Gareth Spark's 'Repairs'

Repairs

Grit dust lifts in a dry wind blown over the ruin’s stones,
Corkscrews in clouds of white pepper, rattles into the closed van
And my eyes as I work at the repairs.
Everything in the yard is broken; engines cracked like finger bones,
Locks twisted like the snapped necks of birds,
Even words on the business sign, even words break,
Blue vinyl peeling into the pale breeze.
I stand in the yard’s centre, unsteady on the day’s palm.
Sun-faded cap worn through at the peak, knee bone drilled with pain,
And in the work she fades, the woman, the one.
Everything in the yard is broken, and repairs are going slow.




*Gareth Spark was born in 1979 and grew up in Whitby.  He published his first collection At The Breakwater at age 22. He has since published two further collections (Ramraid and Rain in a dry land) as well as the crime thriller, Black Rain (Skrev Press, 2004) He has travelled widely and currently resides in the town of his birth, where he writes, patiently, and publishes in various on-line (and occasionally print, journals).

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David Meuel on 'That Evil Y Chromosome'

That Evil Y Chromosome
            
A couple of weeks ago I met this guy online who seemed like a real gentleman. Not like all those creeps who say they want a relationship but just want S-E-X. And not like all those other creeps who are still married but tell you they aren’t. Just a real nice—and bright—guy. We emailed back and forth a few times, telling each other about things we liked to do, places we liked to go, and things like that. He wrote pretty well too. He could actually tell me some things about the work he did (he was an engineer) and interests he had. And he actually liked two of my favorite things—street fairs and romantic movies. Or at least he said he did. That’s the trouble—it’s hard to trust any of these guys. You know, it must be that evil Y chromosome they all have. I don’t know.

At any rate, he and I agreed to meet at that big bar at the San Jose Fairmont for a drink last Friday after work. The Fairmont’s a fancy place, so that was another check in his plus column. And he was right on time, which I always like. We had drinks—martinis both of us. He was tall, nice looking, and nicely dressed. And we were making good eye contact. He seemed interested in me. And, as we talked, I found myself warming up to him too.

When we were nearly finished our martinis, he touched my right hand just for a second. I guess it was for effect, and, boy, it sure worked. I was so excited by that. But I tried my best to stay cool.

Then he leaned over so he could speak softly into my ear. I was really getting excited then. And he said in this very polite, respectful voice that it would make him very happy if I let him urinate on me.

You heard right—urinate on me. Isn’t that sick? Well, I told him that I was a woman and not a urinal and that he should leave before I started screaming. He said he was sorry for upsetting me—still very polite-like—and thank God he left without a fuss. But what a way to start off the weekend! I even had to pay for both our drinks.

Experiences like that stink. But, you’ve got to hand it to me: I keep trying. And that’s where you come in. I’m 46, fit, attractive, educated, and employed. I keep hoping that someday someone will answer one of these Craig’s List posts who is nice, employed, good looking, respectful, not married, not “75-years-young,” and not mentally ill. And I’m wondering if that one special guy (the one man living without that evil Y chromosome) could be you.

Y
ou know the drill. Your pic gets mine. And please no penis shots. Save those for the other sites, guys. Just nice—and recent—face shots. Thanks!
 


*David Meuel lives in San Jose, California, where he spends far too much time watching old film noir movies and worrying about global warming.

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Nancy Campbell's 'The Cemetery'

The Cemetery

We settled here, scarcely believing our fortune,
no more to scull the seas. The island was safe but
there were many deaths: driven by the darkness
men killed their kin; others drowned in shallow water

before they could reach the sea. The island was safe but
there was no earth to cultivate, nowhere to bury those men
killed by their kin. Bodies float in shallow water.
Corpses were left to rot, covered in rocks to hinder beasts:

there was no earth to hold them. Where could we hide the dead
when mad men were buried alive on the highest rock?
We left them there to die, smothered with stones to keep them still;
the winter was their warder. Snow blew over the bones

of young men buried alive on the highest rock.
The ice on those cairns was as good as a key in a lock:
the winter, their warder. Wind blew between the stones
and if sometimes it sounded like a man crying to be free

the ice on each cairn was as good as a key in a lock.
And so we settled, scarcely believing our fortune,
although it might sound as if we were crying to be free,
crying for death to deliver us from darkness.



*Nancy Campbell's latest book is How to say 'I love you' in Greenlandic: An Arctic alphabet. Nancy was writer in residence at Upernavik Museum, Greenland in 2010.



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Charles Christian reviews 'Storm Warning' by Vanessa Gebbie

Storm Warning: Echoes of Conflict by Vanessa Gebbie (Salt Publishing, 2010, ISBN 978 1 84771 812 2, paperback)

Short stories (and very short stories aka flash fiction) remain one of the most popular formats for readers yet curiously one of the least popular for book publishers, so well done Salt Publishing by bringing out this collection by the Bridport winning Vanessa Gebbie. This is a collection that somehow fell off my radar when it was published last year (too engrossed in my own small world I fear) however the stories here have a timeless quality making the collection still a relevant read.

Relevant read? No, these stories are a must-read for although the subject matter is about as grim as grim can get: about the impact war, horror, oppression, persecution and atrocity can have on ordinary human beings – the people who are the foot-soldiers, the innocent bystanders, the 'little people' (thank you Leonora Helmsley) and the 'collateral damage' (to use a weasel newspeak word Orwell would surely have approved of to describe the impact on innocents) of wars, crusades, pogroms, revolutions, ethnic cleansings and genocides down the ages.

Grim reading indeed but Gebbie's skill (and of course she is at home in this format, she's contributed to a couple of books about the art of short story writing) is to keep the tales (which range across history from the religious persecutions of the Reformation to the First and Second World Wars and on to the armed struggle in South Africa) firmly grounded on the individual and their experiences and impressions. And, this is where something magical happens for despite the awfulness of everything her characters witness and experience, along with the inevitable sadness and despair we also see the genuine humanity peeking through. The compassion, the gallows humour, the recognition of the ironies of life – in fact all the stuff (bad word I know) that makes people human, that keeps people going even in the face of death.

Being a bit of a low-brow (aliens and androids are more my scene) I thought I was going to hate this collection as normally I 'don't do' literary fiction but I was gripped. Late at night – with an early train to catch in the morning – I found myself delaying switching off the light so I could read just one more story. It is a sign of the quality of Gebbie's writing that she can make this collection un-put-downable. Buy it, read it.


….reviewed by Charles Christian

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'Ivory Soap' from Maria Jayne

Ivory Soap

I used to want to be a priest when I was little and my mother said, “You can be anything you set your mind to”
 
On Tuesdays we used to go to the health food shop after my brother had CCD. We would walk with my mother from the church on the top of the hill all the way down to the corner. Seating ourselves at the luncheon bar, I’d always order a small cup on cream of broccoli soup with little oyster cracker.
 
Now, I can barely remember this weekly tradition, which I once cherished. It is surprising how many things I’ve lost and gained throughout the years. My mother used to be happy and she cared about making us better people.
 
Once when I was in CCD, I remember answering a question about Jesus and receiving a piece ivory soap in the shape of a shell. I carried it with me in the purse my Grandfather gave me for my seventh birthday. I thought if I brought the soap to church with me it would protect me like Jesus protected the lamb.
 
On St Patrick’s day my mother forgot to pick me up. I stood outside choking back tears and practicing my rosaries until she arrived half an hour late. She said, “your father was supposed to pick you up but he was drunk.” He was always drunk.
 
On the day of my first communion I got plum colored marker on the sleeve of my white dress. In frenzy my mother slapped me across the face and I fell to the ground. My grandfather came in and she came to her senses apologizing profusely. “it’s just that I wanted everything to be perfect.”
 
We stopped going to church when the police took my father out of my house. My mom blamed it on a lack of acceptance in Catholicism.
 
Sometimes I miss the smell of the incense and the stained glass. This was when early Sunday mornings had a purpose. Father Quinn would give me preferential treatment and Sister Dido always had something important to tell me about her missionary trips.
 
Now I don’t know if they’re alive anymore and I can’t remember how to say the Hail Mary. I don’t believe there are Angels in the clouds or that Jesus is as real a piece of soap. Sometimes I think that maybe if I had something there wouldn’t be so much nothing drowning me.



*Maria Jayne is 20-years-old student of Journalism. Her skills include petting cats and general misanthropy. Her blood is 92% water  and 8% radio waves. She worries that her hair is longer than her life line.

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Cynthia Ruth Lewis's 'Diluted'

Diluted

Blinded in the supermarket, walking dumbly through the
aisles, packing my cart high with sustenance; steaks,
breads, cakes, hoping to put some flesh back on your
whittled frame, hoping your sudden plunge in weight is
nothing serious, not the unspoken “C,” certainly, hoping
the tests come back negative, praying your three-times-a-day
loose bowels are due to some strange kind of flu, thinking
I can entice your appetite again with all this food as I
pile the cart higher and higher until it is spilling over
with hope, adding melons to the mess, fingers tightening
around their wholeness, the sweet perfection within as I
watch children playing, running from their mother's shouts,
using cucumbers as pistols, their innocent ignorant bliss
a knife in my ribs, twisting every so subtly.  I advance,
numbly, to the check-out line, seeing people laugh amongst
themselves, bantering about recipes, grandchildren and
holiday gifts. I am a foreigner; amiss, not understanding
their words and grins, and I'm fighting like hell not to
break like glass, just shatter at their feet when the clerk
hands me the receipt and says “Have a good Christmas,” and
I bite my tongue to keep the tears from coming, biting down
hard until I can taste the blood, and only when I can escape
to the hooded density of my car do I let it go, the tears
running new and hot, diluting the blood, the salt making it
bearable, making it taste just a little bit better.



*Cynthia Ruth Lewis currently lives in Sacramento, Ca.  Her work has appeared in Nerve Cowboy, Canopic Jar, My Favorite Bullet, and others.

Diluted has previously appeared in Underground Voices

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Two short poems from Ian Chung

Breaking Up For Dummies

Dear [name of ex-to-be],
    There is no easy way
    to break the news to you,
    [blundered attempt at tact].
    I just want you to know
    [lame excuse or reason],
    but I really am
    [empty apology]
    I will always treasure
    [Hallmark card memories],
    and I hope we can still
    [caveat just in case
    new relationship bombs].
                Yours faithfully,
[your name]



Reprieve

two fistfuls of green on the ground
gleaming with growth, glowing with green
in a shade richer than the moss,
not buried today by freak frost
(there will always be tomorrow
and its patient inclemencies),
obscured instead by leaf litter
so the eye might almost miss them,
watching for stray branches and logs
and all the while still wondering
if these blades have thrust themselves out
far too soon to survive, to thrive



*Ian Chung is Fiction Editor at The Cadaverine and reviewer at Sabotage. He also edits Eunoia Review.

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