Jane Burn – fiction

The Aching of a Hidden Hare           

                      

    It’s amazing what you can hide beneath a hat. Most folk don’t give you a second glance but it’s not worth the risk. I have to stay alert. The day I go bare-headed will be the day someone looks my way and snap! My secret would be today’s painful trend. #Freak. 

    My face would be splashed across every front page. I’m used to being hounded  back then it was hounds yowling after my feet. Now, you’d set a different pack of dogs upon my scent. When newspapers flutter through the park, I’ve see the way people look, hunted beneath the weight of headlines, doomed by ink.

    I have learned, through the years to be discreet. Hares have a passion for the dark  have an inbuilt fear of you. We, who have been born shape-shift witches have spent centuries run to ground or tied to a flaming stakes  burned for the crime of healing herbs, scorched for our different skin. We remember poor Isobel Gowdie, all those centuries ago. How we cowered, we leftover twelve of her coven’s thirteen. Like it was yesterday, I taste her smoke in my throat.

    We make secrets of ourselves. At dusk’s call, I slip the invisibility of undergrowth, shake the pins and needles from my limbs. I shroud the pelt that creeps up my neck  fold my ears inside a cap, turn my amber eyes to the floor. Nobody pays much attention – they cross the street, rather than pass too close to my lolloping form. I wish you understood. Wish I could smile my cleft smile. History ought to be kinder by now. I have kept myself a secret for too long.

🍃

            

On Finding A Little Glass Jar on the Forest Floor

            

    It saw me coming as I followed the strange and scented path, spied me through its belly’s eye and winked as best as it could, out from behind the blur of its algae skin. Thick and bubbled, cloudy with age, I stooped to clutch this odd egg, bedded in its needle nest. The lofty pines, straight as stair-rods almost made an ominous arch above my head, as if they would close me beneath a confined skin of weighted air.

    I scratched it free with my fingers, wiped off the worst of the mud. As if it were a shell, I held its chilly bulge against my curious ear. At first, I only heard the sound of a phantom sea but after a moment, I began to sense forming words and found it had a tale that it had been aching to tell. It had been waiting to empty itself of what it had kept in the crypt of its hollowed mind, all these abandoned years.

    It told me how once, many years past, a man and a woman had walked along here, bodies close but never quite touching – how the man had loomed as she leaned her back against the bark, arm pinned like a great branch, how the leaves had whispered with worry when they felt her uncertain love. How her doubt swelled in the heavy air between them, how he angered at their almost kisses, how his mouth always seemed to arrive, just as she had turned away her head. 

    It told me about the way she sought comfort from the forest – the way her fingers had made timid caterpillars, creeping through the moss, the way she watched the shape of light pool between each twig. She was not convinced that she saw forever in this man – the jar’s cool circle of a mouth was sure of that. She sometimes thought he slipped her sidelong, crab-wise glances – they peeled from his eyes, settled upon her shoulders like filthy snow. By the time she had reached to brush them off, he would be smiling again, podding her into his coat against the cold. He was too fond of such public displays of chivalric flair.

    The jar told the story of the time that he had brought her here and how they sat in stilted conversation, how she would stay his hand when it journeyed across her withdrawn leg, how he would tut and draw it back, ask her how much longer? Ask her when? 

    The sky had spread its stippled view above them, free as the skirt of a gingham dress. She had wondered whether she should let him make love to her. After all, he had done so much for her hadn’t he? Didn’t everyone tell her all the time how he was a keeper, a real catch? He had told her that he could easily get it from someone else and she had tried, but he had sung that line if you go down in the woods today and she could not shift the thought of bears from her head.

    She had packed a basket of apples and bread, salmon spread. She took up a knife and dug at the jar’s paste inners, clattered around its crystal neck. She thought about her mother’s life of beating rugs and bowing to the Sunday roast, and how the picnic was knocked to the ground when he suddenly rolled toward her, too strongly, much too fast. How big he loomed above her, how the floor seemed full of awkward stones beneath her back. 


    Time ate the wicker of the picnic basket. Mice ate the abandoned crumbs, but nothing could swallow the jar’s man-made glass. It held onto its secret, mixed with the forest’s terpene breath. The jar had sat where it had fallen, kept its silence through the years, sat while roots grew longer and poked through the winter’s fallen dead like weathered bone.

    It saw the woman’s mother walk the path, call to the ghosts of deer that flicked behind the trap of knotted trunks. Once her foot had brushed the jar’s exposed rim and its memory spilled, redolent as spikenard. It heard the mother cry why don’t you write? The underground stirred, its contents safely held. The woman’s mother kept on saying it’s just not like our Cathy, to up and leave like that.

🍃

            

Jane Burn is a prize-winning poet, writer and illustrator based in the North East. She is a working class bisexual with a late diagnosis of Autism. Her poems have been published in many magazines and anthologies and she has been nominated for the Forward and Pushcart Prize.

Zebulon Huset – 1 poem

Krakin-Upa and the Two-Day Poem Contest

            

Danny slurred “Thor didn’t ‘ave an ax, he ‘ad a hammer!”

General laughter. “Thorax,” someone stressed, “not Thor’s ax.”

We sat, staring at ten words. Such discussion of poetry, that of young

students bearing fortified wine. Splitting time to the very filament.

“Two days? I need two weeks!” Kai complained, nervous.

“I don’t even have an idea.” He fiddled with his absurdly large

belt buckle. Not sure who told him tonight was western themed,

but we all appreciated the comic relief. Geri looked at an article

titled “Ten ways to remind your man that you’re a woman.”

“Wouldn’t one way suffice?” she asked the room with a pelvic thrust.

Wine poured from coffee cup vessel for the fruits of our jubilancy.

Grapes, mainly. Proof that we didn’t need to eat any damn apples.

Chad’s couch, a raw sienna with constellations of maroon drying

(to his chagrin the next morning). Someone turned on South Park.

Gerald explicated a wrench from Chad’s tattered Clue box,

remnant of his childhood, seeking some physical representation.

Some sort of absolute proof that wrench is not only a noun, verb,

but also something less symbolic and more tangible. He flexed it

in the lamplight like a baby testing the tensile strength of a tiny rattle.

“Don’t bother,” Eddy chimed, “it’s just the Matrix.” More laughs.

That’s mostly what we did. More than write, read, eat. We drank,

we laughed. Why do anything else? Who needs a poem on a night

when the room’s ready to erupt with laughter, like Krakin-Upa,

mighty volcano god of the apartments at St. Joseph and First.

            

🍃

Zebulon Huset is a teacher, writer and photographer living in San Diego. His writing has recently appeared in Meridian, The Southern Review, Louisville Review, Fence, Rosebud, Atlanta Review, Texas Review and Fjords Review among others. He publishes a writing prompt blog Notebooking Daily and is the editor of the journal Coastal Shelf.

Ellie Rhodes – 5 poems

Hidden Pages

            

The embroidered cover of my notebook

is freckled with tears. The little, sewn flowers

want to wilt. Each page bears the weight

of glue grasping photos, losing the corners.

            

I was queen of this cardboard box kingdom,

ruler of the folded bedspread and stacked saucepans.

But now I hide from them under a blanket

of inked letters, words indented into my skin.

Flicking through the creased pages I see

faces of summer smiles and winter grins:

ice skating, body boarding, dancing

in the park after our last exam.

These people have skated to East Anglia,

body boarded to Edinburgh, danced

to York. Where are they now? I’m invaded

by neon hair and music that makes the white

walls shudder. Words can only save me.

            

My cardboard fort has broken down,

everything put away in a room that isn’t mine.

Once stood on solid floor-boards, I’ve crumbled

onto my knees, crying into happier times

held together by ink and glue.

           

🍃

4am

            

I’m trapped in a hurricane of fairy-lights.

They twist around the room like hieroglyphics

retelling the tale of how stars

came into existence, one after the other,

until a dark valley became the night sky.

We are cloaked in the universe.

            

You adventure hourlessly in a virtual universe

my explorations are pages ignited by fairy-lights.

We’re next to each other while under different skies.

To my librarian mind, the screen prints out hieroglyphics

you know as HP bars and kill stats as you shoot another

player. His soul rises to the coded stars.

            

We forget that through the window there are stars

that are sailing on the lapping universe

while we swim in another

sea, waves of paper and screen-lights.

The ink starts to spiral into hieroglyphics;

I collapse on the duvet, facing the sky.

            

We don’t check our phones and we can’t read the sky;

our ungodly waking hour is only known to the stars.

You glare when I ask how you read those hieroglyphics

and watch you submit to the will of the universe

who tells us to turn out the lights.

We’re left silently lying next to each other.

            

This is the only time when we’re with no other—

we get to share these moments with the sky.

I can’t tell whether I’m in a room of twinkling lights

or in a duvet field under the stars.

I prefer the idea of watching the universe,

our bodies pressed into the grass like hieroglyphics.

            

I trace the patterns on your bed as if they were hieroglyphics,

your eyebrows rising like I’m from another

planet. I could be offspring of the universe

but a part of me is rooted to ground under these skies.

We’re two fallen stars,

drained of our gases, losing our lights.

Lights that have seen ancient times, the writing of hieroglyphics

and the birth of stars. Memories to no other,

            

only the sky as she watches us from her universe.

           

🍃

Roommates

            

With the rising sun your characters leap

like little flames dancing in their candles,

but the moon persuades a rapid retreat

of all that goodness into your bottles.

Vodka-scented lips let slip the evils

of the human mind; careless thoughts slither

around your dizzy bodies and strangles

your unique selves, as well as your livers.

While your blurry heads snuggle on pillows

sweat and alcohol laced into your clothes,

I’m left scrubbing regret on my tiptoes

my solace found in sticky floors and stoves.

Bitter thoughts crawl through my head at four am;

            

knowing, though pissed off, I’d do it again.

           

🍃

Poet Laureate

            

An empty word document 

tells all too much.

Letters are hieroglyphics. 

I was writing

the new Paradise Lost,

 Dulce et Decorum Est, 

a literary marvel, or

at least one more stanza.

            

Let the words move you, 

let them dance off the pen 

but the tune is a preschooler 

playing recorder first time. 

Remember your syntax, 

your rhyme scheme and verbs 

a vortex of rules: 

poetry’s ten commandments.

            

The moon invades the sky 

and peeks through my window, 

her stars read the screen 

(they seem unimpressed). 

I tell them to fuck off—

smacking the email’s send

and fall to the keyboard,

            

not quite Milton yet.

           

🍃

Distance

            

If God made me greater than any beast

then why can swallows fly and I’m not allowed?

I want wingtips that slice through endless clouds

to be above silk-like fields, pinched and creased.

Given this blessing I would not mistreat

it but use to visit the one I’m vowed

to for life, who picked me out of a crowd

to hold me through victory and defeat.

            

I still pray despairing for arrow wings,

with brick and glass and two hundred miles

between us, my frail voice lost in the winds

though it once ran through fields and over stiles.

Fate tortures me to be so determined

            

to wait for flight so I can see your smile.

           

🍃

Ellie Rhodes

Kevin Hogg – Fiction

Fish food

The scarlet sun had almost vanished behind an unfamiliar horizon.  Chilled by our dessert of homemade ice cream and the sudden onset of a whipping wind, we were ready to return home. Our host delayed this departure with a question: “Would you like to watch me feed my fish?”

            Eager to get inside and warm up, my sister, my brother and I followed him into the house.  He wasn’t a total stranger—my father knew him from work—but the glint in his eye seemed to indicate something left unsaid.

            We filed past him into a dimly lit room.  He closed the door behind him.  “Take a look around,” he offered.

            As our eyes adjusted, we noticed several fish tanks standing on counters, and a hamster cage took up most of a corner table.  The shelves were lined with books and unlabeled canisters.  What held our attention, though, lay on the floor in the center of the room.

            Something was hidden under a dark sheet—a box, perhaps?  The man grinned as he saw our eyes transfixed.  In the silence, a sound of movement escaped from under the sheet.  Just a small rustle, but the source was clear.

            He checked his watch and walked toward the fish tanks.  “Well, we can give them a bit now,” he said, picking up a plastic container. “It always seems like a waste, though.”

            Taking turns sprinkling the flakes into the water, we became wrapped up in the bulging eyes and slowly opening and closing mouths.  Another soft sound from the box brought us back to our senses.

            Nobody moved.  He eyed the box and smiled.  A feeling of paralysis come over us.  A quick glance showed that my siblings were also wishing to be back with our parents.

            A beep emitted from his watch.  “It’s time,” he announced. “You guys ready to feed the fish?”

            Still rooted to the spot, we watched as he pulled up a corner of the sheet. I had no desire to discover what hideous fish could be that large, or why it lived in the dark.

            “Now, I have to do this slowly, because too much light all of a sudden can be a shock.”

            As the sheet came off, we saw that it wasn’t a box—it was a large glass tank.  In the dim light, it took a while to distinguish the large object on the bottom. A ball python, four feet long.  My sister screamed.  My brother gasped.  I tried to make a sound, any sound, but nothing came out.

            Our host laughed as he walked toward the counter holding a scoop.  “It’s time to feed the fish.  I must have forgotten to mention…we’re feeding them to my snake.” 

🍃

Kevin Hogg teaches high school English and Law. He holds a Master of Arts degree in English Literature from Carleton University. Outside of writing, he is a husband, father, and Chicago Cubs fan. He also enjoys thistles, pulp-free orange juice, and depressing John Steinbeck novels. His website is http://kevinhogg.ca.

Carol Casey – 2 poems

Interruptions


I hate interruptions, covet the easy, flowing saunter 

down paths of word and image after a prey easily lost, 

a muse that can shatter like a mirror, leaving only wall. 


And there you are.


the next unwelcome chunk of my destiny, a foot stuck out,

a tree limb fallen. Lost, lost to whatever the moment

demands, the muse dissolves like a flock of startled geese. 


Some days I snarl.


Other days I try to see you, not as demon, but buddha, 

christ-child, goddess nudging my path with a gift among 

the shattered trance-fragments: of love, of letting go to find the more.


Most days it’s somewhere in between.

🍃

After the Party 


A mild hangover 

hangs over the room.


What sparkled is stale,

 forlorn. The sadness


of gathering up congeals 

on plates, Fragments 


of conversation erupt 

from blotchy wine glasses. 


Serviettes wilt in corners

like discarded wedding 


gowns. Someone left a 

scarf behind, as if wanting 


another chance. Forks laugh 

with knives, chat with dish

 
water. Stains are laundered

pure, as if never known.


Nameless yearnings 

sweep up off the floor


and into the compost

pail with a sigh.

🍃

Carol Casey lives in Blyth, Ontario, Canada.  She is a member of the Huron Poetry Collective and the League of Canadian Poets. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has most recently appeared in Fresh Voices, The Prairie Journal, Synaeresis and Plum Tree Tavern (upcoming) as well as in two new anthologies, Tending the Fire, and i am what becomes of broken branch.