The head of the table
During a dinner-time discussion about inter-faith ministers, I consider spilling the bottle of red wine over your shirt.
‘Imagine a mountain, with many different paths leading to the top. Some of the paths are so far apart, on opposite faces of the mountain, they forget that the other exists.’
In an attempt to respond to this statement, I choke on a piece of spaghetti. I pull it from my throat –
you look at me and frown. ‘Yet all of the paths lead to the same place, the same goal.’
I test the blocks with my little finger. The tower sways each time we exhale from the tension of the game. I decide to go for the middle block, on the second layer to the top. You try to put me off by poking my armpit and you laugh, showing your too-small teeth. I have never liked your teeth.
After three more turns, the tower falls.
We sit in separate armchairs, me by the window and you by the bookcase. Above you is a photograph of your father, speaking. He was a healer, and in his office at the bottom of the garden he kept a monkey who cleaned his shoes and told him when it had been too long since he had spent time with his children.
Alana Tomlin recently graduated from the English with Creative Writing BA at the University of Birmingham and now works in theatre. Her writing has appeared in Nine Arches Press, Under the Radar, Sabotage Reviews and in several University publications. Twitter: @alanatomlin.Read More
A Mobile for Katie
When you were little, before you had a room
of your own, in which to grow
cynical, and smart, and sometimes biting,
despite the heavy doses we applied
of Beatrix Potter, and a whole
menagerie of anthropomorphic
animals who behaved rather well,
however trying they found their circumstances,
your cot was in our room, and we suspended
a musical mobile above it: rabbits
that we would set a-running if you woke.
Sometimes I’d stir, and see your mother
at your side, in the chiaroscuro
of the nightlight, like a Leonardo
in muted crayon, smoky pinks and greens:
Madonna, child and quattrocento bunnies.
David Callin lives, if not quite at the back of beyond, certainly within hailing distance of it, in the Celtic archipelago. He has had poems in several magazines, including Other Poetry, Orbis and Envoi, and online in Snakeskin and Antiphon.Read More
Tooth taped to a note
re-negotiating the fee
PS are you real?
The new knives and forks
large and heavy in our hands
soon we won’t notice.
Warm spot on the couch
the dog’s uncharacteristic reserve
will give him away.
a perfume two decades old
has found me again.
neon twenty-four hour sign
begins to flicker.
My son concentrates
face illuminated by
Janet Rogerson‘s pamphlet A Bad Influence Girl is published by The Rialto. She is currently a PhD student at the University of Manchester.Read More
Remembrance of Things Past
I met him at Jinty McGuinty’s on Ashton Lane. He tagged along for drinks after a conference at the university and was introduced by my colleague simply as, a friend.
My colleague began the conversation. The topic: Proust, the only topic with which he was completely comfortable.
His friend was a good sport and chimed in whenever he could. He said, “Having never gone to university, having never read Proust’s work, the best I can offer is that in a weakened moment of practicality I once used À la recherche du temps perdu as a doorstop.”
My colleague, well on his way to being drunk, was good-humoured about the admission, “Had you used it to line your birdcage I would have been forced to kill you and dispose of your body in the most disrespectful of ways.”
We laughed a little too loud and quickly fell quiet. To break the silence we agreed to another round. I went out for a smoke and my colleague’s friend joined me.
“Can I get a light?” he said.
I held the cigarette lighter out for him. Ignoring it, he leaned in, put his hand at the base of my neck to keep me from pulling away, and lit his cigarette from mine. He took a step back and looked at me, expressionless. He took a long draw and held the smoke, without exhaling, for longer than I could watch without breaking his stare.
The wind tunnelled through the narrow lane, trapping trash from the parking lot into a littered corner and pasting autumn leaves against wet cobblestones. I zipped my jacket and said, “Glasgow weather, eh?”
He didn’t reply.
Feeling even more awkward, I finished my cigarette and made a step toward the pub. He took hold of my arm. “You don’t remember me, do you?”
I looked at him closely. His face looked soft under the glow of strung twinkle lights and neon blush but there was something stern in his expression, something that made me uneasy.
“I thought you were pretending for the benefit of the academic whores but I should have known that you weren’t that good an actress.”
“Perhaps you’ve got me mixed up with somebody else.”
He let go of my arm and took a final draw from his cigarette. He said, “There is no man, however wise, who has not at some period of his youth said things, or lived in a way the consciousness of which is so unpleasant to him in later life that he would gladly, if he could, expunge it from his memory.”
I shook my head.
He said, “That’s Proust, bitch.” He put the hood up on his brown jacket, stuffed his hands into deep, flannel-lined pockets and cut a quick path toward Byres Road before I whispered, “I’m sorry you’re still such a bastard.”
The apartment was small and cheap. It was our first apartment. The walls were porous and there was a fug we could not remove. The landlord was supercilious and cantankerous and treated us as though we were fungus. The landlord had been married five times and was now alone. Our happiness was not contagious. We had jobs and at night if there were nothing on the television we would sit by the window and talk and I would say things like: “Everybody wanted to be a brave Indian back then. Nobody wanted to be a cowboy. I mean, there was a family called Cassidy and a family called McCarty and a family called Ford on every street.” We would laugh, we always laughed. One night I thought I had finished the last piece of sushi, a luxury. In the morning I saw the last piece of sushi still in the fridge. Brushing my teeth, I removed cockroach legs. This still makes us laugh. Our penury we found edifying. We lived next to a place where they put down dogs. The dogs were unwanted because they were deemed strange. Many of the dogs were deformed. I saw one dog that had five legs. We saw a dog with three eyes. One dog tried to communicate with us and we were sure it was begging for our help. Another had wings. They were fly’s wings, diaphanous. I watched it fly, but it could never get over the fence, it was too heavy and the wings though big were too light. In the morning I realized the dog with the wings was only a dream. The nights were full of the howls. From our bedroom window as far as the eye could see it was a field of concrete. Housed precariously on the concrete were many little huts. The dogs were kept in the little huts until it was time for them to be injected with the poison. One hot night we sat by the open window. The hot air was humming and heavy with the scent of dogs. The night sky was unblemished and we could see the planets. We could see as far as the imagination. The dogs had not been locked in the little huts. That night we watched an array of different dogs copulate until they fell down with exhaustion.
paul kavanagh lives in charlotteRead More
He starts early, wheels jagging channels
in the loam, churns his way back and forth,
north to south, in a whirlwind of gulls
and hummingbird angels darting and seeking,
wings skinny with frost.
No one is watching.
He is whistling as dawn unwinds across the fields,
hauling on the wheel to spare worm and beetle,
easing the Fergie gently into the air
above an exodus of spiders.
A jostle of cows arrives at the field edge,
breath hanging in drifts of bramble.
The first rays of sun burnish the bonnet;
he smiles, checks his watch and heads for home
down Salthouse Lane
past rumbling mills bleaching and pulping,
spilling veils of steam to billow on the tide
to Piel Island and beyond
where Stan is on his boat quietly
casting for herring.
It’s a good place to retire, the coast.
He has been here before but no one really
remembers. Here, they just get on.
No one wants to know his name;
no one cares.
Fat sacks of seed rustle in the barn,
manure steams in the chill air,
horses snort and stamp.
There’s a Norton in the milking shed
and a raft of clouds tethered in the orchard.
He keeps to himself; he has the whole earth and sky.
People are busy eating and drinking, buying and selling,
planting and building.
When no one is watching, who knows what goes on…
he’s not one to judge.
Jane Lovell lives in Rugby. Her poems have been published in a range of journals including Agenda, Poetry Wales and Mslexia. She runs the Warwickshire Stanza for the Poetry Society.Read More
Missing: Moth Cabinet No. 3 (Sphingidae)
After the Sphingidae disappeared,
he sensed them back to light
like Newton, stared at the pale
until bodies floated into his retina.
His eyes became wings, they flittered
back and forth from detail to detail
until the blanched rings on a Poplar moth
formed from the knots in a Batavian teak
cabinet in his bedchamber.
That night, he found the Privet, the Death’s-head
and the Lime in the blotted leather
of an East India shipping log cover.
A Cinnabar came to rest on his mouth
the day they packed his cases of taxa
into Europe-bound crates. It pressed
the red and black of its flamenco wings
against his lips, pulsed his words
through its skirts like a dancing girl
from the Sunda Kelapa. The wind
from its drumming, strong enough
to shatter thirty glass cabinets.
Elisabeth Sennitt Clough lives in South Limburg with her husband and three young children. She is writing her first collection, At or Below Sea Level, and is actively involved with the Maastricht Creative Writers’ Group. Elisabeth has been shortlisted for numerous competitions, including the Bridport Prize (2013). Twitter: @LizSennittRead More