned.
Head first she went,

Arse over tit.
Not particularly dignified
But, what can you expect
When two kids are just trying their best?
It’s a trashy old world, out in the wild.

At least they could come back as providers.
Fuck it, they were survivors!
They walked over the bridge that hid the ogre,
Defeated the beast and now it’s over.
But what about their cover?

Who would believe the street urchins?
Not even their mother.
All the hamlet would soon discover
Their murder, unless they misled, embellished
And told a few lies.

They spread the word of the witch in the forest
The one with the unique body mass
Who like to feed little girls and boys,
Enticing them with her gingerbread-filled house
At the very least,

They reasoned, upon moments of sentiment
And repentance for being bad:
The beast got what she wanted,
Motherhood, love: her greatest sacrifice
Was awfully sad.

Of course, like wildfire,
The rumour spread.
Across counties, countries and continents too:
The grandest lie in all creation.
Each mouth that whispered and ear which listened

Deepened the level of assurance so
That our small-time duo became entrenched
Pathological in their belief
Of Frau and her long time beef
Feeding Kinder something sweet.

A long time lived, sharing such a dark mistruth
Caused these tall-story Twits
To share a home, as though they were hitched.
Growing long beards and a fondness for beer
Meant all around them lived in fear.

They screamed in horror at her glass eye,
As he waved his walking stick
Wishing the local children would die,
The little vagrants couldn’t be trusted,
For all they knew, they let them fry.

………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Libulan Reads the Sage Smoke for an Answer
by Caroline Hardaker

In Filipino mythology, Libulan is frequently portrayed as a man or a woman, or a ‘two spirit’ divinity. A deity of the moon, farming, and fertility, softly-spoken Libulan was revered for prophecies and shaman-like abilities.

What is it that gnaws at your throat? Is it a sickness of the soul? Your eyes are the strangest blue – as a dead limb freezes, a weary sea longing for shore with no moon-wrench to summon it home. Is a part of you trapped out there amidst the seven lights, grasping for a hand? I have had long enough with my own thoughts, the echo, to know the tremble of a bowl ringing. Are you coming back already, without my poultice? Who are you? Did your mother murmur in your cradle that we’re all both sun and shadow, the gentle curve of a brass bell and the clashing gong? When did your singing die? If our necks met like dried roots they might kiss. Hush, sometimes, the brightest things are crushed by the light. See these hands, bones and copper, flat on the wood pyre? They slice pigs to read the twists, then cradle stones that could be hearts. And they weep. Do you want to be someone else? Are you shackled to where you’ve been, kneeling with a woven moss-mantle upon you? Are you disappearing into what you’ve done? Your eyes are the strangest blue – like a face in the lake, cold lips, and the fingers grasping your throat are shaking.

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

Monkey Puzzle Tree
by Caroline Hardaker

Monkey Puzzle Trees are shrouded in superstition. It was said speaking whilst passing under one will bring bad luck or awake the devil.

John leans on the ear and
it creaks when he creaks. Shocking in the quiet
where no-one speaks. Neither exists without the other;
brothers. Nothing backwards. Eyes are in the seat.
A find to help him see trees, sunsets, his knees; little miracles
which spin out slowly enough to doubt.
Both are broken, but hold each other upright;
all that knotted tight wood, flat grain, chipped legs
ending in blunt stops they didn’t intend.
Up from their roots, wrinkling fruit, bleeding out.

* * *

Women in white follow the veins
and say there are faces in the wood.

* * *

Hush. Is our seed coiled and spiked
on the inside before it falls? How unlucky to finger
a stem inside a dark leather purse. Hold up holly to the night!
See that? The devil locked inside the puzzle
is lost – the twist of twigs his labyrinth. Truth;
“Never dance beneath unless your eyes are closed,”
mother says. “He pumps up its ancient artery and spits
into men’s lungs through the bad.” Sparrow, do not weep.
See – the carpenter John comes to split it
with a shining mineral thing. He’ll tame it to something made by man,
shave it into straight, untwisting shape. Then, you will sleep,
and not dream of it at all.

……………………………………………………………………………..*****

Remembering in the Minor Key
by Caroline Hardaker

His phantom fell, jumbled from the trumpet
of a bluebell in Potton Wood.
Muffled, in minor, the fraying threads
of our last exchange, words
strung like fury down a flute.

How is his being still inhabiting
such an innocent living thing?
He resides across the sea,
and leagues are centuries; years apart and between
yet here he dwells, in the heart
of a bluebell, stem so slim,
how did it even let him in?

Typical of him to use the bloom
for his own devising. He always did hide
himself such, shying between subtle petals.

………………………………………………………………………….*****

Hamelin
by Andy Humphrey

We never talk about the children.
Or about the social workers.
The clipboards, forms. The interviews.
The school uniforms, toys
cartloaded to the charity shop.

We never talk about the bonfire.
The home video reels,
photos prised from frames.
Birthday cards, first paintings,
the snowman made of toilet rolls
and cotton wool. Memories
strewn in ashy fragments
across the willowherb and ragwort
of the disused football field.

We never talk about the waste ground
behind the house. The rusted chains,
the choke hold of convolvulus
around the skeleton
of the roundabout. We never talk
about the caves along the riverbank
where some nights the wind whistles
like a flute, or a quickly shushed giggle;
or about the magpies
who watch us from the fences,
secrets glimmering
in midnight eyes.

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

Where Are My Roses?
Tribute to Angela Carter
by Kathleen Strafford

Eyes glow emerald as blood pulses
…………………………… in trembling candlelight
his tail swishing brushing her ankle
…………when he speaks in that low gravelly growl
she can taste his dank……earthy stench

Dressing for tea
Beast in his shirt…….ruffling across his chest
Beauty in white satin plays a game……….tearing petals off roses
……………………………………………………………allowing them to float onto her lap
Unable to resist………Beast falls to his knees
……………………………………..lolls his mazy head in her lap
……………………………………………kissing each finger
……………………………………………………nibbling the petals
…………………………….kiss becomes a lick
……………………………………….raspy tongue lapping into her palm between fingers
burying his long snout into the crease of her gown
………………………………………………………to smell her season.S
he murmurs   Please Don’t!   Please Stop!   Don’t!    Stop!  Don’t!  Stop!
 …………………………………………………………………….Please Don’t Stop 
Rose petals drop to her feet
……….he sucks each toe into his mouth
……………………………………..his paws kneading her calves.

Afterwards he bolts from the room
on all fours into the night
………………………………….disappearing
Her magic mirror dims
in the glow of the moon………her Beast
……………………………………………….naked
……………………………………………….snout twitching
………………………………………………………….breeze rippling his mane
……………………………………………….Off he goes……..clearing fallen trees
………………………………………………………….his tail whipping behind him
………………………………………………………….hoisting rocks
into droves of forest goats..who..panic
scattering………..leaving the smallest behind
It bleats…..zigzags
……………...through thorny thicket.
Beauty gasps as Beast grabs it by the scruff…….his limbs flailing….. howling
……………ripping sinew.…….breaking bones
She speaks of leaving
he begs her stay but she promises to return
But within a month
thinks Beast
a strange fairy tale she had dreamt
…………..primps wearing furs
………………………smoking cigarettes
………………………………..downing shots of whisky
In her stupor hears Beast calling
Wrought iron gates moan
the wind hisses through every nook
flowers are dead
her mirrored image wagging its finger.

She finds Beast dying
his mane a grey rats’ nest surrounded by withered roses.
Don’t die, I won’t ever leave you again
As Beauty’s tears stream onto his face his whiskers vanish
his snout shrinks……..golden mane
…………………………………. becomes blonde wavy hair
…………………………………..gone are beady pupils….as he opens his……..sky-blue eyes.
…………………………………..pushing her to the floor    he stands
Beauty, you have broken the witch’s spell, you lucky girl!
Where’s my Beast? Where’s my roses?
I’m your prize, baby! Who needs roses when you have ‘this’
flipping up the back of his jacket
……………………………..his marvellous tail almost gone. 

Fuck off, I want my Beast  she cries running out of the room.

A haunted moaning echoes
through corridors………….she recognises Beast’s mournful roar
………………. stops….turns around…….slips off her gown………. kicks off her shoes
………………………………………………..pretends to peel petals from a  rose
………………………………………………..her Beast growls his low gravely growl
…………..drops to his knees……………snorting he ravishes each of her fingers
…………………………………licking thighs
…………………………………………………………snarling showing his incisers
……………she backs away……falls
………………………Beast jerks her ankle grabbing feet
………………………….sucking each toe…… licking inbetween.
………………………………….I want to go home  she screams to break free
…………………………..he gazes up to her face in disbelief…….& he bites off each toe                      ………………………………then her fingers
…………………………………………….hands until she is gobbled up
…………………………………………………………………………………..bones and all

……………………………………………………………..*****

Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby
I hope she’s a fool, a beautiful little fool
by Kathleen Strafford

Their nights are made up of things she can’t say
………………..voices vibrate like tuning forks
full of aching and fragments of
………………………………………paralysed beauty
………………………………………………..& can’t be over-dreamed
he appears soaking wet
……………….holds his breath……….afraid if he touches
………………………….this hot-house orchid
……………………………..she might vanish
into wind-blown curtains…… or……wild silk ruffles
……………. fluttering like doves about the room

He ravishes her……..showers her with plaids, striped, envy green linen shirts
……………………….nerves of her body unfold as she weeps
………………………………………………………..surrounded by armless sleeves

…………….. She reads him like warning labels
………………………………………. on rear view mirrors
………………………….he’s a library of uncut books
Each page………….is an unwritten poem
………………………………………..about hailstorms of flappers
………………………………………………….bootleggers
………………………………………………………..& the constant flicker of a green light

 

Maybe it was revenge or maybe it was love long-time lost
Maybe it was the glitz and glam of fast cars & whiplash eyes
………………………….gritting summer tight in their teeth but unable
…………………………………… to register the advancing earthquake
as they sway in the moon’s fake light
to a tune they keep playing on repeat
……………………………………….& in it way too deep
promising to keep promises
……………………………to keep promises
……………………………………………………………..to keep

………………………………………………………………………..*****

Recipe for Divine Nectar
or Why We Aren’t Immortal Anymore

by Clarabelle Fields

when the moon was still young,
an old one had written it down
somewhere, knowing she would forget
as one was wont to do while creating
such a busy, blossoming world

so much to do, so many patterns
to weave

and that served her for a time, as she
kneaded stars and strung planets just so
and sang the moon goodnight under
velvety hands, but eventually she lost
her words beneath sifting slurries of stars,
loosening sky-dust underfoot in her
little mountain home

blessed chaos, I knew I would forget

and she had to do the best she could
trying to remember her secret,
the recipe that would purl gold nectar
into an endless pool:

was it silver-sweet water, brought to boil?
two handfuls of stars (full of juice),
ground earth, rose petals,
and blood of course, just a drop—
no—

there had been licorice root,
silphium flowers—
mugwort maybe?
chance and
good luck?

she tried, and she tried,
but it was never quite right
it would simmer too long, turn sour
like mud and rise into rain

and she cried for the first time in
several hundred years as dawn went down
to Olympus empty-handed, rosy fingers
carrying nothing but good wishes
and a little prayer

and now the old one’s secret has been lost,
eaten by wayward stars and a smiling,
knowing moon

and we are not immortal anymore
even if we try to remember

……………………………………………………………………………..*****

Arachne, Afterwards (Long Version)
Clarabelle Fields

she is there now and always will be,
a little spider stowaway clinging
to the great shoulder of some
dour-faced goddess as old as stars,
and she must help the great old one
who has passed the eons alone
with aching, ancient feet,
and dry, bony hands that tremble as they
weave silk from star-bellies on an aging loom,
never pausing to rest, to eat, to sleep,
for there are no days here, no nights,
and Arachne cannot play anymore
pretending to be something she is not

she plies on in obscurity
at the center of a cold, dark chaos,
remembering how long ago she had sisters
who now carry on below in pearly homes
where the air is sweet and handsome men
come to them for favors, begging for a longer thread,
a better weft, a richer weave, and they bring
golden gifts to them to sway their delicate,
mortal hands

but her, nobody remembers her,
here all alone in the cold darkness,
room lit only by the fallen crumbs of discarded stars
that slip between her weft and lie forgotten on the floor

no, nobody remembers her
nor this living, breathing tapestry
that grows with uncuttable thread
pooling softly on as far as it can go
into the clutter
she has her sisters’ lives here,
three little strings lost somewhere among
everything that ever was
if she cared, and if she had the time,
she could crawl on hands and knees
across the vast sea of threaded stars
and she could hunt them down
and cut them out of time
with one quick snip of her hand

but she knows her chance is gone
for she must help the great old one
who has passed the eons alone
with aching, ancient feet,
and dry, bony hands that tremble as they
weave silk from star-bellies on an aging loom,
never pausing to rest, to eat, to sleep,
for there are no days here, no nights

and so she works on in uncelebrated silence
glad to have a companion to share
the burden with as she endures eternity

but the little spider silently cries, seeing
her own thread in their masterpiece, thin
brown marl drawn taut from a never-ending
spool that the old one guards silently on the dusty floor
under foot, under loom, where Arachne can never reach it

………………………………………………………………….*****

Leda, What Really Happened
by Clarabelle Fields

one delicate spring
morning, a queen-mother
stood pouring fresh water
into a silver chalice,
listening to birds gossiping
in a tiny little olive tree:
downstream, they said,
in a secretive glossed-
over grove, there was
a dusty temple embroidered
by ivy and crawling leaves
where Hera had pastured
her favorite peafowl
who spent her days sleeping
and guarding eggs infused with
inhuman magic,
eggs that hatched tricks and
beauties and demons,
playthings for her, games
to torment with
then the ground
quickened with the hot patter
of a child’s feet,
and the little princess burst in
sunburnt and smiling,
a large gilded egg
in her small eager hands
golden shell, emerald
sheen, emblazoned
with the breath of
a brilliant goddess,
and in her panic, queen-
mother said they
should hide it,
and her daughter
hid the precious trophy
in her dress, carrying it
and singing to it
and petting it
until it hatched
many years later

…………………………………………………………………….*****

Andromeda
by Clarabella Fields

don’t listen to Perseus,
that old drunken fool
who sits oceanside all day
drinking wine cut with saltwater
while seagulls nest in his wind-
torn, sea-tangled hair
he lost his aegis long ago
under some sandy sea swell
and he’s still bitter,
trying to drown memories
in sea-dark vinegar
that stings his gullet and
loosens his favorite
form of his story

maybe Andromeda was happy there
immersed in the hiss of wind
and gray salt and white water,
necklace rocks polished into pearls
by a pulsing ocean heartbeat
one she would dance to,
to forget about her worriest
to let the crowning chains fall

maybe the monster was kind to her
letting her stroke his head and
run a ring through his nose and
guide him with her rosy laugh into
shallow water where she wanted to go
stringing her chains in open palms,
riding his smooth, warm back
like a dove on a dolphin, hair glowing
and adorned with seaweed and shining gold sand

you saw her like that, Perseus,
you remember her smile, the color of
sunlight pouring down her throat
sea pearls dripping off her body
as she rode the monster into the deep
where you could not follow her
and she spurned you in favor of
freedom and her own
forgotten story

……………………………………………………………………*****

The Fallen Fairy
by Alwyn Marriage

It seemed no force on earth could stop her.
Elegant and educated, mesmerising in her mystery,
yet kind, even in her mischievous ensorcelling.
Skilfully hiding her wand and feathery wings,
she frolicked through society in style, wrote poetry,
made friends and sang with other-worldly sweetness,
until she met the trip-wire
of human love and fell flat on her face.
Oh then the rage exploded, feathers flew,
the secret wand was wielded in aggression,
princes turned to frogs, young girls grew warts,
and all her words were venomous as scorpions.
Next time she wanders into realms unknown,
perhaps she’ll leave her heart to beat in peace at home.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

La Sirena
by Kelly Canaday

Take out your pack of tarot cards on the great highway of solicitude.
If you choose La Sirena, don’t interrupt her serenity

Bask in the endless freeplay of unrehearsed
cultural myths and anchor your swallowed nights.

Don’t bring your weighted
contempt, your printed degrees and letters.

Be stolen by the fireworks out of your car window,
the time you forgot about the Fourth of July
because you were too busy with a family fight.

Draw down your defenses.
Fall off the raft into the cool water,
lifting your skin into a more perfect state.

You, too, are heaven.

…………………………………………………………………………………*****

Tiger Balm
Kelly Canaday

Take time to visit the ghosts
of your neighborhood’s
neglected celestial shells.
The boy sits inside
the lion’s skeleton with
a crown from a fast food chain
dusting the ribcage.
Because every King
of the Jungle is lumped
in the same category
in the end,

He pays no mind to his own sinking timeline.
There are winners
and there are losers,
there are debutantes
and there are mall cops
and there is you

………………………………………………………………………….*****

Vipera
by Kelly Canaday

Here, a sordid home in the grass
Digest the broken anatomy
Veins of the leaves vulgar broken wives
Throbbing into a past life

How long must you toy with the enemy?
Bodies bent out of nature
Contorted for their own gain

Will the snake become a pair of shoes or a vaccine?

She flips her Old Hollywood curls and willfully
Makes poison her favorite accessory.

………………………………………………………………………………*****

Erasure
by Kelly Canaday

Don’t pick at old wounds, calling it home
I love the moon on the boardwalk the way you love
Something you have to reach for, but
I want deliverance, chariots, names relinquished
From my mind and body
I want war

……………………………………………………………………*****

Gretal at 45
by John Grey 

Thank the gods for crooked trees,
she thinks…for crooked trees in crooked forests.
Outside her door,
it’s a sweeping green cauldron
of a world with its gnarled trunks,
its branches grabbing like hands,
and its bark, ridged and coiled
into dark, unfriendly faces.
It’s a treat to have some place close at hand
that just keeps pumping its demons out
like a well-oiled assembly line
of a heart even fouler than hers,
where any alligator-jawed, famished trunk
could feast on her flesh,
any bottomless bog hole swallow her.
Thank the gods that the beasts
have a place to lurk and prey upon
the ones who would welcome
a bloody date with real destiny
and not some thatch-roofed cottage,
buggy and two horse in the garage, Bavarian dream.
Not just trolls and goblins but
why not a chimaera, a Cerberus, a Gorgon?
Why not a flying beast
that thankfully feasts on the tired souls of women?
She could always stick her head in the oven
but then she says to herself,
“Nan. Been there. Done that.”
Still, it’s day after day
of refilling the sugar bowl,
cooking the gingerbread,
scouring out the coffee pot.
And always the forest cries out to her
as she empties the ashtrays…
empty yourself.
And always the trees brush
against the frosted windows
as she wipes away the slime, the sludge,
from around the ancient bath-tub,
from the candy-cane walls…
let us wipe you clean away.
In the house,
it’s dark and lonely
and Hansel never gets off shift.
With every washed and polished floor,
every neatly pleated bed,
the encroaching foliage
feels more and more like rescue.
But maybe she won’t step out
into the crooked forest this time.
It’s not a question of nerve
but with all that entreating,
all that constant supplication,
it’d feel like one more thing
that wasn’t her decision.
She’ll sacrifice herself
to the slimy growths,
the slobbering limbs,
in her own good time.
For now,
she turns on the radio,
sings along to “Harper Valley PTA”
in a thick German accent.
She reads her fairy stories,
stares out over the deep black precipice
of “Happy ever after.”


Short Stories

The House Fairy
by Ed Ahern

“You’re infested with house fairies.”

Leslie looked like she’d bitten into a rotten fruit. “Don’t talk crazy, Michaela. It’s mice. Worse, maybe rats. Fairies are superstition, and I never even heard of house fairies.”

Michaela took off her Ascotty summer hat and sat down on a sofa. “You’ll wish it was rats. Stolen jewelry replaced with flowers, refrigerator food nibbled on, strange sounds. Oh yeah, Mediocris Surbanis Suis., house fairy.You live alone, Leslie, it’s not a roommate teasing you.”

Leslie sat next to her and touched Michaela’s shoulder. “I’ll play along with your gag. How do I get rid of house fairies? Rat traps?”

Michaela’s expression was sad. “Suburban fairies are the worst kind. They’re greedy, selfish and egotistical, just like the human occupants. And unlike their woodland relatives they break their promises. They have no morals, breeding like mice, and their lack of ethics is Trumpian. Only thing to do is burn the place down and claim on the insurance.”

“Bitch.”

The word seemed to come right out of the facing wall.

“Don’t believe her lies, Les.”

Leslie, pale by nature, was the color of cheap copy paper. “Who said that?”

Michaela grinned. “It worked. House fairies are vain and lose their cool if insulted. We know you’re there, you may as well come out.”

A flap of pastel wallpaper curled back and a chubby, nude girl figure of maybe seven inches stepped out. No wings, frizzy hair, scattered pimples. “Don’t listen to Ms. Hot Flash. We brighten your emotional life with enhancing pheromones.”

Leslie was still in shock, but blurted out, “Pheromones? What the hell?”

“Used to be called pixie dust. Aren’t you happier now than you were before you moved in?”

“Uh, maybe, but that’s because I dumped my old partner.”

“No, that’s because we heighten your senses and brighten your dreams.”

“Michaela opened her mouth to speak and the fairy waved her into silence. “Quiet or I’ll crap in your hat.”

“Here’s the deal, Leslie. You can’t get rid of us without destroying the place, and we don’t want to move. You ignore our noshing on your food and we’ll keep you in fine emotional states. Think of us as inexpensive Life Coaches.”

Leslie’s mouth had dropped open, not a becoming look. She shut it and said. “Okay, maybe, but you’ve got to give the jewelry back.”

The fairy frowned, creating multiple dimples. “Can’t do that, but we can trade. The next yard sale you go by, get a handful of costume jewelry. It’s bright we like, not expensive. Okay?”

Leslie nodded, blue tinged hair swinging back and forth. “Okay.”

The fairy turned to go back into the wall, exposing a matronly derriere. “You probably won’t see us again. Just take us on faith.”

The sprite stepped behind the curled wallpaper, which laid back down onto the wall.

Michaela patted Leslie’s hand. “I thought that went well.”

……………………………………………………………………………..******

Fate at the Fluff-n-Fold
by MM Schreier

Alana fed quarters into the washing machine and smoothed the sheepish expression off her face.

This is ridiculous. There’s a perfectly good washer at home.

She glanced down. The lighter stripe of skin on her ring finger didn’t seem as noticeable these days. All the women’s magazines her friends casually left on her coffee table, claimed the laundromat offered an excellent opportunity to meet single men. Alana rolled her eyes and closed the washer lid with a clunk.

As she made her way towards a bank of plastic seats, the tinkle of a bell caught her attention. A tiny, wizened woman entered, lugging a laundry bag behind her. Water sheeted off her raincoat, pooling on the floor.

Alana met her gaze and smiled. “Crazy storm!”

Lightning flashed, framing the crone in a halo of light. Her grey eyes swirled, a haze of smoke and clouds.

“The seeker stalls
With three false starts.
Know your truth
To join two hearts.”

Thunder rattled the windows.

What the hell?

“Excuse me? What did you just say?”

The old woman’s eyebrows drew down. “I didn’t say anything, dearie.”
Alana shrugged off a chill and took refuge in the pages of a book. After rereading the
same paragraph three times, she gave herself a mental shake.

You came here for a reason. Might as well get on with it.

On the pretext of checking on her laundry, she scanned the room for Prince Charming material.

Across the way, a mountain of a man leaned over his basket. Unkempt curls tickled broad shoulders. His face bore square features, smoothed blocks of weathered stone.

Alana watched as the dryer gobbled sodden dungarees and flannel shirts. Could she imagine sharing her tidy condo with him? The historic mill building had a delightful river view, but low ceilings. An image swam in her head: the behemoth crouched over her kitchen island, a travel-sized coffee mug dwarfed in his slablike hands. She giggled.

The man glared back at her.

“Don’t mind that troll. He’s ill-tempered and dull-witted.”

Alana dropped her book.

Where did you come from?

A short man with an upturned nose lounged in the chair next to her. He shot her a wolfish grin. “Oric Kobold.”

“Alana.”

He held her hand after shaking it, his long fingers wrapped around hers like tentacles, as if waiting for her to supply her surname. She disentangled herself from his grip and shifted in her seat.

Oric launched into a used car salesman spiel, a verbal resume that sounded cultivated.

Alana let the words fade into the background. Head filled with cotton, the heat from the whirling dryers lulled her into drowsiness. Her vision blurred. For a moment the tips of Oric’s ears appeared pointed.

“Madam?”

She blinked and rubbed her eyes.

“Come again?”

“Your home. If you let me stay, good luck will come your way.”

Alana mumbled something nonsensical and fled to the row of washers. When she glanced over her shoulder, Oric had gone.

Eyes wide, she surveyed the room. In the corner, the tiny old woman knitted a rainbow- hued shawl, needles moving in a blur. The giant, stony-faced man leaned against the wall, picking his teeth with a ragged fingernail.

This is a nightmare.

A shadow fell over Alana as she transferred clothes into the dryer.

“Hi.”

Alana struggled to find something witty to say as a pair of intense emerald eyes studiedher. The stranger’s ginger hair stood up in a fringe and a slow smile lifted the corners of his mouth. He leaned against the dryer with coiled elegance, a hunter poised to strike.

Say something, idiot!

“I’m Alana.”

“Nice to meet you. I’m Drake.” Lightning flashed and his pupils turned to slits. “Your hair’s like spun gold.”

Thunder crashed and the power cut out. Alana choked back a shriek. “Don’t worry. I won’t let anything happen to you.” Drake moved closer in the dark, his voice a low growl. A second flash lit the room.

Alana’s stomach flipped. Fangs glistened and crimson scales lined Drake’s face. Acovetous look glinted in his eye. A ridge of spikes marched down his back to his tail.

Tail?

The lights flickered back on.

“Are you ok?” Drake frowned and ran a hand over his hair. A russet smudge of stubblelined his jaw.

Alana shrank back.

“I’m not feeling very well.”

She abandoned her laundry and darted outside. A steady drizzle soaked through her t-shirt and it took several tries to unlock the car, her hands trembling around the key. When she finally got it open, she flopped in the seat, hair dripping.

You fell asleep. It wasn’t real.

By habit, she flipped down the sun visor and ran a finger over the faded photograph of a smiling man with high cheekbones.

“Sorry, love. I know you wanted me to find someone after you were gone.” Her voice shook. “I thought I could do it, but I’m not sure I want to.”

A whine interrupted her thoughts and she cocked her head to listen. It sounded like it was coming from under the car. She climbed out and kneeled to find a bedraggled shape huddled along the wheel well.

“It’s ok, little feller.”

She held out her hand and coaxed a floppy-eared puppy into the open. Scrawny and shivering, he trained soulful brown eyes on her. Alana checked for a collar or tags but found nothing.

“Are you hungry?”

As if he understood, the soggy mutt leaped into her lap. Alana laughed as he covered her in slobbery kisses.

I found The One!

Through the window, the troll, goblin, and dragon watched Alana and the puppy with hungry eyes. The crone rounded on them.

“She was never for you.” She snapped her fingers. “Back to your lairs, you three.”

As the sun peeked through the clouds, a double rainbow shimmered overhead. The old woman flipped around the ‘closed’ sign and settled back in her chair in the deserted laundromat.

“Perhaps, now I can finish my knitting.”

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

Coming of Age
by Rosemary McLeish

Tib was in bed. The curtains were drawn, but she knew it was dark outside. It had been dark for a very long time, and she was afraid of the dark. But she was cuddled in under the eiderdown, hugging her cat-shaped hot water bottle, reading her favourite book by torchlight.

Suddenly, her bedroom door opened with a bang. Only the mother could do that.

“What are you doing?” she shouted, and pulled back the covers before Tib had time to switch off the torch. “Don’t you know it’s past eleven at night? Give me that. And GO TO SLEEP.” And she confiscated the torch and stormed out, slamming the door behind her. “And don’t think you can switch on the light,” she snarled through the door. “My spies have got their eyes on you.”

As soon as she had gone, Tib could hear the tapping. She covered her ears, but still it came – “tap tap, tap tap”, and she thought she heard a scratchy, moany sort of voice whispering “let me in, let me in”. It came many nights, and without her book to distract her, Tib was terribly afraid.

She couldn’t get to sleep. It went on and on, the tapping and the scratching and the moaning, until in exasperation she jumped out of bed and pulled the curtains back, determined to face her foe. In the moonlight, she saw the figure of an enormous black witch, with a tall hat, a very long beaky nose, and gnarled fingers which were tapping and scratching almost in a frenzy. Tib pulled the curtains to and jumped back into bed. “Don’t desert me,” the voice whispered. “Let me in. I won’t hurt you. I’m only a witch. We’re an endangered species, you know, and I can’t last much longer out here in the cold.”

In the end, Tib couldn’t stand it any more and opened the window. The witch came in. She came in as a sort of black smoke, touching every part of Tib’s bedroom, tendrils going up the chimney, over the mantlepiece, feeling all over the roses on the wallpaper, floating across the floor and under the bed, whispering “Let me in, I’m so cold”, hopped into bed with Tib, taking up the whole bed and all the covers.

Once in, she enveloped Tib, her gnarled fingers feeling all over her, from her toes to her hair, while she made grunts of satisfaction, muttering things that made the hairs on the back of Tib’s neck stand up. “Mmm, mmm, nice soft thighs”, “quite a bit of flesh on this one”, “puny arms, that’s good”, as if she was talking to someone else in the room. Tib felt herself getting colder and colder, and when the witch got to her curly hair, twining it round her fingers, tugging and twisting and crooning some awful lullaby, she shivered uncontrollably.

Just then, Tib heard a scrabbling, and a rustling, and a slithering, and her heart nearly stopped

as she realised that the witch was talking to someone else: the witch who lived up the chimney, the old crone who lived behind the wallpaper, the giant who hid under the bed. They all oozed over the floor and crept under the covers. All Tib had for protection against this black tide of whispering, touching, self-satisfied haunts was her book and her cat hot water bottle, so she cuddled her bottle over her heart with one arm, and covered the top of her head with her book, and thought hard about the beauty of the roses on the wallpaper, and waited, and waited, and waited, until at last she fell asleep.

Next morning, the sun shone in the window, someone had crept in and lit the fire in the fireplace, the tree outside the window was peacefully unfurling its first buds, the roses in the wallpaper had settled back into their usual complicated pattern, and Tib? Tib’s mouth was grim, her eyes were dead and black, her hair was long and straight, and a stream of foul language spewed from her lips when her mother came gently into the room with her breakfast on a tray.

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

Emma Sees Red
by Gwen Flanders

The “story behind the story” of Dorothy’s magical trip to Oz as seen by her sister Emma (who no one ever talks about).

Once upon a time there was a girl named Dorothy who was whisked away to a magical land called Oz. No doubt you have heard her story. But did you know that Dorothy had a sister named Emma who was as different from her as oil is to vinegar? Dorothy was a happy child, challenging those around her, whereas Emma was a sullen and quiet girl with a disapproving look. Things came easy for Dorothy and her accomplishments were well documented; Emma was routinely overlooked. The summer that Dorothy’s dog Toto, a mutt with no particular breeding, received a blue ribbon in the county fair for his amusing tricks, Emma’s champion poodle Molly, didn’t receive so much as an honorable mention.

On the morning Dorothy was carried away by a tornado, Emma had grabbed Molly and crept down to the cornfield hoping to avoid the early morning milking chores. Nestled in the middle of the field, shielded from the sun’s heat by the long stalks of corn, she would hide for hours. But then again, no one was ever really looking for her. She had missed that morning’s upset caused by Miss Gulch once again trying to have Toto turned into the authorities. Even though Emma didn’t much like Miss Gulch, each time she tried to remove Toto, Emma felt satisfaction that maybe Dorothy and her dog weren’t so perfect after all.

On that fateful day, when the wind grew strong enough to disturb the corn stalks, Emma looked up to notice the sky filled with ominous clouds. Recognizing tornado weather, she ran for the house. By the time she reached the edge of the cornfield, she was being struck by garden trowels, chicken feed and laundry from the clothesline. She ducked into the old barn and hunkered down behind the hay bales wondering if Auntie Em would worry about her when she noticed that Emma was not in the storm cellar. She had no idea that Dorothy had grabbed Toto and ridden off on her bike just before the storm hit and was currently the cause of concern for the rest of the family.

As the tornado passed overhead, the roaring wind sounded like a freight train headed right for Emma. She worried that it would bring the old barn down on top of her. She sulked as she envisioned the rest of her family safe in the cellar laughing at some lively story Dorothy would tell to pass the time. She imagined days going by before they found Emma crushed under a barn beam. But eventually, the winds died down and the storm lifted.

All was quiet as Emma crossed the trash-strewn yard. “No one is even looking for me”, she thought angrily as she marched into the kitchen. As Auntie Em rose to hug her, Emma noticed the town sheriff sitting at the kitchen table. She thought for a moment that they HAD been worried about her until Auntie Em began sobbing and going on about “poor Dorothy” out there somewhere when the storm hit.

That evening as a search party was out combing the area for Dorothy, Emma, who loved to cook, worked in the kitchen preparing food for the volunteers. “Thank you, Emma. I don’t know what I would do without your help right now” said Auntie Em. Emma glowed with pride from the unexpected compliment. As different townspeople stopped in for updates, she overheard them saying “what a blessing it was that Auntie Em had such a thoughtful namesake like Emma to help out”. A persistent thought swam around in Emma’s head. “What if Dorothy was never found?

As days passed with no sign of Dorothy, Emma woke each morning with a sense that anything was possible. Humming, she would grab a dress from Dorothy’s closet, twirling in front of the mirror and picturing her hair pinned up with one of the pretty butterfly ribbons Dorothy had always worn.

Emma had begun to come out of her shell with each new visit from the neighbors asking for news; adding details as she perfected her story of “just how much she missed her sister” and ending with a dramatic pause before reaching up to wipe her eyes. Eventually Dorothy’s name rarely came up in her conversations. It’s as if Dorothy had never existed.

In the evenings, Emma often found herself in the kitchen concocting new dishes to delight the family. As she served, she would entertain them with stories of her day. Her smile grew large as they praised the food and laughed at her antics. Emma was coming into her own.

One day she gathered the mail and was delighted to see an envelope containing an invitation to enter Molly into the local dog show. She was daydreaming about parading Molly around with a blue ribbon on her collar when she heard a familiar voice call her name. No! It can’t be, she thought in dismay! Stunned, she turned slowly, feeling her happiness dissolving away as she watched Auntie Em and the family rush past her, each trying to hug Dorothy at the same time.

As the happy reunion moved into the house, Auntie Em started firing questions. “Where have you been Dorothy? Are you ok? Why did it take so long for you to return?” Dorothy began to tell the tale that you all know so well of her travels down the yellow brick road. At the end she pointed to the magic ruby slippers on her feet and explained how they had returned her home. Not one time during the conversation did anyone turn to Emma.

Late that night Emma had crept into Dorothy’s room and stared at the slippers a long time. In the morning when the family woke, both the slippers and Emma were gone. Emma was never heard from again, but those who knew her speculated that she had found another whimsical land in which to spend her days.

………………………………………………………………………………*****

Untitled
by Calum Cameron

Not so long ago, under the bright blue sky in the old city streets, there was an ageing beggar named Robb with untamed white hair and skin stretched across his bones. He would sit on a corner by an alleyway in which he would sleep at night, tucked away amid the bags of rubbish. Every day he sat on his corner playing his guitar for passers-by, collecting coins in its case which was one of the only things he owned.

Whilst he played, he would be on the lookout for those who seemed down on their luck. This day, a young woman passed by, her clothes worn and her chin on her chest, a rucksack on her back.

Robb stopped playing and said to her, “you seem down on your luck. What’s the bother?”

“I couldn’t pay the rent and got evicted.” Said the woman. She breathed a sigh. “Nobody will hire me because I can’t get myself presentable.”

“Are you eating well?” Asked Robb.

The woman shrugged. “As well as I can.”

“Then not well enough.” Robb reaches into his pocket and pulls out three pounds twenty-two pence in coins. He holds it out to the woman. “Here, this should buy you something nice.”

The woman’s eyes widened. “Don’t you need it?”

Robb laughed. “Knowing your not starving is enough for me.”

And so, the woman accepted the money and ate better than she had in weeks. Though his stomach growled, Robb rested easy that night knowing this was the case. Morning came by and yet again, Robb could be found on his corner playing his guitar for passers-by whilst coins slowly accumulated in his case. Another man passed by that day. A beard covering his face and a dog with its tail between its legs at his side. The man’s chin hangs at his chest.

“You seem like you’re having a bad day.” Said Robb. “What’s the bother?”

“It’s my dog.” Replied the man. “I haven’t been able to feed her in two days. Haven’t eaten anything myself in a week, I’ve just been spending what little money I can get on her.”

“Well, let me help you out a little.” Robb reached into his case and scraped out seven pounds eighty-one pence which he then held out to the man. “Here you go. This should tide you over a little while.”

“It’s alright.” Said the man. “You seem like you need it yourself.”

“Trust me,” said Robb, smiling ear to ear, “I’ve got all I need. There’s plenty of other people who deserve this money way more than me.”

With that, the man reluctantly accepted Robbs money and that night and for the next week after him and his dog ate well. Robbs’ stomach growled louder than ever yet he slept with a smile on his face. Every day his case would almost empty as he handed out money to passers-by in need. Although, every day his stomach growled that little bit louder as every day his portions got smaller and smaller.

The winter rolled around and once again, bundled up in a blanket, Robb could be found on his corner playing his guitar, the case containing more snow than coins. More of it lies as slush on the sides of the road. The instrument is heavier in Robbs arms. A couple appears, both in heavy, filthy jackets and holding each other close, the female supporting the male as he limps. Their chins hang at their chest.

“What s-seems to the bother?” Said Robb.

“My husband had an accident at work and broke his leg.” Said the woman. “We couldn’t support ourselves after that and ended up on the streets.”

“It’s nothing, sir.” Says the man, grimacing. “My wife could have kept us going just fine if the rent wasn’t so high.”

“Well, you seem like you could do with a helping hand.” Robb brushes away the snow in the case and pulls out ten pounds nineteen pence which he holds out to them.

“That should tide you over for a little while.”

The couple’s mouths fall open. “Sir, we can’t accept this. You look half-starved yourself.”

“It’s fine, I’d rather r-rest easy tonight knowing you two are alright.” Says Robb.

Eventually, the couple take the money and they buy a bus ticket to reach a shelter for the night whilst Robb contends with the pain in his chest as his stomach has nothing left but itself. Within days, every ounce of fat has wilted away and Robb grows weaker as illness creeps into him. Even still, he hands out whatever he can to passers-by in need. But everyday he gets weaker and weaker and weaker until he can barely play his guitar. Until he can barely move in the morning.

A month goes by and Robb lies awake, the snow lashing at him and the hunger devouring his insides, his body too weak to move. Even still, as his breathing falls shorter and his eyelids grow heavier, he keeps a smile on his face, looking back on all of the people he’d helped across the years. With that, his eyes closed and he readied himself for whatever came next.

Hours later and Robb was surprised to wake up in a hospital bed, the woman, the man and the couple standing by his bedside. They all smiled down at him when he awoke.

“I found you near death in the ally so I called an ambulance and the others came when they heard about you.” Said the woman.

The couple kneeled and hand him twelve pounds ninety pence. “We couldn’t be more grateful but please, you’re a person too. No use helping the starving by starving yourself.”

And so it was that Robb bought a bus ticket to a homeless shelter and spent his days raising money for the homeless. Every night he would go to bed still with a smile on his face but now with a silent stomach too.

…………………………………………………………………………*****

Root Causes
by Martin Heavisides

The Angstcrawler or Creeping Anxiety plant appeared at this time–it could hardly have grown and flourished in a happy one. As a mood elevator it beat anything dispensed in pill or needle form and on top of that it was a plant, of rare and bewitching (some thought sinister) beauty. Even that thought was food to boost its growth, it wasn’t called the Creeping Anxiety plant for nothing. Fears fled the minds and even the overstressed muscles of everyone in its ambient field, and sent ivy-like wrigglers out in all directions, topped by vivid multicoloured leaves, the main leaf a variously deep green (few leaves are light or even middle green, their owner would pretty much have to be Bobby McFerrin) the veins a rich blend of crimson; purple; burnt ochre; cobalt blue ochre; cadmium yellow; clockwork orange (I think that’s the descriptive name that was internationally agreed upon); a variety of shades and hues previously unnamed and perhaps even unseen in the visible spectrum before, which paint shops and chemists’ labs have been working long hours in an effort to duplicate. Curiously enough Angstcrawlers in these labs and shops seem to be modest and contained in their growth.

The colour blend in the veins of every Creeping Anxiety plant is as unique as a fingerprint, in fact it can be thought of as the externalized (visibly proliferating) fingerprint of its owner, or more accurately its owner’s immediate social ambit since every visitor adds in some way to the mix.

The use of these in corporate boardrooms is beginning to be discouraged because they proliferate there at astoundingly accelerated rates, besides which boards of directors under the sapping influence of these wild jungle growths vote in distressing and erratic motions such as throwing the coffers open far too wide to charity, independent research and artistic projects and paying employees a more nearly legitimate share of the profits they generate. Enough corporations have been permanently reorganized into models of social responsibility already, to send a deep chill of fear through the remainder.

The only worrying thing about the Angstcrawlers (to any but hardcore fans of social irresponsibility) is the astonishing speed at which they proliferate especially since the wilder and more far-reaching their growth, the less people feel inclined to check its spread. At first,, there may be widespread alarm, but vines pop out everywhere with leaves swelling at their tips and people settle back and say “Why bother? They aren’t hurting anything.” However, it has been noticed that the plants tend to recede to more normal dimensions in neighbourhoods where people wrestle with and solve local problems they’d previously resolved were permanently intractable. Studied calm is the optimum mood apparently for getting to the root causes of anxiety. Who knew? This has led some of us to hope that this is one crisis at least, in the long entangled history of humankind, that carries within its own resolution.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

The Magic of Butterflies
by Jim Bates

In the instant, before Annie passed away, her Fairy God Mother came to her and held her hand.

In the instant, after she breathed her final breath, her Fairy God Mother held her to her bosom and said, “Welcome, my dear. Welcome home.”

Annie looked at the kindly lady and wept tears of joy. She was finally pain-free. She had never felt so good.

Her Fairy God Mother said, “Now, Annie dear, here’s comes the fun part. If you want to go back, you can. Do you want to?”

“Oh, I’d love to go back! Would it be possible to see Andy?” She clapped her hands with joy. “I’d like that so much.”

“Yes you can. You can go see your husband but there’s a catch. You can’t return as a human. You have to pick something else. Can you do that?”

Janie didn’t have to think. “Yes. I know exactly what I want to go back as.”

“Then it is done,” her Fairy God Mother replied, waving her wand and dusting Annie with shimmering golden glitter. “You are free to return.”

Oh, how the butterflies danced that morning on the summer breeze, drifting through the garden, keeping Andy company as he bent to his tasks. He smiled remembering how Annie loved them, even talked to them, whispering in their own ethereal language. Before she died they would relax on their garden bench, butterflies fluttering about, a poetic dance of daintiness, those colorful swallowtails, painted ladies, red admirals and monarchs fluttering among the flowers, alighting sometimes on Annie’s outstretched hand.

Suddenly his memories were interrupted by a caramel colored butterfly landing daintily on his shoulder. It stretched open its wings wide catching the warm rays of the early morning sun. Then it turned to him.

“Hello, darling,” the lovely painted lady said. “Beautiful day, isn’t it?”

Andy’s heart quickened. For the past two years she had returned, and now this third time he finally realized it wasn’t a dream. Annie really would re-appear every year.

“It is my dear,” he smiled and reached out to stroke her wings. “It’s a beautiful day.”

She tittered, “Oh, no you don’t. No touching. It’s not good for my wings.” Then she laughed, “You know that you silly man.”

He turned serious for a moment, “I know, but sometimes I forget.” Then he grinned, “Oh, Annie, it’s so good to see you again. It’s been so long.”

“I know. A year. You understand, though, that I can’t stay with you. I have to leave, right? I have to go through my change.” She sighed,” But it’s always good to see you and be with you if even for a short while. It makes my year.”

“Mine too,” he said, dripping some sweetened ice tea into the palm of his hand. “Here you go sweetheart. This is for you.”

She alighted on his wrist and eagerly sipped up the sweet liquid. “My goodness Andy, that tastes wonderful.”

“It’s sun tea with herbs from the garden. I made it thinking of you.”

Annie flew up on a soft breeze. “You’re so thoughtful.” She brushed closed to his face. Butterfly kisses. “Come. Walk with me.”

They strolled casually among the daylilies, geraniums, cosmos and sunflowers.

“Do you like how the garden is looking this year?”

She flew to his shoulder and alighted. “It looks wonderful, my dear. As always.”

They shared the rest of the day and he was never so happy as he was now, when they were together. But, alas, all good things had to come to an end and toward sunset she flew close and said, “Okay, dear, I’m getting tired. I’ve got to go and get ready for next year so I can come back and see you again.”

“I’ll be here I hope,” he said, smiling, making a little joke.

Then he waved good-bye, watching as she floated away on the warm summer breeze. A tear formed. He’d miss her so.

He was taking a step to go inside when suddenly a stabbing pain shot through his upper body. He clutched at his chest, the world spinning away as he staggered forward, one step, two steps. Then all went black and he dropped to the ground. He died instantly. Heart attack, is what people said

The next year the neighbors would remark on the two butterflies that could be seen in the area. A painted lady and a red admiral, flying close like they knew each other, never far from the other’s side, like they were meant to be together.

And they are too, because forever and for all time they will be found on one day every year, the two of them floating from flower to flower, sipping sweet nectar and dancing their own ballet together on those soft summer breezes, winging their way to eternity.

…………………… Such is the magic of butterflies.

………………………………………………………………*****

Mirror, Mirror
by Epiphany Ferrell

The Queen, being the queen and having access to the Treasure Room, desired a portrait of herself that might hang in the Great Hall where the portraits of her predecessors hung. She had many options. She might have commissioned digital art or hired a photographer, Annie Liebowitz, perhaps, who might filter any flaw, manipulate her image to poreless perfection. The Queen, however, chose to hire the most famous realistic portrait-painter in the land, the artist Monsieur J–.

They chose for the setting a corner of the garden where the dogwood draped a graceful branch toward the thin-stemmed orchard grass wherein a few morning-glories twined their paths. The Queen caused a stately chair to be brought to the spot — not her throne, as she wanted to appear approachable, but not a camp chair or chaise lounge either as she was, after all, the queen.

The Queen sat for several days for Monsieur J–. She was a good subject, he said, and they both chuckled at his little joke, The Queen in such a manner that Monsieur J– did not venture such a witticism again.

At last the portrait was finished. The Queen declined to look at it there in the garden. She wanted to see it immediately prior to its installation in the Great Hall and not before. Monsieur J-– said he was quite proud of the portrait, that he’d captured her likeness so well even he was astonished.

The Queen hadn’t many friends but she did have many friendly acquaintances. She invited the few friends and some of the friendly acquaintances for a preview of the painting before its installation. She would see it for the first time when they did.

The painting was on a display easel, covered in purple silk. When the moment came, Monsieur J– whisked the silk from the portrait with a practiced, graceful movement.

The friends and friendly acquaintances gasped. “How perfect!” they said, and “How exactly like you!”

The Queen looked at the portrait and she gasped, too. She saw a pale face, long, lips too thin and too red, with the soft beginnings of jowl on the cheek, a thin nose, and eyebrows with a caricature arch. She saw a hint of line at the bridge of the nose, and the suggestion of crow’s feet at the eyes.

“It’s hideous!” she wailed.

Her friends and friendly acquaintances were shocked. Monsieur J– was offended.

“It is not hideous,” he said. “It is the very likeness of you, it is a beautiful portrait of a beautiful woman, a beautiful queen.”

Everyone agreed.

The Queen wondered if they all agreed because she was, after all, the queen.

She withdrew to her rooms with her best friends. They insisted on two things, no matter how many times she asked and no matter how many different ways she asked: one, the portrait was even more like her than a photograph could be, and two, that she was really a beautiful woman. They both said, again and again, that Monsieur J– had so well captured the look on her face that she sometimes had when she’d thought of something clever just moments before she said it. It was, they said, their favorite expression and one reason they so enjoyed her company.

They seemed genuine, The Queen decided.

She sent them away and gazed into her mirror. “Mirror, mirror on the wall,” she said, an expression she had heard somewhere. But it was, after all, a mirror with no magic of its own, nor with any enchantment placed there by anyone at all. It was just a regular mirror, a nicer version of the kind you or I might hang in our own homes.

The mirror showed The Queen a woman who was quite pretty. The Queen turned her head to her good side, then to her bad side.

“I’m not so bad, not like that portrait,” she said. “Is that how people really see me? Or do they see me like this?” she gestured at the mirror.

She picked up her phone, glided her finger through her gallery of photos. There were photos of many things, but she paused only at the selfies. She was beautiful in the selfies. Well, not that one from Snapchat – that was silly. She hadn’t used filters on all the selfies, just most of them. Nearly all of them.

The Queen looked out her window. It was dark by now and all she could see was her own reflection, distorted and looking back at her.

………………………………………………………………………………*****

The Faery Tale
by Madelaine Taylor

There they stood in the kitchen, that was cleaning itself, the apple pies piling up high. Then she wished for a bowl full of ice cream the end of which never grew nigh.

Grandma Bibbity wiggled and waggled her wand, enchanting the bowl and the spoon
when a big puff of smoke made her cackle and choke, and the words she said made Bella swoon.

The shiny star sagged and it let out a squeee, the sparkles stopped sparkling and sighed. the wand went all wonky, the spell went all conky, Grandma Bibbity broke down and cried.

Where does a godmother go in a pickle? where can she get a new wand?
Who can she turn to for help that’s not fickle? Most fairies get tricked and conned.

Who would grant Bibbity’s wishes? Who could do magic for her? Who could make her wand brighter? Maybe longer and lighter, who could change the squeee back to a purr?

Then Bibbity had an idea, she would go visit Sandra the seer, if any one knew just what to do old Sandra might easily be her.

She begged and she bribed the old fairy “tell me please who can fix up my wand”
“In the town there’s a dwarf with a shop on the wharf, of godmothers he is quite fond”

So she flew into town to see Dumli, the dwarf with the magical shop,
she took the wand out with a sigh and a pout and the star disappeared with a pop.

The Dwarf said “your wand I can’t fix, but if you bring me a bundle of sticks I can make you a new one, a bright shiny blue one, or maybe a pink and gold mix?”

Grandma Bibbity’s face lit up With a smile, she ran out the shop quick and sprightly
She flew to a tree picked up two sticks or three and went back to the dwarf grinning brightly.

Dumli took the twigs from her and started to work, whistling a tune as he carved. He cast dwarven spells that caused odd smokes and smells, then the wand he split up and he halved.

I’m giving you two so that you’ve got a spare, try not to work them too hard!
This ones got moons on and this ones got suns and both of the thin ends are starred.

The stars shone so brightly the sparkles were sprightly they danced from the wand as she cast. She conjured a purse full of gold for the dwarf then she flew back to Bella right fast.

She wiggled and waggled her wand once again, enchanting the spoon and the bowl, Bella squealed with delight as dessert came in sight, her last wish brought joy to her soul.

……………………………………………………………………..*****

Be Yourself: A Cautionary Tale
by Anthony Iacovino

An orphaned lion cub, half-dead on a mountainside, was discovered by a herd of grazing goats. Although others tried to warn her, a mother goat who had lost her kid and was heavy with milk, took pity on the cub. She called him Big Leo, and brought him up the only way she knew, as a goat. As he grew up, Big Leo appreciated more and more that he owed his life and everything he had become to his adoptive mother. With her kindness, she had smoothed his rough ways and tamed his lion’s heart. She had made him secure in himself and proud – proud – despite the other goats who did not fully accept him as one of them.

Sometimes, just before closing his eyes for an afternoon nap, Big Leo enjoyed looking at his mother, especially at her face. Despite all there was to appreciate, love, and admire in his mother, he would have to cover his mouth with his paws to keep from laughing. Her floppy oversized ears hid the depth of soul in her eyes and made her seem comical, ridiculous, and somewhat less than average. But this flaw only served to endear her to Big Leo and arouse his protective nature against any who might mock her. She, in turn, would look up at her wondrous son and ask herself how he could possibly be her own. But they had been put in each other’s way and were the better for it.

Most of the time, Big Leo fit in with the herd of goats and was happy in their peaceful life. What’s more, he made himself useful by standing strong at the front of the herd along with the shaggy and cantankerous ram that was their leader. Few animals dared to challenge these two protectors.

One day Big Leo went out by himself to feed on grass, plants, and the occasional mouse. As he swept a big swath of grass into his mouth, an old lion who had just made a fresh kill saw him from nearby. He roared with laughter. “Do I see a lion eating grass?” he asked. Before Big Leo could answer, he added, “Try this,” and the old lion dropped a piece of reddish food in front of him. He took a bite of the food. It was tender, juicy, tasty, filling, and so invigorating. “What kind of food is this?” asked Big Leo. Then he looked more closely. Lying on the grass, he saw bits of brown hairy skin, a dangling leg, and the severed head of his own mother goat.

Big Leo felt a pain in his chest and his heart exploded. In his agony of guilt, he wanted to die. Then he wanted to kill. He tore apart the old lion in front of him, and went on a rampage along the mountainside, mauling and desecrating the bodies of any predators he came across.

In the red sunset, weak and faltering from his wounds, he came to a nearby lake. As he looked down into the water to take a drink, he saw the scarred and bloodied face of the guiltiest lion of all, the one who had eaten his own mother. In his fury, he attacked his own image in the water. Leaping and clawing, he plunged deeper and deeper into the turgid waves until Death came, and released him from his life.

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

Grit
by Moira Garland

Autumn

There once was a woman who wore her long dark hair in a single plait down her back. One day she slipped on her warm grey cloak and took her basket of eggs to sell at the market. Once her business was finished she set out to visit her good friend, who was also the town innkeeper. When she was about to enter the inn a sudden gust of wind whipped a piece of grit into her eye.

While the innkeeper was helping her remove the grit a wizard appeared. Straightaway he offered to remove it using his magical powers. As he did so the woman fell under his spell. The wizard was also beguiled by the woman, he said. So each week they continued to meet at the inn.

Winter

Back at the woman’s home her husband, daughter and son sat at the plain wooden table while she dished out the steaming roast hen, mushrooms, green beans, purple potatoes topped with mint.

Thus the days passed, each one the same: the husband at his charcoal burning, coppicing, taking orders for firewood, hunting a squirrel or two for a meal, and salmon in season from a longer trip down to the river. The woman dusted, swept, baked, flavoured their meals with thyme and wild garlic. Dried

meadowsweet soothed a stomachache; elderflowers eased their winter colds.

Each week at the inn the woman and the wizard talked of places they might go to yet not be seen together: far-off hidden copses, shadowy valleys where unicorns thrived by frozen becks.

Just once, he whisked them to an enchanted palace of glowing marble. They entered like lovers through crystal-glass doors into the high-domed room where a banquet awaited them, candles illuminating the tables. A violinist played soft melodies, snatches of music the woman half recognised.

Months vanished like passing clouds. She ignored the bitter snows, bare trees, spear-shaped icicles that hung from roofs. She neglected the damp jackets and trousers frozen stiff on the washing line. She lived for a weekly visit to the inn.

Spring

Yellow clumps of primroses opened out everywhere with a promise of change.

Back at the inn she masqueraded as ‘the wizard’s friend’.

The wizard looked sad, “We can’t go on this way. It’s best I leave.”

He continued, his voice an axe splintering the heart of a tree, “I cannot turn down the request to join the Grand Wizard’s council where my magical arts can do good.”

Gathering up his dusty cape he tapped lightly on her shoulder, like a benediction. And he was gone.

Over long weeks, the woman brooded, haunted by the magic carpet trips they had planned together, and a lost future.

She scolded her cowering children, spoke harshly to her husband who had cared for her all those years. She burned cakes, over-salted the rabbit stew, neglected the housework.

Summer

The husband, a mild man, was dimly aware of his wife’s discontent though spring had come and gone, and summer arrived without change. One fateful day he learnt that the king was about to tear down the wood. The wicked king ignored the protests of a poor charcoal-burner and planned to build a grand hunting lodge instead. So the husband had to leave his wife and children behind in search of distant woodland, thirty days trek away, where suitable trees grew for burning charcoal.

His wife could say nothing.

She and her children had to move to the town where the innkeeper provided them with a small, homely cottage.

Both night and day the woman concocted visions, reveries, desires for another life. She imagined sculpting beasts and birds glazed with cobalt; or she would excel at the annual corn-cutting, tree-felling and glass blowing festivals. Dreams, and more dreams.

What was to be done? No king, nor wizard, not even a husband to rescue her.

Autumn

At length she stirred herself, began with daily visits to the innkeeper, no fairy godmother, but proving to be a true and devoted friend.

One day on the track to the inn she stopped to hear a fluttering from underneath a thatch of brambles. “You poor thing!” How had a song thrush become trapped? “I wish I had magic powers to free you.” With bare hands she pushed aside the vicious stems one after the other. Her palms and fingers were scratched and torn, knuckles bloodied. Panic-stricken the bird scrambled, flapped and flailed. At last, it was free to fly off, released from a wretched fate.

Reaching the inn the woman found the fire was ready to be lit, kindling laid over straw in the grate, ready for a turn in the weather. Yet the innkeeper’s warmth was enough for today; her golden marigold salve soothed her friend’s sore hands. She turned to the woman, saying: “Tell me, what’s this notion of yours?”

Summer

A small herd of sheep nibbled the grass on the edge of the town, beside a great stone barn. From inside, through open windows, could be heard the looms’ knocking and clatter. Then a sudden silence and soon knots of laughing women emerged. They unfolded a carpet adorned with scarlet dragons, an emerald-tinged sunset, and framed with sea-blue flourishes. Inside, more fantastic carpets were being woven, ready for flight. This one however was for each of them to take the weight off their feet, and from a gleaming goblet take a thirst-quenching drink of the innkeeper’s own brewed ale. Amongst them was a woman with a single, dark plait.

……………………………………………………………….*****

Once Upon an Autumn Breeze
by Myna Chang

Once upon an autumn breeze, Mother Qiu lost her son…

No, he did not fall to his death in the River of Time; nor did he lose his way in the Celestial Wood. You see, Mother Qiu’s precious boy grasped a different destiny, a future of wonder and wisdom, glimpsed in the crimson depth of a fluttering maple leaf.

The boy had been playing in a meadow, snatching at the breeze while jumping from stump to stump. “Be careful, Luo Ye,” she had called to him, but he’d giggled and twirled and leaped, until the chill wind whisked him away, a flurry of brilliant laughter and sweet swirling leaves.

Mother Qiu’s heart squeezed as she ran after him, but she could not catch the racing wind. The last she saw of her boy was a gap-toothed smile.

She stood alone in the meadow, unable to breathe, unable to think; able only to cry her anguish to the heavens. Her great wailing sorrow pierced the silken veil that separated the worlds, and the magic began to leak out.

***

Once upon a childhood echo, Red Dragon lost his way…

He was not befuddled by the rushing river of time that turned and flowed from world to world. Nor did he lose his bearings as he soared through the frayed, ragged tear in the veil. Red Dragon’s heart ached for a forgotten memory, and search as he may, he could not find it.

Heavy with the wisdom and wonder of many lifetimes, he spiraled ever lower, gliding on the crisp air, until he skimmed the tips of a burnished forest. The sweep of his once-mighty wings slowed, and his scales began to fall, slowly at first, until the trees wept crimson perfection.

Red Dragon marveled as he settled on the twisting footpath at the river’s edge; surely he was too large to alight on such a narrow, tree-lined lane? The question slipped from his mind at the sight before him. A laughing child reached for crisp autumn leaves and danced to the river’s edge, only to be called back to the circle of her mother’s arms.

He watched, breathless, thoughtless; able only to hobble toward her, for his wings now were gone, and his two unsteady legs creaked stiff.

***

Once upon The Circle’s Turn, magic found its balance…

Mother Qiu called her daughter. “Not too close to the river, Xiao Feng,” she scolded. “And do not jump so high.”

The girl giggled and wiggled, as little ones often do.

Mother Qiu stopped, wary, as a stranger approached. Wizened and bent, his tattered tunic dripped red. He bowed in greeting.

“Good Mother, why do you hold your daughter so close? Surely she would like to explore these sweet woods.”

Mother Qiu scowled. “Children may be stolen away by any stray puff of air, Good Sir.” Her arms tightened around the girl, but little Feng pulled away.

“Look, Mama, his tunic is made of falling maple leaves!”

The old man glanced at his shirt, rubbing wrinkled hands over the crinkly texture. “I remember the flutter of leaves.”

Feng darted from her mother’s side to snatch a red treasure from the man’s shirt. “It’s not a leaf at all, Mama. It’s a scale.”

“No, my love, drop that thing!” Mother Qiu shouted. “It is filled with danger.”

“Not danger,” the old man said. “Wonder.”

Feng giggled and twirled and leaped, grasping the shimmering scale as she spun. Mother Qiu grabbed the child by the hand, pulling her close. “You must keep your feet on the ground, always.”

“But the scales, Mama! They’re magic.”

Mother Qiu shook her head. “There is no magic left. It all leaked away, many lifetimes ago.”

“Not all of it, Mother,” the old man said.

Mother Qiu gasped. The man’s voice had lost its tremor, and his wrinkles smoothed as she watched. With each blink of her eyes, more scales fell away.

“It’s her time to fly,” he said.

“Oh, yes, Mama, I want to fly!” Feng breathed.

Mother Qiu’s eyes burned, and she shuddered with the spasm of her heart. “I can’t bear to let you go,” she whispered.

“The wind will bring me back to you someday, Mama.”

Mother Qiu shook her head, but she loosened her grip and watched the girl spiral away in a whorl of jubilant leaves. When the last note of Feng’s laughter faded, a familiar, cold ache enveloped Mother Qiu, and all the worlds trembled with her as she cried her sorrow.

“Mama?” A boy’s voice beckoned. “I want to go home.”

She blinked. The old man was no longer stooped with age. The last of the scales had settled to the forest floor, and her lost boy stood before her, as on that long ago day. His gap-toothed grin was just as she remembered.

She scooped him into her arms with a different texture of cry, and this time, the worlds held fast.

……………………………………………………………………*****

A Small Night for the Money
by John Conway

Deeper into heart of the forest they went, the peculiar little couple, while unnatural change crept behind them.

Its leaves and flowers were made monochrome by the night, its stems were fortified by delicate thorns, protecting fruit that resembled blackberries – if blackberries were blanched the texture of starlight.

Looking upwards, they saw the sky had shifted.

It had been real, a small night for the moon – now they saw a sculpture of yellow-white stone, set in a clear dome of the heavens which was either painted with bright stars, or reflecting the silver trails of fruit groves that outran their very eyes.

Had they really walked so far without seeing? What had happened to the valley?

They appeared to have mislaid it.

A voice reached out to them; a voice whose clarity betrayed its age; a voice whose many harmonies required no accompaniment, from instrument nor fellow singer; the voice of a dangerous woman.

It claimed their attention, and they followed until the trees opened, to reveal a dark haired woman in an embroidered gown. She was picking the silver fruit, in turn placing one into a basket, then the next to her mouth, to be savoured.

She turned to face the children.

Neither had heard of her, but the Queen required no introduction. Not when met in her own realm, a place given a hundred vague names to describe its nothingness – underworld;

starland; otherworld; dreamworld; barrowland; shadowland; or the one that truly described what it was – the elf-hame.

The Queen spoke, they heard the words, though her face remained an immobile mask.

Matthew heard;

It is rare that your kind enter my realm, welcome son of the earth.

While April heard;

It is rare that any of your breed dares enter my realm, but your company is all-the-more welcome for it, welcome daughter of the moon.

Then both;

Come, it will not be said that my guests are permitted to go hungry.

April was unsure how to respond to ‘your breed’. Her mother sometimes said words like that, after too much wine, and never meant them kindly. But the Queen had been correct, she was hungry.

Each child took care how they ate, to rush would seem disrespectful somehow.

The Queen did not smile in any apparent way, but they felt it all the same.

The amaranth are only for my folk and my guests. At night they are silver, for that is our time, through the day they are the richest red, to warn foolish mortals from them.

The Queen indicated for them to take another.

But lately, some thief has been taking what is mine.

Delicate fingers plucked another of the amaranth, placing it between soft-red lips overlaid with silver gossamer. April noticed Matthew shiver, though she suspected he didn’t know why.

She didn’t quite know why herself, which was unaccountably irritating.

They come under the sun, which my folk will no longer tolerate, and they take what is not theirs. They remove them, and keep them. That alone is an insult.

The Queen stared at the two children. Her eyes seemed to contain a thousand stars – or was it the reflection of the amaranth they saw? – and they felt her smile once more. Had it appeared on her lips, it might have been shrewd.

You are hungry, I see. Starved. For food, and for something more?

Though neither knew what she meant, they nodded. The voice did not encourage difference of opinion.

Poor children, forced to run. Does this small taste please you?

They nodded, enthusiastically this time.

So sweet of you to say.

Another unmoving smile.

Would you care for more?

They nodded, hunger in their eyes.

Ah, if only there were enough. But with this theft, barely enough remains to feed my family.

April and Matthew looked out at the great forest grove, it shivered with reflected moonlight for countless miles.

It is a large family.

She received dismayed looks in reply. Both were hungry, but desire for the amaranth ran deeper – they melted on the tongue, then spread through the body in spiked waves of pleasure that both wished to feel again.

If only there were some way for me to find this thief, then perhaps tomorrow I could give you your fill.

Despite the shrewd enchantments woven through the voice, and the rising swell of delight, and the simple need for another taste – April was becoming annoyed. She hadn’t fled her truculent household, to be so belittled by a woman in a bonnet.

‘You mean you want us to find out for you?’

Expected a rebuke, April made her speech a shrill imitation of the Queen’s, which suddenly seemed rather grating. Instead she was swamped by the sensation of a delighted and surprised smile.

Such an offer. Such nobleness of character. You shall have our eternal gratitude!

The Queen looked down through imperious jewels, set in a porcelain mask.

You have three days.

‘What?’ asked a confused Matthew.

April stared up, folding her arms at the intimidatingly tall woman.

You spoke your promise, and so we have a compact.

‘I didn’t.’ Matthew looked scared now.

You will not leave these woods, and you must fulfil your promise within three days.

A sharp ‘No!’ in reply from both.

My guards shall ensure this.

‘What guards?’ scoffed April.

The rustling of innumerable leaves answered her, before she saw the severe and beautiful beings who surrounded them. Clad only in their diversities of skin, decorated with shrouds of wild silk and soft wool, they crowned their shining hair with antlers and horns. They were armed with long knives, bone-white in the starlight.

You will sleep now.

The Queen departed, her voice lingered suspiciously and then followed. And where her guards had stood, only tall trees, swaying in a breeze neither child could feel.

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

Orchid on the Road
by Kelly Canaday

Last night, a witch put my eye inside of an orchid that was resting on the road. “So you can see what it’s really like to be small,” she said. It reminded me of how my sixth grade art teacher told us to pay attention to the curvature of our silverware and the ratios of the mugs that we prefer, citing it as evidence in the ongoing case of us vs. the world telling us we’re not artists. Somehow, the kids who knew they wanted to do taxes could best testify the properties of a perfect spoon— ovate leaves engraved and a brief and almost silent sound should it collide with teeth. I tried to escape from that orchid, I really did, but I had to give up when the sun fell. Although I was bloodshot, I didn’t want to roll over any glass or pennies, because our mothers were right when they told us, “You don’t know where that’s been!” I resigned to wait it out in the moonlight, but because I didn’t have a mouth, I couldn’t howl to pass the time. My poetry teacher had once told us that our homework was to howl at the moon. I failed because, although I did howl quite beautifully, I had no proof of the event once a werewolf threw my phone into the Blue Cypress Lake. I had no choice but to look up, to look into the all of the ways in which I had been a ghost to my own authority, and yet it was all around me.

Doctor

The psychiatrist was lounging in front of the waves, his own gaze met with the bloodshot eyes of a therapy candidate, Soleil, as she beckoned him into the water. He dove in, massaging her, leaving scratch marks on her shoulders and drawing his nails out just before she bled. They sleekly circled each other like electric eels. She was staring into his blackboard eyes when pink, black, and yellow water started flooding in and filling the space between his collarbone and her chin.

His voice echoed through the sky as he decided to turn their world into an inkblot test. Soleil was so frightened that she emptied her lungs, allowing her body to sink to the bottom of the ocean. She came up for a breath and then sank down and down again, until he finally pulled her from the depths.

“What do you see? And don’t tell me it’s a butterfly,” he said.

She saw the devil. It appeared as a black and blue silhouette.

“A parrot.”

“Wrong.”

“I also see a sunset,” she said.

“No, you don’t.”

“A smiley face? A blooming flower?”

“Try again.”

Blood and heat began to rise.

“I see a clenched fist.”

“Look deeper,” the doctor said, shaking her in his hands.

“I see veins. A pair of masks. And maybe…the devil’s hidden profile.”

Receiving no response, she asked, “What’s my diagnosis?”

By the time her head reached his chest, she was too focused on the feeling of safety to hear what he’d said, and she no longer cared. Soleil spent the rest of her life swimming in circles. The voice of the psychiatrist registered in her mind. Its chords rang under the water, the feeling never leaving her scarred skin.

……………………………………………………………………..*****

Fractured
by Alison Ogilvie-Holme 

“And they lived happily ever after. The end.”

Annabeth shuts the book and leans over Iris, placing a kiss on top of her damp forehead. She is running a fever and will surely wake up overnight when the medication wears off. It pricks Annabeth’s conscience to know that Iris will cry out for “Daddy” until she remembers that he no longer lives here. Norah, on the other hand, has always been partial to her mother.

But lately her daughter is holding a grudge. She kisses Norah’s cheek and notes with frustration that she too is becoming hot to the touch. Another day off work is not an option. Should she call Jack? He would drop everything and come home in a heartbeat.

After turning off the light, she sits down in the rocking chair. She is bone tired. Rain pelts the window and she listens to the rhythm of water tap-dancing on glass; fluid but fierce. Slowly, Annabeth feels herself drifting away from reality. Deep within the recesses of memory, a narrative takes shape.

Once upon a time there was a little girl with corkscrew curls and a smile as bright as the star atop a Christmas tree. Her parents called her names like Princess, Angel, and Baby Doll. More than anything in the world, the little girl loved to sit on her father’s lap and play the piano while they sang together in harmony.

Time passed and the little girl was replaced by a burgeoning young woman. The parents noticed that she seldom played the piano or sang anymore. Her bright smile had started to dim, like a dark day in the month of January.

”What has changed, princess, to make you so sad?!” the father asked.

“Everything!’ she replied ‘You lied to me. I am not beautiful or talented or special. I am nothing!”

“I wish you could see what I see.” her mother whispered.

Eventually, the young woman found her way back to the piano. She pounded her truth into the ivory keys as her voice exploded with raw, unfiltered emotion which could not be contained in a pretty little music box. Word of her abilities spread throughout the land, and soon, people gathered from far and wide to watch her perform.

At a recital one evening, she spotted a young gentleman sitting in the back row. Throughout the performance, her eyes kept searching for him as if pulled by an invisible compass. Disappointment gripped her when she looked up to discover the empty chair. After her closing number, she darted to the dressing room at once and there he was, waiting.

“Hello…My name is Jack. I think you have an amazing gift.”

He was beautiful, she realized up close, far more beautiful than she would ever be. In that moment, she understood with absolute certainty that she would follow him anywhere. They soon became inseparable and wed within the year. When the young woman learned of her pregnancy, she was overcome with sudden emotion.

“Whatever is wrong?” asked Jack, taking her hand.

“What if the baby comes between us?” she sobbed.

“Nonsense! This baby will bring us even closer together. Trust me.”

The birth of Norah was just as Jack had predicted. She was a delightful baby; full of smiles and giggles and playful mischief. Norah had inherited her father’s gentle disposition, making her a very easy child to love.

In a couple of years, the young woman learned that she was expecting again. As if on cue, she began to cry and reached for Jack’s hand.

“What is it, darling?”

“What if I cannot love this baby as much as Norah?” she sobbed.

“Nonsense! You will love them both, differently but equally. I promise.”

Nine months later, Iris charged into their lives. She filled every inch of space with limitless curiosity and determination, forever reaching out to touch the world and squeeze it in her pudgy, little hand. They instantly fell in love with her.

By the time the young woman learned of her third pregnancy, a newfound calm had settled in. For she now understood that a new baby is always a new beginning, a chance to love again.

On the day that Elliot was born, the nurses placed him in his mother’s arms to let her cradle him once before saying goodbye. Annabeth wanted to cry, to scream at the top of her lungs and breathe life back into her beautiful baby boy. But somehow, she had lost her voice and all her tears had dried up. Not even Jack could save her now.

Annabeth awakens and slips out of the room, making her way into her own bed. Somehow, the girls have managed to sleep for hours without interruption. Perhaps a night’s rest will help to fight off infection, eliminating any need to phone Jack. Relief is tempered with mild regret. How she would love an excuse to hear his voice right about now. Instead, her mind returns to Elliot in short order.

Although her son is never far from thought, something feels different tonight. The memory seems sharper, more focused, as though she held him only moments before. Grief washes over her afresh. Tears that have lain dormant for the past year come rushing to the surface at an alarming speed. She surrenders to an emotional tsunami, her body wracked with waves of bittersweet sorrow.

At last, she is able to cry for Elliot and the life he never lived, for her daughters who prayed for a baby brother and then stopped praying altogether, for Jack, the eternal optimist turned cautious realist. And finally, Annabeth weeps for herself – a mother learning to navigate the lonely culture of loss.


This month the poetry world lost a true friend. Reuben Wolley was the founder of I am not a Silent Poet and The Curly Mind.  A human rights warrior and generous mentor, who helped many a poet on the way. Here is Antony R. Owen’s dedication to Reuben.

Zaragoza Dusk
For Reuben
Antony R. Owen

We last spoke of wrens singing moments after Armistice
dotting sky like a blue egg they returned from the baroque earth
and made globe shaped nests with splays of khaki and hardy gorse.

You told me that you always preferred brutalist sculptures
how Coventry rose from the ashes not as a phoenix but as man
he came from Krakow, County Armagh to build the great grey bird.

You told me that in Zaragoza the oranges are dull as they should be,
that they are full of pips and grow like stanzas in the silt of a dreamer’s mind you dropped a C-bomb on an unsuspected crowd and a poem exploded meaning.

Upon hearing of your death, I saw twenty-two children chasing a white ball,
they reminded me how words looked scattered in your poems
one of the boys never celebrated his goal and I felt you there.

Tonight, in Zaragoza the sky looks nothing special and you would like that.
Tonight, on the Ebro are fireflies knitting light into the neon unnoticed
they are of the dark, of the other world. They emit your lights.

………………Reuben Wooley (1952-2019)


Biographies

Jem Henderson is a professional writer and a sassy feminist troll. She has an MA in Creative Writing from York St. John University. She has been published in Wyrd Words and Effigies, Beautiful Scruffiness, Down in the Dirt, The English Chicago Review, The Night Light and various publications online. She works in tech.

Sarah Wallis is a surrealist, poet and playwright, a Londoner living in Leeds and moving to Edinburgh this autumn. She has degrees in creative subjects from Leeds, UEA and Birmingham U’s, life was more structured in academia. On the outside things are more surreal. But what is real? Aren’t we all constructions? Enjoy the journey. Of late you can find her work at Pidgeonholes, The Island Review and The Interpreter’s House online and in Ways to Peace anthology marking 21st Sept 2019 United Nations Day of Peace.

Carole Bromley is a York based poet who has three collections with Smith/Doorstop and a fourth book, The Peregrine Falcons of York Minster, due out from Valley Press in 2020. She loves retelling fairytales and exploring their rich subtexts and there are several in her children’s collection, Blast Off! www.carolebromleypoetry.co.uk

Ilana C. Myer has worked as a journalist in Jerusalem and a cultural critic for various
publications. As Ilana Teitelbaum she has written book reviews and critical
essays for The Globe and Mail, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon,
and the Huffington Post. Her fantasy trilogy for Tor Books includes Last Song Before Night (2015), Fire Dance (2018), and The Poet King (2020).

Dean Brindley is a Potteries born writer currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Keele University.

Susannah Violette is an artist, silversmith and poet living in the ‘endless forest’ in Germany with her husband and two daughters.

Tina Cole’s main writing focus is on the psychology of relationships.  Her published poems have appeared in U.K. magazines and journals such as, Poetry Shed, Mslexia, Aesthetica, and The Guardian newspaper. She was the recent winner of the Oriel Davies Writing Competition and Welshpool Poetry and is the organiser of the Young Peoples Poetry Competition – yppc2019.org

J.C. Pillard is an editor with Interweave living in Colorado. She has a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and has been previously published with Broadswords and Blasters #11 and the 2019 edition of Fall Into Fantasy.

Maggie Mackay loves family and social history which she incorporates into poems and short stories in print and online journals. One of her poems is included in the award-winning #MeToo anthology while others have been nominated for The Forward Prize, Best Single Poem and for the Pushcart Prize. Another was commended in the Mothers’ Milk Writing Prize. Her pamphlet ‘The Heart of the Run’ is published by Picaroon Poetry and the booklet ‘Sweet Chestnut’ published by Karen Little in aid of animal welfare.
Robin Leiper is a psychotherapist and poet living between Scotland and South Africa and trying to write in the spaces that open up between them.

Deborah Guzzi is the author of The Hurricane available through Prolific Press. Her poetry appears in Allegro, Amethyst, Creative Writing Ink Competition, Shooter, & Foxglove Journal &The Writer’s Cafe in the UK, also in Ireland, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Greece, Spain, France, India & in the USA.

Lynn Finger is a poet who holds a BA in Humanities from Cal State Northridge.   Lynn participates in poetry readings and open mics throughout her community. One of her poems “Dialogue with Orlando White,” won second place this year in the award-winning college arts publication, “Sandscript,” and also won 3rd place in the Community College Humanities Association Southwest Division. Lynn spends her time honing her writing craft, teaching, and working with trauma survivors. She is also associated with a group that mentors writers in prison. Lynn grew up in Southern California and lives in Arizona.”

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.

Rona Fitzgerald has poems in UK, Scottish, Irish and US publications both in print and online. Originally from Dublin, she now lives in Glasgow. Most recent publications are Poems for Grenfell Tower, Onslaught Press 2018, and #Me Too, Fair Acre Press, 2018

Lisa Fleck Dondiego’s poems have appeared in The Westchester ReviewHaibun Today, and in several anthologies, including Red Moon Press’s yearly anthology and in the Contemporary Women Writers of the Hudson Valley’s A Slant of Light. Honors include having been a semi-finalist for the “Discovery”/The Nation prize. Her chapbook, A Sea Change, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2011. She is currently working on a full-length collection of poems on the death of a loved one from alcoholism, and lives with her husband in Ossining, NY.

Ilse Pedler has had poems published in Magma, Stand, The Compass, as well as several anthologies. Her pamphlet, The Dogs That Chase Bicycle Wheels, won the 2015 Mslexia Pamphlet competition. She was shortlisted in the National Poetry Competition in 2018. She is the poet in residence at Sidmouth Folk Festival and works as a veterinary surgeon in Saffron Walden. www.ilsepedler.com

Laura McLean’s passion is for writing fantasy and mystery but mainly children’s stories largely based on animals of the small cute rodent type. Not the ones on four legs that go squeak squeak, the ones on two legs that live everyday normal lives in small mouse-hole homes. There’ll be those of you out there thinking “oh no, here comes the cute fluffy writer with cotton candy clouds, glittering fairytale colourful castles and rainbow sprinkle cuteness”. Yes, some of Laura’s stories are like that but they’re balanced by bits of darkness.  Yes, it might sound weird and off the wall but Laura’s writing demonstrates a clear understanding of the imaginative world that she belongs to. A world  far from the cynical hateful one ready to snatch away your happiest dreams and turn them into glass splintered dashed hopes.

Jennie Linthorst’s poetry has appeared in Bluestem, Edison Literary Review, Foliate Oak, Forge, Kaleidoscope, Literary Mama, Sanskrit Literary Arts Magazine, and Hopeful Parents. Jennie has published two books of poems, Silver Girl (2013) and Autism Disrupted: A Mother’s Journey of Hope (2011), with Cardinal House Publishing. Jennie is the founder of LifeSPEAKS Poetry where she works with individuals exploring their personal histories through reading and writing poetry. She is on the faculty of UCLA Arts & Healing and has presented workshops at the Los Angeles Expressive Arts Summit, The California Center for Creative Renewal, the Manhattan Beach Unified School District, UC Irvine Extension, the University of Santa Monica, and the National Association for Poetry Therapy. Jennie has a master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica, certification in poetry therapy from the National Federation of Biblio/Poetry Therapy, and a BA from Skidmore College. More information can be found on her website at www.lifespeakspoetrytherapy.com.

Katherine Leonard grew up as a post-WWII U.S. Navy brat traveling to post-war Italy and U.S. states as diverse as the Massachusetts of John F Kennedy at the time of his assassination and the segregation of rural Texas at the time of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. She continued the pursuit of diverse outlooks with careers as a chemist, a geologist and an oncology nurse. Her writing has been deeply influenced by time spent in New Mexico, Texas and Colorado for space and heat and Vermont and Maine for ice and clarity and by living in Washington, DC for lies and redemption. She currently lives and writes in the Syracuse, New York area and is actively involved in the YMCA’s Downtown Writers Center.

Sarah-Jane Crowston lives and works in Herefordshire. She mainly writes on the long, slow train from Hereford to London, trying not to spill her coffee over the paper.

Eileen Farrelly lives in Glasgow and has written poetry for most of her life. Her poems have appeared in Message in a Bottle, The Gladrag and Marble. She is also a musician and songwriter and can often be found singing for beer in various pubs around Glasgow.

Andrea Reisenauer is a PhD candidate still eagerly awaiting her letter from Hogwarts. Her poetry has appeared here and there and she enjoys long walks through Rivendell in her free time.

Edwin Stockdale was born in Chester in 1985.  His poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies.  Aventurine, his debut pamphlet collection, was published in September 2014 by Red Squirrel Press.  In autumn 2017 he completed an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham with Distinction.  Red Squirrel Press have recently published his second pamphlet collection, The Glower of the Sun (January 2019).  Currently he is researching a PhD in Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University.

Jo Flynn has been writing about the Manchester arts scene for more than 5 years. After winning the Roy Fisher Prize for poetry in 2013 endorsed by the poet laureate, Jo’s debut poetry collection Swallowing Sand was published and she’s since been featured at the National Poetry Library in London for short form poetry, shortlisted for the Jane Martin poetry prize at Cambridge University, published by Dear Damsels, and recently made the Emma Press longlist for her poems on ‘Illness’. With an MA (Distinction) in Creative Writing Jo just hopes to make sense of the world with words. And dogs.

Jo Colley is a writer, with an interest in the digital presentation of text, especially poetry. She won the 2013 Read Our Lips Prize for Dream On, a poetry film and also makes podcasts. Her next collection, Sleeper, will be published by Smokestack in 2020. She was recently poet in residence for the Northern Poetry Library and has taught Creative Writing at Teesside University. She tweets @jocolley, and co-blogs about fashion, culture, femaleness and death at Foxy Fash.

Lisa Rhodes-Ryabchich is the author of “Opening the Black Ovule Gate,” 2018; “We Are Beautiful like Snowflakes,” 2016, from (http://www.finishinglinepress.com). She has a MFA from Sarah Lawrence College & was a recipient of a Martha’s Vineyard Creative Writing Fellowship in 2016. Poems are forthcoming or have appeared in Kairos Literary,  Z Publishing Emerging Poets 2019 New York Series, The Chaffey Review, Poetry Leaves Exhibition 2019, Ancient Pathways, Nothing Substantial, Epiphanies & Late Realizations of Love, and elsewhere.

Michael Chang (they/them) hopes to win the New Jersey Blueberry Princess pageant one day. Michael strongly suspects that they were born in the wrong decade. A recovering vegan, their favorite ice cream flavor was almost renamed due to scandal.Their writing has been published or is forthcoming in Q/A Poetry, Yes Poetry, Typo Mag, Wrath-Bearing Tree, Bending Genres, The Hunger, Heavy Feather Review, Cabildo Quarterly, Neon Garden, Yellow Medicine Review, The Conglomerate, Queen Mob’s Tea House, London Grip, Rogue Agent, Kissing Dynamite, Collective Unrest, Thin Air, Pink Plastic House, Little Rose, Milk + Beans, ellipsis… literature & art, and elsewhere.  They are the proud recipient of a Brooklyn Poets fellowship.  They poet to feel alive.

Virna Teixeira is a Brazilian poet, writer, and translator based in London. Her poetry books were published in Brazil, Portugal, South America and UK.

Karen M. Deaver teaches writing at The College of New Jersey. She lives in Pennington, NJ, and has previously published essays and articles in The New York Times, Princeton Packet, The Explicator, and Parents magazine on a variety of topics from poetry to salsa dancing.

Linda Goulden lives on map but off sat nav. Her poems appear online and in magazines and anthologies. Her pamphlet  Speaking Parts is just published by Half Moon Books.

Mekalah Loxley, when she is not teaching English is an eater of books who revels in the pseudonym the Crimson Thief. Inspired by the darkness of Angela Carter and the wit of Margaret Atwood, Mekalah’s writing aims to subvert the traditional male gaze and encourage the female voice to scream!Her hunger for the written word is so ferocious that she would gladly trade her back teeth for more novels by Winifred Watson or Cornelia Otis-Skinner. Any offers?

Ellen Bow is Geordie lass – without the accent. It slipped her tongue in her youth when aspirations to be the next Trevor Macdonald meant she began to develop a generic voice, difficult to place. At that time she couldn’t have known the likes of Ant and Dec, who would pave the way for all those with a funny way of talking, leaving her dreams of the anchorman limelight far behind. Following on from her teenage aspirations, her life was relatively unremarkable. The classic line: University, travelling, then a job. Instead she chose to experiment with her thoughts. She imagined a world wild with fantasy, her own life safe, by living vicariously through her characters, setting, atmosphere and plot.

Caroline Hardaker lives in the north east of England. Her poetry has been published worldwide, most recently in Magma and by Platypus Press. Her first poetry collection, ‘Bone Ovation’, was published by Valley Press in October 2017, and her second ‘Little Quakes Every Day’ will be published in 2020. Find out more at https://carolinehardakerwrites.com/ .

“Andy Humphrey is a poet by night and a trainee solicitor by day. He has published two collections of poetry, A Long Way to Fall (Lapwing Press, 2013) and Satires (Stairwell Books, 2015). He lives in York.”

Clarabelle Fields previously wrote as Belle DiMonté, with work featured in Swords & Sorcery MagazineDanse Macabre, and Eternal Haunted Summer, among others. More recently, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Barren MagazineCorvid Queen, and Circe’s Cauldron. Her poetry collection Perigee Moon, a collection of poems focusing on Nature, Diana, and the night sky, was newly published in November 2019. You can find out more about her and her work at www.clarabellefields.wordpress.com

Alwyn Marriage’s ten published books include poetry, fiction and non-fiction; and she’s widely published in magazines, anthologies and on-line. Formerly university philosophy lecturer and CEO of two international NGOs, she is Managing Editor of Oversteps Books and research fellow at Surrey University. She gives regular poetry readings in Britain and abroad. www.marriages.me.uk/alwyn

Kelly Canaday loves to be in the company of chess players and those who believe that life is chess. Her work is featured in Into the Void and Saw Palm, among others.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in
That, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work
upcoming in Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Thin Air, Dalhousie
Review and failbetter.

Tolu’ A. Akinyemi hails from Nigeria and lives in the UK where he has been endorsed by the Arts Council England as a writer with “exceptional talent”. A talented writer with over 10 years’ experience, Tolu is the author of five outstanding books, one of which is a collection of ‘short essays’ encouraging you to “Unravel Your Hidden Gems”. The four other books form the basis of his poetry collection, ripe for future growth, and which includes Dead Lions Don’t Roar, Dead Dogs Don’t Bark, Dead Cats Don’t Meow and his latest release, Never Play Games with the Devil.

Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He’s had over two hundred fifty stories and poems published so far, and five books. Ed works the other side of writing at Bewildering Stories, where he sits on the review board and manages a posse of four review editors. https://twitter.com/bottomstripper  https://www.facebook.com/EdAhern73/?ref=bookmarks https://www.instagram.com/edwardahern1860/

MM Schreier is a classically trained vocalist who took up writing as therapy for a mid-life crisis. Whether contemporary or speculative fiction, favorite stories are rich in sensory details and weird twists. A firm believer that people are not always exclusively right- or left-brained, in addition to creative pursuits Schreier manages a robotics company and tutors maths and science to at-risk youth.
Recent publication can be found in The Corona Book of Science Fiction, OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters, Page & Spine, and Tales from the Moonlit Path. Additional listings can be found at: mmschreier.com/publications/

Publications

Writers’ Cafe Magazine: Fairy Tale (forthcoming Dec) “Fate at the Fluff-n-Fold” All Worlds Wayfarer (forthcoming Dec) “The Children of Gods” 72 Hours of Insanity, Volu…

mmschreier.com

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’.

Gwen Flanders is the author of two children’s picture books and an early reader chapter book, soon to be a series. She began her writing journey in journalism, covering sports and local events for a small-town newspaper as well as publishing several online articles centered around women’s medical issues. While working as a pre-school teacher, she fell in love with children’s literature and eventually picked up a pen to write her own. She is now a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. When she’s not writing books, she still loves to compete in Flash Fiction, often placing in the fairytale genre, including a 1st place finish in 2018. Gwen lives in Charlotte, North Carolina where she is currently working on several picture books inspired by her granddaughter, as well as a full-length YA novel. If you would like more information, please visit her website at http://www.gwenflanders.com.

Calum Cameron is a seventeen-year-old aspiring writer from Fortrose hoping to one day be half as good as the people that inspire him.

Martin Heavisides has published in FRiGG, Mad Hatter’s Review, Feast of Laughter, The Linnet’s Wings and numerous other journals of discerning taste. His play Empty Bowl was published in The Linnet’s Wings and given a live staged reading at Living Theatre, New York.

Jim Bates lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. His stories have appeared online in CafeLitThe Writers’ Cafe MagazineCabinet of HeedParagraph Planet, Nailpolish Stories, Ariel Chart, Potato Soup Journal, Literary Yard, Spillwords and The Drabble, and in print publications: A Million Ways, Mused Literary Journal, Gleam Flash Fiction Anthology #2, The Best of CafeLit 8 and the Nativity Anthology by Bridge House Publishing. You can also check out his blog to see more: www.theviewfromlonglake.wordpress.com

Epiphany Ferrell received a Pushcart nomination in 2018, and her stories appear recently in The Slag Review, New Flash Fiction Review and Pulp Literature and other places, and she blogs intermittently at Ghost Parachute. She is a reader for Mojave River Review. She lives near the best kayaking lake in Southern Illinois.

Madelaine Taylor is a writer and blogger from Northumberland. Living on the North Eastern coast, battered by it’s freezing winds and rains, she spends as much time as possible in her cosy apartment writing. You’ll often find this 45 year old Northumbrian sat with a large mug of tea, wrapped in a blanket staring at her iPad and tapping away on a keyboard. Inspired by the works of Pratchett, Eddings and Tolkien as well as the beauty of her home county, her work often contains fantastical elements and humour. Madelaine’s blog, Being Maddie, is inspired by her journey through self discovery. Sometimes serious, sometimes humorous, always heartfelt and genuine.

After graduating with degrees in English at McGill and Concordia universities, Anthony Iacovino went on to teach English at Concordia for several years. Around this time he published poetry in anthologies such as Scruncheons, Left Coast, Sampler, and Roman Candles. Then he moved to Toronto where he became an editor in a legal publishing firm and edited business documents. At this time, he started a writing and editing company out of which he was able to write many practical documents as well as inspirational articles for new entrepreneurs. More recently, he took up teaching English again at Seneca College. Being a professor has allowed him to come back to his first love, literature. Most recently, as a retired professor, he has read his stories and has written a collection of short stories (in progress) called, The Wonderful Roasted Rabbits and Other Stories.

Moira Garland’s short fiction publications include The Forgotten and the Fantastical #3 anthology (Mothers Milk Books), Cake: a local recipe magazine, Tyto Alba e-anthology (Comma Press) and http://www.commuter.lit.com online and in print. Her poetry is published in The North and other journals, and anthologies, and has won or been commended in competitions. She lives in the north of England. @moiragauthor

Myna Chang writes flash and short stories. Her work has been featured in Enchanted Conversation, Twist in Time, and Reflex Fiction, among others. Read more at mynachang.com

John Conway He’s here, he’s queer, he’s got the Christmas fear. John is a Northumbrian lad slumming it in Newcastle, he mostly writes folk-horror and fantasy, some of which you can even read. Tap him up at twitter.com/odd_really or johnconway.co.uk to find out more.

Kathleen Strafford is a graduate of Trinity University holding an MA in creative writing. She has been widely published on webzines and anthologies Her first collection of poetry ‘Her Own Language’ was published by Dempsey and Windle in 2017. Kathleen’s second poetry collection was published by Yaffle in 2019. She is also the chief editor of Runcible Spoon Webzine and publishing.

Sandi Marshall writes poetry, short stories, novels, funding bids and reports. She is not widely published, in fact hardly published at all, though she is sure this is about to change. Sandi wrote her first book at the age of 7 (The Silly Elf – not published), and her literary life highlights include throwing an 80th birthday party for Edwin Morgan, and acting in The Whore in the Madhouse on her 40th birthday as part of an arts festival that she organised in her then-hometown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[]………………………..ui’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


2 thoughts on “The Writers’ Cafe Magazine – ISSUE 18 “Fairy Tale”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s