The Writers’ Cafe Magazine – ISSUE 19 “Can You Dig It?”

In a Meadow
by Michele Byrne

In a meadow
Where once was battle.
Bones were found.
Nicked and hacked
with broken skulls.
All kept safe by soil.
Around them lay 
the last shines of war. 
Lit now by the suns probe.
Buckles, a shield boss,
a clasp for a nobles cloak.
Traced to a battle in 1741.
Left to lie under 
a green blanket. 
Through the turn of time,
rise and settle of flood.
Until someone decides to dig.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Disembodied Voices in Cheddar Caves
by Michele Bryne

In darkness in the earth’s mouth, 
spotlights flared over natures finest pieces. 
Held like stage sets, awe inspiring 
and claustrophobic.
Drips of water plinked and burbled.
Stalactites hung. 
Stalagmites grew and minerals poured 
waterfalls frozen in stasis. 
We stared, rapt, silent, awed. 
Suddenly, a great wash of music,
tsunamied over and round us. 
Soared, enveloped, startled.
Swelled, with layered harmony, 
that flowed from every hollow and surface. 
Wrapped our shoulders with a shawl 
of choral beauty. 
Every person was still, intent, puzzled.
Heads turned. Sought the source.
Yet the cave returned to slumber.
and we wondered if it had happened, 
or not?

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Jawbone
by Michele Bryne


The bone is light, delicate. 
Small-dog size. 
No trace of flesh.  
Neat planes, shadowed hollows, 
Creamy-white, 
like slip-cast porcelain. 
Serrations of teeth show sharp.  
Meet bone in a subtle tidemark, 
laid by time. 
Its origins are a puzzle, 
and how it had been stripped 
of life and animation. 
It drew me, like an archaeologist 
to a fossil. 
I turn it over and over.
View it inside and out, 
Run my finger across its teeth. 
Keep it in a small chest 
with shells, pot-pourri, a cuttlefish. 
Wonder what it was.
When it ran fast and free. 

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Mithraeum (The Restored Roman Temple of Mithras beneath the new Bloomberg building in the City of London)
by Julian Bishop

The barest bones of it
glitter – lights pick out
debased features,
washed and wrinkled
by the Walbrook,
a sluggish hidden river
spilling its sediment,
lees and alluvium

across the guts of London:
layer upon layer of drift,
over aisles and altars,
small fists and phalluses,
amber gladiator amulets –
treasures cocooned
within ton upon ton
of rich, accumulated filth.

Once these clay walls
echoed to the shuffle
of hobnailed sandals,
the soft pad of a carbatina,
steps deadened by blood
of sacrificed creatures
suffusing the floor –
a kind of mycelium creeping

beneath the city streets;
a furtive conclave
where coopers, crooks,
judges and traders gathered
to worship sacred bulls
while the silent flood
tugged the hallowed temple
into a millennium of mud.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

The Last Man
by Sheila Lockhart

At first it was a rough ride,
soil was heaved,
rocks and earth flung aside.
I trembled
as they stripped off the years.

Later a kind of tenderness,
as they lifted and sifted
the fine grains of the past.
Rain seeped in, rinsing clean
what once had been my flesh.

I heard their voices, familiar
yet strange, like echoes
from the day they laid me here
to rest.

They didn’t bring the usual offerings,
but stood around at dusk,
hushed and listening, respecting
the mysteries of the place.
Their shadows stroked
what once had been my face.

When they’ve left I’ll sleep again,
until rain dissolves all trace of me.
Dream of geese weaving seasons
through the skies,
of battle cries and boots and hooves,
ploughmen’s songs,
furrowed fields, strangers
at my tomb.

Now night creeps round the sacred hill.
The last man turns to go,
weighed down with questioning.
My silent voice calls out,
one last sweep will shed my shroud.
A shadow on sand is all that’s left.
Enough for him.

My sightless eyes gaze up,
behind his smile wild geese
still weaving seasons through the skies.

(Tarradale, September 2019)

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Reminiscent
Shannon Cuthbert

Swim in primordial soup
And come up clean.
You’ve scrubbed the mind free
Of its pesky webs,
Turned whistling winds
To the sounds you sing,
Your mouth an O
That heals the splintered bone.
When wolves with jagged smirks
Attempt to hold you close,
You bite back,
Snap a slice from the whole milk moon,
And spear it in
This most unwholesome earth,
Its soil that spoils
Like cream to the touch.
You warrior you,
On unknown lands,
You struggle to remember, in the end,
Why you came.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

San Agustín
by Susan Castillo

They glow in golden light,
These stones. Pre-Columbian,
Our guide tells us.
A pregnant woman cups her belly,
snarls with jaguar teeth.
Beside her, an owl with monkey paws
stands guard. A snake
coils round her feet.

The boundaries are porous here.
In this sacred place
air and earth and underland
flow and mingle in bright harmony.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Roman Coin
by Rose Day

They found you in Yorkley, of all places
near the coughing, spluttering health centre building.
……………Dug down under the tarmac to find you,
……………a fragility that lay small in their hands.
You, with your ancient condensation, sat in the wet soil
surrounded by worms and woodlice.
……………A fragment of ancient commerce,
.…………..discovered as the chorus of children’s joyful screams began:
the melody of youth echoing from a playground.
From what tavern have you twirled through?
……………whose Roman hands like passing ships,
……………took you to the sea?
……………In the hold of what ship did you sail?
Do you miss the heat of Ancient Rome?
the nuance of accent?
buried as you are in this damp, English soil.
They came here from that distinct, curling language,
keeping their sweat laced on your engraving.
……………This car park is no colosseum,
……………no marble statue.
……………This is a foreign land of wood and lavender.
……………Will it ever be enough?

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Shards
by David Babatunde Wilson

Cold hands plunged
In icy water
Pull out shards
Of ancient pot
Terracotta red
Carefully drawn
From sandy earth

Sand and soil
Sluiced away
Rough designs
Incised with care
Each unique pattern
A signature in art
Of age and source
And style

Each shard a clue
A glimpse of life
In ancient time
A window on
Another world
Now lost
And yet a part
Of who we are

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Process
by Stephen Kingsnorth

Spat to cool first blister flesh,
spit to measure spading depth,
spat, who is in charge of dig
spit dribble toothbrush bristle dried;
how many pegs, where molar guide?

My colleague earnest, angular,
our conversation, tuft and pit,
bald words from squat, observing me,
arching zygomatic pleas
as if this dig was counselling
patella and olecranon,
process from cap activity.
tag tarnished neck identity,
both staring from this orbit scene.

I handed him, soft sable whisk,
spoke gritty words in crumble terms
and wondered what vacation brings
and who might cite these clues we see.
The aspect of this frame was snapped,
we chuckled, ribbed from Plato’s cave,
the day grew long with passing shades
which played amongst mix mud exhumed.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Connections
by Stephen Kingsnorth

Genteel branch of the family,
too soft-spoken for the organ loft
with strings and rods, the clavichord;
not far removed, harder cousins’ line,
protection racket, those body parts,
skeletal shield for inner work.

This little key, sternum strut,
horizontal long, swank only one,
contention, give the doggy some,
gnawing, can’t ignore the thing,
axis turn, abducting from
the inner core, normality.

Marrow, far from veggie patch,
process, joint and scapulae,
sounds mobster or Bond’s enemy,
connections in the underworld –
that’s where they lie, those ligaments,
take orders from the brain HQ.

Out on a limb, a funny bone,
now what a nerve to pretend joke,
far humerus, no laughter – pain,
as if the cut from blade run through,
which leaves me singing Boney M,
from Babylon to Mary’s child.

The last doubtless, unfashionable –
what magic trick with flesh and bones?
But that’s not what the fuss about;
prefer, contracted to a span,
the stuff of life, humanity,
laid out for me in soil and wind.

……………………………………………………………………….
*****

Marble
by Stephen Kingsnorth

From Agra Fort the Taj as grand
as marble skin when close to mine;
Carrara too enabled birth
the flesh of David, renaissance.
Indian cara holds the line,
Nuremburg trials out of town,
bottle washers which lost their fizz
and taws were played in northern towns.
So what attraction small glass ball
which does not bounce but simply rolls,
yet if lost threatens owner mad?
These trophies found beneath my feet,
where dust and soil compacted meet\
the history of every day.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Wight
by Stephen Kingsnorth

As mouldered soapstone corpses sleep shaped upon sarcophagi,
a waxy moisture varnish glaze
– maybe the damp of cheeky river-bed sadness stream
or furrowed fearing globule sweat of crime recalled –
now long parched, now taut-drawn plucked-like flesh,
but hearty murmurs, or wandering-thought-permitting incants
have seeped the sandy blushing stone, deep-ingrained and hidden.
Yet hints,
like glimpsy cobble edges barely scaping plastered tar
are known,
for dried-up channels course
to be moldavite refreshed, and sin remain.
And in this sacred space I dare
uncover what was left before
though the long watched of the night
saw sheltered view of shaded wight.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Cleaning Teeth
by Stephen Kingsnorth

Brushing the greyed enamel milk
flown flitting fairy, groat beside
from stringy purse, sow’s ear mellowed
by fetid moss-composted air.

Surrounded by the fuel dump,
a postbox, as at Cranmere Pool,
dead-letter drop in pigeon hole,
stray Frank that sank amongst the woad.

The tors stare down at yesterday
antediluvian, observe
as dusty girls are laid with crows
until bog draws and lye dissolves.

So why this pig, this mint stamped disk,
and this pearl cast before mature,
a moulded shape imprinted whole
beneath the cowslips, shepherd’s purse.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

The Midden
by Erica A. Fletcher

The beach is covered with broken findings
flaked mussel shells
a crab carapace
sun-beaten dead things
brittle as the blackened bladderwrack
they’ve made their final bed

I drowned in you once
you doused my fire with sea-water

Rusty old bucket from the shed
coal hod with worn wooden handle
these things are real
the sour-faced farmers
wielded them a hundred years
before we landed on this coast
their trash still grows moss
in the midden
at the forest’s edge

I have dug and dug there
finding only stiff dead things
stuck to the earth

black barnacles

not a single treasure
to take home for myself.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Buried
by Craig Dobson

The Vikings left a lot of crap:
coke cans, car keys, batteries,
unidentifiable scraps of rust
that sing my sensitive machine.

Sweep left, sweep right.
Sun gilds the back of my neck
as I scythe through the sound
of chalk and flint and grey earth,

following the hedgerow. Beyond,
sheep graze the down that rises
till foxgloves and 0x-eye daisies
spill from a thick copse of beech.

A thrupenny bit, once.
A stainless steel picnic spoon.
One Ratners earring that snapped
as I cleaned the mud away.

My wife brings our kids to find me.
They have a go. In fifty feet to boredom,
I tell them all my hobby lore, unearth a bolt.
At a look from her we take the car,

lunch in a nearby pub, then drive
to the long hill jutting its prow
into a view of summer clouds
whose shadows sail the sea’s far jade.

Between there and the ragged parade
of fields beneath, the town lies beached,
its hoard of surfaces, struck by the sun,
now silver, now gold, as we look on.

.………………………………………………………………………*****

My Father’s Wall
by Craig Dobson

Hadrian, we joked, over those weeks
when planning delayed the Council
whose diggers had Passchendaeled
the field behind our house.

From the craters and trenches
he heaved a trove of rocks;
barrowed them home after work,
bathed in sweat and summer twilight.

Mum complained as the granite
cicatrice grew across the lawn,
its stones like trophy heads
torn from some massacre.

Rats manned its maze of tunnels.
My brother and I lost toy soldiers
down its twisted runnels and ravines.
Our dog pissed against such monument.

Rain and ice brightened it for Dad,
who could only hazard a guess
at how much his hoard was worth,
what myriad uses it might bring

and – when we sold our home, in spring –
why the buyers would be so glad
he’d grunted that ton of forays
to make each stone his own.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Ask Deeply, and Remember
by Lisa Bledsoe

I wanted to tell you my secret names
right away but you kept
forgetting to ask me.

I waited and oiled my skin until it gleamed,
and you looked at me with hunger
but forgot, or were too
young to know the thrumming in your
throat, in your long thighs was not
going to be fed with fresh-baked bread or
root soup in winter.

Still you dragged away great bones
to chew and guard until even the memory
of the feast was gone,
while I laid awake and hoped for
someone who could take me to the
river, where lust and baptism were
a potent distraction from

what do you want, and
what does your secret self
profoundly desire?

I want to slip through the thicket
like a fox, to belong with you
to loam and wetland,
rocky ledge and silver field—
to run with you
in all the pelts the moon gives me
and no one can steal.

Women crave a man who will ask
the question again
because the first answer is only
a drift of orange leaves in October—
not humus, taproot, or dark
icy aquifer.

In the days when wishing still helped
and the forest of thorns
preserved the sleepers
it didn’t matter; there were no
name robbers, no fight to hold on to
the deep knowledge of hidden names.

Always ask me twice:
What do you want, and
what does your undisclosed heart
profoundly desire?

I want you to love my shining
woman of lichen and hide,
frost and meteor, I want
you to keep returning to my tent,
to pull me from the river by my
very ribs—in all my fierce and
terrible truth
keep returning—

Ask deeply and remember
my hidden names.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Line Fork
by Lisa Bledsoe

In Letcher county
before the homeplace burned
I found a minnow trap in the old smokehouse
and carried it down to Line Fork
with a piece of yesterday’s cornbread.

Climbing down the bank to
where the water glowed like sterling silver
I dropped in my trap, and pegged the chain
with a dry stick
under a white Kentucky sky.

 …..Lilley Cornett Woods is one of the largest
 …..protected tracts of old-growth forest
 …..located in Letcher County, Kentucky

My grandmother was born in 1925
in this house, new-built then—

She remembers catching staves
floating down the creek from the lumber company,
and catching catfish barehanded
ith her older sister Eunie, who was never scared
in the millpond up Line Fork.

 ….. Defeated Creek is an unincorporated community
 ……located in Letcher County, Kentucky

Maw Dicey set apple slices by thousands
on the tin roof to dry.

There were twelve children born
to the four-room house—
eleven who feasted on cornbread, ham, wild greens
and dried apple pies, sometimes

who swam here and listened for thunder,
watched for rolling yellow water—
got out quick in front of
flash floods running down Line Fork.

 …..Hallie is an unincorporated community
 …..located in Letcher County, Kentucky

Before the Swinging Bridge
there was a foot log to cross Line Fork
chained on one side, and washed down
in high waters

They ran got Pap Joe’s mule
Jack Hammer to pull it back in place
to get to school, else
walked across in winter
when it was frozen.

 …..Skyline is an unincorporated community
 …..located in Letcher County, Kentucky.

……Its post office is closed.

In the low Kentucky holler I open
my green dream gates:
I am floating under Line Fork
above the big stones where
catfish lie.

A glittering shoal of minnows gathers
in the gently rocking water
and drops until it purls about my shoulders

I am touched by a thousand tingling stars—
I raise my arms and the blessings scatter
then reform in new adornments.

..……………………………………………………………………..*****

So Few Angels
by Lisa Bledsoe

They carved their grief-poems into the walls at Angel Island—
defacements ordered to be covered with putty, painted again
a book of wood and plaster growing by disappearing pages
rooms eaten by choking bites, waning as their human tide
swelled and weakened against the unborn limit.

One hundred seventy-five thousand lives and stanzas
of lives stolen, unguilty eyes and hair darker than mine
across the bay from Alcatraz and many li from
Hoi Ping or Guandong Province to this place
which was once a cattle ranch.

My words are weeds, not coin or note or hammer, rarely
scaffolded with curiosity or interrogated—
I scrawl my doors with small thought, hanging open, ignore
Does detainment have meaning for my consonant or plosive?

I have all my important papers but can’t
remember how many stairs there are in my house—
seventeen or more and my life
has never depended on knowing.

The poems in the women’s quarters only ever keened
to those who stumbled through, slept, or drained away
who rocked their paper children then burned
one year and were lost forever.

Sometimes every letter carries more lives
than can be rescued or unthreatened.

Now I’m mourning many things
including that for years
I visited her in prison with

few thin words and never
thought of poems.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

For the Cows, Who Asked for a Blessing
by Lisa Bledsoe

Three million years ago
the spirit grasses
who were your great-grandmothers
rasped your name
as the sun stretched over the ice,
whistled and sighed you into life
between tundra and steppe.

A new land called you to rule:
your name was aurochs.

Worthy was your dynasty
amid mastodon, cave bear
and saber-tooth cat.

Your horns belonged to khans and caliphs;
the ferocity and thunder of your race
renowned across the continents.

Three times your ancestors accepted the yoke
and you gave milk and meat, fat and blood,
skin and dung.

Caesar praised your gifts,
caves and coins bear your stories
and stars, your likeness.

Today there is a bone in your great heart
shaped like serenity—
this is where your magic remains.

I thank you for your benefaction and witness
over range and manger, for your escort
to the next world, and the next.

May the spirit grasses
whisper peace to you and your kine
generation after generation.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

In an Antique Land
by Lesley Burt

We gather round Raafat, Egyptian guide,
who says, “The trunk of Rameses fell here,
severed at the knees. Torso and head –
intact – still demonstrate his power.

Observe the colossus’ chest, arms, thighs:
muscles that symbolise prowess
through victories in simultaneous wars,
sculpted to inspire. And to oppress.

Pharaoh decreed that his successful reign,
and name, are known for ever; required
his own cartouche should be chiselled on
legs, belt, and shoulder near the royal beard;

yet had him curve a smile as evidence
that might was tempered by benevolence.”

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Time Travel
Rona Fitzgerald

Faro invites me to walk with Romans,
to grieve with Muslims, to wonder at mosaics
and artefacts from many epochs.

In a convent museum, where the echo of nuns
at pray reverberates still on stable stone.

They tell us stories of peoples, of cultures,
what they loved, fought for and longed for.
Unearthed wonders of daily life –

a comb, arrow heads as fine as jade,
cooking pots of deep blue and warm earth.
Beads of light; amber, lapis, translucent pearls.

Like us, they made things, they prepared food,
they lived following rituals, rites and seasons.

They worked, they loved, grieved for children,
fought with strangers, sang of joy, mourned the dead.
They longed for God and resolution

My leather sole is tapping on dry paths –
a metronome tick tock tick – repeating
they were like us; they were just like us.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Silk I think.
Anne Connolly

Hailstones are gone, slicked back to skinny rain after that battering.

The sun restored as if she’d never left this ancient place.

A purple, pageantry rose
lies incongruous. Silk
I think, still recognizable
among the slow-worn
engravings, blown astray
from a posy recent with grief
and hard loss that tries to say
what no one ever can.

The crumbled past is scattered wide across this site. Dominicans

were always wise in choosing land for cattle, bees and spirits thriving.

They caught the ragged edge
of ritual grown thin
in this domain of Kings.
Millennia of Connaught.
Rathcroggan now revealed.
Geophysics’ trickery
unveils the ascendance
of their days.

Mounds long swathed with rain and moss and mystery.

A chant of crows a capella in the sycamore. A hallelujah of bones.

.………………………………………………………………………*****

Excavation
by Stephen Watt

With her light sweeping brush, she dusts
off worms from the discovered bones,
shimmering in the soil’s vinegary dew.
The revelation’s index finger points north,
accusing God of desertion.
Jaw unhinged, it swallows all theories,
beliefs, and superstitions.

The cordoned bog is drained.
Brain solvated, this speculated woman’s skull
is splintered like an atlas,
telegraphing shockwaves
across her own, hairless globe.

A sacrifice, slain by sword
but further tests are required;
specimens, tubs, swabs, records explored.
Close by cows graze on burnt grass.
Blink fly-teardrops. Keep their heads down.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Minerva in a Marge Tub
Ann Cuthbert

(In 2018 a metal detectorist reported a 2,000 year old Romano-British statue of Minerva to the Portable Antiquities Service. It had been unearthed ten years earlier by another detectorist and kept in a margarine tub.)

Didn’t even need to sweep my Garrett At Pro over the ground. There she was, already found, stashed in a margarine tub. He said he thought she wasn’t all that old, a replica, he reckoned. Surfaced in his field. Bit of a curiosity so he kept her. But I thought that statue’s Roman, looks important. Local Finds were gobsmacked when they saw her. See, us detectorists are beneficial. 93% of all artefacts discovered by our skimming, sensing, digging. We help you all to understand your past.

A decade in a Flora tub? It’s nothing. That statue of me’s two millennia old. And anyway, I’m actually an Immortal. Yes, it is a comedown. I’m more used to gracing temples than farm kitchens. But these days, we grab worship where we can. I’ve been reborn, emergence this time tamer than when I first burst whole from Father’s skull, full-grown and battle-armoured, thanks to Mother. (I’ve given him a headache ever since.) Some divining man unearthed me – verdigrised, soil-crusted, head snapped off, arm shattered, battered, silver gaze diminished. But look how gracefully my drapery hangs, my hair still dressed, a bit war-helmet flattened, though in Britannia there’s not much call for weapons. Poetry, wisdom, catching thieves is what they want here. Very civilised. They just seem to have forgotten my importance. I’m starting to think my time is in the past.

It’s an amazing find, I can’t deny it. We’re very pleased, it’s remarkable and rare. But isolated objects tell us little. Context is vital. How did it end up there? With what associations? What stratigraphy? These help recording and interpretation. Need help to understand your past? That’s Archaeology.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

The Coin in the Ashes
by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky

This white page calls out for truce,
asking for new words—words

like just-discovered footprints in sand.
Hieroglyphs of an undefined bird.

The days can be read differently now.
Are we evolved? I call out

to you in birdsong—knowing that
you won’t reply. New, I endure.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Sheldon-Stone
Ian Grosz

Once fourteen in number,
now just six stones remain erect.

………………………………..‘It is said that
………………………………..much larger blocks of stone were cut up
………………………………..and carried away …’

At its centre, the remnants of a burial

cairn: revenant scattering of the long departed,

………………………………..‘in one part of which was found, about 1820,
………………………………..a stone coffin about 3 to 4 feet long, containing
………………………………..‘ashes and unctuous matter’.

A final resting place then, for a child?

………………………………..‘Human remains have also been found
………………………………..about 10 yards east of the circle.’

At Kilmartin Glen
(several hundred miles to the southwest),
they laid down their dead child
on a swan’s wing.

Here, only six stones that speak to us,
and some old account from an antiquarian:

……………………………….‘ashes and unctuous matter.’

Outliers are said to align with the sunrise
at Beltane and Imbolc.

…………………………………Did they light fires, douse the hearths,
…………………………………wait for the sun to rise above a single stone
…………………………………before taking their cattle to pasture?

………………………………..Did they prepare a bed
………………………………..for a Brídeóg, leave food for her
………………………………..to eat, bless each dwelling place
………………………………..with the coming of the spring?

Unknown numbered days and nights
watching the light unfold these fields.

Sunrise and sunset, moonrise and
moonset, counting out the seasons,
…………….the never-ending endings.

……………………………………………………………………….
*****
Lapis Lazuli
by Mary Males

She wraps her heavy dress
closer over her knees
and settles at the sloping desk.
Light falls from the window.
She hears hooves on cobbles.
Her feet are cold.

She dips her brush in blue
as valuable as gold,
breathes in, breathes out,
to still her hand,
applies it to the manuscript.
She licks her brush perhaps,
to make a finer line.

A thousand years go by.

They find her bones
and in her teeth –
blue particles.
Until then,
they thought that only men
were given such a hallowed task.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Dig
by Pat Edwards

They dug you up and softly brushed your cheeks
like applying bronzer to restore your skin tones.
They pieced you together bone by bone, limb
by limb, until you were recognisable as human.

They cradled your skull like a newborn, laid you
out for measuring and checks, sure in knowing
only that you were long dead. It would take time
to fix your age to maybe find out how you’d lived.

For now they named you out of respect, to make
it kinder than referring to your number tag alone.
Your presence filled the room and air gathered
around as if to offer what was left the kiss of life.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Ghosts
by Wilda Morris

No professional archaeologist
discovered the terracotta warriors
guarding the First Emperor’s tomb
at Xi’an. It was farmers seeking
water during the drought of 1974.
Now they had evidence
that indeed there were ghosts
dwelling beneath their fields,
sometimes escaping when they dug
too deep. Hadn’t their grandfathers
told them? Hadn’t they warned
their children? Now archaeologists
would come, dig those ghosts
in uniforms from the compacted earth,
bring them up to the surface,
tell the children a different story
of who hid beneath fields and footpaths.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Wail of the Cat Mummy
Field Museum, Chicago
Wilda Morris

I lay in quiet darkness through dynasties
wondering when my ka would return to me,
when I would be freed from the strips
of cloth bound so tightly around my body.
Where is Bastet, who should have saved me
the indignity of being ripped from my grave,
passed from hand to hand and brought
to this lighted case, these staring eyes?

Surely Bastet still warms the banks of the Nile,
still entices thyme, maize, melons and reeds
to grow. I do not wish to join Osiris
in the netherworld. I dream of tonguing
my fur to restore its sheen, of returning
to Bubastis, rejoicing again in the festivals,
head tilted, tail twitching as I watch
myriad boats on the river and leap
at dancers’ swirling skirts as castanets click.

How can my ka find me in this foreign land?
Will I will never again see Bastet’s temple,
eat Nile fish from the hands of her priests,
never again climb stairs between stone pillars
and sleep at Bastet’s sacred feet?

.………………………………………………………………………*****

Edward Thompson at Chichén Itzá
by Wilda Morris

Incense the Maya burned
to the god of rain
I burned to the god of gold.
The Cenote Sangrado yielded
less than I hoped: bones, yes,
and small treasures of gold and jade,
but hardly the cache
I longed for.

I threw myself into the sacred well
like an ancient sacrifice,
came up and out
with almost empty hands.
Still, I did come out,
and I did leave my mark
on Mayan archaeology.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Cave Canem; Cane, Cave!
Wilda Morris

Cave Canem, “beware of the dog”
it said on the elaborate mosaic
at the entrance of my home.

Chained to the doorknob,
I sat day by day guarding
the family who fed, petted,

pampered me till I learned
to love them all, even the
boy who sometimes boxed

my ears or pulled my tail.
When someone came by,
I barked a warning.

I growled if anyone seemed
to threaten the master, mistress,
or children. When Vesuvius exploded,

I could do nothing to save them,
nothing to save myself. The mosaic
alone survived, testimony

to my fruitless devotion.

..……………………………………………………………………..*****

Lament of Ramose
Circa 1310-1235 BCE
Wilda Morris

I lived forty years in the Great Place
in the intractable desert
where nothing would grow
but children and piles
of white chips carved out
of sandstone cliffs
to make tombs and temples
for dead pharaohs.

On the sandstone flakes,
I wrote daily records
as I supervised, measured,
tallied, checked and listed.
I informed the Vizier of progress
in that valley so dry donkeys
plodded in continuously with food
and earthenware jars of water.

Rewarded for loyalty and good work
with rations enough for a dozen people,
I made offerings with my wife Wia
to Amun, Mut, and Konsu,
raised statues to the gods,
commissioned stelae
on which we carved
prayers of praise and petition.

Hathor, goddess of of the Western Mountains,
Mother who holds our dead kings
through the night,
resurrects them each dawn,
even you, oh Golden Lady,
to whom I built a limestone phallus,
inscribed with a plea for children,
even you did not listen.

Why did you not reward
our faithfulness with fertility?
Why did you not listen
to the highest hopes
of a faithful scribe?

…………………………………………………………………….*****

aquatint: sleeping girl
by Mandy Macdonald

adream in her stone-lined cist
still as still
she has lain for centuries
curled
…………..waiting

her small body melting
slowly
to a ghost print
engraved by the peat

she is a feather, a breath
so quiet among
the clay moulds for cloak-pins
the fragments of Frankish glass
.………….things wrought
…………..things brought

no grave goods blessed
her passage to whatever afterlife
she had feared or hoped for

her being
narrowed to one tiny bone
that rang, almost beyond hearing
almost by accident
against a student’s trowel

…………..I have lived so many lives
…………..here in my waiting:
…………..I have been beetle, earthworm, mite
…………..microbe
…………..I have diminished
…………..I have enriched
…………..at last, the sky

speckle-dark, a merlin
dashes over the dig, is gone.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Preliminary
by Oz Hardwick

She digs into mist, a calisthenics of gradual uncovering. Here are houses, aligned with the moon, shops in ritual clusters, the trench detritus of quotidian intercourse; and here are hands, reaching to be held, tongues wagging slack greetings, unnecessary kisses which only clip air. She digs deeper, sweat prickling her mechanical arms, brow pinched in concentration. Here are snails, out before the rain, worms floundering on footpaths, woodlice curling against instinctual unease. Each vaporous lamina tears like tissue, like skin; opens beneath the rigorous rhythm of her excavations into reputation, status, and self-loathing or silver lining – mist muffles distinctions – dharma, and duty to each unreliable recall that vexes her compulsive probing.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Shelters for the New Catastrophe
by Oz Hardwick

Beneath the city is a skeleton map, bones crooked to strange articulations. It’s its own city, twisted in the memory of streets before wars, spiking at the skin of chaotic lives lived and ended. It’s a tun for wine, a dry river, a parched throat still singing revolution. It’s the blunt blade’s cut, the eye behind the shutter, the stutter of the drum’s final flourish. With light, we follow the black path through dead watchers clacking epitaphs like Halloween crackers, spilling crowns and trinkets, jokes that have never been funny, while, above, money changes hands, hands hold and part, parts are played in vague movies. Streets disappear like scars, almost forgotten but for the occasional itch, but the bone chill remains, stiff and awkward, hunchbacked and pleading.

……………………………………………………………………………*****

The Archaeologists
by Oz Hardwick

Like archaeologists, we dust the day from its ruin, bag and catalogue our finds: a rail ticket; a folded newspaper (crossword completed); a blue baseball cap with a Bass Lake logo; a pair of spectacles snapped into a blue case; beads strung like disappointments on stiff wire; keys and locks that shift correlations; a Nokia 1011, its battery flat; more weather than a sky could hope to hold; statements – major and minor – sifted from ash; a brown Bakelite wireless, its valves still scorching on careless flesh. Our hands shake, and there’s no time to sleep or shower. Our museums are full and lack funding, but the days keep coming.

……………………………………………………………………………………*****

Finds
by Oz Hardwick

She picked up the field, folded in the corners, captured light. It had rained forever or, at least, since way before she was born, so the sun tasted special, like Turkish delight, marzipan, or other childhood analogues – perhaps like the ears of a favourite teddy bear. The landscape grew bigger, like Hitchcock’s pulled focus, and the sky undressed to bask. And this one field, green beyond measure, sang like an antique automaton, the song of the perfect bird, so she lifted its corners, drew them in, pressed them sharp with weathered thumbs, and saved this sliver of morning light. This was a long time ago, but here it is, still neatly wrapped. Don’t open it and risk everything falling, but if you hold it to your cheek you will feel its warmth, hear its green music.

……………………………………………………………………………*****

Being the Landscape
by Oz Hardwick

There are no ruins, only new forms, skeletons struggling through skin. Where once your tongue tasted salt, it now tastes chalk. In spite of technology, you prefer the blackboard, the murmur and shriek of words stretching, awkward but true, into a panelled room. Dust falls from the space around language, leaving lines like the outlined body after a suicide. Your phone vibrates in your trouser pocket, and you know it’s an unrequited love, an archaeologist of folded prayers. You don’t know whether to answer but, either way, it will strip another layer of skin, shift the landscape.

……………………………………………………………………..*****

Apples
by Charley Reay

They’d troweled up legions:
Steel backed and glass faced,
cracks like cataracts & lenses
like eyes on the matte black backs.

Intricately patterned panels inside
& slots like a chinese box.
The purpose of these relics guessed at:
Symbols of a faith, perhaps?

A death cult based on bible stories;
that forbidden fruit? Or maybe it’s the
one that Eris tossed, to start a bloody
war just for the giddy Hell of it?

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Ruined
by Corinna Keefe

I like the idea of being ruined.
Bats skitter through my roof-spaces,
Owls stump and hoot unseen.
Ivy twines up my legs and mistletoe
Piles up in my hair.
………………………………………………Drifts
Of leaves
.…………………………………..In the corners.
Nobody comes here any more.
Just me and my shadows
And the odd phantom biker.
The yellow paint on the gate is peeling
And the horseshoe over the door fills up with rust,
Like luck. Birds nest unbothered.
In the distance, the motorway roars my name
But I cannot hear it. The lamp posts bow their heads.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Dig in
by Ian Richardson

When we dug up the French café kitchen floor
we found eighties scent strips hidden in the hole.
Given away free in cosmopolitan vogue,
Poison, opium, sand… but no Giorgio.
Seventy centimeters down, Ginseng,
Aramis, the musk – eteer, Skinny, Charlie in a shaft asking,
Who’s the man who would risk his neck for a brother man?
Silver sixties Moon Juice lit under the board walk
over vinyl forty-fives where the sound of silence,
worn out by coin operated juke boxes, smells like
Nectaroma, divided by the Wall.

Over fifty ghosts watched us getting down,
chewing gum in leather jackets,
cigarette lighters like flamethrowers,
Meteor exhausts and hip Beatniks dig
the state of the king in an abandoned fridge with
colorful magnetic messages. Bubble gum
Brut, Mist and Old Spice Lime on
broken chess board tiles, stacked in
piles. Alternate black and white squares.
Here, land girls dug for victory, which was, apparently,
a Bourjois evening in Paris, where the
Queen of the night took Vol de Nuit and
named the hole ‘Amour’ for you to fall in.

.………………………………………………………………………*****

Moulin, Knud Rasmussen Glacier, Greenland
After Robert Macfarlane’s descent
by Mantz Yorke

I feel the sapphire-blue hole drawing me
into unfathomable deep. It should be colder:
water is pouring down through the ice
to bedrock where its slipperiness will assist
gravity to speed the glacier into the sea.

A spiderling on a nylon rope, I descend
this glassy tube that’s a frozen version
of Poe’s maelstrom, swung like a pendulum
in the stream set free by the sun, trusting all
to the skills and strength of friends.

They won’t hear me. I signal, crossed hands,
to be hauled up: it takes but a few minutes
to traverse the last few thousand years
of the ice-cap’s waning life. I emerge
from blue to the warming rays of the sun.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Requiem For An Unknown Man
by Fionna Cumming

Laid out. Sunday best chairs in the living room.
Mess dress full moon poppies, blooming.
Topography palm skimmed like a chalk outline,
I memorise your contours and open all the windows.

Underneath the silk rich blanched starch strata
you are turpentine leather, burnt umber;
no reason it shouldn’t last forever, you said,
but no amount of buffing could make you endless.

If I cracked your ribcage open I’d find it
coffee ground crammed, sodden full dark
lungs like sponges; sepia aged treasure maps,
scarred paths of bronchial dashed lines racing

out towards the back green where you once planted
a stolen holly tree, resistance scratches artefacts
borne for how the rockery looked in winter,
and every blood red poison bauble that bulged forth

an X to mark the spot beneath the burgeoning canopy
of spearing bite mark stalactites. I dig and I dig,
wishing for your calloused shovels, sift earth till
dun roots emerge, clod sticky and loam clad,

cajoled into place on that summer’s night so long ago.
I press my once held hands to the ashen bark,
softer yet than yours, and tip my eyes to the sky,
remembering the smile on your fossilised lips.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Midden
by Rosemary McLeish

I wish I hadn’t taken this job.
I thought it would be exciting,
travelling to foreign parts,
unearthing strange artefacts from
long-gone tombs. I thought I’d
make a discovery, get famous overnight.
Didn’t expect to be rootling around
some disgusting twentieth century
midden in the middle of an English town.
I’m expected to troll through this
gloopy mess (‘don’t forget to get
your hands dirty’ they quipped)
on the off-chance I’ll find anything
unusual. I don’t even know what
to look for – KFC bones and lager cans
surely of no interest now – perhaps
I should divide the haul into
separate piles from “bad for
your health” to “amusing
plastic pottery”. The tons of
chips and pizzas and kebabs
and even packaging will be degraded
now, we’d have to go to contemporary
accounts in novels and newspapers,
try to pick our way through the word trash
for the facts, if we want to know
about what they addled their
insides with. Oh, wait a minute,
that’s a bamboo fork! How did
that get there? Carefully preserved
in age-old fat, a testament
to early conservation tricks,
I can show them that. And what’s this?
The spokes of a huge umbrella? Did they
sit outside in the rain to eat a
special meal? I can’t make head nor
tail of this. The stink is getting me down.
I think I’ll quit. At least I’m off
to have my decent lunch, berries
and leaves today with a slice of ersatz …
now what will people make of that
when they come to excavate my kitchen?

……………………………………………………………………….*****

You Don’t Get Everything Back
Maggie Mackay

I’ve forgotten your voice,
in this new reality,
can’t fix your timbre,
that sharp telling-off tone,
bright teasing quip,
a mother’s calm consolation.

How ever much I conjure catchphrases,
don’t make a fuss,
don’t get so excited,
and your unique cadence
when you joked of me,
here comes trouble
or life never boring with you around,
it is no more. No digging it out.

Your last inward breath
drew your sound from me.

……………………………………………………………………….*****


Demonstrating to Save Monte Sacro
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley

Hasdrubal´s city, founded on five hills
Now stands on four and a half.

Stumbling through Livy in my days at school,
I read of Hannibal who once walked here.
Hannibal´s at the gates, a bogeyman
to Romans and their kids. A guy with balls,
one of the greatest generals of this world.

Each year this city has a festival.
Five thousand costumed citizens perform,
troop through the streets with pageants, plays and fights.

Our group is smaller. Fridays we meet up.
For some protestors, it´s a local thing.
Four towers will spoil their view and block the light.
They´re suffering headaches from the daily noise.
Others are trying to save their heritage…
Many are Cartagena-born and bred.
Their patriotism brings them out each week.
I am an alien in this Southern land.
History for me, belongs to everyone.
The past´s the path that brought us to this spot.

Most of the hill is solid rock, they claim.
There can´t be much left on its sides to find.
And yet, the Ara Pacis came from here,
a marble altar of Augustus´ reign.

Each time I hear the hammer striking stone
I feel Earth´s pain and ache for what is lost.
With every day, Time’s footprints are erased.

Builders, avoid our city´s sacred ground.
Play with your diggers in some other place.
You own the quarries, not too far away.
Break solid rock where it won´t do much harm
Who´ll buy your blocks of flats? Learn a new trade.
Use all your building skills to mend, restore
and heal the land that you have damaged here.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Aztec Phoenix
by Lorraine Caputo

Ochre-grey smog
hazes the hills
encircling
this city
sinking
into the
mired mud
bed of Texcoco
ancient ruins rising

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Sacred
by Lorraine Caputo

Deep-throated thunder
ululates
through these
green mountains

………….through these valleys
………….yet peopled
………….by silent
………….statues

rain pelting
tiled roofs
pelting muddy roads
nephrite leaves

……………the toches mute, beaks
……………tucked into ebony-
……………night feathers ablaze
.…………..with gilded lightning

……………………………………………………………………….*****

NARIHUALÁ

This ancient Tallán city
conquered by Chimú
but not consumed
conquered by Inca
but not consumed

conquered by Spanish
who evicted the gods
& upon the temples
constructed their church

Now deserted, massive doors cracked,
ceilings collapsing, pews &
saints abandoned, the echo of wings
within—falling into deep grooves
eroded in the sands

Now consumed by man-caused rains
aged adobe walls
crumbling to sand
the earth
loosening to sand
graves stumbling
into the abyss
of new-born ravines
sandstone to sand
blown by the winds
of change

Near the chapel door barred shut
moulders the bleached-shell-white wing
of a dove

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Chan-Chan
Lorraine Caputo


In early afternoon,
……the men return from sea
………..straddled upon their
……………little reed horses
Split bamboo poles
……paddle side to side
Curved bows salute
……the high white sun

Sheening waves
……heave one after another
.………carrying them towards the
……………adobe-colored beach
Gulls & pelicans
…….swoop around them

Like the carvings
…….of their Chimú forefathers
 ………molded into the adobe walls
 …………..at Chan-Chan
Otters playing in one wave after another
…….pelicans overhead, stolen fish in beak
& nets still ready to capture
…….some day’s catch

Here on the shore
 ””’‘their sons meet them
………to grab net baskets
…………..of this morning’s catch
& to help stable the caballitos
 …..upright in the breezy sun

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Templo De Los Jaguares
by Lorraine Caputo

A breeze blows beneath this roof
 ………… carrying the perfume
 ………….of eucalyptus
……………………moving clouds across
……………………mountains patchworked
……………………with grains and potatoes

Jaguar pair
………….engraved in the stones
………….of these ruins, ancient
………….altars abandoned
……………………..except for the few who comes to pray,
……………………. the others to gouge for fortune

Shod human prints & the tracks
 ………..of a large cat
 ………..weave across the
…………dried-blood soil



SHORT STORIES

Romer’s Gap
by David McVey

Foxley grimaced inside even as he was smiling and shaking the man’s hand. ‘Pleased to meet you, Dr Borlum,’ he said.

It wasn’t Borlum himself that Foxley recoiled from; after all, he was just a cheerful, bright, balding, middle-aged academic running to fat. No, it was the t-shirt that was hauled down over the man’s considerable stomach, to just about meet his mud-stained jeans. Or, rather, it was the caption it bore; FOSSILS ROCK!

Foxley was certainly old-school or he wouldn’t have been wearing a navy blue blazer, a white shirt with a rowing club tie, sharp-creased cavalry twill trousers and shiny black shoes, or carrying a black golf umbrella, while standing at the edge of a rain-battered field in the Borders. Happily, as the rain gathered in strength, Borlum fastened his cagoule over his t-shirt. What was it Foxley disliked most? T-shirts with captions – or bad puns?

Or perhaps it was geology. Or palaeontology.

‘Come over to the big tent,’ said Borlum, ‘they’re all waiting for us.’ The girl had parked the car and joined them for the walk through rain-beaded long grass. ‘Yes, I’m afraid the train was late,’ said Foxley.

He hated having to apologise, but, above all, he hated things not happening as they were supposed to, trains being late most of all. It had been fully fifteen minutes over its time when it finally arrived at Tweedbank. But at least that meant that his lift had already been waiting, a mud-spattered Discovery driven by the girl, who introduced herself just as Tara.

The only thing he really noticed about Tara was her t-shirt, which bore a stylised design;

TET
RA
POD

They had run down the valley of the Tweed through frequent showers while Tara chatted enthusiastically about the dig. ‘Nobody is saying these tetrapods are any kind of complete missing link,’ she said, ‘we’re not going to fill Romer’s Gap on our own. But it’s exciting all the same.’

Foxley had nodded as if he understood. Whatever Romer’s Gap was, it couldn’t be as unbridgeable as the gulf between him and the fossil experts.

Along with Borlum and Tara, he arrived at a big army-type tent, folded his umbrella and went inside when Borlum pulled aside the flap. In the light of some hissing Tilley lamps, he saw around a dozen enthusiastic young students. Tara joined them and so did an impressively-bearded student who hurried in out of the rain shoving an electronic cigarette into his jacket pocket. They were sitting on a variety of benches and boxes, with one or two of them on the floor like yoga masters.

‘Professor Foxley is one of Scotland’s greatest experts in modern aquatic life forms,’ said Dr Borlum in introduction. Some of the students might have expected Foxley to blush at this praise but he didn’t; it was true after all. ‘I thought it would be useful to hear him talk about his work and to discuss how it fits into what we’ve learned about our fossil tetrapods.’

The talk went down well and there was lively discussion afterwards. Yet some of the more astute students sensed a detachedness about Foxley. True to his brief he tried to link what he knew of these mysterious fossils into modern aquatic life. But life, that was the word. Foxley had got into zoology because of life, because of the appeal of creatures whose hearts were beating, whose blood was pumping, who fought and migrated and mated and defended their territories. Animals were less interesting when they were dead, and when they were dead and petrified; well, you might as well just grind them into gravel. At least you could fill potholes with them then.

No, that was unfair. Of course the study of fossils was important. All life science was important, no, all science was important; after all, any science was just elements, atoms and molecules when you looked closely enough. As Foxley was musing on this point, Tara asked him a question, rather catching him unawares. ‘Professor Foxley – does the concept of geological deep time enter into your thinking much as a working zoologist?’

She was a smart young woman. Perhaps he’d said something during the car journey that had hinted at a lack of reverence for palaeontology. He sought for a positive-sounding answer.

‘I think the, er, classical geologists are people to whom we all owe a great debt. In expanding the known age of the Earth they put an end to religious dogma.’

‘Hardly,’ said the student who had been vaping earlier, and who looked as if he needed another one. ‘I mean, Hugh Miller was a fundamentalist but we owe him so much…’ He tailed off as he saw Doctor Borlum shaking his head discouragingly. ‘I think we’re all very grateful’ Borlum said, ‘to Professor Foxley for his time and for the insights he’s given us. So let’s give him a big round of applause!’

There was a warm ovation and then Foxley’s heart sank as he was invited to view some of the project’s finds, which were housed in an old freight container at the far end of the field. For an hour he endured being shown fragments of rock with some faintly discernible ridges or discolorations that, apparently, were bits of dead, petrified tetrapod and which excited Borlum a great deal.

Tara drove him back to the station and soon he was in a train rumbling back to Edinburgh. It was busy and, with no First Class, there was lots of noise and laughter around where he sat. Yet, unusually for him, Foxley didn’t mind too much. It was good to be solely amongst living, breathing members of a current species. There were no fossils here.

Except, perhaps (the thought came to him) for himself.

…………………………………………………………………………….*****

Viking
by Julia Clayton

Erik put on his outfit with his customary care. No underpants, of course; they weren’t authentically Viking. Baggy woollen trousers, tucked into brown leather ankle-boots. A long-sleeved shirt of cream-coloured linen – no buttons, you just pulled it on over your head. He slung his triangular shield across his back, ignoring the pathetic wooden sword the museum had supplied. Finally he pulled a quilted cap onto his head to act as a lining for his helmet. He knew that when he took the helmet off there’d be a red mark where the nose piece rubbed him, but he didn’t care; it made it more authentic.

It was three months since he had filled in the Work Experience form at school. Under the heading ‘Future Career Plans’ he had considered writing ‘to supplant Odin and take his throne’, but instead put ‘to become a Viking.’ He knew that the Careers Advisers wouldn’t be able to read Scandinavian runes, so he wrote in a heavy Gothic script instead, using a fountain pen. He signed the form as Erik Rimmer, spelling his name with a ‘k’, even though it was spelt with a ‘c’ on the register. He couldn’t imagine Erik Bloodaxe spelling his name with a ‘c’.

The Careers Advisers said that there hadn’t been any Vikings for a thousand years. They suggested alternative work placements for him, working with the groundsmen at the local football club or tearing tickets at the multiplex cinema. No, he said, he didn’t want to do any of these things. He wanted to be a Viking.

About a month after he’d filled in the form, his support worker Morgana announced that she’d found him an ideal placement. The local museum was about to stage a major exhibition on the Vikings, borrowing artefacts from the British Museum. One of the curators had suggested that Erik could dress up as a Viking for one day each week and interact with visitors to the exhibition. Erik wasn’t sure about interacting with the public, as he didn’t have a very high opinion of them. But he wanted to be a Viking, so they organised him a placement every Tuesday.

*

Morgana has to come with him each week, a condition imposed by the museum. She sits reading magazines in the story-telling tent, while Erik restlessly tours the six rooms that make up the exhibition. He ghosts in and out between the display cases, like a Viking scout ambushing a group of priests hawking saints’ bones to a gullible public. As he moves around in the half-light he feels as fluid and amorphous as the interlaced designs projected onto the floor and walls. He can lose himself for ages in these intricate patterns, wondering how the dragon Fafnir manages to eat himself.

Most of the people visiting the exhibition seem intent on displaying their ignorance. They ask stupid questions like why his helmet doesn’t have horns, or whether he’s done any raping or pillaging lately. They always laugh after they say this, as if they were the first person to think of it.

There’s an area where people can dress up as Vikings. As well as children’s clothes they have adult-sized ones, in authentic fabrics and dyes: voluminous green linen tunics designed to cover fat middle-aged bodies, and hooded cloaks for balding heads. He doesn’t really like it when other people dress up, laughing and taking selfies as if it’s all some sort of joke. They’re just playing at being Vikings. Their shoes give them away, they’re all wrong: trainers, loafers, flip-flops. Some of the visitors want to have their photo taken with Erik. Morgana says it’s part of his job, it’s something the museum expects him to do. So he lets them take photos, but he doesn’t touch the people and he doesn’t smile. Someone has to take this seriously.

*

This afternoon it’s Erik’s fifth session at the museum. It’s a humid, oppressive afternoon. Morgana says that the curators want him to spend more time talking to the visitors. For example, that couple over there have been asking about the Viking settlements in Iceland – he knows all about that, doesn’t he? After all, isn’t that what he’s there for, to share his knowledge? But Erik doesn’t really approve of sharing knowledge; knowledge is something precious, something to be hoarded and gloated over, like the silver ingots in the museum cases. He side-steps the curious couple, expertly avoiding eye-contact, ignoring the fathers pointing him out to their nursery-age children. He recites the runic alphabet, the futhark, over and over to himself, because it usually calms him down when he feels hemmed in like this. He decides to go back to the story-telling tent, but there’s no sign of Morgana.

The shield feels heavy against his back. What would he do at home when voices are too loud and echoing and the lights are too bright? He sits in the tent and undoes his baldric, setting his shield carefully against the wall. He takes off his helmet; underneath, his hair is damp with sweat. He pulls his shirt over his head; his hairless chest glows pale in the shadow of the tent. The visitors aren’t looking at him; they’re too engrossed in doing an interactive test called ‘How Viking Are You?’ Erik doesn’t have to take the test – he already knows he’s 100% Viking.

He still feels claustrophobic. He walks out of the tent, bare-chested. Some of the visitors look at him curiously, as if he might be about to juggle knives or demonstrate ancient Scandinavian wrestling techniques; they form into a semi-circle, as if herded by an unseen sheepdog. He leans down and pulls off his boots, setting them neatly against the wall. He slowly unfastens the buckle on his leather belt, tooled with images of Odin’s ravens, and then he starts to take off his blue woollen trousers.

No underpants, of course; they weren’t authentically Viking.

*

Work Experience Report: Eric Rimmer, Form 5Y

Having expressed an interest in a career in the heritage industry, Eric obtained a weekly placement at the local museum, with the brief of enhancing the visitor experience during the recent ‘Vikings’ exhibition. Eric immersed himself into his role as a historical re-enactor and put a lot of effort into researching and creating an authentic costume. However, museum staff felt that he could have tried harder to engage with members of the public, and that some of his behaviour was inappropriate. It was decided by mutual agreement to terminate his placement earlier than planned, after only five weeks.

……………………………………………………………………………*****

Can You Dig It?
by Hilary Taylor

Yet again, Alfie was standing up to his knees in mud; wet, cold, exhausted, and utterly fed up! Three months! Three whole months he had been slaving away, digging these horrendous trenches with a trowel in the microclimate of the Northumbrian hills! And all there was to show for it so far, were a couple of pottery fragments and a coin, Big Bloody Deal!!!

Where was the glamour and excitement, he had dreamed of all those years ago? He groaned as he stood upright for a few seconds to ease his aching back. His mind wandered back to the series of films he had been so inspired by when he was a boy, the films that had influenced nearly all his life decisions…. even his wardrobe! Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider had wreaked of excitement and glamour, risk taking, world travel, world acclaim! Where was it? Lies! All of it lies!! A fabrication of a writer’s mind. None of that was currently available in this Hellhole of a Dig! A medieval latrine for goodness sake!

He had guessed that he wasn’t really cut out for this life during the first term at Lancaster University, but by then the die was cast, it had been his dream for so long he could not let it go and admit he had got it all wrong. He had persuaded himself to carry on, through the boring lectures, the endless assignments, the exhausting digs, and eventually graduated with a 2:2, not exactly earth shattering!

For a while, he had managed to get some interesting work, by agreeing to work for practically nothing! He had travelled a bit, Turkey, Croatia, Rome. Dug up some fascinating pieces of pottery, a few coins and small bones; but the big one had so far eluded him. No great Tutankhamun discovery, not even skeletons like those in Great Whelnetham, or Ötzi The Iceman.

…………………………………………………………………………………*****

The Lost Kingdom
by Max Dunbar


Sunday, June 9

Old man,

I’m writing this on the mono, wanting a break from ghastly Dr Martorano – sorry, Father, I know you have badgered me to read him for months now, but there’s way too much worldbuilding going on and it’s one of those novels that I seem to have been reading for weeks and I crack the spine and there’s still a massive thicket of pages yet to go! Perhaps I will get chance on those lazy afternoons in Courtland?

Speaking of which, uncle Kenneth called and he’s going to meet me at the interchange. I got a long email from him, too, detailing the work I’ll help him with at the Commission – it looks like I’ll be kept busy enough at the office with all those immunisation and medication issues of his (sorry, dear old Dad, but your brother is a nerd!)

I am still a bit giddy from graduation day. It is such a cliché and we went into the ceremony giggling but the moment I got onto the Parkinson steps, and people began tossing their hats in the air, I felt alive – happy to be alive and in a world that had prepared me to be an adult at last. I caught Nino’s eye at that point and knew it wasn’t just my cheesy shivery moment because he felt it too. And everybody’s mums and dads there. Needless to say after the parentals took their leave and the afternoon tea-things had been cleared away, things became a little messier – I am still rather reeling.

There is a man in the carriage opposite mine on an extended teleconference call. He is some kind of development officer for the new eco-villages and he keeps saying, ‘It takes a village,’ very loudly. Will it ‘take a village’ to get him to end his call?

Anyway, I shall plough on with the good doctor…

He fell asleep after writing this; the softness against his back, and the gentle rock of the monotrain saw to this – the mono’s rails never seemed to make a sound, gliding seamlessly over the great tracks pinioned over city and vale from Leodopolis to Courtland. Not long after a voice awoke him from the screen in his room: pleasant and multicultural.

            Francis heaved his shoulderbag and walked down the length of the train. Others for this stop emerged from their carriage-rooms, stretching sleep from their bodies, talking and laughing amongst themselves. He followed them onto the sun-dappled concourse with its stalls and pubs, and wondered briefly about their journeys – and then felt a kind of disappointment, because any moment now Uncle Ken would be here, and they would be bouncing back on his old jalopy to the house on the crag, a house Francis had not seen since he was a child. Was this the right place to spend the summer? Should he have gone with Hamilton and Nino on that Syria jaunt of theirs?

            He recognised Uncle Ken immediately, still the same ruddy face and black brows, and the same ridiculous car – a classic car modelled on the twentieth century automobiles. Ken chattered on as he drove them along the coast roads, saying that there was quite a bit of cataloguing to do at the office and the vaccination stages were tricky to begin with but he was sure Frank would pick it up, and Frank could barely get a word in here, so he watched this new place go by – the distant smoke of townships, the fishing villages and flashes of fine intense blue.

            On the rougher road to the house they passed a rock on which someone had carved: ONCE WAS PAVED WITH HUMAN BONES. When Frank asked, Ken raised his black eyebrows and said: ‘Oh, there’s loads of history here… perhaps too much. There’s a whole section in the library, and the museums. It’s fascinating. You’ll see.’

Friday, June 14

Dear Dad

You know I had my doubts about this billet, but this last week has dispelled them. The house is wonderful – so many rooms and levels, all done in different classical styles, wouldn’t Hamilton just love this, the architecture freak! Ken keeps me busy for the three days I’m in the medical research office – mainly sorting and filing, but the money is very good, and very flexible hours – Ken himself is so busy with his team, chasing down the last remaining diseases on this planet and developing antibodies: what will Ken do, I wonder, when he’s got rid of all the diseases?

Caitlin rang. She’s in the Metrolands, at her placement on the Square Mile. The social life is pretty good – the cost of living is so cheap in the city these days, and Toby’s crew live just nearby – but I get the impression she’s not enjoying it. I wouldn’t be either – after just a few days on the coast the big noisy city with all its nightclubs and parties and drama just doesn’t appeal. What worries me is that she seems to think our relationship is somewhat more than it is and will continue even when we are both studying in different parts of the continent. I know the interrail is so good there, but really. There’s the cliché about a long distance relationship. And at nineteen don’t I still have some ‘wild oats’ to fling around?

Here is how my days start – when I’m not walking. I rise around seven, go for a run along the crag road (you have to be careful not to fall, I forgot how pitted and trippy this road was!) Ken lent me a mountain bike, so I race around to the nearest village when I get a full breakfast served by a delightful French student type. Then it’s on my balcony to read more of The History of Peoples – no, still not getting into the book, I’m sorry to disappoint you. After a short nap I ride around and explore the landscape. The evenings are convivial – the fabulous cook Aunt Carrie still visits with the cousins, Ken often brings the scientists and doctors back for a few drinks, everyone’s very welcoming and supportive and I do feel like I am becoming more able to handle myself in adult company!

The things I hear in the villages. So many stories! The things that happened here! Which reminds me, I’ve been meaning to ask you: what do you know about the time before and the things that happened? I know Sealight has a whole museum dedicated to all this but I prefer hearing things from people, whose forefathers know, and pass memory down, imperfectly of course, but still it’s authentic, in the way that something written in a book is not.

I know that great-grandmother disappeared, and there was a dispute regarding her money…

He saw her on the road between fishertowns. A tall woman with golden hair, wrapped around her head and plaited at the ends.

            He stopped and introduced himself. The woman spoke with a local accent, not the oceanic clip he had become used to at the sixth form and the cities. Most people in Courtland were friendly – he already had several groups of lads and girls who liked to drink and had places to crash at – but there was something different about this woman. She spoke halting and wary. A goddess of virtue.

            That afternoon, it was hard to sleep. He felt like his life was a mono, taking him to various places – places of enjoyment and comfort, but still, he had not chosen them. He watched light move across the gables, thinking: what is missing here? Where is the rock on which I measure myself?

            I could die one day, he thought. Even Uncle Ken can’t find a vaccine for death.

*

When he slept, he dreamed: a court filled with men and women. Perfect physical forms and simple functional clothes. They moved through the courtyard like sleepwalkers.

Tuesday, June 25

Dad

I wondered when your letter would come – now that it has, I’m disappointed. Pages and pages of ranting. And book recommendations. Yes, I did learn things in school. Yes, we did go on the trips to the old campsites and radiation fields. Yes, I can goddamn read! But have you thought that the histories and the library books and the media accounts could be limited or flawed? Any account is partial, after all, and we know things we didn’t know before, and can reevaluate things in a new way. If you speak to people in Courtland you would be surprised. There is more discontent in your ‘brave new world’ that you could imagine.

I am returning the Martorano to you, unread.

In mid July he began to uncover it. This was a basement way into the rock, one he didn’t think even Uncle Ken knew about. The house of tradition has many rooms, Francis thought.

            He worked with the rock hammer all day. He sometimes used his fingers to pull up chunks of marble. His fingernails bled, but he did not know it. The rampant angles were becoming clear.

            He thought: whatever happens, I can say they drove me to it.


…………………………………………………………………………….*****

Written in Gold
by Larry Lefkowitz

We discovered the inscription on the wall of a palace or temple – we are not certain which – after we hacked our way through the Central American jungle to the site of the ruins of the ancient city.

There was no sign of its once populous inhabitants. No mummies, bodies, or skeletons buried or half-buried in the jungle. The jungle was relentlessly, if gradually, destroying the once-proud city. It had apparently supported a large population, relative to the time period in which it existed.

The inscription was in gold in the Mayan mathematical symbol language:

[inscription in Mayan]

But what did it mean?

Our Mayan language expert explained that it meant “Six Before Eighty.”

But what did that mean?

We debated among ourselves the whole time we were at work in the ruins. The interpretations, conjectures, guesses were many and varied.

“Six Before Eighty – a council of six rulers or priests that supervised a large group of eighty acolytes or eighty representatives,” opined Peter.

“Six Before Eighty –six persons chosen to be executed first before the rest of the eighty culprits for having led some crime or rebellion,” was Norman’s sinister conclusion.

“Six Before Eighty – six chosen for sacrifice by the council of eighty,” Robert maintained.

The wag among us — nicknamed ‘New Jersey Jones’ in doubtful homage to movie explorer ‘Indiana Jones’ – opted to break the heavy atmosphere of putative sacrifices and executions. “The inscription was originally Sex Before Eighty – a jibe at the declining powers of old age in an era before Viagra.”

We hooted him down, but our one female scientist, Violet, employed a more direct put-down. ‘In your case, Jones, the denouement is way before eighty.” This caused him to redden, although it was unlikely there had been any actual physical relationship between him and Violet.

We all agreed that because the inscription was in gold letters, it was important to the civilization of which the city was apparently its capital. It is likely that we will never know its meaning, and that it will join the list of many message enigmas of history that have not been deciphered.

However, one interesting surmise – not surprisingly coming from our meticulous leader, Jeremy – was that the inscription referred to a clock or calendar used by the civilization. One divided into eighty sequences of time. The six to eighty indicated the precise time or date on which the world would end.

One can speculate, as we did, on whether the calamity – earthquake, volcanic eruption, plague or conquest that put an end to their city and civilization – indeed occurred at six to eighty according to their reckoning.

Is it chance or more that our dating method shows the demise of the city as having occurred around 580 AD. And this method is known to be accurate only within a tolerance of a hundred years.

…………………………………………………………………….*****

Lily
by Zusana Storrier

Ethics arrive with publishing. A public display of protocol for the remains, why and how a name was chosen. A dig, well, it’s just lust isn’t it? Pure lust, apart from the backache and wet knees.

They’re lusty, fired-up, buzzed-up people. Lily’s gold for their ambitions, banked and cisted in a ball for four-thousand years until the time comes to put her to good use. Keep a close eye on your descendants, Isla thinks, it can get a lot worse than care homes.

She remembers when the first bone, the left fibula, began to be uncovered, the thing looked like a peek of white turd. Toby shoved in, taking the brush out of Shahene’s hand, and rushed it, she could see that and acted as if she hadn’t. Judith calls Toby the Milk Tray Man. Evidently there was an advert in the nineteen seventies or eighties with a guy in a tight black outfit heroically delivering boxes of chocolates. Judith’s a funny lady, a full-colour window on the past, though she won’t appreciate some of that description. The Past Wasn’t In Black-and-White. That’s what Isla’s been told, unnecessarily in her case, in Archaeology and Social History and Medieval History, even in Social Anthropology. Black-and-white would be quite an improvement, she’s often thought. Joe Public, the population of Lower Medialandia, usually thinks it was black alone. Neanderthals, Baldrick, seventeen kids in a single end. All that thank-god-things-are-so-much-better-now.

The past is Isla’s home and it’s a limitless, warm and giddying place. The present, the future are weird trips out for her, little grey exiles. She uses her mobile when forced to and as a teenager fabricated a passion for machine rowing as a way of not doing much on social media. ‘Sorry. Busy with training.’ As a younger girl she was already fascinated by how people knitted into each other’s stories, in the same way her brother was absorbed by the workings of radio-alarm clocks. He’s the one with money now but that’s about all. Perceive Of Space As Both Distance and Time. She would stop old people at the canal side and ask them if they could remember much difference between now and then. ‘When’s then love?’ they’d say, tightening their grip on their dogs’ leashes.

Toby feels it’s his right to do the glorious stuff and Isla’s never disagreed with him, not that it would matter if she did, she’s sure he’s uncertain of her surname. He’s forty or fifty and it won’t be long until he becomes a sporadic visitor on excavations, sporting brand-new, mudless Barbours. Lily’s left fibula will start it off. He’ll have his name at the top of the list of contributors. Then the outside talks, the summer lectures in comfortable foreign countries, things in the newspapers. She suspects he’d jump down the tv academic route if it were opened to him. Hence the gym work and tight black outfits.

He plucked out the last of Lily’s left fibula. She heard a puck sound, no doubt about it or the way he ran his middle finger around the hollow left behind. Context Speaks More Than Artefact. In first year, in the first month, you’re taught that excavation should never be considered a dig. Instead it’s an unwrapping in which the paper’s at least as valuable as the gift inside. It’s a murmuring of things from of their surroundings, a skin-graft’s feather-soft flaying, the lifting of a caul from a just-born baby’s head. He’d sneaked back during the chocolate break and Isla saw him and she’d pretended not to see. He must have known that much about her.

It’s artefacts that do it for the public and inspire funding. Lily’s bones caused a stir. An interim analysis on the fibula and emerging pattern of torso bones told them it was a Bronze-Age woman curled in the Lily Loch cist, somewhere between eighteen and twenty-five years of age, and in anticipation they roped in a forensic facial reconstructor. The media like facial reconstructions, they need everyone in the past to have died young. Toby’d hopped on about the reconstruction throughout a series of meetings, telling them what would occur when – if – they found the skull. Isla met him once, the reconstructor, sort of man whose face you can’t recall.

Isla had been embarrassed, moving her brush over Lily’s emerging crown. She’d hoped it might be the beaker they were certain was somewhere in the grave, sloughed upside down – the bone was very yellow – but after a few strokes more she couldn’t doubt. She had no idea what to do except switch the air above the cranium, her arm sagging and the brush rolling fragments of substrate into tiny balls on the surface of the bone. She put those in plastic bags and didn’t take any photographs. The skull was away from the other bones that had supported Lily’s body – there’d be plenty written about that – and Toby must have thought, if he’d noticed her at all, that Isla was doing environmental. She got up, impatient at having to unlock her knees, laid her waterproof over the bump and hobbled over to Judith. She remembers saying, ‘help me. I’ve found the skull,’ and Judith saying, ‘Oh fuck,’ and glancing at Toby’s back.

What can you do – Isla shrugs – it was an archaeological excavation. We were there to excavate her, the whole team of us. But the touch of Lily’s skull under her living fingers wasn’t archaeology. It was two young women. Time Is A Framework Only. She said sorry as Toby strode over, sorry Lily, though I know that’s not your name.

…………………………………………………………………………*****

Plum Face
by John Coopey

The mark was as sure a sign from the Gods as ever they gave. It hung like a purple fruit from beneath the child’s eye to its jawbone. When its mother saw it she screamed in anguish. The father turned his back in shame and left the hut.

But whilst the signs of the Gods may be clear for all to see their meaning is not and as the Priest extended his hands to the child’s throat it let out such a wail as none had ever heard; a monstrous wail that rode on the air for ten or more heartbeats and stilled the sound of every other living creature for minutes after.

The Priest froze and rocked back on his haunches.

And five years later at the Spring Feast as the child was presented to the Stone and Knife, a raven dropped from the air, dead before the Priest. A bull calf was offered in the child’s stead and there followed a summer of such rich hunting and harvest as any could remember.

All of that was then and the boy had now become a man of fifteen summers. He had passed the Warrior’s Test the year before and awaited his first kill before being allowed to sit at the convent.

It was not to be long in coming.

The signal was raised by a girl gathering wood. She had seen the forage band and gave the throstle call. The foragers caught it too and were not fooled. They found and killed the girl, of course, but it was too late. The tribe’s warriors were already on their trail.

The band dispersed to divide their pursuers but each was caught and slain. Plum Face encountered the Painted Man by the bluff overhanging a narrow track. One would kill; the other be killed.

Despite the superior speed and skill of the Painted Man he seemed to hesitate as he looked into Plum Face’s eyes, which was enough for the boy to drive his blade into the man’s throat.

He washed himself in the stream, not to remove the blood which he wanted to be seen, but to remove signs of the urine, which he did not. It did not fool his brother warriors, of course, but they allowed his indulgence as older warriors had allowed theirs.

He sat at that equinox’s convent, no longer as Plum Face but as Young Blade. The purpose the Gods had for him was not known but it was not to die before fulfilling it.

………………………………………………………………………….*****

Ruined
by Theresa Peteranna

‘Is that it?’

The Swedish woman rolled her eyes. Eleanor knew she was Swedish. She had served her breakfast this morning. She’d had the Gluten-free toast they’d bought in special. It had been a busy morning for Eleanor, with only her and Helen, the head waitress, on shift. Hot plates had piled on the silver worktop cooling while she tended to each of the Swedish woman’s whims.

It was a split shift, and Eleanor would return in the afternoon to serve sandwiches and set the tables for dinner. She had hoped for peace on her lunchbreak and her heart sank at when she recognised the brash tenor of the woman’s voice. The Swedish woman’s voice travelled up to where Eleanor perched, near the edge of the cliff.

Sometimes Eleanor went home for lunch and kept the rabbit company. Occasionally she had time to watch episodes of Spaced. In the spring months, she craved the salty air and returned to the ruins.

It was a clear, bright day. Eleanor undid the top buttons of her shirt and let the air hit her chest. She breathed deep and inhaled her cigarette. It caused her to cough and she lamented the habit. Eleanor had only taken smoking up because Helen had insisted for years that smokers were entitled to an extra five-minute break every two hours or so.

She looked ahead. The sea was were drained of colour. Oil rigs squatted on the horizon. The sight of them reminded her of the middle-aged workers she poured pints for on weekdays, homesick and bored. Grey foam splashed on the rocks. Near her on the rough earth, she noticed the yellow flowers which had started to bloom around the bushes.

To Eleanor’s right was Caldunan Castle, the four-star Spa & Hotel. Golfers played in the distance, littering the ocean with little white balls. Down and left was the ruins. A little walk further was the Stoneylowe Hotel, where she’d worked for years and forgotten to leave.

Eleanor’s sandwiches lay unfolded, but she was not hungry. They were easy prey for the seagulls swooping above. She took another drag and watched the couple wander around the remains of the stone houses. They were visibly unimpressed, and ignorant. They ignored the plaques. Instead, they made their own conclusions of when the houses had been occupied, and what they meant.

***

Eleanor is eleven. The sky is dim and promises evening. Caitlin is at her side. She is stirring oats out of thin air. Eleanor hangs up the trout and shakes her wrist, imagining flakes of salt latch on the flesh. They play Vikings, ambiguously. They play what they imagine is old. Only the ruins are tangible, the rest they pull from their imaginations. Together, they fill the stripped houses with cauldrons, cattle and children sleeping on heather-made mattresses. Neither Eleanor nor Caitlin realise the houses are only two hundred years old, abandoned in the clearances.

Eleanor is happy to be chosen for the game. Caitlin used to play Vikings with Kirstin but she moved away last summer. Caitlin is the year above her in school, but she lives two houses down. They meet afterschool most days.

‘You’re ruining it!’ Caitlin says. She seems to slap the salt-shaker out of Eleanor’s palm.

‘You’re meant to be the husband coming in with his hunt.’

‘I always have to be the husband.’ Eleanor says, puffing out her cheeks.

‘Kirstin was always the husband. And I was always the wife.’

Eleanor is quiet. Kirstin is only brought up to remind Eleanor that there was plenty of other neighbourhood children that would be grateful to play the husband. Eleanor walks out the ruins of the house and pretends to enter again as the husband. She imagines the smoke pillowing on arrival.

Later, Eleanor says goodbye at Caitlin’s door. She does not know that this will be the last time they will play. She does not yet know Caitlin will call those hours spent in the ruins both embarrassing and childish.

It will be hard words for Eleanor to stomach.

***

‘It’s Neolithic,’ The Swedish woman says, her hands claw on the stone, feeling what she imagines to be a window.

‘It’s not.’ Eleanor said, unable to stop herself from chipping in from above.

‘The last tenants moved out in the 19th century.’

‘What?’ The Swedish woman blinked hard.

‘It’s two hundred years old.’ Eleanor repeated, louder. ‘Only place like it left on this side of the coast.’

‘Do I know you?’ The woman asked. She pursed her lips.

‘No.’ Eleanor replied, and withdrew her gaze from the woman.

The couple returned to their snooping. The woman slipped on the wet grass and scuffed her elbow on the front remains of the house. Blood dripped down her forearm. Watching, Eleanor remembered she blue kitchen-grade plasters in her pocket. She failed to disclose it to the couple as they panicked. The flow of blood was pithy, but the woman cursed – in English, and Swedish too – and urged her partner for aid.

When a handkerchief had been sourced and wrapped around the woman’s elbow, the couple sped off on her bikes towards the hotel.

Eleanor took a deep breath and checked her phone. No messages, but twenty more minutes left to dream. As an adult, that was how she played. Her mind returned to the land where her small hand would grind wheat between stones. She imagined Caitlin’s freckles and jumpsuit. She saw her by her side, humming as she weaved a tunic.

Eleanor stared down at the ruins. They meant more to her, she supposed, than a few old stones.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Can You dig It?
Ciara Campbell


Matthew likes to say that Paris’ office smells of coffee and dirt. It’s only half true. Paris’ office in their law firm Nanahill does have a lovely, delicate smell of black coffee. His love for coffee started back during his exchange year, when he would argue with fourth-year medical student Clement in the student council, and law student Matthew would drop round with coffee and donuts to keep everyone’s energy up. Since then Paris has become more sophisticated, delving into different types of coffee beans and keeping fancy metallic coffee machines in his office. It says something about George that he knows far too much backstory about Paris.

Paris brings the coffee. Who brings the dirt? George.

Like now, for instance. Rain thuds against the window outside, slanting sideways as if intending to pelt inside the building at the demonic coffee-loving lawyer inside. In comes George, tattered layers of beige clothing all soaked and grey, trailing mud in his footprints, leaves stuck in his spiky hair.

Paris takes one look at him, picks up his phone and dials in the number for security: “Hello, I have an intruder in my office -”

George presses the hang-up button. “Nope. Don’t be such a jerk, Paris.” He drops his bag at the bottom of Paris’ desk, sprawls back on the guest chair. “Gimme some of your coffee. Have you seen the weather out there.”

George expects Paris to tell him no, but he does something worse. He smiles in that cutting, sugar-sharp way of his, stands up in one smooth motion and goes to make George coffee. His back is turned. He is probably pouring in poison instead of sugar, or maybe enough cocaine to kill a person. Paris brings George over a cup of coffee just how he likes it – a little milk, a lot of sugar, mostly coffee – in a china cup patterned with blue flowers. George eyes it for a moment and then drinks deep. If he’s going to die it might as well be sooner than later.

“So, let me assume what your situation is,” Paris says, tapping a pen against his notepad and smiling at his two screens. Most lawyers have desks piled high with notes, but Paris is unerringly neat. His bedroom looks like an IKEA showcase. “You, George Costa, the entire reason why Parliament had to reform the Historical Preservation Act in 2016, have discovered yet another set of ancient ruins on your travels and now you need a lawyer to figure out if you are allowed to dig there. A useful someone to do all your bureaucratic paperwork, to remove all the red tape so you can do what you like. You need caretakers like that around you, don’t you, George? Always need someone to be the adult in the room while you go off on your adventures. How is your son, by the way?”

George is used to Paris’ cruel words and unprofessional conduct. “You know I don’t know.” He kicks off his muddy boots and props his stinking socks up on another plush-red chair as revenge. “Here’s the situation. I have a team already, there’s a site we want to dig but it’s a preserved site we can’t touch. I have many reasons why it’s a good -”

“You only have one reason,” Paris interrupts, “Because I want to. And that’s reason enough for everyone around you, isn’t it?”

George rolls his eyes, one hand around the hot cup of coffee in his lap.

Paris leans back in his chair, linking his fingers together and looking at George through half-lidded smug eyes, as if he knows something that George doesn’t. “Tell me George, why do

you love chasing after myths? Is it nice to patiently chip away at the earth to reveal ancient buildings? To go sifting through dirt looking for a sign of proof that your theories about what that place was used for are correct? You hate teams, I know you do, you hate staff management and health and safety risk assessment forms and having to plan out a timeline for a dig. Although, funding never seems to be a problem for you.”

George snorts.

Paris leans forward, placing both palms downward on his notes. “So why do you do it, George? Why do you spend all your time chasing the past instead of creating the future? A man with your talent and yet you don’t even have a university degree. You didn’t even finish high school. I don’t understand why you’re throwing away your own life to go honour others’.” Then he leans back, fingers entwined, perfect posture without a hint of emotion.

“You know, when you die one day, Paris, everyone is going to forget about you. No one is making statues of you. No one is commemorating coins with your face on them. Hell, not many people now really know who you are, you friendless freak. But some people are meant to be remembered. And someone needs to remember them.”

His hand is in the air now, drifting, tracing imaginary shapes. “We’re the storytellers, the people who remember. If you don’t know your past, how do you know who you are? If you don’t know all the previous mistakes, how will you know how to avoid new ones? I’m not like you, Paris, I know who I am. I have a family history, a family future. You hide yourself behind bland professionalism. You’re as blank as a damn sheet of paper.”

They stare at each other across the desk. Paris pours himself a cup of coffee, the steam rising. “Shall we move on to discuss the legal terms?”

“Agreed.”

It’s a battle that can’t be won, an eternal argument, the way these two know each other. They know each other’s history better than anyone else does, but that doesn’t mean the problem of the present can be solved.

…………………………………………………………………………….
*****

Nothing New, Under the Sun
by Patience Jones

The ancient site of Qalat-al-Bahrain incorporates at least seven cities or fortresses, each one built atop, or sometimes inside, the one before.

Not many people over fifty look that good in shorts, I thought, with the lofty mindset of someone not yet thirty. We were waiting at the start of the History Walk on a bright morning in April, by the ruins of the seven cities. It was my first time.

One of the other walkers told me you were the Assistant Director of Antiquities, that was why you knew all about the sites we were about to visit; even the leaflet I’d been given, Walking through History: a Rambler’s Guide to Bahrain was your work. “He’s a polymath,” she added. Another woman said, “Not to mention a serial seducer!” They both laughed, sliding glances at me.

The layers of occupation at this site give their names to eras in the history of the island – Early Dilmun, late Dilmun, Tylos, Kassite – and to the artefacts associated with them, like pottery, jewellery, stone coffins and stamp-seals.

You led the group down a sandy slope, the ruins behind us, palm plantations ahead. The air was humid, with a warm dash of salt, the Arabian Gulf a turquoise shimmer between the date-palm trees. We followed you, chattering and laughing. Your bum was what my sister, a connoisseur, would have called ‘pert’, but you looked good from the front as well, with silvered temples and stern, thoughtful features, like a Victorian soldier-poet. And you knew your archaeological stuff; I could see all the ramblers vying to walk with you, dip into your knowledge. I was fascinated before we even spoke. I was just out of a sensible, longterm relationship, wanting to feel adventurous again. And I adored ancient history.

The name ‘Bahrain’ in Arabic means ‘two seas’ . Historians note that the ancients believed a vast subterranean reservoir of fresh water lay beneath the salt Arabian Gulf, feeding the island’s myriad springs.

By mid-morning, we were walking together, and I was throwing questions at you, conscious of sounding like a schoolkid with a crush on the teacher. We passed limestone blocks, scattered on the sand; you said they were the remnants of a Bronze Age temple. We looked down stone steps into a pool of brackish water; you said it had been a sacred spring, perhaps dedicated to the goddess Nin-sikilla. “Her name means pure virgin,” you said, “and she was associated with the moon, like Isis or Diana”. Your eyes rested on me a little too long. I couldn’t have said which goddess I felt like.

By my second History Walk, I could quote your leaflet almost word for word

Hundreds of stamp seals have been found at sites across the island. Most are steatite discs with a raised boss on the back and a unique design – bulls, gazelles and palm trees were all popular – on the front. Each merchant would have had his own device, using it to stamp official documents.

I said, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to find one of those seals? Just stumble across it, out in the desert?” You smiled.

Clay tablets from the library of King Ashurbanipal at Ur tell of the semi-mythical land of Dilmun, sometimes identified with modern Bahrain: a place where there is no death and no disease, where animals do not devour each other and no-one grows old.

One of the tablets was a cargo-list, four thousand years old, for a voyage to Dilmun. Of course you knew it by heart. You recited it, slowly. Carnelian, lapiz-lazuli, copper, silver, pearls. I’ve heard some people’s voices can make a telephone directory sound sexy. It’s true.

At the end of my third walk you brought out from the pocket of your shorts a stone disc, and put it into my hand. The device was a palm tree, a horned gazelle, and a bearded figure that might have been a king.

The seal lay warm in my palm. I said, “But … shouldn’t this be handed to the authorities?”

You said, “I am the authorities.”

…………………………………………………………………………*****

Can You Dig it?
by Sandip Chatterjee

News Flash: – Renowned archaeologist and professor of Institute of Archaeology, Delhi, Mrs Sumita Rao is missing from last 13 days. Last time she was seen at her home, Kamalpur, Karnataka. As per our sources, she has abandoned her home and went on an excavation all alone.

The team of five started to Karnataka by car from Delhi, in search of their favourite professor. It took almost an entire day for them to reach Karnataka and another half day to locate his home. They were all worried after the news but everyone had a hope that they can find her and get her back.

It’s not the first time she was missing. Few months back, she went home in summer vacation and did not join back for entire month. One day out of nowhere she reappeared and excitedly told her students about her new adventure.

Everyone thought, she must be in that kind of adventure once again. This time they wanted to be a part of it.

Surrounded by big lakes and small hills, Kamalpur is a small and secluded village. Just five kilometres away from the UNESCO world heritage site, Hampi.

Once they reach the village, they tried to ask the local people about him. Due to the language barrier they could not understand the actual information the villagers were giving. But one thing they understood clearly, that Sumita Rao was a renowned person in that place and everyone seemed to know and respect her.

They stopped the car in front of a closed wooden door at the end of the main road. They got down from the car and opened the door. The narrow soil road was leading towards that small house covered with a nature from all the side. Back side of it was a small hill with lash green grass and all the other sides were surrounded by banyan and mango tress. The birds were chirping and the cold breeze was welcoming them on the way.

The windows were closed, so was the front door. But it was not locked. They started calling her name from outside. But there was no response. The anticipation was building up. Everyone was eagerly waiting for a response from other side.

But, no response.

Samir walked the small stairs and knocked the door. He pushed the door in suspicion and the door got open with a low sound.

The room was dark. And the dampness inside was indicating that there was no human presence in there.

Samir took out his phone and switched on the torch. The light of the torch was not enough to lighten the room. He walked towards the window and pushed it from inside to open it. The bright light of a summer Sun illuminated the whole room. Then others entered the room from the open door.

The sight of the room was a unique one. One side of the room, adjacent to the window, was a small bed. Beside that, was a reading table with a table lamp and few books and some papers. There were small tables all around the room, and antique things of archaeological importance was placing on all of them. Some pieces were hanging from wall as well. All the things were arranged properly in a particular order. Giving it a feeling of a well-arranged archaeological museum.

All of them started looking around the room very carefully. There were small hand written descriptions in front of every piece. It was a very interesting site to behold. The history was unfolding in front of the historians.

Rakesh went towards the reading table and discovered an open letter pinned with a paper weight on the table. The hand writing was quite familiar;

“All my life, I tried to make sense of the present by linking to past. From my adult hood my only purpose in life was to rediscover the past. I have always gone beyond my limitations in search for it. I have sacrificed my personal life to satisfy that urge. I never regret it. Because I always felt the past of mankind is more important than my future. Everyone, including my own family was against my lifestyle. But I never stopped.

I always had a dream which took me to a place where everything seemed similar but old. Everyone from that place had a different story. Their dreams, thoughts, lifestyle, everything was unique. With time, that old city got perished. Everything seemed destroyed. But there is profound sense of history as well as humanity in every broken brick there. The life and its measures are profound though the usefulness might have diluted with the flowing water of time. But the immense importance of being surround by the history make my mind wonder that we are just a part of a history which never ended and we are the ones which are passing the baton from past generation to future.

Sometimes in the hustle bustle of our daily life, we completely forget which is right and which is wrong. We forget about our belonging. The sense that keep us sane and never let us feel disconnected. That’s what archaeology means to me. I was in constant search of it. Finally, I have found it.

Beside the lake,
Behind the small hill, there is a place.
Where history holds itself, beyond the rest.
Nobody is abandoned there,
No one can go untouched by it;
But the only question is: –
“Can you dig it?”.

Rakesh read it aloud, while everyone was just looking at his face and grasping every word from it.

They looked at each other and rushed outside from the main gate.

News Flash: –

Renowned Archaeologist, Mrs Sumita Rao, who was missing from 15 days, found dead near a newly discovered archaeological site near Kamalpur Lake, Karnataka.

…………………………………………………………………………………*****

Walls of Bones
by Paul Onuh

The recent visit of the Bishop to his Diocese was timely; there was an urgent need to expand the already existing visitors’ center of the cathedral. Rev father Jakobe held the Bishop’s throne of the cathedral close to a decade, which saw it witnessed new looks from brief modifications to it vintage design.

He engaged the service of a team of archaeologists from the port city of Ghent, to take out excavations on the proposed site, in the event of unearthing ancient discoveries that might be of historic significance to the people. Dr. Marc de Brynn led the team alongside other notable members from the field of anthropology like Dr. Fran—spokesperson for the archaeological team, and Mayo—a research student, whose service also came handy as a skilled digger at the project site.

They’re stunned of a sudden at what the excavation revealed, while working on Saint-Bavo’s Cathedral, after Mayo struck against what appears as a wall entirely made of human bones and skulls in awe, “What the heck is this?”

“What’s it?” Marc de Brynn asked in curiosity.

“It’s a hell of human remains somewhat arranged in absurd sequence.”

“Can you dig it?”

“Course, I can.” He nods as he exposed to the surface, a unique discovery of ancient history hidden for centuries beneath the cathedral.

“These walls consist only of bones from the lower limbs. At the moment, I’m so baffled to give a logical conclusion of what actually happened here, since we’re yet to examine which idea caused this, but I strongly believe there’s a religious or spiritual dimension to it” Marc de Brynn revealed.

“To an extent, the walls are mostly made of thigh and shin bones of adults. However, the spaces in between have been filled with human skulls.” Fran interposed shortly as teeming excited sightseers gathered at the scene like flies, until they also recovered full human skeletons as well.

The archeological excavations were necessary as part of preparations towards the construction of a new visitor center at the cathedral. However, the bones and human skeletons discovered will not remain beneath the cathedral—hence they’ll not become a tourist attraction.

“These human skeletons can’t remain here for tourist purpose, far be it from modern religious perspective.” the bishop mused.

“That shouldn’t be a cause for alarm coz we’ve plans to remove them from this location for further studies. They’ll be held at the University of Ghent and preserved since people believed in a resurrection of the body, with bones being the most crucial part of the architecture.” Marc de Brynn assured him as leader of the excavation project.

“We don’t have any comparison in Belgium,” Fran said unquestionably. “We’ve never seen structures, like walls, which are intentionally built with human bones.”

“As to the age of the bones, they’re ancient but no older than the mid-15th century.” Marc de Brynn ended with a second guess on the possible outcome.

The exact reason why the wall exists, and it construction by human skeletons and bones remains a profound enigma, these experts are looking to solve as soon as possible. Besides, the bones used in the construction of the walls were that of adult men and women, although children’s bones seem to be absent from the walls.

Despite the fact, such a discovery may be unparalleled in Belgium and Europe; structures made of human bones were quite popular in other parts of the world. Only but a short while before the curious minds are enlightened with relevant information about its obvious antecedent, after bold conclusions had been reached on the remains from scrupulous research findings in future.


Hacinebe Tepe
Article by Sarah Cameron

We travelled on the overnight bus from Istanbul, the boyfriend and I, staring bleary-eyed at Rambo on the video recorder above the driver’s head as the darkness rolled by, and arriving the next day at Birecik, a dusty town on the banks of Euphrates.

For six weeks we stayed in an empty roadside café, using the upstairs rooms as dormitories, and the downstairs space as office and dining room, a dozen of us from America, England, Holland and Germany, archaeologists and graduate students, ceramics experts and illustrators. The whitewashed concrete walls soaked up the sun by day and threw the heat back at us each night, until we stumbled from fitful sleep before sunrise to head for work in the relative cool of morning. The minibus drove, ghost-like, through abandoned streets where locals, with more sense than us, slept on flat roof-tops, cocooned in brown blankets.

Hacinebe Tepe (pronounced “Haji-nebeh Tepeh” and meaning, I recall, “the hill of the holy man”) was on a rocky bluff overlooking the Euphrates. We were searching for the remains of the Chalcolithic, or Copper Age, a transition period some five thousand years ago between the pre-metallic Neolithic and the Bronze Age. We scraped in the dust for traces of metalworking, evidence of trade up and down the river, signs of cultural contact between the emerging Anatolian cultures to the north, in modern-day Turkey, and the well-established city states of Mesopotamia to the south, today’s Iraq and Syria.

We did most of the hard labour early in the day, stopping around nine to eat. Occasionally, one of the village women might appear before then with flat bread freshly baked over a wood fire, stuffed with chillies and chickpeas. The men leaned on their long-handled shovels as they ate, and I remember the taste as one of the best in the world, outdoors, hungry, far from home. Most days, breakfast was boiled eggs, melons, tomatoes, cucumbers, more tea, more bread. We sat in a shaded garden, glad to be out of the heat and glare, while local tunes played on a tinny radio.

In the trenches, as the sun rose higher in the cloudless sky, the boyfriend was in charge and in his element. He poked his trowel into sections of mud-brick wall, pits filled with metal waste, animal bone and fragments of pot, and gave instructions in half-fluent Turkish to the workmen. I was his assistant, in charge of measuring, recording, drawing and, where he was meticulous and thorough, I was slapdash. Sitting on the parched earth, pencil in hand, I found my mind wandering back over the millennia. Who had built these mudbrick structures? What language did they speak? What did they wear? What games did the children play? I gazed across the wide, sluggish river and drifted away.

“That should be 23.5 centimetres, not 33.5.”

He made an impatient correction on the acetate with the pencil and shook his head. So much for romance.

We were going back in time, digging down through the layers. At the top, a group of Hellenistic burials, a mere three thousand years old. “Late and nasty,” said the boyfriend. Below them, the remains of something ceremonial and grand, with imposing walls whose Chalcolithic credentials were confirmed by huge numbers of diagnostic bevel-rimmed bowls. Further down were simpler houses, also mudbrick, which seemed to have been deliberately demolished and levelled. A tale of expansion and ultimate demise. Why? It was hard to know.

For the modern-day villagers, we were a godsend, a source of easy money. The men wielded pickaxes and shovels, hefted barrows of soil onto the growing spoil heap. The women dealt with the finds, the bones, animal and human, and potsherds, washing, sorting, bagging. I remember their laughter, the bright colours of their loose head scarfs, and my frustration at the way in which they clamped shut their mouths as soon as I produced a camera.

We spent the afternoons sleeping and the evenings writing notes, playing backgammon, sticking together ancient pots with masking tape. I sat once beside an American professor as she scraped with a dentist’s pick at the pale soil encrusted on a bulla, an inscribed clay sphere which had once held the stamped seals from the bags of grain, bottles of wine and oil, bundles of textiles which travelled up and down the river. Customs and excise, Mesopotamian style.

“I never thought we’d find one of these,” she said, her voice full of awe.

Looking at the photographs, I am amazed at my youth. Not a white hair, not a wrinkle, just an energy and optimism for which, these days, I would pay good money. For once, also, I was thin, thanks to amoebic dysentery contracted late in the season from the uncovered well which supplied water to the roadhouse.

Thirty years on. I feel the treachery of time.

I left the boyfriend, gave up on archaeology and now, when I hear of Birecik and south-east Turkey, it is in the context of war and the great tides of refugees sweeping north out of Syria and Iraq. What has happened to those laughing village women, their proud, sunburnt men?

I wonder what is left of the site and what will remain of the ancient past. What lessons can we learn in the midst of conflict and when peace at last returns? Cities rise and fall. Civilisations come and go. Our own short lives are tossed by global tides.

We do well to dig deeper, to look to the past without fearing the future.

All things change.




Biographies

Julian Bishop is a former television journalist living in North London who is working on his first pamphlet. He was runner-up in the 2018 International Ginkgo Prize for Eco Poetry and shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize in the previous year. He is a member of several London Stanza groups and runs a regular contemporary poetry workshop in Enfield.

Michele Byrne has had two poetry collections and a pamphlet published, plus over 500 poems included in poetry magazines/anthologies. She was a finalist for Gloucestershire’s Poet Laureate and a nominee for the Pushcart Prize. Miki has read on TV and on Radio many times. She also ran a poetry writing group at The Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury. She has read at many festivals and venues. Miki is disabled and now lives near Tewkesbury. Gloucestershire.UK.

Sheila Lockhart is a retired social worker and lives on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands with her partner and two Icelandic ponies, tending her garden and writing poetry. She has been published in Northwords Now, Nine Muses Poetry, Twelve Rivers and the Ekphrastic Review.

Susan Castillo has published three collections of poems, The Candlewoman’s Trade (2003), Abiding Chemistry,  (2015), and Constellations (2016. Her poetry has appeared in Southern Quarterly, Prole, The High Window, Ink Sweat & Tears, Messages in a Bottle, The Missing Slate, Clear Poetry, Prole, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Foliate Oak, The Lake, Algebra of Owls,The Yellow Chair Review, Poetry Shed, and other journals and anthologies.

David Babatunde Wilson was born in Nigeria and brought up in Botswana, but has lived in North Yorkshire for the last 30 years, not quite long enough to be considered a native. He divides his time between his jobs as a Dad, household cook, taxi driver to his daughters, writing poetry and working as a Special Needs teacher.

Shannon Cuthbert is a Brooklyn-based writer and visual artist. Her poems have appeared in Gingerbread House, Enchanted ConversationVoicesThe Mystic Blue Review, and Three Drops from a Cauldron, among others.

Rose Day is a British poet and novelist. Currently completing a Doctorate of Philosopy in Creative Writing. Research interests include contemporary fiction, eco gothicism and poetry with visual art.

Stephen Kingsnorth, retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had pieces accepted by over a dozen on-line poetry sites; and Gold Dust, The Seventh Quarry, The Dawntreader, Foxtrot Uniform Poetry Magazines & Vita Brevis Anthology. https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/

Erica A. Fletcher works in biomedical research. Nobody knows she writes poetry. Since 1997 she has played in the band Nurse and Soldier. She lives in Boston (USA) with her family. 
Craig Dobson has had poems published in, among others, The North, The Rialto, The London Magazine, Poetry Ireland Review, Magma, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Southword and Agenda.

Lisa Creech Bledsoe is a hiker, beekeeper, and writer living in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Her first book of poetry, Appalachian Ground, was published in 2019. A second book, Wolf Laundry, will be published in 2020, and she has new poems forthcoming in American Writers Review, The Main Street Rag, and Jam & Sand, among others.

Lesley Burt has been writing poetry for about twenty years. Following retirement from social work education, she completed an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. She lives in Christchurch, Dorset. Previous publication includes poems in: Tears in the Fence, The Interpreter’s House, Prole, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Reach, Sarasvati and The Butchers Dog; also online, including in Poetry Kit, The Poetry Shed, Algebra of Owls and Ink, Sweat and Tears.

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.

Anne Connolly is an Irish poet long settled in Scotland. Anne, a former Chair and Makar of the Federation of Writers Scotland, has appeared at numerous Festivals including StAnza. She believes that Poetry is music in its own right. Once upon a Quark, her third collection from Red Squirrel , was described by Edinburgh’s former Makar Christine de Luca as“ funny, pithy, profound.”

Stephen Watt has four published poetry collections, is one-half of gothic spoken word project Neon Poltergeist, and is Dumbarton FC’s Poet in Residence.

Ann Cuthbert loves writing pieces for people to read and performing poems and assuming personas for live audiences. Her work has been published widely in magazines and anthologies both online and in print. Most recently, her short story, Going to Graceland, was highly commended in the 3rd Crossing the Tees short story competition. Her poetry chapbook, Watching a Heron with Davey, is published by Black Light Engine Room Press.

Felicia Sanzari Chernesky is a longtime editor, slowly publishing poet, and author of six picture books, including From Apple Trees to Cider, Please! and The Boy Who Said Nonsense (Albert Whitman). In 2018 she left the masthead of an academic quarterly to work with people who want to share their stories, ideas, and poems in print. Felicia lives with her family in Flemington, New Jersey. Find her online, with links to recent publications, at www.feliciachernesky.com.

Ian Grosz has an MLitt in Creative Writing from the University of Aberdeen and writes both prose and poetry. Based in the NE of Scotland, he draws often from the landscape to explore themes of time and memory. Published across of range of magazines and journals both in print and online, most recently his work has appeared in Causeway / Cabhsair MagazineSouthlight Magazine, The Lighthouse Journal and in anthology with Arachne Press.

Mary Males is a visual artist who also writes – mainly short prose or poetry.Found Objects was her first collection of prose and imagery and she is working on a second. She has also had work published in Strix magazine which is based in Leeds, where she currently lives.

Pat Edwards is a writer, teacher and performer from Mid Wales. She has been published more recently in Prole, The Curlew, Ink Sweat and Tears, Magma (due this summer) and Deborah Alma’s #Me Too Anthology. Pat runs Verbatim poetry open mic nights and curates Welshpool Poetry Festival.

Wilda Morris, Workshop Chair of Poets and Patrons of Chicago and a past President of the Illinois State Poetry Society, has been published in numerous anthologies, webzines, and print publications. She has won awards for formal and free verse and haiku. Her second poetry book, Pequod Poems: Gamming with Moby-Dick, was published in 2019. Wilda’s interest in archaeology grew when she attended seminary, earning an M.Div. degree. Her poetry blog at wildamorris.blogspot.com features a monthly poetry contest.

Mandy Macdonald, an Australian writer and musician lives in Aberdeen, Scotland. Her poems appear in anthologies from Arachne Press, Grey Hen Press, Luath Press, and others, and in many print and online journals. Her debut pamphlet, The temperature of blue, was published in February 2020 by Blue Salt Collective.  

Oz Hardwick is a York-based writer, photographer and occasional musician, whose work has been published and performed internationally in and on diverse media. He has published seven poetry collections, most recently Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: IPSI, 2018), and has edited and co-edited several more. Oz isn’t sure what he wants to be if he grows up, but is currently Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, where he leads the Creative Writing programmes.

Charley Reay is a Northumberland based writer from the Lincolnshire Fens.  Her poems are published by Ink, Sweat & Tears, Prole and Three Drops Press among others.  She also performs on the North East spoken word scene. You can find her on Twitter @charleyreay

Corinna Keefe is a freelance writer who currently lives in south east England. She has published poetry with Ink Sweat & Tears, Varsity and Notes. Her writing is also featured in an upcoming anthology from Broken Sleep Press.

Ian Richardson lives on the East coast of Scotland. In November 2016 he received the Anstruther Writing Award. In September 2015 he was Overall Winner in the Scottish Borders ‘Waverley Lines’ poetry competition. Ian’s work appears in various poetry publications and he is a regular contributor to the themed ‘Lies, Dreaming’ spoken word podcast.  In 2019 his work appeared in Lux Aeterna @blackboughpoems Twitter @IanRich10652022

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

Fionna Cumming is an artist and writer based in rural North Ayrshire in Scotland, where she lives with her family, three cats, six chickens, and a lot of bees.

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’.

Maggie Mackay loves family history which she incorporates into work in print and online journals. One of her poems is included in the award-winning #MeToo anthology. Others have been nominated for The Forward Prize, Best Single Poem ­­­­­­­­with one 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. She is a reviewer forhttps://www.sphinxreview.co.uk/

Sarah Cameron is married with two children and lives in Central Scotland. She trained as an archaeologist and worked on excavations in the UK, Greece, Malta, USA and Turkey throughout the 1990s before pursuing a more stable career in teaching. In 2017 she returned to university and completed Stirling’s MA in Creative Writing. She writes short stories, memoir and non-fiction and was short-listed for the Bath Flash Fiction Award. Her work has been published in The Writers Magazine.

Larry Lefkowitz’s stories, poetry, and humor have been widely published. His story collection “Enigmatic Tales” is published by Fomite press.

Zusana Storrier is a member of Dundee’s Nethergate Writers. Her short stories often centre on unobtrusively rebellious and disadvantaged characters and span the genres of realism, magical realism and speculative fiction

Fiona Pitt-Kethley is the author of more than 20 books of prose or poetry published by Chatto, Abacus, Salt and others and lives in Spain.

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

David McVey lectures in Communication at New College Lanarkshire. He has published over 120 short stories and a great deal of non-fiction that focuses on history and the outdoors. He enjoys hillwalking, visiting historic sites, reading, watching telly, and supporting his home-town football team, Kirkintilloch Rob Roy FC.

Julia Clayton taught Classics and Ancient History for twenty-three years before retiring from teaching to concentrate on writing. She graduated from the MA Creative Writing course at Edge Hill University in 2019. Most of her work takes its inspiration from works of art or archaeological artefacts. ‘Viking’ is part of a series of stories exploring issues of authenticity and reality in historical reconstruction. It was inspired by an exhibition on the Vikings held at the Atkinson Museum, Southport, in 2018.

Sarah Cameron is married with two children and lives in Central Scotland. She trained as an archaeologist and worked on excavations in the UK, Greece, Malta, USA and Turkey throughout the 1990s before pursuing a more stable career in teaching. In 2017 she returned to university and completed Stirling’s MA in Creative Writing. She writes short stories, memoir and non-fiction and was short-listed for the Bath Flash Fiction Award. Her work has been published in The Writers Magazine.

Larry Lefkowitz’s stories, poetry, and humor have been widely published. His story collection “Enigmatic Tales” is published by Fomite press.

Zusana Storrier is a member of Dundee’s Nethergate Writers. Her short stories often centre on unobtrusively rebellious and disadvantaged characters and span the genres of realism, magical realism and speculative fiction.

John Coopey is unquestionably the finest poet from Chapel Haddlesey ever to draw breath. He started writing poetry about 8 years ago. At first his poems were simple rhymes of no literary merit. Since then he has got no better.  He writes mostly about the little things in life, leaving the more “worthy” stuff to loftier poet-y types. His meanderings take him across the varied subjects of his family, railways, love, football and history.  He is probably best known on the Open Mic circuit for his irreverent, often bawdy parodies of well-known songs, aiming left, right and centre across the spectrum of politics, life, the universe and everything.

Theresa Peteranna is a recent graduate of the University of Aberdeen, having studied English, Film and Visual Culture. She is a keen fiction writer who has written short stories often on the state of young adulthood alongside her degree and culture reviews for her student newspaper. Aside from fiction, she is a keen traveller who has lived in Tokyo as a teaching assistant. Her student summers were spent travelling and she pens her experiences online on her personal blog. She aspires to become a travel writer, having recently won The Telegraph’s Just Back Competition for her piece on Los Angeles.

Ciara Campbell is a 21 year old Northern Irish writer from Belfast, Northern Ireland and a BA Politics graduate. She has been writing as a hobby for eleven years. In her spare time, she likes to play softball and video games.

Patience Mackarness lives and writes partly in an elderly VW camper van, partly in a cottage in Brittany. Her stories have been published or accepted by Lunch Ticket, Dime Show Review, Brilliant Flash Fiction, The Coachella Review, Flash Frontier, and elsewhere.  She has lived and worked in a number of countries, including Bahrain. Her work can be read at  https://patiencemackarness.wordpress.com/

Sandip Chatterjee is from Hyderabad, India. “I am a software engineer by profession and I love to write.Currently I am working on my novel. I came across this competition by some writing competition post. I felt the topic was interesting and gave it a try. This was very different from the things I normally write. I really enjoyed researching about it and writing the story. I hope you also enjoy reading it.”

Paul Onuh is an emerging writer, who resides in Abuja, the Federal Capital of Nigeria. He’s creative in works of fiction, non-fiction and essays. His love for facts and pragmatic thinking stands him out among the rest of his peers.

Max Dunbar lives in West Yorkshire. He blogs at http://maxdunbar.wordpress.com/ and tweets at http://twitter.com/MaxDunbar1.


5 thoughts on “The Writers’ Cafe Magazine – ISSUE 19 “Can You Dig It?”

  1. Many thanks for this.

    One query: I couldn’t get the keyword search function on your site to work – is there a special trick to it?

    Patience ________________________________

    Like

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