This is Padrika Tarrant’s third book, Fates of the Animals, following Broken Things (Salt 2007) and The Knife Drawer (Salt 2011), also published by Salt, the alkaline in Cromer’s cliffs, comes this book of very short stories that live in a mixing bowl of clipped fairy tales, fag butt fables and the animals associated with them, the barking of the dog is relentless as choking. Tales of hyacinth girls expanding on Eliot, love stories of daughters of reputable figures and angels with Kleptomania. It is at turns delicate, creepy and always with a wink to the camera knowing that there’s diamonds in the stone cold ground beneath the ink. Through it all there is a sense of a unifying force, like the Marvel comics universe, and Tarrant is Stan Lee. Excelsior true believers!
I’m going to focus on two shorts here, as I could write a whole book about Tarrant’s world, but we are fools to the word limit. The book begins with The Music of the Foxes, a Hughes-esque tale with traits of Crow.
There is a strange relationship between humans and foxes, in their cries in the night, like a babe that’s been snatched, a child crying in the alley at midnight. No wonder that the fox is thought to have served as a witches familiar, even as the form into which a witch transform. Perhaps that anxiety goes back to the goddess Hecate, fond of the black she-dog, indeed the core of a foxes being, to humans, is otherworldly, and this is echoed in Tarrant’s first line:
When all the world was bald, flat path, the vixen trotted its length like the grin of a god.
The music of the foxes is considered as one word filled with pins;
Shak. The noise that a fox makes when she sings is a Shak, shrill and high; sharp at its core, rich as Ribena.
Rich as Ribena? Ribena isn’t particularly rich, it’s sugar that stains the lips and makes the throat sore. Why not rich as claret? Simple really, it wouldn’t sound right. The language flies with music.
In the last passage we see that the vixen has formed the earth and the old oil paint melancholy of jealousy of creator and created, the son eclipses the father and on it goes. The world is made in the vixen’s wake, roads are laid behind her and the detritus of the earth, bus tickets and cars, follow.
Shak! Spoke the vixen, streaming her song down her back behind the flow of her tail, and everything in the world shone pale and black and red, just as glorious and cruel and full of jealous beauty as can be.
I imagine that all sounds of the world are animated with the vixen’s final unheard Shak, it’s there in the paint.
The Little Boy Who Lied is woven with ethereal materials; the decreasing glow of a flash bulb’s element, yellowing paper, attic dust and memory’s flimsy grasp of a person’s past lives – Trapped between the film and the cardboard, the cracks and the tea stains and the gelatine-silver years, there is a sepia child in a sailor suit
This short leaves a copper taste of The Shining at the back of your eyes, you could turn around the corner and encounter the mangled Grady twins, you feel the urgency of a missing child. A disembodied child searching for eyes to see through – But the eyes; he squeezed his fingers tight against the palm of his hand. He wanted the eyes. They had sharp edges and were drawing blood inside his hot fist.
One could happily wallow in the deep imagery of Tarrant’s prose: They searched a long time for Amelia, lifting bedcovers as gingerly as grave-robbers
Tarrant’s book of stories claps in blacked rooms, has a smile as wide as the Ripper’s blade, prowls in midnight back alleys until the threadbare structure of the world’s bones has some meat. It’s not jaded, it has wonder, she would stop to gain knowledge of leaves ballet dancing down in a purple sky, and that’s a rarity nowadays in this cynical world of austerity and celebrity. They could even be read to children as bedtime stories, and that is the greatest compliment I think I could give.
Order your copy of Fates of the Animals, published by Salt, here: https://www.saltpublishing.com/products/fates-of-the-animals-9781907773587?variant=3892849793
Kitchen grease grimed you into blinds,
their venetian slats. With bowls of steaming
hot water, dirt-cut of citrus fresh, I wipe you
off wood, window panes, all the frames.
I vacuum sofas dusted with your skin,
run my finger across the table surface,
carve a curve in its soft skim, stare
at the new space, its intricate trace.
I am the mover of fluff that floats,
piles to the floor, dances in a draught.
I brush it up, shake dusters and brooms
out the back. Cells billow, catching a gust.
The wind shifts unseen. Nothing remains,
Roberta James’ poems have been published in magazines and she was on board of Magma Poetry for 10 years. She works in television and tweets at @robertawriterRead More
Marc Woodward is a musician and poet based in the West Country. His work, which often draws on music and rural life and is frequently underpinned by dark humour has been published in various magazines and anthologies. Maquette Press published his chapbook ‘A Fright of Jays’ last year. This is his blog: http://marcwoodwardpoetry.blogspot.co.uk
Mental Health Animals
Between us your depression and my anxiety;
such slippery things to articulate – yet I try.
You, a creature sat curled into himself, naked,
muscled, not a weak man but a hare-man.
Arms folded, long ears and face drooped:
blocking out everyone, but especially
me – a woman whose anxiety is a white horse,
pale in a dark green field. It is a pastel soft
night, I am wearing a cherry-red dress, bare
footed – my uneasy horse is outside myself,
body trembling as there are no stars visible.
The heart cries: where are the Plough
and the Pleiades? I hold her muzzle close
to my cheek to calm her – don’t pant so,
don’t pant my dear one. Your hare doesn’t
notice my withers flickering or hear
my breath come like gasps of steam
in the cold, dark air that surrounds us both.
Ruth Stacey writes poems in the fleeting spaces between motherhood and studying Native American Literature. It is not the easiest way to be a writer, but it is her way. This is her website.Read More
The Price of Things
I was stupid, not paying attention and now the house prices are rising and I’m exposed. I live in a place where tides meet. A nexus of doffed hats and carriages and lies stuffed with additives and the truth is: they’ll never know. Here, the starving split seats and the rich run roads of rubber piped from gun barrels. Where nostalgia is the taste of Mie Goreng, costing more than rent on the home they left to afford more than Mie Goreng. Where the poor hang mid-kiss, after money’s crush is minted down to an electronic wink, bullet hard.
I pass terraces bristling like weightlifters and townhouses that march toward the station carrying lamp posts like umbrellas. My ear buds protect me from failed economics, but not the tides that sweep me up with bloated paratha and tambourines for Jesus. A man passes, still smiling, in a phone kiosk smaller than a restaurant toilet. Others cling to pita bread and cement sacks stuffed with Senbei.
In the distance I see them, Sailing slowly up Hill Street, Scented like roses and looking to trade with sweetness and the glint snapped from budding stones. They loosen ties and discuss where best to eat. I was stupid, not paying attention. I point myself toward an unlatched window. The house prices are rising and I’m exposed.
GJ Hart currently lives in Brixton, London and is published or cued in The Legendary, Yellow Mama, Spelk Fiction, Schlock Magazine (UK), Horror Within Magazine, Three Minute Plastic, Literally Stories, Fiction on the Web, Shirley lit mag, The HFC journal, Under the Fable, The Unbroken Journal, The Pygmy Giant, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Drabble, The Squawk Back and 521 Magazine, Visual Verse and Fewer Than 500 Magazine.Read More
i see your body dancing, talia.
like your heart & its beat,
it’s dancing to the chimes
of my gestures.
talia, there is no mountain of loathe
that can trammel
the nexus of this bond,
neither is there any river of prejudice
that can drown the sprout
of this devotion. take me into the sanctuary
of your love, talia.
take me in your swathe of tintinnabulation,
so we can conglomerate into a testament of euphonies—
a chronicle of sweet songs.
Ajise Vincent is a Nigerian Poet. His poem Song of a Progeny was a shortlisted poem at the Korea-Nigeria Poetry feast, 2015. His works have been published in London Grip magazine, Eureka, Kalahari Review, Sakonfa literary Magazine, Synchronized chaos, AfricanWriter, Indian periodical, Jalada Africa, Black boy review, Tuck Magazine, Harbinger Asylum and various literary outlets. He writes from Lagos, Nigeria.Read More
there was supposed to be a mule
to preside in the forward stall
beams hung with brass and leather, dusty ribbons
that silence in which animals move, that power
and I am a child
the cows stay as they are useful
the horse leaves his great collar behind
as he goes to slaughter
I have forgotten his name
the dappled white horse in the orchard
Pediatrician Kelley White worked in inner city Philadelphia and now works in rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in journals including Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her most recent books are Toxic Environment (Boston Poet Press) and Two Birds in Flame (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.Read More