Konstantina Sozou-Kyrkou

 

 

 

Coleopteran

Mum and Dad are in the living room, discussing, and I’m sitting across from them at the dining room table with the white, knitted tablecloth on. I’m painting a mandala, round with concentric circles of plaits, triangles along the circumference and another triangle in the centre. They’re trying to plan our summer holidays, decide on a place to visit. I don’t want to take part. They know better. I told them I have an Art class project tomorrow, paint this mandala. Let them decide for me.

They don’t seem to disagree or argue, as usual, but rather as if they can’t make up their minds. The room is full of interweaved, polychromatic sounds, which are slowly determining their hues. Dad recommends and Mum stares out the half-open window and into middle distance, biting the nail of her index finger, twisting a strand of hair around another finger, bending her head and murmuring, ‘Mmm, that sounds good, whatever you want, whatever you think is best, you decide,’ words with lots of consonants, one beside the other, crammed like grey grunts.

Dad sounds peculiarly beaming and azure, talking about colourful islands, Rhodes, Santorini, Milos, sun and light, sea and cerulean fish tavernas, swimming and boat rides in serene, cyan creeks. Lots of bright vowels, slowly and clearly articulated, his tongue like water slithering along pebbles, his eyes clapped on hers, like those glue rolls flytraps Gran used to hang from the ceiling of every room in our country house in the summer.

When I hear Dad, I use yellow and orange around the mandala, but when Mum speaks, the plaits become grey, brown and blue. The louder Dad, the hollower Mum, the fuzzier the triangles around the mandala.

‘Whatever you wish,’ says Mum.

‘No, no. It’s important to have your say. If you disagree, nothing can happen,’ says Dad and really, he sounds so weird, so crookedly glaring and he keeps sticking the flytrap under Mum’s lowered eyelids, as if trying to lift them up, discover bugs underneath.

‘There’s plenty of time till summer. Why decide now, early March?’ she says and rubs her eyes, tugs at dry glue shreds and slivers.

‘We can organize things better. We’ll have fun. And the kid. Think about the kid. She’ll unwind, after all this hard schoolwork.’

Mum struggles to lift her eyelids, manages to glance up at me but pygmy, annoying bugs, swarms of them,  – how haven’t I noticed before? – glued under her eyelashes, seal them shut.

‘Yes, we’ll see till then.’

Dad unrolls a second flytrap and aims at Mum’s blouse, trying to unbutton it, expose her. ‘August isn’t that far. I want to know now. End of story.’

Mum takes a deep breath and says, ‘If everything’s fine by then, we’ll see’ and looks out the window. The bugs, red coleopteran in pairs, antennae tied in knots, stream down her eyes, surge into her cheeks, like sparkles, like flames, blinding me.

The flytrap is now stuck onto her skin, under her left breast, pulling at it.

Dad’s booming voice colours the mandala blooded red, burning my eyes. ‘Now, wait a minute, Rita. Are you planning to shuffle off this mortal coil and we know nothing about it? What’s this all about?’ His eyes full of terror and suspicion, fixed onto the coleopteran that stride down her chest, clusters of red, busy beetles that mutter things to each other I can’t see. Mum moans, dark stains hurl themselves against the plaits, turn the mandala into a whirling wheel, triangles twirl too, everything becomes a spinning top that spatters something like blood and muddy tears, the glue has torn Mum’s skin and she cries, the beetles rush now to shield the wound and for the very first time I see these disgusting coleopteran, discover with dread how they treat and cure the wound and I despise them even more because only they seem to be able to do something like that, protect the larva and the baby bugs, kill all pests and parasites, heal the wound and Mum lets them, as if they’re part of her own body, reddish or purplish, and she cries and she laughs, and Dad is dumb, for the very first time in his life he’s tongue-tied, and the mandala a top that can’t stop spinning, splattering colours like firecrackers everywhere, smearing us all, until it catches fire and becomes a piece of coal that leaves indelible shreds and blotches on the white, knitted tablecloth.

 

 

Konstantina Sozou-Kyrkou lives in Athens, Greece and writes in both the English and the Greek language. She holds a BA(Hons) Literature and an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her stories have been published online and in print in several literary magazines and anthologies and some of them have won in competitions.

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Vote! Time To Choose Your Pick of the Month for July 2019

There’s an energy and a restlessness that pervades the poems in our shortlist for the IS&T Pick of the Month for July! In fact, in Maxine Rose Munro‘s ‘He grows’, the narrator gives birth to a ‘Restless’ that cannot be held down, while William Stephenson refuses to hold back the ‘rising buzz’ in his ‘On the Origin of Electrofunk by Natural Selection’ and Jack Little reveals a sleeping beast in ‘The Metro after 1AM’. A tumultuous teenage past – ‘the addictive thrill of cheating/the drumming heartbeat’ – infuses Golnoosh Nour‘s ‘Blood Days’ and we feel an extreme tension, a ‘Struggling to breathe’, in ‘Seats’ by Dipo Baruwa-Etti. Finally, Chrissy Banks is on the edge of something both wounding and exhilarating with ‘If you don’t come back’.

All six works have been chosen by Helen or Kate or received the most attention on social media. They can be found below or by clicking on ‘Vote for your July 2019 Pick of the Month′ in the Categories list to your right on the screen.

Voting is now closed. July’s ‘Pick’ will be announced at 4pm (BST) on Tuesday 20th August.

The winner each month will be sent a £10 book giftcard or, if preferred, a donation of the same amount will be made to a chosen charity. In the event of the winner being from outside the UK mainland, we will make every effort to provide a reasonable alternative. All shortlisted poetry Picks, provided they remain unpublished and meet other eligibility criteria, will be considered as IS&T submissions for the annual Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. (‘Frequency Violet’ by Kate Edwards was a Pick of the Month for November 2017 and was Highly Commended by the 2018 judges. It features in The Forward Book of Poetry 2019.)

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Gregory Kearns

 

 

 

Perfume

Stranger, you smell like my dead dad. I have a cloud of weepy nostalgia for whatever perfume you have bought and wear.

Stranger, what is this scent called?

If I’d had to guess I would say it smells of lilies, but I don’t know what lilies smell like.

Stranger your perfume gives me puckish dreams.

You could be anyone in this line – the smell rising above the burnt coffee beans and cigarette smoke wafting through the restless door.

Or perhaps its all of you- where did you buy it from? Somewhere around the corner from the undertakers I suppose. Do you know the embalmed?

Stranger I feel like I have loved you in all the ways a son can.

 

 

Gregory Kearns is a poet who lives in Liverpool. Gregory is currently finishing his MFA in creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and has been published in anthologies like Introduction X: The Poetry Business Book of New Poets.

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Bruach Mhor

 

 

 

Your Words

linger with gossips,
checkers of contracts,
play golf with
accountants of happiness.

They never
express an adoration.
They never
extravagantly bless.

Their toenails
never overgrow.
They floss.
They sleep far, far too well.

 

 

Bruach Mhor lives by a loch.  His poems have most recently appeared in The Lake, Plumwood Mountain, and Emerald (Monstrous Regiment Publishing, Edinburgh)

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Stanley Wilkin

 

 

 

Snake

Arriving in my garden at noon,
Uncoiling it settled to catch the sun,
I opened the veranda door and stared motionless
At it, afraid. Flicking its tongue out towards me as a warning
It lifted its head and spat
Challenging me to step out, step
Away from the gloom and walk into the speckled light.

Snakes are the souls of old men turned green
Who loathe learning and courage; they lie
Waiting to ambush the young destroying hope
With venom. Their heads rise from the shadows
Curious in the rising heat. They need the sun
With the same conviction that vampires avoid it.

I looked deep into its eyes.
I knew it was thinking. It was indeed
Weighing up the odds. Was I too big to kill, too bony
To eat? It moved its automaton’s head from side to side
Judging angles and perspective, considering
A strike. It flicked out its tongue as if to taste
My blood, absorb my sinews, ingest my muscle
And swallow my remains.

Flowers, guarding it, protectively leaned over its muscular coils,
Sinking their petals into its skin;
From a distance, like me, a monkey watched
Its movements as if mesmerised too.
I thought of throwing a sack over its laptop eyes
And stuffing its cold strong coils in it but the snake,
Reading my thoughts, held me in its powerful gaze
As if warning me against foolhardy acts. Our stares mutually locked
We spent the day in silent combat, barely moving.

The snake controlled time. Strangling it to death.
For all there, time had stopped. Only our lungs moved.
Eventually, bored with the stand-off, re-energised by the sun
The snake extended its jaw, its scimitar fangs slicing
Us apart as it slowly swallowed the universe.

 

 

Stanley Wilkin is a lecturer now living in Portugal.

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Dennis Tomlinson

 

 

 

 Late Birth

Two thousand years’
wait in the cold soil,
stones and worms my friends.

Some kind of tremor
hurts me into movement –
I fight the heavy clay.

One hand grasps fibres,
roots of grass, dead leaves,
as I pull my body

up into staring light
glimpsed through scratching grit,
my ancient tears.

Through muddy lips
I scream at the sun
and the bright water.

Shapes are coming,
long-necked and swaying,
closer to me.

 

 

Dennis Tomlinson’s poems have been published in little anthologies and magazines, also on the websites Ink, Sweat and Tears and Shot Glass Journal. His first poetry pamphlet, Sleepless Nights, has just come out with Maverick Mustang Manuscripts. He lives in London.

 

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Carla Scarano D’Antonio

 

Stars and Flags

‘It’s old light, and there’s not much of it. But it’s enough to see by’
Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye

Sandstone walls erected in water borders at night
flags flapping above
squares, stripes and triangles in bright colours
combined to separate, mark identity and division,
their clear cut shapes don’t know
the blurring of indecision and contradiction.

On the tree, six silkworms gnaw mulberry leaves,
Bombyx mori, civilization memento mori.
The news waiting at the door
back from the dark with predictions of unredeemed world
the inevitable falling, falling of humans.

 

 

Carla Scarano D’Antonio obtained her Degree of Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. She self-published a poetry pamphlet, A Winding Road, and is working on a PhD on Margaret Atwood at the University of Reading. She and Keith Lander won the first prize of the Dryden Translation Competition 2016 with translations of Eugenio Montale’s poems. Website:http://www.carlascaranod.co.uk/

 

 

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