Shells & polished stones set amid beads & flowers…
Drowning? Being of ‘these times’ then?
but the forms, recollected, they recollect me
to the good & the true
as a tank
grows into nose-gays
& the flesh-shed hospital man
rises like Nike.
Stephen Mead is an Outsider multi-media artist and writer. Since the 1990s he’s been grateful to many editors for publishing his work in print zines and eventually online. He is also grateful to have managed to keep various day jobs for the Health Insurance. Currently he is resident artist/curator for The Chroma Museum, artistic renderings of LGBTQI historical figures, organizations and allies predominantly before Stonewall, The Chroma Museum
Attention Bindweed contributors of yesteryear! As of January 2021, we are changing our ‘Free promotion for Indie Authors’ to ‘Free promotion for past contributors’. Essentially, what we intend to do is to give back to you, fabulous writers and poets, for choosing us as a home for your writing over the years.
So, if your work has appeared in one of our past issues (Issues 1-10, or Issue 11 as of January 2021) please send a link to buy/ link jpeg of your cover for your newly published or forthcoming poetry or short story collection or novel and we’ll give it a shout!
The clock adds a minute, subtracts the next. Its half-hearted ticking convinces no one, Least of all you. Here where the echo Precedes the cry, you lie in bed. A cobweb sags and comes apart. You watch its gentle progress down the wall, Then get up and negotiate The house’s hesitant geography. You’re not surprised to find yourself Caught briefly in a chaos of doors.
Outside near the feeders a chaffinch Reworks its song. The dawn rain lingers. You look out at the backs of buildings, Note the squint of their upstairs windows, The complicity of their walls. Further off beyond the empty motorway A sparrowhawk banks over a bare track. It darts down and its claws close tightly round Imperfect life. Below a fox crouches In the lee of its name, then pads away.
Malistic internal émigré, Assigné à résidence, you wait. Now the actual fattens, the wounds close And unclose, blur and become clear. A few ghosts dissolve. Belief refracts. You pace the room, expecting all the time The fever and the cough that never come. One day, under bleak insistent sunlight, Freedom shrieking in your ears, You’ll fall face first into yourself.
THE MYTHOLOGY OF MAN
It was here – we’re taught – that a god Planted earth and sky, then sat back to watch
The minerals expand and change their form, The arcs and whorls of nascent light;
Here he saw the continents unfurl, The seas and rivers nuzzle into place,
And set the weather running: Summer’s heat, then ice and snow’s retort;
And here, among the wind’s leavings, That mankind emerged; here men cradled
Their new-caught names, formed stunted vowels And stunted consonants, and persevered
Until their words astounded language Or crumpled to a question mark;
Here they first experienced The routine magic of a kiss,
The irreverent spasms of love, Or lead instead a life of solitude;
Here they inscribed their subtle laws And set in train their wild festivities;
And here their restless instruments, The machines that invent themselves,
And reinvent themselves, whose coarse music Torments and confuses, rebelled.
Centuries later men crouched Beneath exhausted constellations.
Flecked with lice and undefended, They parried half-imagined blows,
Hunkered further down and told themselves Passivity and deference are strength.
Their dull unintimate glances, their shame And anomie showed their age had ended.
Nearby their wailing abstract dead Had congregated – they showed it too.
We learnt all this; we see men failed To survive their own myth, that’s all.
UNWANTED CORRESPONDENCE: FIRST EMAIL
Apologies for stalking you like this – By email not in person or by phone – I’m shy, you see; you also ought to know This is my first attempt in fifteen years, Which means I’m rather out of practice too.
So in my role as one of Britain’s least- Prolific stalkers, let me take this chance To introduce myself to my new beau: My name is Jaspirel, I’m epicene In keeping with the ‘spirit of the age.’ Like you, I’m trying to revive the art Of poetry in almost-solitude, By which I mean a room above a pub In Kentish Town; it’s not ideal, that’s clear: The walls at ill-made angles to the floor, The boiler half-asthmatic and a rat That squats inside the cupboard like a god.
At night – in breaks from writing – I observe An isolated avenue of light Which holds lives shaped by money or its lack. Tonight though, curtains drawn, I’ve spent the time Examining the cut along my thumb And slipping further from sobriety. Warm brandy with Ribena is my drink. I find it suits my palate, and my guts: My waste is of a better quality; What’s more, my stomach cramps have nearly gone.
Oh, by the way, I’d like to send some poems For you to comment on. Is that alright?
Yours – J
Ian Heffernan was born just outside London, where he still lives. He studied at UCL and SOAS and works with the homeless. His poetry has been published recently in the High Window, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Cha, Antiphon, South Bank Poetry, London Grip, Under the Radar, FourXFour, the Moth and elsewhere.
Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn’t earn a living in the theater. He has also been a tennis pro, a ditch digger and a salvage diver. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and his published books include 26 poetry collections, 10 novels, 3 short story collections, 1 collection of essays and 1 collection of one-act plays. Published poetry books include: Dawn in Cities, Assault on Nature, Songs of a Clerk, Civilized Ways, Displays, Perceptions, Fault Lines, Tremors, Perturbations, Rude Awakenings, The Remission ofOrder, Contusions and Desperate Seeker (Winter Goose Publishing. Forthcoming: Learning Curve and Ignition Point).Earth Links, Too Harsh For Pastels, Severance and Redemption Value (Cyberwit Publishing. Forthcoming: Fractional Disorder). His novels include a series ‘Stand to Arms, Marines’: Call to Valor, Crumbling Ramparts and Raise High the Walls (Gnome on Pig Productions) and Extreme Change (Winter Goose Publishing). Wavelength will be published by Cyberwit Publishing. His short story collections include: A Glimpse of Youth (Sweatshoppe Publications). Now I Accuse and other stories (Winter Goose Publishing) and Dogs Don’t Send Flowers and other stories (Wordcatcher Publishing). The Republic of Dreams and other essays (Gnome on Pig Productions). The Big Match and other one actplays (Wordcatcher Publishing). Collected Plays of Gary Beck Volume 1 (Cyberwit Publishing. Forthcoming: Plays of Aristophanes translated, then directed by Gary Beck). Gary lives in New York City.
Anyone who thinks a cemetery is the most depressing place to be hasn’t been in a hospital gift shop. The claustrophobic aisles of squashed biscuits and glossy magazines, the thrum of the fridge. Give her the wide, organised rows of headstones any day, laid out pretty against the grass with purpose. Lines and lines of full stops. Wavering like stuck film in a video cassette, she stares blankly at a question mark, fading into static.
She catches her own eye in the tarnished fun house mirror of the coffee machine. It gleams with the air of an oasis, thirsty patrons becoming parishioners at its feet, begging for resilience and gratefully receiving their blessings. The bags under her eyes wouldn’t be allowed as carry on, but somehow aren’t quite big enough to hold onto the misery wending its way through her system. A Lethe and Styx of the blood.
She stares at her options. There are some stuffed animals, large heads tilting over plump red hearts reading get well soon, and feel better! The exclamation point seems garish to her, but then so does being so preoccupied with punctuation when her friend is above her somewhere, hooked up to IVs and machines, and why didn’t she notice, why –
She looks back at the flowers. Normally she would choose something simple, closer to a daisy than something bedecked in flamboyant ruffles and fronds. She surveys the bouquets, eyes immediately skipping over roses in fierce colours, opening like violence in the water buckets. They suck colour from the room, like a picker tool on computer programmes. They blister against the gift shop’s pallor. Not to mention the thorns. Would she be allowed to bring her friend anything with thorns? Is that a thing?
Daffodils are too loud, bright little trumpets promising Spring, promising more days like a slap in the face. Lilies make her sneeze, the soft white petals spreading like swan’s wings across more modest bunches. Hydrangeas are God damn ugly –
She laughs. It burbles out of her, abrupt as if she’d been shot. Her palms fall to cradle her upset stomach, the acid burn of anxiety there a volcanic, dangerous thing she has no time for. She touches a fingertip to her bottom lash line, expecting it to come away wet, and surprised in a dull, muted kind of way when it doesn’t.
What a strange place for her to be. Standing under the piss yellow lights of a hospital gift shop trying to find the right flowers to convince her friend it’s worth it. Being alive.
She closes her eyes. Breathes.
She points in a random direction and flutters her eyelashes open, following her finger to a cluster of poppies. She immediately thinks of Sylvia Plath, and takes it as a sign. A morbid sign, but a sign she can follow, a sign that doesn’t say something like exit or stop. The teller smiles as she dispenses her change, and she supresses the urge to smile back for a reason she can’t quite grasp. It feels like when the dentist makes small talk when their hands are in your mouth. What are you meant to do with that? What are you meant to do when responding is choking?
She clacks her way to the lift, pushes the button and climbs on. The doors shut in front of her and reflects her face back as her stomach swoops. The poppies are wrong, she can see that now. As violent as the roses, full of remembering and poetry and close calls. The petals pool like blood in her hands, feather soft and iron heavy.
But she holds them in her hands. Hands that will tremble and shake and fail, that have already. Hands that have been known to clasp in prayer, hands that have flipped off a cosmic whatever perched in the sky. Hands for supporting. For holding. For care.
She steps off the lift. Throws the poppies away.
She searches for the room number and flexes her pale fingers, prepares her palms. The machines bleep faintly through the door as she stands outside. After a moment she knocks gently and follows her own sound inside, moving straight for the bed.
She reaches out. Takes hold.
Shannen Malone is a queer Irish writer living in the west of Ireland, about to embark on her Masters in Library and Information Studies. She tweets @ shannenmalone