as on a stream
we softly sink into another moving period of being
motions of consciousness of becoming
and my dreams follow along
instances of emotion, trying to live in harmony
with beings like me and rhyming with the rhythms of pure intuition
I then sat down by the shores of eternity…
• Christopher Tucker studied at London and Essex universities and now lives in Mexico City.
Miss Liddell was riding on the bus. The one that came past her flat had been full of kids headed for their schools in the city; they’d jeered at her from the long seat at the back, called her names. Rude names. Miss Liddell endured this patiently, day after day; she sat calmly behind the driver’s booth, with her hands folded upon her lap, and her back perfectly straight.
The sun was vague, and the morning was pale, greyly opalescent and blessed with light drizzle. This very morning, this one, was the perfect morning for a marriage, as was every morning before it. Miss Liddell was a lady most favoured among women. She smiled like an angel until the bus arrived at her stop.
Miss Liddell stood still at the kerbside, smoothing her nightdress straight, adjusting the lace at collar and cuff, and gazing with love upon the people of the earth. She swept precisely through the shoppers, past Monsoon and onto Gentleman’s Walk. She stopped at a shop window, and knelt before it to consider her reflection.
Miss Liddell’s hair was long and straight and thin, and the ivory-white of bones. A plastic alice-band kept it off her face; with her slender fingers, she plaited it all the way down her back, leaving the end untied. Her eyes were clear but brown; the Creator’s gift of imperfection, that she might retain humility.
The people on the market knew her by sight; the man on the haberdasher’s called out a rough Good Morning. He beckoned her over and placed an offcut of net curtain upon her head. The woman at the meat stall shouted at him; with foul language, she called him cruel. The butcher woman was jealous. Miss Liddell secured her veil with her alice-band, and curtsied gravely. The man on the haberdasher’s was destined for Heaven, but it wasn’t her place to tell him so.
Instead, she turned right and began her beautiful journey through the city, gathering occasional scattered feathers from the tarmac. These were left for her by night by the Groom and His entourage; the bouquet, renewed every dawn, that the Bride might be ever more exquisite than the day before.
She arranged them as they came, slateblue and white, and held them by their pointed stems in her left hand. The right contained her Bible, with a ribbon for its bookmark, held forever at the Book of Revelations. A white satin purse was looped over the crook of her elbow. Two hours later, Miss Liddell had a lavish swathe of feathers; a fan behind which she might coyly hide.
Miss Liddell processed the length of Magdalen Street in memory of the purified whore; Miss Liddell, too, broke perfume jars, but her soul was already quite, quite pure. She wept a little as she walked, shedding great round rolling tears of pity and compassion for the world. Miss Liddell made no attempt to wipe them; she simply let them fall upon the pearl buttons of her wedding dress. At the flyover, she turned again and retraced the way that she had come.
Between the river and the playground, the Groom had left His wedding ring for the Bride to find. Miss Liddell placed her bouquet on the ground with care, and sat with her Bible upon her lap. It was flattish, and not a comfortable fit; the ring for this day was from a Coke can. It still bore the leaf-shaped piece that once had sealed the drink; Miss Liddell twisted the metal leaf in her hands until it came away. The ring was a little sharp, and had drawn blood from Miss Liddell’s fingertip; this was as it should be.
It was almost noon before Miss Liddell returned to the city centre to meet her Beloved. They didn’t let her in anymore at St Peter Mancroft, but even so, she stole inside the gate and placed a kiss upon the front door. It was of no matter; she knew that her Groom was not within the church anyway. He was waiting for her now, calling her to Him.
Miss Liddell’s heart was white and playful as a lamb as she skipped into the memorial garden. The Holy Spirit burst around her in the form of pigeons as she danced in a circle between their perfect wings, singing, as there was no organ music.
• Padrika Tarrant's first short story collection is entitled Broken Things and will be released in September by SALT publishing. For full details visit http://saltpublishing.com/books/smf/9781844713431.htm
Triptych for the Lone Night Gods
too much time is spent on this
you only have so many hours
in a day you have to prioritise
because a third of this is sleep
or what now passes for sleep
splayed out on a firm mattress
that if you believe the adverts
is rippling with mites and bugs
of a microscopic nature and the
thin duck feather pillow plucked
pummelled down to submission
is fattened with sloughed skin
from your dried cheeks despite
the new moisturiser you bought
when you thought of your age
that long predictable cold front
the passing touch of someone
at the sandwich counter the
slight electric of a cooler hand
too much time is spent on this
as I said you can’t turn it off like a tap not this particular tap the washer has rotted and water keeps coming hitting the drum of the plastic bowl so you take out the bowl just for the sake of changing the pitch the yellow page plumber is busy for days and emergency call outs seem way too much for such a small thing such a common place thing the imprint of metal embeds in your hand as you turn it and twist it clockwise and tighter everyday fighting to make it all stop even then you know your logic is skewed but you need to do something to be in control to seem undefeated the sound stalks you to bed at 3.23 you hear it downstairs through two skins of wood long after the plumber the exorbitant cheque you lie in the silent stretch of your bed arms flung to edges catching ghosts dropping hollowing stigmata in the grasp of your hands as I said you can’t turn it off like a tap not this particular tap the water keeps coming keeps coming keeps coming keeps coming keeps coming keeps co
where sounds jump into bed like the old fridge
that shudders awake at 3am hums mmmmm
it can sense what I am failing to be this sleeper
lit up by the radio red half-life of the LED dial
the silent electronic tick prods the air my face
I can taste its finger in my mouth the sweet
deep colourant buzz of pick‘n’mix cola bottles
shrimps flying saucers fluorescent red lips
Sleep the star of the peep-show is downstairs
I can hear her watching TV a gaudy quiz show
time has become the slow smell of his neck
washed from these sheets both of us bedded
down in the back seat of a clapped out Fiesta
the fridge can’t see me now I have poked out
its eyes with a gherkin blind-folded the clock
mini- moto sparrows are just beginning to rev
I could throw a big cloth over the cul-de-sac
kid them its night double dark Mrs G’s budgie
the street’s pending the corner shop’s in-tray
being stuffed with The Sun sliced white bread
I am not asleep yet because Boise Idaho
Perth Australia Shanghai the Polar ice caps
are still awake drinking tea and talking to me
the Slumber land mattress whispers in my ear
horror stories of chicks eaten by fat hippos
I am exchanging fish recipes with penguins
telling trailer park trash about love in a box
this fog-bound grounded journey of sleep
takes me places I’ll never come back from
in my old Nelson blue geography text book
stalactites have to hang on tight I chanted
all of Mrs Hardy’s chalky lime-scaled sheep
rocked my flip-lid desk to sleep like a baby
the night is going to be pulled like a cracker
snapped useless debris no smell of cordite
just a cheap plastic dream a curled up motto
• Andrea Porter is a member of the poetry performance group Joy of Six that has performed in Britain and New York. She has been published in a number of poetry magazines (both paper and online) in the UK , Canada , Australia and USA . Her narrative sequence of poems Bubble was adapted for Radio 4 as a drama by the RSC playwrite Fraser Grace. She received an Escalator Award from the British Arts Council (East) and The New Writing Partnership in 2006 to complete a novel. She sleeps either too little or too much. www.joyofsix.co.uk
All the Queen's Men
in the cold crystal halls
of the Snow Queen's palace,
rows of single silent men
pose against the blinding frozen
white of glacier walls with
icicles through their hearts
unsolved puzzles in their hands
sad mouths twisted in sorrow
that nobody felt the desire
to look for them
• Kirsten Anderson has an MA in Folklore Studies
A daily chore of yours
in the cold winter dawn
is dealing with the sliding doors
of the boat's cabin.
Broken for ages. Something
we all take for granted by now,
something we know we have
to come across.
They are out of their hinges,
secured only at the top
and stuck to each other all along
and slightly dangling.
So, in a cloud of breath, you get on board
and it's your turn: you pull and fumble
to get in, as if your hands
had to tear the world apart,
then, once in, you push and pant again
to seal off the mouth of the crack,
if you don't do it, being just lazy
or not strong enough, you are sure
you‚ll be stared at angrily by all
your fellow-travellers, yes you would
feel you have failed this round,
rhythms securing rhythms,
where hinges wait and gaze at you like gates,
where swimming souls must know
their routes and stations
and the rootedness of thresholds.
The shallows along this narrow sandbar
tell you about plain stillness,
the spellbound time of salt and marshland.
There's a half-sunk chair covered in marsh green
and an old engine's rusty gears
and the usual scattered tins and plastic bottles,
the hard to avoid here-and-now, our dumped selves
we can't get rid of.
But almost unimaginable behind Torcello's
bell tower, in that cleansing aloneness.
The rubbish, you tell me, has always been there,
one with that stretch of mud.
For a reason, I think, for some unageing
Part of the picture by now, part of the quiet.
Part of these mute outlines on the slippery path.
Where long ago I saw a boatman walking towards me,
wearing a grey muddied coat and clogs,
retirement, isolation – I remember I thought,
rowing in his early days along weeds
that didn't hide the nakedness of the channels.
The lapping. The still mud. The stare.
• Davide Trame is an Italian teacher of English. He lives in Venice and has been writing exclusively in English since 1993. His collect Re-emerging is published as an email book by Gatto Publishing. www.gattopublishing.com
From the upstairs library, through laboratories, down the grand stairs, back along corridors, through the cafeteria and out the front security entrance takes nine minutes to walk, 863 paces. Via the lift marked ‘do not use’ it takes only two and a half minutes, 205 steps and a nod to the guard at the side exit.
And so it was that every day the growingly rotund Paul rounded the library corner and called his secret shortcut with only the exercise of a single digit.
The three storey descent was never disturbed; serene and thoroughly efficient: until the abysmal 4th February 1991.
Only descending a single floor the lift stopped and a jumpered, jolly student rolled in a dolly covered with a white sheet. As the lift continued down, the student looked at Paul, grinned and pulled back the sheet to reveal a half-dissected cadaver.
To this day Paul will not ride in a lift and his weight is controlled by plenty of long walks.
• When not doing deeply technical stuff with computers, Alex is taking a creative writing course at the UEA.
Getting Real (Inspired By Actual Hallucinations)
You think you know the real me? I ask him. You think you've seen inside me? I laugh. I laugh bitterly and gaily and I see that now he's the one who's uncertain, he's the one who's afraid. He's twice my size and would tower over me even if I wasn‚t the one on the ground, but I've seen the look on his face too many times in the mirror to mistake it. There is no real me, I tell him, and though at first I was just sputtering I know now that the words that tumble from my lips are the truth and so I let them keep on tumbling. The real me is a fictional character, I say. A figment of my imagination. I have spent twenty-six years lonely and afraid because I didn‚t know the answer to the question who am I, and now I finally realize the question should have been who are WE. We don't have an answer for that yet, but we do know this: we are not amused, and we are through being used.
For there is strength in numbers, and our name is legion.
Is that real enough for you?
• Alexandra Erin leads a life of prolific creativity punctuated by episodes of an ongoing mental breakdown and also writes www.starharbornights.com