Rhona Fraser Millar

 

 

 

A tiny pot of Devon custard

 

I can still remember the smell in that bedroom, meaty, musky and sour like bad breath. I can feel the thick purple carpet pile tickling in between my toes, the cool smoothness of the sleek aubergine wardrobe doors as I would glide my hand down its glossy wood. You could see the rings of the wood but not feel them. I can hear the clunk click as the right hand door would spring open after I’d silently pushed it in, releasing it and its secrets. Open sesame.

The smell captured inside was pungent, and peppery. Forbidden and dark. Why did I search? What was I looking for?
The shelves; one with folded thin knit jumpers in colours you would see in the woods behind our house; like tree bark, misty muddied grey, mustardy yellow like when the leaves turn in autumn, and rich dark green. The shelf with neat folded buttoned up stripy shirts. Another with rolls of ties and bundles of socks, some old one’s tangled up at the left side. Red toes and green heels. The second shelf from the top like a little shop display of velvet boxes, belts in circles, and a bottle of Old Spice, unused.  Letters and papers, all piled all messily on the right hand side. Corners all poking out, at odd angles.

I can remember the smell, in there. That time I found it. It smelled like my cat Figagro’s litter tray; stinky, old wee wee. I remember the feel of it. My hand found it first before my eyes saw. It was papery, hard, a roll of something. It felt a bit damp. Something around its middle like a bit of rubber or elastic. Whilst my hand brought it out from behind the neatly folded shirts for my eyes to see, my ears were picking up every little creak and moan of the house. I was home alone. Only my heart was making a loud galloping noise from behind my thin white jumper. I heard squeals from outside the bedroom window in the field behind the house. One, two, I could hear cries. A game of rounder’s? The light in the room was dim, lit only by the fading summer sun through the thin cream curtains.

In my podgy little hand, I looked down to see what is was. A roll of notes. A reddish coloured print. A thin pink twisted elastic band wrapped in figure of eight. Put it back. I turned it around and saw it said £20 in one corner. A wad of cash. I had never held even one £20 note before. Put it back. The smell, again musty, mouldy, a bit sharp on my nostrils. I remember gripping it and feeling…feeling…what? Power in my hands. How much was here, what could this buy? Heart hammering. Head throbbing.
I had held it tight in my hand. I didn’t want to open it out. But I had thought of earlier in the Spar. Mum had counted out her money onto the counter. Lots of brown coins.

‘Put the sausages back,’ she had whispered in my ear whilst smiling at the lady beeping our stuff through.
But she had let me keep the tiny pot of Devon custard.

I remember that I felt hot in my cheeks as I started to undo the springy pingy elastic band. Someone shouted out!  in the field as I let the bundle of notes uncurl limply into my right hand. A stack, a stash. Why was it hidden? Take one. Take one. I’m ashamed now. I lifted the corner of one and sat it gently onto the double bed. Then I quickly rolled them back up and sprung and twisted the elastic band into a figure of eight. I then pushed it back behind the neatly folded shirts. I click clunked the door back shut and tip toed along the squeaky hall to my room. I shut my wooden veneer door, pulled open my wonky top drawer in my white dresser and I hid that note, scrunched it and crunched it up behind my bundles of grey ribbed socks, my Thursday pants with the little girl on them and the itchy jaggy elastic bit that hangs, and the greying vests. I hid it there, making my stuff smell of cats pee.

I don’t remember now what I did with it. I needed, wanted it for me. I wonder why I didn’t give it to mum.

 

 

Rhona Fraser Millar started writing prose and poetry following a course in Creative Writing with the OU. She is a regular contributor at creative writing website abctales.com. She is currently working with a Womentoring mentor and writing her first novel.

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Rupert Loydell

 

 

 

Black Holes & Other Inconsistencies
after Edgar Martins

There’s a thin blue line
sprayed vertically on the wall
and a film of grey dust on the floor.

A square shadow of shade
turns sand a darker yellow,
and there’s a distant light in the forest

ignored by the birds
rising into the faded sky
and a driver walking away from his car

parked by the covered road sign
near the abandoned raised highway
above a permanently closed café.

None of this signifies anything,
they are just part of the world’s emptiness
which small waves in the lake wash away.

 

 

Rupert Loydell is the editor of Stride magazine, a contributing editor to intenrational times, and Senior Lecturer in English with Creative Writing at Falmouth University. Shearsman have just published his new book The Return of the Man Who Has Everything, which continues his exploration of post-confessional narrative poetry.

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Rushaa Louise Hamid

 

Pick of the Month May 2015

 

Another Canaan

There was a wasteland
and cold tire tracks in the skin of the sand.
I forgot I couldn’t breathe.

In the distance was something
I could crawl to;
flat lands – these were like the lands of my childhood,
a people that weren’t built for inclines
but to trundle on
ever looking past the haze of dust
and abandoning things that could not be carried.
In the rush of feet and vehicles
was a cry that all things must move forward,
amongst the heat and pain,
where the dust had been beaten down into a solid block.

My mother said
“You’ve got fire in your bones and
none in your blood,
and hot bones break,
and hot sand buries broken bones.”
A crib lingers out in the heat
leftover from a broken moment
and I am leftover too

Rushaa Louise Hamid dances around London, discussing politics and perfecting her Dalek impression. Currently she is working on finishing the first drafts of a sci-fi novel and a slightly less sci-fi play. You can occasionally find her on Twitter @thesecondrussia

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Kyle Cooper

 

 

 

The Flying Monk

Elmer built his labyrinth
And dreamed his Daedalus escape.
For years he gathered
Feathers from kitchens,
Down from pillows,
Raided carrion, plucked dungheap birds,
Poached rare flight
And planned.

He worked gravity on a lathe,
Plotted wings, weights, wind.
And soared away his broken body.

Now,
We poor earthbound souls
Pick over the same old shit,
Hover over common ground,
Drink up the usual
In our normal twisted haunts.

 

 

 

Kyle Cooper reads, writes, walks. He has recently completed a Masters in Literature and Modernity and has been scribbling for some years now. He has been published in The Cadaverine and Brittle Star, and he reviews for Lunar Poetry.

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Wendy Pratt reviews ‘Letting Go’ by Angela Topping

 

 

 

In Letting Go, Angela Topping writes about loss, she writes about love, she writes about parents and children. She holds family relationships up to the light as if she was a jeweller examining a diamond. And on every turn, she sees something fresh, and writes something wonderful. There is a thorough examination of links forged and links broken here, an analysis of the shifting tenses of the family unit.

 

Angela has ten other poetry pamphlets and collections on her CV, she is what I think of as a proven poet. When I read her work I am not analysing it in the way that, thanks to years of studying, I do with some poetry, I am sitting back and enjoying the gift. I am being given something beautiful to handle and enjoy, something tactile and familiar. There’s a sense of confidence and patience within the poems, a feeling of safety, a feeling that here is a poet who absolutely knows what she is doing and she is getting it right in every poem.

 

Poets are drawn to writing about loss. It has to be, in one form or another, the most written about topic. So it’s refreshing to read poems that do not talk about death and longing in great crashing waves of grief. Angela’s scalpel is far more delicate, she exhibits a real skill in writing such subtle, but incredibly moving poetry. As a reader, I don’t want to be shown huge emotions that are difficult to touch, I want that huge emotion folded into something real, something I recognise, and Angela does that. She writes about what it feels like to sit on your dad’s knee, how it feels to let go of that, forever, she writes about dead goldfish, and the natural reaction to the physicality of death, she writes honestly, truthfully about life. I was reminded a little of Sharon Old’s truthful and unvarnished style when I read some of these poems.

 

Having said all that, I may be doing Angela a massive disservice by talking so much about the death theme in this collection. These poems cover a greater sense of scope than that, they are about severance in relationships and the inevitable letting go that one must go through with children, having done your job. You don’t get to keep them. Family is an evolving dynamic in this collection, it is not static, and people separate and move away whatever you do.

 

That inevitability, the helplessness is a key theme. Poems like Father’s Bronchitis, with its final lines:

 

He sits by the open door,

for air,

 

gasping like a landed carp.

There’s nothing I can do except

brew up the way he likes, put away

the bike.

 

elicit the sort of emotional response that poetry should – the connection – we have all been helpless for someone we love at one time or another and all watched, offering small comforts while the wall of the inevitable pain creeps towards us like a glacier. These poems are about a shared knowledge of humanity; loss is part of the journey.

 

This is a collection that is difficult to describe in few words. It is about more than loss. It’s a reminiscence, it’s a photo album of emotions that make up this network of being, it is a quiet intensity. There is a complicated machine beneath the skin of motherhood, parenthood and childhood. It has connections that we feel, but find difficult to identify. The title poem; so simple, so elegant, sums it up so well, the journey and all the complicated emotional pathways beneath the practical and physical. A wheel turning towards the inevitable:

 

But they learn to walk away

like any other guest.

 

 

 

 

Letting Go is published by Mother’s Milk Books at £8.99 in the Uk and is available from: mothersmilkbooks.com

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Colin Campbell Robinson

 

Noir

 

The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here.

Italo Calvino. ‘Invisible Cities’.

 

 

The proof is in the text.

He manipulates keys.

They hold plastic close, electronic skipping.

 

– Message me sometime.

 

She said thanks and left the rest to his imagination.

He was in the ether, didn’t really exist at all.

 

 

– I didn’t get it.

– I sent it.

– You can’t read it?

– Delete.

– Are you sure?

– Deleted.

 


No one has time.

It is written or is it?

 

Few words come down the line.

 

– I imagine you languishing.

– How could you?

She slaps down her receiver, breaks into tears.

 

Everything happens including…

 

The text is another message. Meaning in the touch.

We connect.

 

– I’ve known you for how long

– 3,250 seconds to be exact

Long as…

Long as…

Longing.

 

 

She sent pictures of herself. They are stimulating.

The world is stimulating. The world is pornographic.

Paint it black, he says to girls in coloured clothes.

 

She says, come unto me or was it onto me?

 

You’ll be surprised to know this is fiction.

 

She reads his text, smiles, holds her head in her hands.

 

Spying, he’d call it spying.

She says she’s keeping abreast of current trends.

 

There will be change. I know what I know, can’t hide. She came down the line like a spider.

Networking, she called it, work-grouping.

 

This is a party line. Hold on for connection.

Your party is busy.

 

– Ring me on my work phone but whisper.

 

He’s making it up.  She makes up with one hand on the wheel and free.

 

 

Dart about like a moth. Death will soon come.

And he came quick as a genie offering sad wishes.

 

Have to keep it brief. No one has time.

Single-minded love to be loved.

She looks in many directions but there’s no diamond on the horizon.

 

Metal days, steely and iron-filled.

Gold feeds her fever.


Her fingers move faster.

She sends messages of empty expectation

like a heart scavenger.

 

Death comes all over her like a youthful lover.

 

 

Colin Campbell Robinson is an Australian artist currently living and working in the Celtic extremity of West Penwith. He has had his work performed and published in a variety of venues both in
Australia and Europe.

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