Been a Place

Max Dunbar
Fiction


A Peek into the Park
Photo Credit: Vaidotas Mišeikis

I came to Hyde Park at nineteen. I should explain that when I say ‘Hyde Park’ I don’t mean in London, I mean the residential student area surrounding Woodhouse Moor in Leeds. It’s hardly one of the world’s great wonders, but it must have made an impression on me, because whenever I hear the words ‘Hyde Park’ I don’t think of London; I think of LS6.

Like most people, I came here for university—the best days of one’s life, they say, but my first year as a student I remember mainly as a time of awkwardness and discomfort. I was in Bod, a halls of residence located between Lawnswood and Adel, right on the middle of the ‘Otley Run’. The accommodation was a nightmare; although our corridors were meant to be segregated you had boys coming home drunk from Vodka Leeds and running around chanting football songs and banging on doors. People told me the first year was when you were supposed to have some fun and have casual sex before the real work begins. But at that time I wasn’t cut out for social life; I didn’t smoke, didn’t drink much and I felt too chunky and plain to go to clubs. For those months I supposed I was lonely: sitting there in a little wooden bedsit, the glow of my MacBook and my desk lamp cast onto Commercial Law in the Next Millennium, while from all over this hetacomb came the sickly-sweet smell of cannabis and the thump and cry of parties.

I did make some friends, through lectures. The very studious people tended to gravitate towards each other, we had after all been thrown together, and in our relations there was this acknowledgement of our shared situation. When it came time to leave Bodington four of us decided to rent a house together and the others suggested LS6. I wasn’t so keen—I’d heard stories of substandard housing, rats in the walls, loud parties and people shot in the street—but the others persuaded me. We found a house on Kensington Terrace that was actually quite lovely—a three-storey Victorian place with very large bedrooms and thick sturdy walls. Then we left the city, to go to various summer placements; I myself was shadowing at a full-service firm in Newmarket.

I didn’t come back until October, when lectures started again. I had only been away for two months, but for some reason—I can’t quite explain this—I had the sense that everything had changed. The others had already moved in properly and I remember Anna and Lucy helping me carry my luggage out of the car. It was perhaps late afternoon, the sun was shining, the leaves were a crinkled golden and there was a cool, avid breeze in the air. I am not a metaphysical thinker so it’s hard for me to describe, but I had the feeling that everything was different, that I was turning into someone else; it was uncanny, a cold anticipation. There was something else that happened, too.

It was the morning and I was walking down Woodhouse Lane, on my way to Cloth Hall Court, which was the law building, in town near Westgate. I was just crossing the motorway bridge that separates Hyde Park from the city when I realised that I had forgotten my USB memory stick. The USB had the PowerPoints on it for my presentation. I hadn’t slept much last night; I had prepared the presentation well in advance but had then sat up going over it and over it, and before I knew the clock was past midnight. I couldn’t believe this; I never lose things. I was furious with myself. I stopped dead on the bridge and said, out loud: ‘Shit! Shit! Shit!’ Students were passing over the bridge—a couple of them looked round—I must have looked like such a prat.

Then a young man appeared in front of me. I say young, but to me he looked too old to be a student, perhaps in his mid-twenties. ‘Beautiful lady! You have lost something!’

This completely threw me. I wasn’t beautiful; I knew that. ‘Sorry? Are you talking to me?’

‘Certainly I am.’ He gave a great bow, tipping his hat to me as he did so—it was some kind of nineteenth-century cowboy hat and seemed to be covered in leaves. ‘Martin Sealey, at your service.’

‘Do I know you?’ I was sure I did not; apart from our trips to the local pub and our little gatherings on Kensington Terrace I rarely saw people, and I would have remembered Sealey if I had seen him, with his flowing leather jacket, and odd, translucent-white skin.

‘Perhaps not, lady! But I have seen you! In our happy Hyde Park!’

I thought then that he must have taken a fancy to me, having seen me jogging on the Moor or at the Clock, and this was his way of ‘chatting me up’. My heart sank; I’d had a few dispiriting one-night stands in my first year, with the kind of bloke who thinks it the height of humour to snap a girl’s bra-strap in Tequila Leeds, and since then I had, I suppose, turned my back on men and sex. ‘Well, I’m happy to meet you, Martin. But I really have to—‘

‘But wait!’ He reached into a pocket of that ridiculous jacket and brought out, to my astonishment, a USB stick. ‘I have found your lost thing!’

I took it from him. It was my memory stick, it had my label with my name on it. ‘Wow—thanks. That’s a big help. But I really do—‘

‘Think nothing of it, beautiful girl!’ He knelt and, incredibly, kissed my hand. ‘I am a Finder of Lost Things!’

I remember no one was looking at us.

I walked down to Cloth Hall in a state of anxiety, not just about the presentation but the fact that this man had taken an interest in me. Obviously the stick must have fallen out of my tote, and this Sealey had picked it up, but it worried me that he had taken this interest all the same. He had seen me in Hyde Park; what if he started hanging about the house?

But by the time I got home I was in better spirits. The presentation had gone very well and led to an interesting discussion. By the time I arrived—it was around five o’clock, Neighbours was on the TV and the delicious cooking smells from the kitchen told me that Lucy was preparing our evening meal—I was able to relate the incident in a humorous framework. The girls were amused, sort of pleased for me: they were always telling me how pretty I was and trying to ‘set me up’ with suitable men from the course, much as I tried to dissuade them.

That night, in my attic bedroom, before I went to bed, I did something I had never done before: I took off my clothes, and looked into the full-length mirror. I suppose I had a good body, with a flat stomach, muscular thighs and arms, but the whole never seemed to come together: I had a rather horsey, freckly face, breasts that made me feel self-conscious, and I was too tall—almost six foot. Only my red-blonde hair I truly liked about myself.

Despite these ‘body issues’ it was that autumn that I really began to enjoy university life. The course was going well; I was getting 68s and 72s, but it wasn’t just that. I began getting on more with the girls at the house; before, as I said, we had really just been thrown together, but now we actually found we had a connection. Getting ready for nights out, giggling for ages at our silly jokes, going to pubs and house parties, long animated chats. I began to run. I stopped wearing my rather drab high-street clothes and I bought new clothes from the curious little shops on Hyde Park Corner. I found that I was laughing more often, that my anxieties about the world seemed to melt away in the autumn sunshine.

I wasn’t the only one who changed, though.

It was in the winter that Anna began seeing someone. It was inevitable, I suppose, and no reason I should take exception to it. Of the four of us, we all kind of had our characteristics, like four girls in a TV series: Lucy was the thinker, the ‘ideas woman’; Dani was the good-looking fashionable one. I was, of course, the sensible one. Anna was our eccentric. Convention did not seem to matter to her. Anna would think nothing, for example, of staying up all night at a gig, then going to her lectures in the morning, or of stopping on the way to university to play with one of Hyde Park’s innumerable stray cats and dogs. She wore bangles and played the guitar and had lots of ideas and projects. Although she was studying law like all of us, I thought she could have been a writer or a musician or a great artist, and indeed she told me that she had wanted to study art, but her parents would only pay the fees for a law course. I got the impression that she didn’t like her parents much and there was some suggestion of cruelty in the family. But that is by the by.

What struck us all about Anna’s boyfriend was that we never saw him. Obviously it was the done thing to introduce your partner; Dani and Lucy’s boyfriends used to come for meals at our house, it was sort of a custom with us, to see if the boys were ‘up to scratch’ as it were. But Anna’s boyfriend we never saw. She would simply disappear on an evening or at a weekend to be with him, and come back at dawn or around that time. Often she would bound into my room and start talking. On these occasions she never appeared drunk, rather she seemed to be full of this bright energy, her skin fresh and pale, her body vitalised and taut. She would talk for about an hour, about books, music—I couldn’t follow half of what she said. Then, abruptly, she would fall asleep, and I’d lay awake beside her for a while afterwards, and when I managed to get back to sleep myself I always heard the sound of voices in a language I didn’t know—to me the voices seemed to be speaking in Gaelic—and the sound of bells.

‘Why can’t we meet your boyfriend, Anna?’ I asked, once.

‘It wouldn’t work,’ she muttered into my shoulder. ‘He’s not part of us.’

Wherever she went—and we never quite knew: no one ever reported seeing her at the clubs or the bars on Call Lane—it seemed to take it out of her; after one or two of these mysterious excursions she would often sleep for the rest of the day, missing lectures and seminars. This was what worried me: surely it wasn’t worth falling behind, and having to re-sit exams, just because of some bloke?

‘Do you think she’s on drugs?’ Dani asked.

‘I don’t know,’ I said. I didn’t know anything about drugs. ‘She’s certainly very pale.’ I had the idea that drug addicts were always pale. ‘But maybe it’s a mental health problem. Maybe she has bipolar disorder.’

‘Do you think this man’s hurting her?’

‘Victims of domestic violence tend to be quiet and withdrawn,’ Lucy said. ‘But, when Anna is around and awake, she seems happy.’

‘Whatever the reason, Anna’s got to pull her finger out if she’s going to save her degree,’ I said. That became my ‘mission’ for the second year; help Anna get her grades up to speed. Plenty of students ended up dropping out after getting too heavily into Hyde Park’s drug and house party scene, drawn into the orbit of LS6 characters, men like Ray Perinelli and Nate Kirby. I liked Anna and didn’t want her to get sucked in.

That Friday, the three of us took Anna out to a local pub, the Hyde Park Social, and told her frankly that we were worried. It didn’t go well; Anna seemed tired and drawn. She drank pint after pint of the awful watery beer the Social served and she didn’t seem to understand what we were saying to her. ‘You don’t understand,’ she said. ‘I’m free in every way you’re not. I don’t have to join the assembly line.’

She went on like this at some length, talking in these very romantic and mystical tones. By eleven Dani and Lucy were tired and left for the house, but I stayed with Anna. I still thought I could get through to her—at least that’s what I believed at the time. Looking back, though, I just wanted to stay with my friend. There was a happy playful energy that seemed infectious to me. It was a strange cold thing and it scared me but I liked it also.

When the last-order bell went, Anna said: ‘Would you like to meet my boyfriend? You might understand then?’

‘That’s a great idea.’ Perhaps, I thought, if I could talk to this man, he would help persuade Anna into a more sensible work-life balance.

I followed Anna through Hyde Park. I had been to lots of parties by now; there always seemed to be several happening at any one time. There were lots of people getting falling-down drunk and taking cocaine or ecstasy or one of the newer drugs, but it was okay, there was never any pressure to take drugs, and I enjoyed these house parties; they could be a good laugh. But what I loved about these nights, what I remember, is walking through the streets of Hyde Park, a darkness that teemed with glimpses of laughing men and women, bottles in clinking bags, the light from the doors, the sound of strange foreign music, slipping from house to house.

I had assumed we were going to one of these parties, and was surprised when Anna led me up Brudenell Road, towards the park. I should explain that Woodhouse Moor is miles across, with the streets and universities clustered around it. In the spring and summer you saw people sitting on the park, drinking, playing football; I used to get up on winter mornings and run on the Moor, it was gorgeous at that time, the stately frost on the grass, the air crisp and elemental. But the park had no streetlights and you would not want to walk on it at night. It loomed above us like a black cairn.

‘We can’t go through there,’ I said.

And Anna said, ‘Why not? This is where the revel is.’

She led me through the trees, and although I felt afraid, that cold energy was there as well, on me and in me, and it drove me forward. Lights appeared in front of me and in those lights I could see people. ‘Fern,’ Anna said, ‘this is Martin.’

A shadow detached itself and I realised this was Sealey, the man from the motorway bridge. ‘Beautiful lady!’ he cried. ‘I am delighted to see you again!’ He put his arm around Anna, and for some reason—it was silly—I felt a pang to see them.

Some kind of music started up (although I didn’t see a sound system or anyone playing an instrument) and Sealey gave me some kind of tea to drink in a weird mug made of crumbly stone. Everyone started talking, but not to me. I tried to listen to the conversations and couldn’t make any sense of them: Anna and Martin and her friends talked about old battles I’d never heard of and mad stories about made-up creatures. The music grew louder, it was like nothing I had ever heard, something with fiddles and lutes and strings, rhythms like no music that could possibly exist, an insane symphony. We were dancing in the middle of the park. Although there were no streetlights here, miles from the lights of the city and of the streets of Hyde Park, I saw vague flashing whitenesses that illuminated the faces of the dancers. I saw a man with antlers growing out of his temples, a woman in a red cloak with eyes so far apart they were almost on the sides of her head, people dressed in a crazy mishmash of finery and rags; one blonde woman tore off her bodice at one point to reveal three perfect breasts. I had also the feeling that there were animals around us, dangerous creatures from underneath the earth.

The thing was, none of this struck me as grotesque at the time, or frightening. I loved these people, I danced with them, I kissed them and their mouths tasted of stone and earth. More and more I loved Anna, too, I hugged her and we vowed our undying love and friendship, again and again and again. Woven into the music I could hear a female voice, that felt like it was coming from the grass and the trees and the sky, you are it you are this alone beautiful and free this is everything, and oh! how true it was! There was a leaden tightness in my lower jaw, and the trees made a soft susurration as wind passed through them.

I awoke naked just before dawn. The revellers were gone; Anna was gone; everything was gone and I couldn’t remember enough of last night. There was a block of perhaps five or six hours I could not account for, and that frightened me. When I got up, also, there were lacerations down my right side, as if I had been fighting through brambles.

I walked back naked through the park. On occasion, when I got up early, I would see party heads wandering back from the night before, but luckily today I saw no one. At that point I was more worried about pneumonia. I had been out all night on a subzero December. What had I been thinking? I realised that my drink must have been spiked.

No one was up in the house. I took a long warm bath, careful not to get the water too hot. There was no pain in my vagina and I had no tearing, but the lacerations really hurt and I had to disinfect them. I realised I would have to take a morning-after pill, an STD test, inform the police. The thought exhausted me. I went to bed and fell asleep.

A knocking on my door woke me from a sleep of mad rushing nightmares. Dani and Lucy were at my door. ‘Anna’s not back,’ Dani said. ‘Has she been in touch with you?’

‘I haven’t seen her since last night,’ I said.

‘Last night? You’ve been asleep for two days, Fern.’

I struggled into jeans and my LS6 hoodie and we went onto the park. Dusk had fallen again and the moor was deserted; there were distant figures with dogs, but that was all.

‘Anna!’ Dani’s shout echoed across the grass.

I looked at my phone. Nothing from Anna. I rang, got her voicemail. She’d changed her recorded message; it now consisted of a series of bells that made me think of empty churchyards and gave me the shivers. I sent her a text message: Where are you?

‘And this was the last time you saw her?’

‘She took me to some mad party,’ I said. ‘There were hundreds of people on this park. It was stupid. I shouldn’t have gone.’

My phone bleeped. It was Anna:

I will tell you where I am

I will send you a map

The three of us gathered around my phone. Bleep. I opened the map that Anna had sent me. It was just a Google map of Woodhouse Moor, but the locations made no sense. She’d dropped pins at various points. Emain Ablach. The Hinterlands. A roving dot that, when I moved onto it, said Daoine Sidhe. At the centre of the park, where we had been dancing, was a dot labelled Tir na nÓg.

Anna did not come back that night, the night after, or the night after. We informed her parents, informed the police, put posters up on the flyers and drums. A detective came to the house. He told me that the area had higher than usual rates for missing persons, particularly the young. He showed me photographs and faces. I said I did not recognise any of these people, at which he glanced up; I had spoken too quickly.

The next summer I spoke in the university law society in a debate about the EU. The debate went well and I had a glass of wine with my opposite number in the Town Hall bar. His name was Michael and he was quirky and good looking, with cropped curtain blond hair and—for some reason—braces instead of a belt. By the third year we were living together in a flat in Headingley.

I graduated with a first and completed my pupilage at a London firm. At twenty-two I had already qualified, but it felt like a hollow victory. The hours were long and the work, for the most part, a dull grind. I stopped thinking in academic years and started thinking in financial years. Michael and I argued, then split up. Shortly after I turned thirty, I began to feel depressed.

I don’t mean numb blank depression; what I felt was an awful sweeping melancholia, a sense of how insignificant I was, how quick and brief my life, with no more meaning to it than the flight of autumn leaves in the fury of the wind. I began to cry at random moments. I would get up in the middle of the night and walk with my heels in my hand and sit by the Serpentine. Towards the end I began to hear bells, and to taste the earth in everything I drank.

They told me I had a breakdown. They were okay about it. I had BUPA coverage. I had a private room. I slept a lot. My dad brought me some books.

One time I woke up in the middle of the night and Anna was there. She looked as beautiful and alive as she had that night on the moor. She began to speak to me, but I could not understand what she was saying. I could see intimations of people and landscapes behind her.

‘Anna!’ I cried out. ‘Please help me!’

But with a graven sadness in her expression, Anna turned away, and there was only a trace of forgotten music to mark where she had been.

 

I’m now thirty-five years old, living with a wonderful man on the Dartmouth coast and expecting my first child. I changed my field, from commercial law to housing: it’s not as profitable, but much more human work. I enjoy a glass of wine, making love, walking along the beach with my dogs. I’m happy.

This is the first time I’ve written about the strange events of Hyde Park, and only for myself, for not even my dear husband would believe me. I haven’t been back, and never intend to. The place scares me. I have come to the conclusion that I’m really too sensible to be touched by magic.

And yet there are times, particularly in the autumn, when I think about my friend, and in my mind I hear the bells ring out, and the laughter from Woodhouse Moor.

pencilWebsite: Max Dunbar. Email: max.dunbar[at]googlemail.com

Two Poems

Shari Winslow
Poetry


bed project 2
Photo Credit: Maureen Sill

My Grandmother’s Bed

At nine, in a cabin by the lake at our family reunion,
I sleep beside my grandmother.
I can either sleep there or on the floor,

or next to my little brother
on the lumpy hide-a-bed, where
even a wall of pillows cannot maintain the peace.

I lie very still between the sheets, tucked in
next to the feather-lightness of her bird bones.
She touches my wrist before sleeping.

We take pictures. She sits between her sisters,
two to her left and one at her right.
They share lipsticked smiles and strings of pearls,

sweaters and set hair. She is as light as air.
When I hug her I can feel her shoulder blades
under my small hands. The other three

have soft thighs that touch when they sit, they have
dimpled elbows, soft stomachs, smiling round cheeks,
stout ankles and feet sturdy in sandals.

After her death, I sleep alone in her bed,
alone on the main floor of the farmhouse.
When my family’s footsteps fade

from the rooms above my head, I imagine
what it must have felt like to lie here
swallowed in the darkness

two miles from the winking lights of town,
one mile from the nearest neighbor, one floor below
all the other empty bedrooms.

She slept alone, like this, for nineteen years, a lifetime
and a half for me. She was so light that the mattress
never took her shape.

Her bed goes with me to my first college apartment.
It takes my shape, and the shape of my lovers.
The sheets are always warm.

When I look out the window, across the alleyway,
I see lights where someone else is always home.

 

Gun Safety

My first lesson comes on a cold Saturday morning.
Early February. Not quite two months
after a man gunned down twenty children
and I hurled my lunch into the trash,
crying uselessly into my hands while my daughter
ate her peanut butter sandwich in a classroom
across town.

My brother inherited his guns from our grandfather, gifts
passed through generations, heavy with history—
the love language of silent men.
I remember the glass doors of the gun cabinet
downstairs in my father’s office, next to
the heavy oak desk. He never told me
not to touch them. I never tried.

But it seems like time to learn how
to handle one myself, once and for all,
so I can ground my opinion
in more than the way my stomach drops
when I read the news. My brother’s wife
has a friend who offers to teach us together.
Ed works for the local chamber of commerce,
usually shoots only photographs.

The Armed Defense Training Association
Introduction to Semiautomatic Handguns
(sent in the mail before our first class) instructs:
Always treat every gun as if it were loaded.
Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction.
Keep your finger off the trigger until
you’re ready to fire. Be sure of your target,
and what’s beyond it.

Ed points to the picture window in his studio upstairs.
Know what’s beyond the other side of every wall.
The nearest target a barn 300 yards across
an empty field. Turn a few feet to the right
and you’d fire into the family room.

I am a student who would rather
take notes, but this class requires participation.
I learn the parts: Magazine. Slide. Frame.
He calls it “handgun familiarity” and I wonder
if my hands will always feel this cold,
if the gun will always feel so heavy.
Trigger. Magazine release. Slide release. Safety.

Last week a man shot a bus driver
and took a child underground. My neighbor jogs
in her I love Guns & Coffee t-shirt. My brother
cleans his Colt 1911 and HK USP Compact,
spreading the parts across the kitchen table.
When we leave for the range, he tells me
how proud Dad will be.

And wouldn’t you know. It turns out
I’m a natural, favoring the 9 millimeter
though I’m pretty competent with a Ruger Mark III.
You’re a Glock girl, Ed tells me, gently
adjusting my stance. Where my sister-in-law
recoils, is timid with the trigger,
I plant my feet and lean in.

I have learned this already:
the feel of a gun in my hand changes
something about me. I am tense.
Aggressive. Focused. The target
is all there is, and I hit it,
every time.

My hands are still cold.
I pick up the gun again, bearing
the entire loaded weight of it.

pencilShari Winslow was born in a strange little town in northern Montana one winter afternoon thirty-five years ago. Since then, she’s put down deep roots in wheat fields and mountain lakes, written love letters to rivers and the stretch of I-94 between Montana and Minnesota, and wondered if she’ll ever truly appreciate a place while she still lives there. Currently, she lives with her husband and her two children near the shore of Puget Sound. She spends her days trying to make high school students fall in love with the language they so carelessly abuse, and most of the time she loves that pretty fiercely. She never leaves the house without at least one notebook and something to read. Email: skwinslow[at]hotmail.com

Shinjini’s Hazaar Songs

Sanchari Sur
Poetry


Happy legs:) 3/52
Photo Credit: M Yashna

For sale:

my paan stained lips
crimson
the colour of

failed revolution.

Shinjini, my name
the rhapsody of anklets.

You shorten it to ‘Shin’.

shin [shin] noun

front part of the leg from the knee to the ankle
lower part of the foreleg in cattle
shinbone or tibia, especially its sharp edge or front portion

Chiefly British, a cut of beef similar to the U.S. shank
usually cut into small pieces
for stewing.

My dismantled name, rust
the colour of damage.

Sing, Shin.

My wails could shame.

Jasmine in my hair, I mouth
the language of wolves.

My words, scarlet
the colour of renegade.

Sin, Shin.

You, my mocking lover.

You promise me
an archive of objects, sticky
with happy affect.

Sing! Sing! Sing!

I mourn unknown drownings.

Sin! Sin! Sin!

I become hazaar* echoes.

 

*Hazaar in Hindi/Urdu means “a thousand”. It can also metaphorically imply “a million” or “countless”.

pencilSanchari Sur is a Canadian who was born in Calcutta, India. Her work has been published or are forthcoming in Map Literary, Barely South Review, Red River Review, Jaggery, Pyrta and elsewhere. She blogs at at South Asian Girl in the Diaspora. Email: sur.sanchari[at]gmail.com

Orange

Greg Moglia
Poetry


O-Range to Be Mine
Photo Credit: Calsidyrose

Second grader Jarrett is writing
The required Valentine’s Day cards to each of his classmates
When his mother Liz says Ashley is next on the list
Jarrett says I should have known and rolls his eyes

Mother says What is it with Ashley?
Jarrett makes his all-knowing face and shows his dimple
Do you like her? Mother Liz says
Ma, all I said was ‘I should have known’

Again that look and his dimple
Now, for Ashley he takes care to pick
An orange-colored card
Writes nothing special on it

Mother senses something
Years before it will be clear to her
Boys can come to mother’s love sideways
They share their story at a distance

Now, his almost-silence
Brings a tear
To mother’s eye

pencilGreg Moglia is a veteran of 27 years as Adjunct Professor of Philosophy of Education at N.Y.U. and 37 years as a high school teacher of Physics and Psychology. Poetry accepted in over 100 journals in U.S., Canada, England, Australia, India and Sweden. Email: gmoglia[at]optonline.net

My Temple

Dario Jimenez
Poetry


PORT_A_081309_063433
Photo Credit: chemisti

As I am used to do
every morning
very very early,
walk to the pier,
usually empty of fishing rods
and sea salt fantasies,
sit down on the same
star light
painted bench
seagulls observing,
deep from my Sahasrara chakra
softly pronounce the mantra
ohm mani padme hum
and then,
wait for the Ocean-Moon
to say its prayer
once and once again

pencilDario Jimenez’s poetic roots are somehow tied to his multicultural life experience and academic background in Sociology and Computer Science. His latest work has been published in Leaves of Ink, The Camel Saloon (and on Editor’s pick “The Second Hump”), East Coast Literary Review and Eunoia Review. Email: dario.jimenez[at]contactoffice.net

Three Poems

Paul Hostovsky
Poetry


What Beautiful Is (February 2/8)
Photo Credit: emma.kate

Works for Trumpet

We are listening to Alison Balsom
play Bach. “Do we have to

listen to this?” Amber, eleven,
buckled up in the passenger seat,

balks, bucks. We’re late for school—
her backpack, lunchbox, and violin

ride mutely in the back. She looks
down at the CD box, makes a face:

“Who is Botch anyway?”
Her violin leaps violently to the floor

as I brake for a stopped school bus.
“It’s not Botch,” I tell her. “It’s Bach

only the greatest musician who ever lived,
that’s who.” She gives the box a second,

closer look—“Bach is pretty. How old is Bach?”—
frowning at the photo of Alison Balsom

on the cover. “That’s not Bach,” I tell her.
“It’s Alison Balsom. On trumpet. And yes,

she is pretty.” Amber raises her left eyebrow,
then stitches it to its twin. “A girl

playing the trumpet?” And I can hear
the wheels turning, tuning, inside her head

as the school bus trundles dumbly along
and I follow close behind. “There aren’t

any girls who play trumpet in my school.
Only boys,” she says. Alison belts out another

string of impossibly gorgeous arpeggios.
Amber looks out the window, scratches

her head. She is listening. I don’t say
a word, pull in behind the school bus, park.

We sit there for a long time, the violin
on the floor, the trumpet in the air, Alison

Balsom breathing Bach, breathing beauty,
Amber late for school and listening hard.

 

To the Man Talking to Himself on a Park Bench

Could it be, Delirius, that it’s left to you
to say out loud what the rest of us
are all just thinking to ourselves
in so many words? If not the gist of it
then the thrust of it, the spill of it, the raging
waterfall of it? You are vaguely dangerous
with your amblyopic eye, your mossy beard
caked with dirt and crumbs and life forms that crawl
and fly. But what frightens me isn’t you.
It’s the danger of going where you have gone,
of opening that door, that window,
and not being able to close it now,
all the interior monologue flying out,
flying free. I envy you that freedom in a way,
the going over that waterfall
with nothing but the broken staves of your own
rotten teeth framing your verbal free fall;
the relinquishment of resistance; the syllables
of all your mutterings and murmurings,
all your enthusiasms, imprecations,
recitations and improvisations like so much
spray misting above that vertiginous
ecstatic abandon. And the faint illusion
of a rainbow hanging in the air just above your head.
No, what frightens me isn’t you, Delirius.
It’s that slatted green bench right next to yours,
looking so vacant, so unoccupied, and so free.

 

Song

A suicide bomber isn’t born a suicide bomber.
He wasn’t a suicide bomber in elementary school
when he drew a spiky, yellow, exploding sun

above a little town between two green hills
and gave it to the teacher, and the teacher smiled.
On the day the suicide bomber was born

his father danced through the market from stall
to stall, singing the good news out until
the spiky, yellow, exploding sun went down

over the little town, and by then all the people
in the houses huddled between two green hills
had heard of the birth of the suicide bomber

who wasn’t a suicide bomber at all, at all.
He was never in his life what you would call
a suicide bomber. He was his father’s son

until that day in the market, the people and animals
splattering like so many fruits and vegetables—
That was the day the suicide bomber was born.
An exploding sun. Like millions of exploding suns.

pencilPaul Hostovsky is the author of five books of poetry and six poetry chapbooks. His Selected Poems was published by FutureCycle Press in 2014. His poems have won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net Awards, and have been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac. Visit him at paulhostovsky.com. Email: phostovsky[at]gmail.com

Solo Boulevard for Trumpet and Strings

David DeWitt Fulton
Poetry


Home Style Cooking
Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk

He wore a dark winter’s night, a cap of dove-white moon.
She, in her streetlight overcoat and fireplug pumps.
They were the last ones, so they turned off the light
in the tiny LA diner that had closed for the night.
Dancing, nonetheless, through the oncoming headlights,
making the most of the boulevard’s drag. His hand was cold,
and her face was cold. Together, they were warm,
spinning through the hours until dawn. Spinning
like carousel police beams, and flooding the sidewalk
with red strobe then blue strobe then red strobe,
until the fog of their breaths met in the air above them.
Invisible to weekend revelers, but like pillars
of Earth rising from the flat desert to the one who
always sees ecstatic visions, and who hears
choir voices between the freeway surges; the one
alone in the bus stop kiosk, alone under the pentatonic
neon flicker: LIQUOR – LIQUOR – LIQUOR, alone at the
intersection, windows down, passenger seat empty,
the last of the junk food dinner at his feet. These
visions are for him alone, a bitter cabaret, but
one in sympathy with the heaving heart
that clicks away under the suit he made an effort
in, and through mouth that shall this night remain
unencumbered by the red press of another, and into
the hands that will touch nothing more sacred
that night than his own helpless body, sagging
and arching towards morning.

pencilDavid Fulton was born in Redondo Beach, California. He received his MA from CSU, Northridge under Dorothy Baressi, and an MFA from CSU, Long Beach under Charles Harper Webb and Gerald Locklin. Currently, Fulton teaches English at Glendale Community College. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals including Caffeine, Poetry Motel, The California Journal, and Toasted Cheese. His poem “Hubris” was shortlisted for The Pushcart Prize. He lives with his wife and perhaps too many cats in Sherman Oaks, California. Email: jackbox1971[at]gmail.com

A Hundred Things to Do

Nabin Kumar Chhetri
Poetry


Clothes peg vista (spring 2006)
Photo Credit: Darkroom Daze

I could have cleaned my Vauxhall Zafira
Sea gulls have pooed all over the roof
and grits as big as my small finger
shine on the doormat.
I could have gone to Raj da’s house
and pressed my finger on a steaming coffee
watched the steam cloud over the glass of my spectacles.
I could have run along the hills of Bennachie
and stopped by the same stream, to hear the sound of water.
I could have placed my son on my belly
and sung him a nursery rhyme.
I could even have written a letter to my old friend
back in the hills of Darjeeling.
This June morning, I am just lying out in my garden
at the back of my semi-detached house
hearing the lawn mower of my neighbour
smelling the freshly cut grass, reminding me
of one hundred things, I could have done.

pencilNabin Kumar Chhetri reads for an M.St in creative writing at the University of Oxford. He is a member of Scottish PEN. He graduated with a degree of M.Litt in Novel from the University of Aberdeen. His works have appeared in Lamp Journal, Ink Sweat and Tears, Gutter, Poetry Scotland, Irish Literary review, S.N Review, Apple Valley Review, The London Grip, Forge Journal, Wayfarers, Shot Glass Journal, Ricepaper Magazine, Penny Dreadful, The Sun, Nosside Poetry Anthology 2010, Quest, Spinny Babbler, Mawaheb, Poetry Quarterly, Fade Poetry Journal, Cynic Magazine, Tower Journal, Poetic Justice — Amnesty International Anthology, Poetry Super Highway, Taj Mahal Review, Revival, Reverie Poetry Journal, Sixers Review, The Essence, The Kathmandu Post, Red Ochre Lit Journal, Nosside Poetry Anthology 2011, Birds Eye Review, The Dupage Valley Review, Benedictine University’s Press and Verse Wisconsin. Email: nabin11111[at]yahoo.com

Listen

Karen Bayly
Poetry


Moral Ambiguity
Photo Credit: Ian Sane

There’s a white feather lying on the floor of the bus,
framed perfectly by a patch of sunlight,
just lying there
as though there was nothing incongruous
about there being a feather on a bus,
especially when it is what looks like
a cockatoo feather
because cockatoos don’t catch buses.
Breast I think, feather that is,
though it could be a back feather,
incongruous because cockatoos don’t catch buses
not that I’ve ever seen
although I suppose they could
given that pigeons catch trains in London,
riding the underground to reap the food rewards
left by commuters at all the different stations.
But my buses don’t run underground
and bus stops here are no source
of food for cockatoos,
so why catch a bus
and leave a white feather
lying on the floor of the bus,
framed perfectly by a patch of sunlight.
Of course, it might have been an angel,
angels ride buses, don’t they,
because cockatoos don’t,
not last time I looked,
not being pigeons and all that,
not that angels are pigeons,
but when they take their wings off,
well, not take them off,
hide them so we mortals can’t see them,
they hide their wings and sit on park benches
in trench coats and ride public transport
making people feel better about life,
not that we can see them or their wings,
but it is possible, isn’t it,
that a stray feather could make its way
from under the trench coat,
a white feather,
lying on the floor of the bus,
framed perfectly by a patch of sunlight,
except I think angel feathers would be bigger,
of course I don’t really know
because I’ve never seen angel wings,
they hide them under trench coats,
I think I’ve heard them though,
the sound of angel wings…

Listen.

pencilKaren Bayly is a writer, ex-actor, ex-muso, sometime scientist, and reluctant IT bod.  She has  published poems in Overland and Ygdrasil, and short stories in Skive Magazine, Voluted Tales, The Scruffy Dog Review and other journals. She recently completed a Steampunk-inspired novel and has started a new novel for young adults. She loves all animals but has a huge gooey spot for cats, horses and birds. Email: karenbayly[at]gmail.com