On the Fifth Day of Christmas we bring you Marie-Louise Eyres, Belinda Rimmer, Andrea Holck

 

 

 

 

 

Limbs and leaves

Escaping the dry heat of the house
we step into the mild, Boxing Day damp.
Our noses fill with the sweet stench
of silage and fallen fruits at the end of the garden.

Lying beneath bare trees,
a brightly coloured apple blanket
unraked after the Autumn storm,
rots by design, into the soil.

We stroll past the old piggery full of pruned back roses,
the cow sheds crammed with firewood,
too heavy to lug into the house this year,
too dusty for our eyes.

The greenhouse shelters a forest of geraniums
bowing to greet us, limbs and leaves gathering mildew.
Under these windows angled to the sky,
rumours the scent of decay.

 

 

Marie-Louise Eyres is a London poet living just outside Washington Dc. In 2018 she has been shortlisted by the Bridport Prize, the Myslexia Women’s poetry competition and Moonstone Arts Center Chapbook competition.

 

 

 

Drift

Snow on the ground, patches of green forewarn a slow melt – no white Christmas.
Eager for another ride before snow turns to slush, my son has stopped mid-sledge
to pose for a picture. I hunker down beside him. My arm rests across his knee,
easy, natural. I’m wearing pink wool – hat, scarf, mittens – and heavy boots.
Our eyes squint into a low sun. We smile in different directions.
Beyond the picture – cups of cocoa, slippery chips, stars in a darkening sky
and an icy path home.

The lake already frozen, leaves like shark fins pushing through ice.
Different this year, the house now empty – my boys out in the world.
Stacking clouds promise a storm, maybe early snow.
A robin settles, tiny under winter feathers.
I was trying so hard not to think of Christmas.

Between the branches enough mistletoe to decorate the doors.
I reach, no longer ballerina-elegant. I still believe in kissing under mistletoe.
What would it be like to kiss a stranger? What taste? What wayward tongues?

 

 

Belinda Rimmer has worked as a psychiatric nurse, lecturer and creative arts practitioner. She recently came second in the 2018 Ambit Poetry Competition. Her first poetry pamphlet will be published next year by Indigo Dreams.

 

 

 

The Gift

It was snowing, and my pregnant wife Nell was making pancakes in the kitchen when Loni arrived to drop off Rosie. It was Sunday, the day we switched. I asked her to come in. Christmas was in a few days, and a house filled with carols had had its effect on me; I was feeling kindhearted.

“Thanks,” she said, taking one big step over the threshold. She bent to untie the laces of her snow boots. I began to regret the invitation immediately. Loni and I had shared a brief encounter behind a row of sky-blue porto-potties at a neighborhood event I had been hired to photograph four years earlier, and our relationship had declined quickly from there. We had never gotten along, but we loved our daughter and affected friendliness when she was around.

“Um, let me take your coat,” I said, and as she stood and unzipped, I noticed the sheer fabric of her blouse.

“Is Nell here?” she asked. She had put on perfume

“Yeah, of course, she’s making pancakes in the kitchen.”

“Pancakes!” Rosie squealed and ran toward the kitchen, wet tracks following her. Loni and I watched her go, still wearing our empty smiles.

“So.” She turned to me, running a hand through her hair. “Your driveway’s snowed in. You should plow it.”

“Yeah, Jackson, next door is going to come over later to do that. We like to keep him in business. He’s saving for his first car.” Her jacket hung heavily over my forearm. Putting it somewhere felt like a commitment.

“Plans for Christmas?” she asked.

“Yeah.” I said, and stopped, reluctant to go on.

“Sounds great.”

I cringed at the cheerful sarcasm. Pointless. I gave in. “Yeah, Nell’s parents are driving down from Chicago, so we’ll have a big dinner, go to midnight mass. Her dad likes ham, so…probably have a ham.” I heard Nell telling Rosie to be careful and pictured them in the kitchen, placing chocolate chips one by one on the bubbling batter. Loni stood in her unlaced snow boots. She placed a hand on the wall, the other fingering a silver crucifix at her collarbone.

“Jack,” she said to my shoes and took a step closer. She brought one hand to my shoulder, looked at it there, removed it. “I brought you a gift.”

“Oh.” I shifted. “You didn’t have to do that!” It came out bright, nervous. I put the smile back on my face.

“It’s just there, in my coat pocket.” She pointed to the coat on my arm. I held it out, and without taking it, she dug in the pocket, pulled out a small gold cardboard box, the kind they give you when you buy someone jewelry. She’d tied a red ribbon around it and written Merry Christmas Jack in tiny cursive letters in one corner. She waited for me to take it.

“Thanks, Loni.” She stayed silent. “Do you want me to open it?”

“Oh, you could,” she said. “Just a sec.” She took slipped out of the boots and crossed into the house toward the kitchen. There were enthusiastic words, an exaggerated kissing sound, and Rosie’s sweet

“Bye Mommy!” and then Loni was back.

“Right, open it,” she said, slipping her bare feet back into her boots, and bending to relace.
My stomach pulsed. She rose, looked me in the eye. “Well, open it Jack.”

I pulled at the ribbon, lifted the lid, folded back the tissue paper, the kind you blow your nose with. Inside was something fabric, red; my finger touched a bit of white feathery and I pulled it back. “What is it?” I asked, staring at the box.

“Merry Christmas, Jack,” she said, and took her coat from my arm. As she walked down the steps toward her car, I lifted the panties from the box: red lace and white fluffy trim.

“What’s that?” It was Nell, who’d heard the door close as Loni left. “Everything all right? You coming, sweetie? What is that, Jack?” My tongue was a weight in my mouth. Nell walked over and took the box, opened it, poked at it. “Jesus, are you serious? Are you fucking serious?” she whispered,

“Jack.” She laughed, then lowered her voice. “Jack, she’s insane. What does she think she’s doing?”
From the kitchen, Rosie called to us for breakfast.

 

 

Andrea Holck is an American-born writer and teacher based in London.

 

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