L. A. MacRae

 

 

 

Jackdaw Girl

Fern MacArthur stands on the back step. She stoops to strike a match on stone, cupping the flame as she straightens. The woodbine glows red with her indrawn breath. She shakes the match and tilts her chin back, sighing smoke. She stares up at the yellow hill.

There are jackdaws clattering around the chimneystack at the gable end of the house, where wood-smoke seeps and drifts up towards the hillside. Gorse sweeps its slopes, as if the evening sun has fallen and spread in shards upon the earth. Noisy creatures, jackdaws, Fern thinks. Inquisitive. Their incessant cackling questions. I am, are you? I am, are you? Her sister Netta had tamed one, once. When they were girls. When there were two of them.

In the slipstream of the years, with flittings and floorboard cracks, there’s only one photograph of them left in which they are both together. Edinburgh Zoo, the pair of them in double-breasted coats with small sharp collars. Both girls are holding birds. The bright blue parrot Fern remembers is a feathery blur hunched on her bent wrist. A white cockatoo sits on Netta’s shoulder, its head turned away. Fern’s socks sag; she smiles without showing her teeth. Netta laughs, or is trying to stifle laughter, slightly bent forward with her eyes tightly shut. The cockatoo’s head is turned to her dark hair above her right ear, as if whispering secrets.

When Netta was fifteen she told Fern she’d met a man on the hill. It was her job to go each evening and bring in the two cows for milking, and that was how it happened. He’d taught her to whistle through a straw and his mouth tasted of grass, she’d said. He wants a lock of my hair, she’d said, and Fern had said, don’t. Don’t. Give him a bit of Bessie’s tail, give him a hank of the yearling’s mane, but not a hair from your head. Promise. Attention from men is nothing to boast of, their mother had used to say, but she was gone by then. Netta had taken an envelope from the hallway bureau and inside she placed a jackdaw feather. It was midsummer, the evening she went up the hill, and did not come down.

Fern flicks the butt of her cigarette into the rhododendrons. Once there were two of us, she thinks, and now there is one. Soon, in the pull and fade of the years, there will be none. And no one need keep our secrets, then. Above her the jackdaws launch themselves from the roof and flap away down the glen. Two of them, today. Fern watches them until they dwindle to black specks, shrinking and dissolving against the grey sky. She knows they are still there, aloft on the air: rising, falling, calling to each other. I am, are you? I am, are you? They have simply flown too far, too high, for her to see.

 

 

L. A. MacRae has a PhD in Scottish Ballads and a fascination with story in all forms. She lives, works and writes in the Isle of Skye.

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Meg Culp

 

 

 

Sinking

I don’t often drown anymore
Most of the time, I feel obligated
To a routine immersion
Some type of spiritless baptism
Where the ocean pulls me to her floor
Into a sunken womb
Where my bruises can be special
But as black devours blue,
I’m eager to drown
Waiting for the loose-legged ache
And my weightless asylum
And naturally, I am thankful
I’m very aware now
Trusting myself is illogical
Though I can’t ignore my skin
Beginning to pull-
My hairs beginning to raise
My swollen veins, rendering me home
My tiny allies
Waking me
And I am once again thankful
For these little bits of me
The only courage I have left
But what is courage worth
At the bottom of the sea?

 

 

Meg Culp is an (almost) thirty year old mother of two living in Virginia. She married young and considers her good fortune and peaceful life an enigma. Meg’s passion has, and will always be, poetry.

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Ray Malone

 

 

 

Suppose

Suppose    the tree
once leant into the wind
went the other way
against the giving in
the prevailing call to obey

let’s say one wilful day
it shook free
from ages of constraint
and from its deepest roots up
urged itself to bow no more

to bend no more but took
to doing something trees
had never ever done
decide
as if it had a mind to

as if it had a mind
to say why when the wind blows
it so easily sways
so will-less in its strength
it lets whatever wind have its way

suppose    the person too
once bent to be the way they are
were of a mind to say
no more no more will I
stand rooted by

but turn
to face the wind
come what
or what winds may

 

 

Ray Malone is an artist and writer currently living and working in Berlin, with work published in numerous magazines in the U.S., U.K. and Ireland. This poem is from a series of projects exploring the lyric potential of minimal forms based on various musical and/or literary models.

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Brett Evans

 

 

 

Sglyfath

My father’s tongue flicked the fiery Welsh;
I flicked two fingers back at him and ancestry.
Assaults, volleys, skirmishes, stormed fortresses;
ignorant oppression, futile wars for independence.
Siarad CYMRAEG? Fuck off, Nain. Fuck off, Taid.

Fires of defiance dowsed by drink on both sides –
the plain set for the final conflict, this hospice bed.
Lids hide the eyes of the beast though I count coup:
one clasped, clammy hand, a cold kiss on cool brow,
and fingers placed where a pulse should beat
like dragon wings. But there’s nothing Welsh
unless still deep within the marrow.

 

 

Brett Evans lives, writes, and drinks in his native north Wales. His poetry pamphlets The Devil’s Tattoo (2015) and Sloth and the Art of Self-deprecation (2018) are both published by Indigo Dreams. Brett is co-editor of Prole.

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Mary Mulholland

 

 

 

Bluebeard’s Cousin

Your red jacket’s stark against the snow
of the Welsh mountains. He’s brought you
to his home, where everyone’s asleep.

The sky is black above the mountains.
You think you can hear the sea in the wind.
He pulls you close. The trees wave hieroglyphs.

His yellow eyes seem so loving and wise.
He boasts no woman has ever left him,
then slices off your hands and your feet.

The moon turns red, even the grass is bleeding,
the rowan drop a branch which he breaks in two.
One end is sharp. Now he’s washing his hands

in virgin snow. With your stumps and your head
you thrill the rowan point into his heart
and how the wind howls through that hole.

He’ll be staring forever into the black night,
but your hands will grow back, your feet return,
and you’ll leave the mountains, the melting snow.

 

 

Mary Mulholland’s poetry has been published in several anthologies and online, she’s been regularly shortlisted in national competitions (eg Bridport), though yet to win, and is completing a Masters in Poetry through Newcastle University. She lives in London but frequently escapes.

 

 

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George Cassidy Payne

 

 

 
A Good Kiss

A good kiss smells like nectar-filled
factories and feels like skin wrapped over
a corpse. Erupting from long-patient seeds,
it stands still in the mouth, as eyelids move
with the vaporizing speed of a crouching cougar
at a midday spring. Shimmering ghostly white.

A good kiss is petite, luminous, and stingless.
Buzzing like undisturbed bees sipping from
the edges covered with pink and emerald
beadwork, it knows figures are keeping watch.

A good kiss cries with ear-splitting choruses
and senses vibrations from thunder. Scorpions
and tarantulas scuttle underfoot, and the ground
cracks apart like crawfish shells and suckling bird bones
blasted to a minimum by the sun’s motionless coil.

 

 

George Cassidy Payne is a poet from Rochester, New York. His work has been included in such publications as the Hazmat Review, MORIA Poetry Journal, Chronogram Magazine, Ampersand Literary Review, Front Porch Review, The Mindful Word, Tea House, The Angle at St. John Fisher College, and 3:16 Journal. George’s blogs, essays and letters have appeared in Nonviolence Magazine, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pace e Bene, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, the Havana Times, the South China Morning Post, The Buffalo News and more.

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