Home by Rachel Grosvenor

It was not a feeling that she could describe with words. Rather, she just knew. That morning, when her mother called her from down the long corridor, she knew that there would be no moment of retreat. No retracing of her footsteps. Hermi lingered on threshold of her room, hanging onto the door frame with short, sharp, fingernails. She could hear her mother speaking to somebody else, the occasional sprinkling of her name in the conversation. She sounded ready for conflict.

            ‘HERMI!’ Came the call again, her mother’s voice battling with the wooden structure of the house, threatening to drag it to the ground.

            Hermi hovered still, awkward in the pale dress that had been laid out for her to wear today. She stared at the sickly little flowers that crawled up from the hem, the blue embroidery that danced with the yellow. This was not her usual clothing.

            ‘That child.’ Came her mother’s words, once more. ‘She is so –‘

            Hermi strained to hear the end of the sentence, desperate to know what she was, really. One socked foot crept into the corridor, and Hermi followed it with the other, displeasure crawling across her skin. She tiptoed gently over the uneven floorboards, carefully avoiding those that she knew creaked and groaned beneath human weight.

            ‘What are you doing child? What is taking you so long?’

            Hermi snapped her eyes from the floor to her mother, who now stood at the end of the corridor, with her hands on her hips. She was wearing, Hermi was surprised to see, a bright yellow sundress, which appeared to be around two sizes too small. The short capped sleeves cut into her skin, causing red rivets to form over her fleshy arms. She clicked her fingers, and turned swiftly, walking into the room at the far end. The conversation appeared to continue within.

            Hermi took a breath, and stepped forward again, paying particular attention this time to the patterns that covered the walls. Of course, she had seen them many times before, but it was only now that she realised that they were hand painted. Was all of the wallpaper hand painted in this house? She couldn’t think. There was a strange sound from within the room that held her mother, and Hermi reached deep inside herself for some semblance of courage. She continued forward, despite every part of her wanting to go back to yesterday, to earlier, to another time. Her fingers hovered over the wall as she moved, feeling the brushstrokes and paint beneath them.

            Suddenly, quite by accident, she had arrived. Hermi stepped inside the room, and saw her mother, nodding to her, beckoning her in further. There, sat on the bed, was a man. He was wearing a dark suit, though the jacket was folded beside him, a hat placed prudently on top. Hermi blinked at his colourful suspenders and white shirt, and then focused for a moment on his face. Ah yes, she thought. There he is.

About the Author:

Rachel Grosvenor is a British writer and tutor, with a PhD, MA and BA Hons in Creative Writing. She writes in various genres and forms, from travel writing to fantasy, and her work has been published in equally diverse places – from Cadaverine Magazine to the wall of the blue bedroom at the National Trust’s Baddesley Clinton. Rachel’s writing news can be followed on Instagram at @teachmecreativewriting, or on her website www.RachelGrosvenorAuthor.com.   

Shadow Puppets by Joe Williams

We cast shadow puppets  
on the bedroom wall,  
in the circle of light we’ve made, 
the lamp angled up so it beams across  
the single mattress, and us.  

I can manage an adequate
rabbit,  and a Homer Simpson
that’s good,  or bad, enough to 
make her laugh.  

Like this, she says, feathering my 
palms,  turning me into an eagle.  

Together, four-handed,  
we figure out ways  
to create fantastic creatures,  
alien worlds,  
visions of the future.

About the Author:

Joe Williams is an award-winning writer and performing poet from Leeds. His latest book is the pamphlet ‘This is Virus’, a sequence of erasure poems made from Boris Johnson’s letter to the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic. His verse novella ‘An Otley Run’, published in 2018, was shortlisted in the Best Novella category at the 2019 Saboteur Awards. His poems and short stories have been included in numerous anthologies, and in magazines online and in print. Despite all of that, he is probably most widely read thanks to his contributions to Viz. More at http://www.joewilliams.co.uk

This poem was first published by Sentinel Literary Quarterly, 2018. It also appears in ‘Play’, an anthology by Paper Dart Press, 2018.

Susan Routledge – a Gift to See the Beauty around Us

Today we have a special pre-Christmas present to unwrap. We have the pleasure to introduce an exceptional international artist, Susan Routledge.

Susan was born in rural Northumberland, close to the Scottish border and the English Lake District. She was brought up with a love of country life that she captures in her paintings. After studying at Newcastle College of Art, she worked as a watercolour artist for Halcyon Days in London, which has a royal appointment as suppliers of objects d’art to Her Majesty the Queen.
In 1981 Susan came to California where she now lives and works. She has achieved her Master Signature from the California Watercolor Association and has studied under the late local artist, Jade Fon, as well as Tom Nicholas, Gerald Brommer, Betty Lynch, Frank Webb, Irving Shapiro, Leo Smith and Carrie Burns-Brown. She is the recipient of several “champagne awards” from Asilomar.
Each summer Susan returns to England where she spends time sketching and painting scenes of English country life.
Susan loves strong dynamic colours, and she enjoys challenging herself with complicated images and various textures. She has been invited to participate in national shows such as the Sand Diego Watercolor Society International exhibition, the Springfield Museum of Fine Arts exhibition in Massachusetts and the Sausalito Arts Festival.
Susan received the first-place award in the California Watercolor Association’s Twenty-Fifth Annual Open Watercolor Exhibition. She has received numerous awards from various artistic institutions. Her paintings are included in many private and corporate collections, including those of Genentech, Kaiser Permanente and the City of Vacaville.
Susan’s most recent work reflects her love of the scenic beauty of northern California and the Mendocino coast where she now has her studio.

Poesy by Beth Hartley

Your words come to me, handtied.
I am garlanded.
Milkvetch woven among pear blossom,
mistletoe between the honeysuckle,
oak leaf geranium forms a crown
and myrtle;
myrtle makes it whole.
I am overcome
by this shower of flowers,
intoxicated by the scent of sage.
My garden grows empty 
in these strange days,
when all I can plant
takes time to bear fruit.
My language feels stilted,
my mind overwhelmed.
My only reply;
to wreathe you in daisies.
Sun yellow eyes in bright white,
overlooked and trodden over
in lawns and verges.
I will claim 
every last one,
and cover you 
in petal kisses. 

(From the April 11th NaPoWriMo.net prompt)

About the Author:

Beth Hartley is a poet of people and place, the transient and the eternal. She makes: home, faith, work, words and dinner. Itchy Preacher, always Mama. Part of the Fen Speak team – Ely’s poetry and spoken word event. Find her at: www.facebook.com/PoetryBees 

What We Mean by Christopher Moylan

What is it that we meant to say when we say nothing? That we stayed up all night, huddled in blankets, while the children we might have conceived watched us from beyond the breakers, eyes black with reproach. Words like ships passing: some rigged with ice and frost, others with spark and flame, waves seething and bucking on the pebble shore, beside themselves. Memories composting somewhere out back by rivers of stained glass where oblivion receives its baptism. Bundles of once in a lifetime opportunity tossed from the high windows like stacks of newsprint in old black and white movies. Birds peeling from trees like dates from calendars in the same black and white movies. Tidal waves rising over coastal villages, sudden mountains poised on the mirror glare of the full moon. All of this real, none of it true

…when we say nothing. We maintain a certain equilibrium among us like stone spheres floating in outer space, free falling all ways at once, so, in a sense, not falling, but remaining in place—where no place exists. In this we maintain the appearance of a life the way dust drifting from an explosion maintains the appearance of a shape, cohering as clouds, mushrooms, or flowers, all manner of things, except what it is: a cloud of shards, bits, dust. Disbursing, flying in all ways at once, when, as for us, all we want is to establish a position. Each one of us must have a position, a point of reference, even if that points is, in essence,

Nothing. The times rife with trigger words and code words, rumors and conspiracy theories of uncertain provenance. A constant supply, more all the time. Fact weaponized, truth driven underground. Dark energy manifest in ambient decay. Thoughts drifting apart, conversations trailing off, the point lost at the start, if there was one, if that even mattered. Logic is a carnival mirror. The obvious is too subtle, insult preferable. Occam’s razor become Occam’s head shot become Occam’s hand grenade clearing the way in social discourse for the consolations of intellectual paralysis. No response necessary if no response possible. Nothing to say. Nothing to save.

Time flies like the knife thrower’s daggers. The outline emerges with sharpened edges.  The life we failed to embrace gone with the ghost of transgressions we failed to commit. Words withdrawn like hands cupped around a flickering match. Some warmth persists, some light. What is it you were going to say? Nothing. What were you going to say? Wallpaper peeled away, plaster and slats gone. Curtains fluttering in windows that no longer exist.

Sadness. Regret. The louche menace of a forest cave wet with dream. Are we under an illusion. Or are we under arrest? What is it we mean to say when we say nothing? Sweetness and warmth. Unstated understanding in companionable silence like a plate passed down a table. Simple things. Strange things. Every blessing is a revolution. If it’s real. What is it we meant to say? Come into the water. It’s warm. It’s nothing. Come in.

About the Author:

Chris Moylan is an Associate Professor of English at NYIT where he publishes poetry and literary criticism as well as short prose. His prose poems and flash fiction have recently appeared in Flea of the Dog, Parhelion and Strata magazines. 

I’ve Watched All of You by Glen Wilson

How there are things 
you always do, in spite 
of the weather, the day. 

Like how the kettle is the
first thing you touch,
and coaxing its urgent whistle. 

You let the tea bag darken the 
clear, needing it strong but 
softened by one teaspoon of 

There are also things chosen 
seemingly on a whim, the rain 
freckles the window so you crack 
an egg, 

if it's a Friday two, in summer a 
smooth yoghurt, sliced 
grapefruit for bitter balance. 

It has been curiosity 
that brought me to you, 
distant at first, 

you wouldn't have seen me, 
still in the sway of the oak 
that overhangs your garden. 

I don't know if it was wise 
to come in through your
window but I chanced away 

to the trust of your hand 
running along my back 
and a full saucer of milk.

About the Author:
Glen Wilson is a multi-award winning Poet from Portadown. He won the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing  in 2017, the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Award in 2018 and The Trim Poetry competition in 2019. His poetry collection An Experience on the Tongue is out now with Doire Press.
Twitter @glenhswilson