Susan Castillo Street

 

 

 

 

Voices

Oaks rumble in deep bass
that thrums straight down
their roots, draws from the earth.

Hornbeams belt out Sixties pop songs,
twist and shout. Willow divas wail
soprano dramas in a minor key.

In the blades of grass, whispers coil. Spirals whisper
when the south winds sigh, ruffle and caress
the soft green hair of graves.

 

 

 

Susan Castillo Street is a Louisiana expatriate and academic who lives in the Sussex countryside. She is Harriet Beecher Stowe Professor Emeritus, King’s College, University of London, and has published a book of poems titled The Candlewoman’s Trade (Diehard Press, 2003).  Her second collection, Abiding Chemistry, is published by Aldrich Press and was reviewed on IS&T on 1st July.  Her poems have appeared in The Missing Slate, The Stare’s Nest, Nutshells and Nuggets, I Am Not a Silent Poet, Snakeskin, Literature Today, York Mix), She is a member of three poetry groups, The Conduit Street Poets (London), 52, and Slant 2015.

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Jay Frankston

 

 

 

The Portrait

I’m not looking for perfection
I don’t really want it
It is essence I seek, wholeness
with blunders and errors
and the unexpected surprise.
The hand that shakes
when you unwittingly are being the hero.
From small talk and blabber
to the sublime
I treasure your humanity
It must have room to breathe.
The calluses on your hands
the mud on your boots
the cut under your lip
the leaning shoulder
the hesitation in your voice,
they are a book we can all read.
But don’t be timid
nor aggressive, nor complacent.
You speak more clearly
when you body is in motion.
It is then that your portrait is complete.

 

 

 

Jay Frankston was raised in Paris, France. Narrowly escaping the Holocaust he came to the U.S. in 1942, became a lawyer and practiced on his own in New York for nearly twenty years, reaching the top of his profession, sculpting and writing at the same time.  He is the author of several books and of a true tale entitled A Christmas Story  which was published in New York, condensed in Reader’s Digest, translated into 15 languages. El Sereno, his latest novel.

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Ilse Pedler

 

 

 

Breathing

 

Sometimes in the car I forget to breathe,

almost. Respiration reduces to

tiny transactions reluctant to leave

 

any trace. Warm skin and car seat a new

union, matter overcoming mind,

the windscreen a cornea to see through,

 

the heartbeat of wipers. I am confined

until a sickening jolt of preservation,

a shriek of tyres. Less than seconds defined

 

by red lights focussed, the dislocation

of time, and a density of fears

like a stone, but with the termination

 

of burnt rubber on tarmac, it appears

there are only white lines stretching on for years.

 

 

Ilse Pedler has had poems published previously in Poetry News, Prole, 14, Poetry Salzburg Review, Ink, Sweat and Tears and The North among others. She has also had poems in 2 anthologies. She works as a Veterinary Surgeon in Saffron Walden.

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Charlie Hill

 

 

 

This chaos

We live, perhaps, in a lawless world,
rejoicing as it does in the wild swings
of good against bad, confounded
by questions of maplines
and economics
and the democratic process,
informed by gods,
the tensile strength of duplicitous reason,
by spatters of blood.

And yet, in all this vital disorder,
this human-threatening human flux,
I can’t quite flap the feeling out of my hapless sickened bones,
that there is a truth
that mocks this chaos with its constancy,
even as it underwrites more chaos still.

For it seems to me, that
ours is a civilisation built on war,
and a civilisation built on war
is no such thing.

 

 

Charlie Hill is a writer from Birmingham. Both of his novels have been critically acclaimed. His short stories have appeared in many publications in print and online.  Website:
 http://www.charliehill.org.uk/

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Chris Fewings

 

 

from DIVING LESSONS

Friday: death of God. Sunday: birth of body.

i. Relocation

Dive deeper into God: she’s relocated,
bequeathing the heavens to faeries
and astronauts. She’s chosen darkness:
a sett under the ocean, a space
at the pit of your belly; a cry.
This is the wordless womb birthing
word, colour, opening into sun.

 

 

ii. Numbers

Dive deeper into God: she’s reunited.
Forget the three: there’s two
into one – that’s you-
in-christ or christ-in-you
doing the tree dive: upwards
into pain, arms outstretched, then
the perfect three-day arc down into the source,
the sea, the non. So,
count up again: christ-you
and creator-emptiness. Two?
No, one! One breath, one axis,
with two poles, two movements
into one circle. Life dives into death,
death bursts into life: diastole, systole.
Fire flares, warms, sears, crumbles to ember: watch.

 

 

iii. A Life

Dive deeper into God. Today
we have the sky dive, up. Yes, I lied:
the relocation was temporary.
She’s arched like a gymnast across curved space
into the dance of the sky.
So fall upwards into nothingness
whose colour is light.

[...]

 

 

iv. Prelude

Dive deeper into God, but don’t
strip off yet. Wear a first-communion meringue,
a Protestant suit, a hat to outdo the others.
Sport a creed; arm yourself
with the steel of a rationale;
bear a tradition like a tortoiseshell,
or a spirituality like a brightly coloured scarf.
Others have built impressive promenades
at water’s edge: parade along them,
strut your stuff, give us a twirl before you jump:
a flash of your chosen accoutrements against the seaside sky.
No striptease is required. One day you’ll dive
so deep the water’s force
will do the stripping for you.

 

 

 Chris Fewings lives in Birmingham and writes poems, stories, rants and reflections (some of which have been published) and loves reading or reciting poetry aloud, from Shakespeare to Kei Miller.

 

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Jill Sharp

 

 

 

Leda plucks a swan

Old now, the body that enchanted him
grown coarse, how could he know her?
Yet she knows him, this creature,
even with fallen wings, eyes empty
of desire. Not hers. She’s spent a lifetime
finding what he stole from her, doing it
like he did, without her chance
to touch him, or raise her eyes to his.
That’s why, holding him in her lap,
she takes her hand to him
and in a storm of whiteness
scatters his power of flight.

 

 

 

Jill Sharp is a member of Poetry Swindon and her poems have appeared most recently in the Morning Star, Mslexia, The Interpreter’s House and the Orange Coast Review. Her pamphlet, Ye gods, is published by Indigo Dreams.

Note: First published in  IMPpress, Issue 3

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Winner of the UEA FLY Festival Short Story Competition 11-14 yr olds: Yen-yen Loke

 

If anything, this year’s shortlist for the 11-14 age group for UEA FLY Festival Short Story Competition was even more competitive than the older (15-17) group (whose winner we featured yesterday.) The originality of ideas, descriptive turns and ability to evoke often oppressive and frightening atmospheres across the board made choosing a winner very difficult. Ultimately, the judges’ choice was the accomplished Yen-yen Loke, from Wymondham High and as ‘witty and adventurous’ as her heroine Millie. Her winning piece is featured below.

Once again we begin with the ominous opening conceived by YA writer and co-judge Alexander Gordon Smith (The Fury, the Furnace and Inventors series).

*****

“That’s the problem with authors, they’re always late!”

There was an awkward silence in the lecture hall. It was the opening day of the FLY Festival and we had a day off from school to listen to one of the most famous writers on the planet. Everybody was here… except for the author! I was sitting at the back, next to the doors, with my best friend Sam. The only person on stage was the festival organiser. She kept glancing at her watch and laughing nervously.

“I’m sure she will be here in a moment,” she said, the microphone squealing. “Perhaps we should go look for her. Um… You dear.”

She seemed to be looking right at me. I pointed to myself.

“Yes, you, right at the back. Would you be so kind?”

“Er…” I said. “You’d like me to look for the author?”

“Thank you,” she said. “She’s bound to be out there somewhere. Send her in!”

Everybody in the room was looking at me and my cheeks were on fire. I stood up, grabbed hold of Sam, and together we walked out of the lecture hall.

“Where on earth do we start looking?” said Sam.

I shrugged. I had no idea! The university was huge. There was no sign of her anywhere in the hallway, or on the path outside.

“Let’s try there,” I said, pointing to a building across the road. “She might have taken a wrong turn.”

It was a strange looking place with LABORATORY written in big letters above the door.

There was a smaller notice underneath that said: ‘Keep out, dangerous experiments underway!’ The whole building seemed to be vibrating, and there was a strange smell in the air.

“Maybe we shouldn’t go in there,” said Sam.

I was about to agree when through the glass door we spotted the author! She crossed a hallway, looking very confused, and disappeared into a room.

“Come on!” I said.

And before Sam could argue, I opened the door and ran inside…

 

FIRST PLACE:  YEN-YEN LOKE (14) WYMONDHAM HIGH ACADEMY


“Millie!” Sam cried, mouth a spaghetti-hoop ‘O’ of astonishment, expression entirely composed of innocent distress. “Millie!” he repeated, unable to utter anything other than the two meaningless syllables which comprised my name (yes, I am a girl, don’t laugh).

Impulsively, I grabbed his arm and pulled him into the dank hallway before realising the cause of his pitiful exclamation – a giant, white dog, spotted murky brown as if sporting several enormous bruises, had curiously been lurking about behind and was frowning severely at me. Plainly the unfortunate creature had indulged in one too many fights. I sighed coolly.

“How much is that doggie in the window?” I sang in my most beguiling fashion, as the baffled animal cocked its large head to one side, gazing out of the glass door at which I was tentatively pointing. After slowly brandishing a single, crumbly, mouth-wateringly chocolate-y cookie (my last one…) as if it were an ancient dagger rather than my would-be mid-morning snack, I hurled the treat across the length of the room. Quite literally barking-mad, our spotty dog followed.

“But Millie, you’ve just blocked the door the author went through,” Sam whined, excusably vexed.

I snorted contemptuously and nodded at a tiny passageway, partially concealed behind rows of conical flasks, which made an attractive potential short-cut. Having convinced my very unassuming companion that this route was far more appealing, we scrambled hastily through the gap and into an innocuous laboratory.

Let us pause a brief moment to analyse the lively emotions pulsing through my narrow frame.

  1. I felt most pleasingly like Nicola Aribban, detective protagonist of our author Jen Nurrum’s sensational action series ‘Crystal-Snap’.
  2. As evidence of the above, I recollected that Nicola has also unfortunately been threatened by a giant, white dog.
  3. Vague misgivings concerning the authenticity of Nurrum’s confused and utterly innocent expression enticed me towards an interesting scent…

I was aware

of little except

my churning stomach and

Sam whimpering softly behind me until

there was a Bang

(With a capital B.)

Two men passed.

I heard a second explosion, though it resonated vaguely and otherworldly, whereas in truth it was not. It was in my world, personified by the burning sensation of a bullet’s graze on my thigh. The first had missed – a sizzling floor-crater crackled and burnt. A faint murmur echoed, mildly reproving “leave them, they will do no harm, they are just silly kids playing hide-and-seek, what we need is to get the crystals, and if anyone else sees, you’re my storytelling assistants and I’m lost.”

Though agonised, I understood that the cast of this particular storytelling had only just been released:

  • Nurrum – villian, stealing priceless crystals currently under study at the UEA laboratory
  • Millie – playing Nicola, an out-of-the-blue heroine, witty and adventurous
  • Sam – Nicola’s faithful sidekick
  • an assortment of dogs, bandits and so forth.

And I knew that the final chapter of ‘Crystal-Snap’ was only just being written.

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