Tom Montag

 

Is Is

what it
is. This
is not

symbol.
I am not
moving

ideas
about
these lines.

The birds
speak truth
to the wind

as plain
as they can.
It does

not mean
something
else. It

is what
they say
it is.

Don’t look
for any-
thing more.

 

 

 

 

Tom Montag is the author of In This Place: Selected Poems 1982-2013, This Wrecked World, and The Miles No One Wants. He has been a featured poet at Atticus Review, Contemporary American Voices, Houseboat, and Basil O’Flaherty Review.

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Andrew Turner

 

 

 

The wolves were not invited

but they came regardless
their manners were dreadful
never cleaning between
their claws after meals
or their teeth at bedtime

but they displayed a certain charm
when finally agreeing to leave
placing a single golden chocolate
on the pillows where
your children used to sleep.

 

 

 

 

Andrew Turner has been published in a number of online and print magazines. He lives in Staffordshire.

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Karen Hodgson Pryce

 

 

 

The Scholar’s Fatigue

We dine in a swamp of papery ideas, cornered opinions;
a spiny call for digestion. When did I first reserve
a table for two? Bold and proud you stack up every day
ready to chew. In bed you block the covers
where another should be
exposing my ankles to vast inadequacy.
Half asleep I turn and slap a page awake, disturbed
by dust that doesn’t rise from your cool glossy face.
Slab by slab, you inch across my pillow, your incessant need
to saturate. Allow me to slough off the ken below the nape
contract with silliness, loll in blissful gape.
Resentment now is tome-thick, neither fulfilling
the warranty on this: to be absorbed and understood.
Yesterday I pounded you into a cupboard
to be ignored as, from time to time, books should.
But still seeps your confident pledge. I will be read.

 

 

Karen Hodgson Pryce lives, writes, and roams around the Cairngorms area of Scotland. Her poetry has been published in The Poets’ Republic, Mslexia, Open Mouse and Ink, Sweat & Tears.

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UEA FLY Festival 2017 Short Story Competition Winner 15-18 yr olds: Charlotte Finch (18)

More from the UEA FLY Festival today with the winner of the 15-18 yr old category in the Short Story Competition: A poignant and evocative work that belies Charlotte Finch’s 18 years. (Introduction by YA author Alexander Gordon Smith and author and festival organiser Antoinette Moses in italics.)

 

FLY Festival 2017 Short Story Competition:
First Place 15-18 year olds: Charlotte Finch (18), The Priory Witham Academy

 

It was a rainy Tuesday afternoon when Ollie saw the mammoth trundle past his bedroom window.
Ollie dropped his phone and jumped off the bed, wondering if he had imagined it. But it was still there, its massive, furry flank lumbering down the road.
‘Lisa!’ he yelled, running down the hall and bursting into his sister’s room. ‘Lisa! There’s a mammoth outside the window!’
Lisa peered up over the top of her book, unimpressed. Ollie ran to her window so fast he almost tripped, pushing his face against the cold glass.
The mammoth had gone.
‘Wow,’ said Lisa, who had walked to his side. ‘You really are a weirdo.’
‘But it was there,’ Ollie said. ‘I saw it.’
Lisa returned to her chair and continued to read. Ollie frowned; there was no sign that anything unusual had happened, just Mrs Midgley tootling along on her mobile scooter. Surely if there had been a mammoth the police would be on their way, or even a fire engine.
‘I saw it,’ he muttered again. He was just about to turn away when something dropped from the roof and landed on the window ledge, startling him. It was a squirrel, but there was something odd about it. Its fur wasn’t grey, it was a deep, russet red. It studied Ollie for a moment with its big, black eyes.
‘But, that’s impossible,’ he said.
‘What?’ asked Lisa.
‘There’s a squirrel on the window ledge,’ he replied.
‘Whoa,’ said Lisa. ‘A squirrel! No way!’
‘But it’s red,’ said Ollie, ignoring her sarcasm. ‘In school they said there aren’t any red squirrels left in southern England.’
‘Maybe it escaped from a zoo or something,’ said Lisa. ‘Like you did.’
The squirrel bounded from the window ledge onto the branch of the walnut tree in their front garden. Ollie watched it jump again, out over the street, but this time it seemed to disappear into thin air.
‘Huh?’ said Ollie. ‘It vanished too.’
He clattered down the stairs, heading for the front door.

Lisa heard the clack of the lock and looked up from her book again. What on earth was Ollie doing? If he had gone outside without her, Mum would be furious, and she would get the blame. She walked to the window and, sure enough, there he was, standing in the rain in just his T-shirt and shorts.
‘Ollie!’ Lisa yelled, rapping the glass. ‘Get back in here!’
If he could hear her, he showed no sign of it. Lisa grunted with frustration. She slouched out of the room and made her way downstairs. Why were brothers so annoying?
The front door was still open and, as she walked onto the porch she could see Ollie now out of the gate, shielding his face with his hand as he looked one way and then the next.
‘Ollie!’ Lisa yelled. ‘You are in so much…’
Ollie seemed to shimmer, like a reflection in a rain drenched puddle.
Then, just like that, he vanished…

 

…Lisa stared out into the mist. The rain continued to pour and the droplets refracted off the ground in tiny, disappearing shards. “Ollie,” she breathed. But the rain didn’t falter and her younger brother didn’t reappear. In a trance-like state, Lisa crept from under the shelter of the porch. The rain hammered upon her head, drenching her hair so that it matted and stuck to her skull. Lisa felt none of this though, so numb from the shock. “Ollie?” As she stood in the downpour calling his name, the garden around her began to shift. First was the front gate. The iron bars began to flex and bend. Then, the gate contorted and then vanished altogether.
From around where she stood, the grass began to darken and separate, wafting. Strange lights began to dance on the ground. The chestnut tree began to shrink, the branches shrivelling into thin wisps. They floated and quivered as if caught in a current. Eventually, the house had crumbled to the ground in a pile of mossy rocks and the earth had concaved into a deep trench. As she stood there, entranced, Lisa suddenly realised she could no longer feel the rain and the world around her had grown deafeningly quiet. The air felt thicker, cold against her skin. She opened her mouth to call Ollie’s name again, only for it to fill before she could speak. The water tasted stale and green. She tried to run to one of the banks to climb upwards, but her legs were slow. Her lungs began to burn and she fought harder, kicking her legs and pulling at the water with her arms. She rose, and as she looked up, she could see the surface, the raindrops crashing into the river and speckling the cloudy sunlight from above.
Her head burst above the rapids, and she took long gulps of air, choking. The water crashed around her and she was swept along with the currents, icy hands dragging her under the water again and again. “Ollie!” Lisa screamed. She looked to the riverbanks, hoping an onlooker would come to her rescue. There was a girl on a bank. She was running alongside the water’s edge, chasing Lisa as she flailed and screamed for help.
“Ollie! Ollie! I’m coming!” The girl on the bank was shrieking Ollie’s name, but looking at Lisa.
“Help me!” Water rushed into Lisa’s mouth once more, and she sank. Her lungs burned and her skin itched with the feeling of cold and moss. The current swept her along the river bed, until her head hit upon something hard- and then everything went dark…
When Lisa opened her eyes, she was sitting on the edge of Ollie’s bed, staring at his mural on the wall. Her teary eyes traced along the giant tusks of the painted Woolly Mammoth, swept along the magnificent brush of the red squirrels tail and admire the abundance of wildlife captured in the scene. It had been nearly a month since Ollie’s death, but the guilt still weighed on her as heavy as the day he’d drowned. He’d been playing in the valley, alongside a river on some rocks when he’d slipped and fallen into the rapids. Lisa tried her best to get him, but she was too late. Ollie now lived on, immortalised in his mural, riding his Woolly Mammoth into the distance.

 

Runner-up: Madeline Patrick (15), Ashfield Post 16. Find her story ending here.

Highly Commended: Dana Wilson (17), Billy White (15) Norwich School and Sam Groves, Priory Academies

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UEA FLY Festival 2017 Short Story Competition Winner 11-14 yr olds: Taylor Smith (14)

Once again, Ink Sweat & Tears is proud to feature the winners of the Short Story Competition from the Festival of Literature for Young people (FLY) which is held at the University of East Anglia every summer. There were more than 150 entries which bodes well for our next generation of writers. Students took off from a story introduction (in italics below) written by the brilliant YA author Alexander Gordon Smith and author and festival organiser Antoinette Moses. Much thanks to Norfolk-based Gnaw Chocolate which sponsored the competition.

**********

FLY Festival 2017 Short Story Competition:
First Place 11-14 year olds: Taylor Smith (14), Smithdon High School.

 

It was a rainy Tuesday afternoon when Ollie saw the mammoth trundle past his bedroom window.
Ollie dropped his phone and jumped off the bed, wondering if he had imagined it. But it was still there, its massive, furry flank lumbering down the road.
‘Lisa!’ he yelled, running down the hall and bursting into his sister’s room. ‘Lisa! There’s a mammoth outside the window!’
Lisa peered up over the top of her book, unimpressed. Ollie ran to her window so fast he almost tripped, pushing his face against the cold glass.
The mammoth had gone.
‘Wow,’ said Lisa, who had walked to his side. ‘You really are a weirdo.’
‘But it was there,’ Ollie said. ‘I saw it.’
Lisa returned to her chair and continued to read. Ollie frowned; there was no sign that anything unusual had happened, just Mrs Midgley tootling along on her mobile scooter. Surely if there had been a mammoth the police would be on their way, or even a fire engine.
‘I saw it,’ he muttered again. He was just about to turn away when something dropped from the roof and landed on the window ledge, startling him. It was a squirrel, but there was something odd about it. Its fur wasn’t grey, it was a deep, russet red. It studied Ollie for a moment with its big, black eyes.
‘But, that’s impossible,’ he said.
‘What?’ asked Lisa.
‘There’s a squirrel on the window ledge,’ he replied.
‘Whoa,’ said Lisa. ‘A squirrel! No way!’
‘But it’s red,’ said Ollie, ignoring her sarcasm. ‘In school they said there aren’t any red squirrels left in southern England.’
‘Maybe it escaped from a zoo or something,’ said Lisa. ‘Like you did.’
The squirrel bounded from the window ledge onto the branch of the walnut tree in their front garden. Ollie watched it jump again, out over the street, but this time it seemed to disappear into thin air.
‘Huh?’ said Ollie. ‘It vanished too.’
He clattered down the stairs, heading for the front door.

Lisa heard the clack of the lock and looked up from her book again. What on earth was Ollie doing? If he had gone outside without her, Mum would be furious, and she would get the blame. She walked to the window and, sure enough, there he was, standing in the rain in just his T-shirt and shorts.
‘Ollie!’ Lisa yelled, rapping the glass. ‘Get back in here!’
If he could hear her, he showed no sign of it. Lisa grunted with frustration. She slouched out of the room and made her way downstairs. Why were brothers so annoying?
The front door was still open and, as she walked onto the porch she could see Ollie now out of the gate, shielding his face with his hand as he looked one way and then the next.
‘Ollie!’ Lisa yelled. ‘You are in so much…’
Ollie seemed to shimmer, like a reflection in a rain drenched puddle.
Then, just like that, he vanished…

Beep. Beep. Beep. My breath escalates into short, rapid bursts. My eyes adjust to the dim glow of the room. The clock on my bedside table mocks me with those continuous sounds. A flood of vivid memories overwhelms me.
It was my fault, all my fault.

Guilt is a killer.

Why didn’t I listen to him? I knew he suffered from schizophrenia and severe hallucinations – everyone thought he was strange: But I was ashamed of my own little brother. How could I? If I had just listened to him, he wouldn’t have gone outside. The car wouldn’t have taken him, killed him. Poor Ollie, he had his whole life ahead of him, but that’s now gone, vanished.
It’s my fault, all my fault.

Guilt is a killer.

I turn off the alarm, the sound still ringing in my ears. Sobs wrack through my fragile body.
Eventually, I fall into another fitful sleep.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Every sound send a painful jolt through my body, like being struck by lightning.
It was my fault, all my fault.
The blinding whiteness of the room, and the disorientating odour of blood and sickness, made me feel dizzy. And then it happened. The last long beep of the machine. My knees gave in, I could barely notice the shock run up my legs over the piercing sound of strangled cries.
But it was too late, he was gone.
It was my fault, all my fault.

Guilt is a killer.

I gasp for air in the suffocating atmosphere of the room. My mind searches for reality, to escape, just once, from the never-ending feeling of helplessness and agonising guilt. My eyes peer over the room, taking in my surroundings. All I can hear is my deep breathing, all I can taste is the bitter-sweet feeling of relief (to have deserted my re-occurring nightmare; for now.) but also mournfulness for the brother I could have saved.

Today is the day, my first day back since, well since it happened. I take a deep, broken breath before walking out of the bedroom door to face my parents.
I stand in the kitchen doorway waiting for them to notice me. My mum looks at me with a grief-stricken expression, which she then attempts to hide, to comfort me.
“Hiya honey,” she begins tentatively, “Are you ready for school?”
I nod, not saying anything in fear of breaking down in front of them. I can’t do that to them, I’ve already taken their son from them; they don’t need any more problems.
I don’t understand how my mother can treat me like I’m the victim, it’s not true, it’s not true.
It’s my fault Ollie’s gone, all my fault.

Guilt is a killer.

Nervousness shivers up my spine, anticipating the unknown day ahead of me.
But what I didn’t know: things were about to become more difficult, much more difficult…

 

Runner Up: Elizabeth Davy (13) Hartismere High School. Find her story ending here.

Highly Commended: Emily Freeman (13) & Phoebe Court (14) both Diss High School, Joseph Thomas (12) Broadland High School

 

The winner amd runner-up of the 15-18 year old category will be featured tomorrow.

 

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Ali Jones

 

 

 

Archaeology

When we light the fire under you, consider this;
that a glowing coal, embering away,
was once a tall tree, a fern, or a reed, maybe?
It lived, once, a hundred million years ago,
can you imagine that?

Every summer, for its whole life,
it reached for the sun and caught light,
magicked it into itself, bark, twigs, leaves,
because it could.

Everything is nature, we all eat light,
when this thing died, it fell, maybe into water,
sleeping for aeons in decay,
folding itself back into the earth.

Think about it.
One year, an exhalation, a decade in a finger snap,
your whole life is a cloud, shifting.

When it dried and hardened to bones,
someone dug it up and brought it here,
scuttled it into the grate,
and now that sunlight is heating you,
carrying you away.

We should open our eyes,
see what we can,
before they close forever;
look carefully, every day.

 

 

Ali Jones is a writer from Oxford. She is interested in how words can allow us to time travel, and to make sense of the world around us in terms of our experience, and the history of experience held within the landscape. She is also a teacher of English and Media Studies at an inner city school.

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Fiona Larkin

 

Lotus Garden

In a shifting drift
of regulars and strangers,
in a passing place
of daily alchemy,
a cook is orchestrating
a fivefold composition:

a stirring of the tastebuds,
a flavour carousel,
a virtuoso matching
of salt and sour-sweet,
piquant in the top note,
a bitter undertow.

Rooted in his kitchen,
he primes the appetite
with a million small collisions –
braised, fermented, smoked –
inducing chilli tears
with elements of heat.

This couple will remember
the unions he invents.
She glances from the stairwell,
one glance, and he is falling,
it feels like recognition:
umami on their tongues.

 

 

 

Fiona Larkin is studying for her MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway. Poems have appeared in journals including Ink Sweat & Tears, And Other Poems, Envoi, and South Bank Poetry, and are forthcoming in The North, Southword and The High Window.

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