Milk

Flash
Christina Sanders


Photo Credit: scjn/Flickr (CC-by)

Photo Credit: scjn/Flickr (CC-by)

Her hands could hew stone, knead dough to crusty loaves and straddle the moon. At night she lowered her hips to the pelt of her husband’s belly, pulling him deep inside. He carved a crib from an old byre, sanding wood silvery smooth. She knitted blankets soft as catkins while rain beat down the barley and puddled in the yard. When New Year passed and still her belly refused to swell they drove to Bury to see a doctor. There were tests; to Colchester; more tests.

“Defective sperm ducts, nothing to be done,” she wept down the phone to her mother. Through the window she watched her husband lead the bull from the field, its muscles straining against the leather halter. The stone barn turned black in the rain.

Adoption was discussed. In a Home in Bury he held a baby, kissed her coffee-coloured face, her body soft as a fish against his chest and smiled at his wife.

“Cuckoo babies,” she said, “cuckoo babies without a nest.” She’d wait in the car.

That night he killed a hen, trailing back feathers and blood across the flagstones. She followed him to the sink with a rag.

Snow hardened to ice. He dreamed of children threshing channels through the corn, clutching blackberries in their sticky palms.

When it was time he brought the cows stamping and lowing to the barn, waking her one night to help with a breech calf. She gripped the halter fast while the cow, white-eyed, bucked between her hands as he reached deep inside to free the calf with his saw, the ancient reek of blood and birth filled the dark and the calf’s head, white lashes, pink wet snout fell to the straw, and the cow reared, thrashing its pink tongue to reach it.

That night she took him to her breast, rocked his body to her own. Sleet thudded heavy on the metal roof. All day and night she nursed him, through snow and thaw, the bluster of spring and spiky shoots of new grass until inch by inch his body shrank, limbs softened, his hair thinned to thistledown and blew into corners. One by one his teeth loosened, tiny chips of porcelain fell between the boards.

When he could no longer speak or stand she slipped him from her breast and laid him in the cradle. Up on the top pasture cows roamed wild, udders dry.

pencilChristina Sanders has been writing short stories for over ten years. She has had short stories and flash fiction published in literary magazines including: Litro, TFM magazine, Writing Women, QWF, Peninsular. She has also worked with The Nightingale Theatre in Brighton on ‘live literature’ performances. She has recently completed a collection of short stories on the theme of ‘compromise.’ “Milk” is from this collection. She is currently working on her first novel, for which she recently received an Arts Council bursary, for a literary appraisal and recommendations to take it to a second draft. Email: chris.sand12[at]gmail.com

End of the Slide

Flash
Ajay Patri


Photo Credit: Javcon117*/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

Photo Credit: Javcon117*/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

I help her up the steps. She gurgles, her mind probably fascinated by how, even though she repeats her action of climbing the rickety yellow steps one at a time, she keeps going higher and higher. Standing on the ground beside her, my arm steadily stretching upwards, I wonder about the design of a playground slide, making children spend their energy climbing all the way to the top only to find themselves crumpled in a heap on the ground at the end of the journey. Did the person who invented it derive some sadistic pleasure out of it, only to be stumped by how much happiness the simple contraption actually generated? Did that person spend the rest of his or her miserable life trying to create a more ingeniously hurtful toy while the simple slide made its way around the world, including this nondescript corner of a prison yard?

She reaches the top and freezes, still bending down to clutch my hand. As gently as I can, I withdraw my hand from her grasp. I see horror spreading on her face at this action of mine. For a moment, I fear that she will start crying but she turns out to be much too brave for that. Her two tiny hands hold onto the bars that form a protective cordon on either side. Still crouching, she looks at me with those questioning brown eyes. What am I supposed to do? A wild image pops into my head, to climb up myself and give her a gentle shove from behind to help her on her way. But that would surely be an unwise move. The guards would jump at an opportunity to flex their muscles and I would probably join her with my face in the dirt.

Her mother, sitting on the bench nearby, draws my attention with that little tilt of the head that she always reserved for me.

“You need to be there at the end.”

What does that mean? I want to ask but I don’t. As if understanding my predicament, she points to the little ditch that lies at the end of the slide, dry now but usually stagnant with water after the rains.

“You need to be there for her at the end of it.”

This time I nod to show that I understand her. I walk over to the edge and look up. Her face breaks into the smallest of smiles, but it is enough to make me realise how much I have already missed, of how distracted I have been. Her smile widens when I kneel down in the dirt. She knows that I will be there for her at the end of this journey.

pencilAjay Patri is a twenty-three-year-old lawyer from Bangalore, India. He has been published previously in Spark, The Literary Yard, Hackwriters, Every Day Fiction, Mobius Magazine, The Word Couch, Muse India and was a finalist in the DNA—Out of Print Short Fiction Feature 2014. He is also an active member of Bangalore Writers Workshop. Email: ajaypatri[at]gmail.com

Roadways

Flash
Paul Hetherington


Photo Credit: Scott Davies/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

Photo Credit: Scott Davies/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

1.
In a room that overlooked a busy road they ate pasta with egg. Night was thick with traffic, strands of connection joined their bodies. Possibilities reached the quotidian; the real was said and held. Pasta on a fork. Time slipping through the tines. Words sticky in their believing mouths.

2.
A window looked onto a bent roadway, next to which a child stood staring at a black sky. Cars streamed towards suburbs distant as midday; a lightning strike burnt an outhouse. The child looked into her book, seeing the Milky Way, beginning to recite parables.

pencilPaul Hetherington is a professor of writing at the University of Canberra, Australia, head of the International Poetry Studies Institute (IPSI) there and a founding editor of the international online journal Axon: Creative Explorations. He has published nine poetry collections, most recently Six Different Windows. Email: Paul.Hetherington[at]canberra.edu.au

Transitional Spaces

Poetry
Lauren Scavo


Photo Credit: russellstreet/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

Photo Credit: russellstreet/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

I fall in love with these impermanent places,
For my skittish heart is willing to call a place home
If it has been there for a day—
Eager to find a corner to nestle into,
Burrow into the stale-colored drywall,
And entangle my veins in the electrical wiring;
Pump energy through it,
Become a part of its circulation.
These silent breathing spaces are my lungs
Expanded.

pencilLauren Scavo is a senior at Grace College, where she is studying Drawing/Painting and English. Her hometown is in Pittsburgh, PA. Email: scavolj[at]grace.edu

April and My Plastic Sunflowers

Poetry
Sonnet Mondal


Photo Credit: Christopher/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

Photo Credit: Christopher/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

The four plastic sunflowers in my bedroom-
The way they swayed in the ceiling fan’s air
Were the functional-year-long-April for me.

Fallen twigs of meditating winter
And the deadwood sanity of their roughness;
The begging deserts of the patient summer
And the coarseness of their ravaged mirages;
The thin tune of the nostalgic autumn
And the restlessness of their alcoholic breezes;

Were never like fresh seasonal fruits to me
For I had the functional-year-long-April in my bedroom:
Those four plastic sunflowers.

My newly married and divorced wife
Ended the perpetual April in my room
By demanding those yellow sunflowers
In the package of reparation.

It was four seasons ago and the spring of April
Now seems to be a creepy plastic serpent
Irresistibly insidious in its illusory cruelty
as my new girlfriend from the same city
Talked of bringing new plastic flowers in my room.

pencilSonnet Mondal is an Indian poet and the founder of The Enchanting Verses Literary Review.  He has authored eight books of poetry, the latest being Ink and Line (Authorspress, India). He has represented India at the historical Struga Poetry Evenings, Macedonia in 2014, the Uskudar International Poetry Festival, Istanbul (organized by the Government of Turkey) in 2015 and will be representing India at International Poetry Festival of Granada, Nicaragua in 2016. His works have been included in The Mcneese Review (Mcneese State University), Common Ground Review (Western New England University), The Sheepshead Review (University of Wisconsin, Green Bay), The Penguin Review (Youngstown State University), Two Thirds North (Stockholm University), Nth Position and Connotation Press among others. Email: sonnetnationalpoet[at]poetic.com

Four Poems

Poetry
Erin McIntosh


Photo Credit: Susan Smith/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Photo Credit: Susan Smith/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

deep sleep / the curse

The spindle is a turn on. Just imagine—
one hundred years of sleep. Nobody entering
your home or your body. What kind of world,
when peace is brought on only by
wishful thinking and resentful godmothers.

When I was little and cried at night over
some small tragedy my mother would tell me
hush, you have to get your beauty sleep.
Tracing purple half-moons that grew
under my eyes from laying awake yet
another night. I left a light on in an attempt
to convince myself of monsters under the bed,
but I always knew I was alone.

Later I was older and when my father came
to say goodnight he would ask whether
I’d remembered to wash my face. Pointing
toward pinkish half-moons that grew like poppies
across the field of my face, motioning to
a magazine cover and saying I’ll bet she does.
I left off hugging him back, wiping my face
when he kissed me and growing quiet when
he told me he loved me.

The heroine in a new film I see has bags
under her eyes and makeup sort of covering
her puffy face and for a moment I think
What a revelation. Nobody telling her no.
I wait for something bad to befall her and when
it inevitably does I feel a connection to this
godmotherless girl. In the end though there is
a dance montage and of course a prince and this
has always been my problem with stories
like these: I can understand when things
go wrong but I never buy the ending.

 

the move

Mops, an old couch, stretched
black garbage bags: move them
to the curb. Scrub the sink
one last time. Don’t think
how you came to be here.
The signs have always been
straightforward: everyone must go.
Everything is leaving now.
All remembrance is a lie,
and a naughty one at that.
Photographs get passed
around. I don’t know why
we do it. Afraid we might miss
out, we might choose the wrong
fork. Eeny meeny miny moe.
Eyes closed, breath held, fingers
crossed, prayers whispered.
Nothing is as bad as all that, but
just in case it is, precautions
must be taken. Stars must be
charted. Maps used to take ages
to fold, now they’re obsolete.
What’s next? —hamburgers?
bookstores? Certainly not
chain smoking, not actors.
What would we do without
those who understand
how to play the part?

 

The August Notebooks, ii (Los Angeles, 2015)

Or how
every time I watch a romantic comedy
I feel alone. I am sitting in my apartment
eating linguine with puttanesca sauce
like the Baudelaires, and that old song
called “Gravity” comes on: something always
brings me back to you. Except for all the times
there was no you. I scroll through my phone
and find no one to simply call.

Nothing is
simple, not like cleaning yourself and dressing
in shorts and a sweater, walking to your
neighborhood cinema and paying eight dollars
to watch other people laugh and cry and
fall in love. I start to make up a story to explain
why I am alone, but none of it is true. To write
is to live a solitary kind of life. This is why
I choose acting over authorship every time.

 

I cannot say

There will always be words I feel
I cannot say. There will always be
memories I wish to hide from. Open
highways are sometimes cures for this,
as are haircuts, oceans, cruise lines.
Stop telling me what you want
to know. There is nothing to say.
I don’t want you to know about
the things I refuse to write about:
the night in the house on Crenshaw
when my body wouldn’t allow you in
or the night I wanted a girl who wanted
me and yet she chose somebody else.
How it felt to sit outside the bathroom door
with the two of them in there together,
and I not even able to drive home,
my stomach too full of beer to stand.

pencilErin McIntosh is a writer and actress currently living in Los Angeles. Her poetry has appeared and is forthcoming in various online publications including Bone Bouquet, Lavender Review and Speak Easy Mag. Email: erinmariemcintosh[at]gmail.com

Satsuma

Poetry
Miki Byrne


Photo Credit: Raluca/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Photo Credit: Raluca/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

A pastel ward.
Walls smooth swathes of eau-de-nil
that flow into grey.
White lights haze against pale paint.
Wash everything in clinical blandness.
I hold a bright Satsuma,
vibrant as flame amongst watery shades.
Press my thumbnail into dimpled skin.
A citrus tang fizzes.
Tickles tongue and sinuses,
Brings a tingle along the line of jaw.
I inhale a spurt of vibrant zest,
for one minute I stand in sunshine.

pencilWebsite: mikibyrnepoetry.com Email: mikiandharry[at]yahoo.com