Four Haiku by Tohm Bakelas

suburban new jersey blues

sad eyes in my head— 
rhododendron petals fall 
as robins sing songs 

broken shadow

lost wandering confused streets— 
the sun forgot to 
shine on me today

unavoidable outcomes

when everything fails, 
pain settles in like grey smoke 
in the nighttime sky  

i remember

i watch a small child’s balloon 
float towards white clouds— 
i watch a dream die  

About the Author

Tohm Bakelas is a social worker in a psychiatric hospital. He was born in New Jersey, resides there, and will die there. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, zines, and online publications. He has published 13 chapbooks. He runs Between Shadows Press.

‘The Figure Skater’ by William Falo

The rubles felt heavy in my pocket, and I waved the lorry past the open gate until I saw the ice skates dangling out of a bag. I clenched my fists and ran after the truck with visions of the girl I loved doing triple axles on the ice skating rink in his head. “Stop,” I yelled. The truck screeched to a stop. The shrieks of the hidden stowaways came from under the blankets in the back of the truck. I grabbed the ice skates and pulled back the blanket. Three girls shivered in a corner; they all glared at me.

The driver stormed toward me, “We paid you.”

“Whose ice skates?”

“Mine,” a girl said.

“Not anymore,” I said.

“Take the skates.” The driver walked back toward the front of the truck. “But let us through.”

“No.” I signaled for them to turn around, and I walked back to the guard shack, carrying the skates. The truck turned around. 

The wind increased, and gray clouds drifted into Seversk. 

I often thought of leaving the city and all its pollution. The nuclear plant scared me after both my parents died from cancer in their fifties. They both worked at the plant when it exploded in 1993. I was lucky to get the security guard job, and one day I met a beautiful figure skater and helped her leave. 

The wind whistled through holes in the shack, and I pulled out the bottle of vodka from under the desk. The ice skates hit the floor with a thud, and the vodka warmed my insides.

I remembered the day that Ekaterina skated on the frozen pond despite a blizzard. She spun in circles with such speed that she became a blur. I told her that she was going to be a champion.

Later, she hired a coach who would meet her in Moscow. I gave her money and helped her escape, and I planned to meet her there in the future. But, after she won a few competitions, I never saw her again except on TV with her new husband, her coach. I thought I was over it until I saw the skates on the truck.

The empty vodka bottle shattered on the floor next to the skates. I picked the skates up and slung them over my shoulder, and left the shack. Andrei, the relief guard, shook his head. All the guards confiscated items to allow smugglers to get people out of the closed city, but ice skates had to be a first.

I lugged them into my apartment with plans to destroy them.

The morning sun shimmered off the ice when I watched children skating across a pond on the way to the guardhouse; I spotted one girl skating on a ragged-looking pair of ice skates. 

“Her feet must be killing her,” a man standing on the hill alongside me said. “She found those in the dump; imagine if she had good skates.”

It was Viktoria, the one I took the skates from at the guard post. She spun in circles that made her blur, then, with spread arms, glided across the ice with her hair dangling behind her. 

It was beautiful, and I fought back the comparison to Ekaterina. The shift at the gate proved to be excruciating due to my headache. A few truckers used obvious fake identification cards, but I let them pass when they paid me.

I checked every destination, and each one made me dream of other places. The names of distant cities echoed in my mind; St. Petersburg, Moscow, Vladivostok, and others filled my mind. I never saw any of them. I was born in this closed city and stayed here my whole life, even after my parents died. I planned to leave to be with Ekaterina to follow her on her skating adventures, but she left me behind. 

That night, I bought more vodka with the bribe money and walked the cold streets. A few people wandered alone like me, and I saw the figure skater.

I turned away, but she saw me. “Wait, I want to talk to you.”

I stopped.  “Can I have my ice skates back?”

Bruises covered her arms. 

“Are they from falls on the ice?” I pointed at the bruises.

“Some of them,” she said while covering her arms.

“What else happened?” 

She looked away.

“Oh,” I said and reached out to touch them but pulled my shaking hand back.

“Why are you trying to leave?”

“I don’t have to tell you,” she said and turned away.

“No, but I have your skates.”

“What’s your name?”

“Anton. I heard them call you Viktoria.”

She nodded. “I am trying to compete in figure skating, and there is a competition coming up in Moscow.”

I knew what the smugglers require if you don’t have enough money. 

A car stopped in front of them. “Viktoria, you still owe us money for messing up that smuggling attempt with those skates.”

She turned away and started walking down the street. “Wait,” I walked toward the car. “Leave her alone.”

“What are you going to do, security guard? Fight us, or report us. How about all the bribes you took?”

I stopped. They rolled up the window and drove away, leaving me standing there. The sound of sobbing came from the direction that the girl walked, but she was gone when I tried to find her.

I kept checking, but Viktoria never arrived at the pond the next day, and I couldn’t find her on the streets. When I returned to the guard shack, I searched the records for any trucks going west. A few could have left with girls in them. I had an idea. 

The car I owned sat under a covering of snow, and I cleared it off. The engine started, and I drove down the street. I stopped at a bus station. There was one bus going to Moscow to take residents to visit relatives in Moscow. It already had the permit. I signed it and changed the number of passengers to add one more. The skates felt heavy in my hands, and I put them on the last seat of the bus. 

“I don’t want anyone to touch them or sit next to them,” I  said, and I gave a handful of rubles to the driver.

Darkness spread over the city, and I walked through the streets looking for Viktoria. I found her near the pond.

“Viktoria,” I said. “I got a plan to get you out of here.” I held out a ticket for Moscow.

“What’s that for?”

“So, you can compete. I saw you. You can be great.” I paused when I realized that I remembered saying those exact words to Ekaterina.

“It’s too late now,” Viktoria said.

“No, it’s not; take this.” I handed her the tickets and an envelope filled with rubles. 

“They won’t let me leave.”

“I’ll stop them. Hurry, the bus leaves soon. It’s a few streets over. Go to the last seat.”

“Why are you helping me?” 

I hesitated. I couldn”t answer. I did it before for love, and it ended up hurting me. This time it was different. Maybe it was love, but real love. I knew I would probably never see her again, and yet I wanted to help her.

“You better go,” I said without answering her question.

“Will I see you again?” 

“You never know,” I said, but I didn’t believe it.

She started walking away, and a car followed her. She walked faster, and the vehicle began to speed up.

She tried to run, but the car closed in on her, and I ran out into the street. The sound of brakes screeched, but the car hit me. The pain seared through me. A man got out of the car and tried to drag me out of the way, but I fought him.

Sirens echoed through the city, and the flashing lights got brighter. The man dropped me, and I saw a light flicker inside the bus as it drove away. I glimpsed Viktoria holding the skates in the window – then the light went out, but I smiled, knowing that she would skate again. I pushed the man away and limped to my car. Without looking back, I drove toward the city gate. It was closed, but I smashed through it and headed east, leaving the city that became my prison behind without looking back at it. 

Before Viktoria skated in the Russia Federation Figure Skating Championship, she looked at the audience for any familiar faces, but there were none. She had no family anymore, and there wasn’t anybody to cheer for her. Her coach gave her last-minute encouragement. She skated a near-perfect routine ending in a spin that seemed to have her twirling forever. She ended up facing the crowd, and in the last row, she saw a familiar face clapping for her. Their eyes locked, and he smiled; she wanted to wave to him, but someone stood up in front of Anton, and her coach called her over as the crowd applauded.

After getting her scores that qualified her for the National Team, she looked for Anton in the audience, but the seat was empty. 

About the Author

William Falo lives in New Jersey with his family, including a papillon named Dax. His recent short stories can be found in Vamp Cat Magazine, Fragmented Voices, Dead Skunk Literary Magazine, the anthology of the year’s best dog stories, and other literary journals. He can be found on Twitter @williamfalo and Instagram @william.falo

‘Pink Flamingo’ by Özge Lena

I was grounded
by my father he

made me stand 
on my one foot

like the shame pink
flamingo I saw 

that night by the
salt lake glistening

like a paraph on a
paper of sprinkled 

diamonds at the time
my mother died but

I was kissing you and 
the flamingo was so pink

the lake bleached your
lips lust pink when  

it was too late to call the 
ambulance my mother’s 

eyes poison pink lying
on the rust pink kitchen 

linoleum I knelt down 
whispering flamingo 

flamingo flamingo
realizing if I repeat 

a word more than ten 
times it would sound like 

coming from another time of 
another planet of scar pink

like the word mother
like the word mother

About the Author

Özge Lena (she/her) is an Istanbul-based writer/poet and an English language teacher who has a published novella titled Otopsi (The Autopsy). Her poems appeared in Green Ink Poetry, Fahmidan Journal, One Art Poetry Journal, Seiren Quarterly, Off Menu Press, and elsewhere. Her poetry was shortlisted for the Ralph Angel Poetry Prize 2021, judged by Mary Ruefle.

‘The Compliment’ by Daniel Schulz

The whistle of his lips reverberated down the corridor, following her lonely steps toward the platform we were leaving.

“Hey, you know the subway is running late tonight, right?” I shouted back at her, trying to warn her about the twenty minute delay. No reaction. “Did you really have to do that?” I asked.

“Calm down. It’s a compliment,” Tom answered, deflecting my discontent. This was exactly the problem I always had with him. I took a deep breath and kept still. I didn’t want an argument. We had both had this conversation once before. This wasn’t the time to have it again.

It was ten o’clock that evening. We had just returned from work, when the subway home had announced a delay of about twenty minutes. That’s when we walked down the corridor, when we saw her walking up toward the platform, when we were on our way to the bus station out front, looking for an alternative way home. Looking at the schedule I realised it made no difference – that the subway was still my fastest ride home. Tom looked at me. He still was the man who appreciated women in every way but the one they wanted to be appreciated in.

“Are you going back to the platform?”, he asked. Of course I was. And deep inside I hoped I wouldn’t see her again, avoid an awkward situation. “See you, tomorrow,” Tom said, leaving for the bus. And while I watched him get in the bus that was just driving up, I secretly hoped she wouldn’t remember who I was, if I saw her at the platform that is. But, of course, I wasn’t quite as lucky as that.

There was a nervous kind of silence. An uneasy ignorance of my presence, displayed with purpose. As if to hope that nothing bad would happen if she just ignored me. It was the kind of body language I recognised from myself when I used my body to speak – the kind of language I employed when I was out partying on the weekends, trying to avoid the anger of drunk men and strangers passing by. Trying to avoid the violence that some people’s stares or comments toward me promised.

Like a stranger whistling behind me, telling me I have a great ass.

I proceeded to the other end of the platform, putting as much distance between us as possible, trying to be thoughtful of her, when, looking back, I caught her staring at me in angst, a glance of recognition. She remembered who I was. She remembered the sound of someone whistling after her. Or maybe it was the way I was clothed: I was wearing black pants and a leather jacket on my body, and black smears on my face from work, unwashed traces from the factory. Standing there underneath the neon light, I must have seemed like a shadow casting itself toward her, leering at her from underneath the abyss that was my face. Seeing her fear, it seemed impossible to disarm it, as it was me that was her angst.

The thought of apologising to her crossed my mind. But even speaking to her would perhaps make her flinch, even if I apologised for his behavior. Maybe even apologising to her would make her feel uncomfortable, giving the impression I wanted something from her. Better not do anything. Better leave her alone. There was no way to untie the knot in her stomach.

Twenty minutes is a long time to wait.

Staring out into the night and onto the platform across from us, I let my thoughts wander away, hoping somehow that it would put her at ease that the shadow standing here, underneath these lights, displayed no interest in her. This is what Tom never understood about what he was doing, the unease that it caused for others. Glancing back for a second, I saw a man in uniform approach the woman he had disturbed. Her face expressed a sigh of relief, as the subway slowly rolled in. Twenty minutes is a long time to wait. Lucky enough, the cars we entered were separate.

While the landscape outside slowly increased speed, my thoughts remained still in reminiscence of the fear that had shown on her face. Twenty minutes is a long time to be afraid, out there in the dark. I could feel the unease on her face spread throughout my body. There was a desire to break away from the world that surrounded me, an urgent need to separate myself from the passengers sitting all around me – an urgent need to isolate myself in panic, realising that the expression of her fear reflected who I was.

About the Author

Daniel Schulz is a U.S.-German author based in Cologne. He is best known for his short story collection Schrei (Formidabel 2016) and his work as curator of the Kathy Acker Reading Room at the University of Cologne. In 2019 he co-organized and curated an exhibition for the Goethe Institute in Seattle for which he edited the book Kathy Acker in Seattle (Misfit Lit 2020). He also worked as co-editor of Gender Forum‘s special edition Kathy Acker: Portrait of an Eye/I (2019). His works have appeared in the journals Der Federkiel, Luftruinen, Die Novelle, The Transnational, Electronic Book Review, Mirage #5, Gender Forum, Fragmented Voices, Divanova, Kunst-Kultur-Literatur Magazin, Versification, Salut L‘absurde, Café Irreal and Cacti Fur as well as the anthologies Tin Soldier (Sarturia 2020), Corona -Schnee (Salon29 2021), Jahrbuch der Poesie 2021 (AG Literatur 2021) and Heart/h (Fragmented Voices 2021).  Instagram: @danielschulzpoet

‘Returning to the Shack in the Wood’ by Helen Kay

I draw a screwdriver from my handbag. 
Four screws, sunk to their necks,
pin the tarred door to its splintered frame.

We gave up padlocks last year: 
too many lost keys, and metal hearts, 
worn openly, tempt straying hands. 

The tin roof has new chapters of rust.
We dread chewed wires, mothy towels, 
the selves we left, now mould-spotted.  

The Philips glances off worn grooves,
but finally the timber grinds its hinge hips;
lost air sucks up the green light of oaks. 

A glissando of duct tape releases boxes;
we uncurl the tent’s skins and peg out
our drey amidst a hug of oaks.  

About the Author

Helen’s work has appeared in various magazines. In 2021 she was a finalist for the Brotherton Prize. She curates dyslexiapoetry.co.uk . Her pamphlet, This Lexia & Other Languages (v. press) was published in 2020. She has a sidekick hen puppet diva called Nigella.

‘Granda Tot’ by Tom Kelly

Jarrow born writer, Tom Kelly, tries to discover the life and hard times of his maternal grandfather, almost fifty years after his death. He follows him from a boy on the training ship, ‘The Wellesley,’ moored off North Shields, through two world wars. And still asks, “do I know my grandfather?”

Photographs of Granda in a sailor suit with his mother.

In this rare photograph, taken one hundred and twenty years ago, we see an unsmiling mother and child. No smiles for the camera. No wonder. Margaret Henderson, his mother, my great grandmother, would have been thirty-years-old. 

My grandfather, James Robert Henderson, was born in Jarrow on March 14th 1889 and died August 18th, 1972. The bald facts. What do they hide, what do they tell us? How much do I really know about him? Take away photographs and family stories and what is left? 

Just weeks after his birth, on March 31st, 1889, the Eiffel Tower was unveiled for the Paris Exhibition. The Tower, at the time, was the World’s tallest structure. It is seen as one of the masterpieces of nineteenth century architecture. In sharp contrast, my grandfather’s birth would have been met with a sense of foreboding. No fanfare for James Robert Henderson. His mother, Margaret, was a single mother. He was illegitimate. The mark of Cain was on his head. His father was killed in a pit accident at Hebburn Colliery months before his birth.

Granda was born into a world where the stigma of being illegitimate was difficult to overcome. His mother needed to work. She did not have family support and she placed her son initially in Green’s Boys Home, South Shields and at twelve-year-old on the ‘The Wellesley’, an Industrial School ship, moored off Liddell Street Quays, North Shields. ‘The Wellesley’ was initiated in 1868 to take care of boys who, “through poverty, parental neglect or being orphans may be in contamination with vice and crime”. There were 300 hundred boys on the ship.  The boys could have visitors once they had been onboard for two months and provided the visitors were not drunk!

Life onboard ‘The Wellesley’ was harsh. At half-past four in the summer, or five in the winter, they would wash, have breakfast and scrub the decks.

He was fifteen when he left the training ship and signed on a sailing ship that left the Tyne for the Black Sea in 1904. Incidentally ‘The Wellesley’ was burnt off the Tyne on March 11th, 1914. I suspect Granda did not shed many tears at its demise.

However, ‘The Wellesley’ developed a number of skills he used all his life, his dexterity with rope always amazed me as did his prowess at darning, knitting and sewing. He was also a strong swimmer, which was encouraged and developed on the ship. It is said he saved a man’s life in the Tyne, that led him to being awarded a lifesaving medal, which was pawned when money was in short supply in the 1920’s and 30’s.

After returning from sea, he worked in the shipyards on the Tyne. 

He used the sailing skills learnt upon ‘The Wellesley’ and became a Rigger.

He told me he would stand outside the shipyard gates and if you had paid the foreman a bribe you would get a start, perhaps a day or two’s work.

This bribe, in the form of a half-a crown, would be placed in a matchbox and slid along the counter to the Foreman, often in Jarrow’s ‘Long Bar’.

During this time Granda met Margaret Cumiskey, my grandmother. Her father, my great grandfather, was Thomas Cumiskey an Irishman from Clonbur, in Galway. Bridget Lydon, his wife and my great grandmother was born in Jarrow in 1865 and Thomas in Clonbur a year later in 1866. Thomas came from Ireland to work in Jarrow’s Palmers Shipyard.

When Granny brought Granda to meet her father, for the first time, and told him that Granda was not a Catholic she was told, “Don’t bring that man in this house again”. Reason, eventually, prevailed. Granda ‘turned’ and became a Catholic and they married at St Bede’s Church, Monkton Road, Jarrow, on February 21st 1914. 

With the First World War looming Granda joined the East Yorkshire regiment and became, Private James Henderson 16985, which is stamped on his three medals in a case on my desk. The medals were presented to each surviving serviceman at the end of the war and were nicknamed ‘Bubble, Squeak and Wilfred’ by the servicemen of the day. 

War was declared on August 4th 1914 and he saw action in Italy, France, and Salonika.  In an article in the Gazette in February 1964, celebrating their Golden Wedding Granda said, “I was there at the beginning and at the end”. And that is why among his medals is the ‘1914-1915 Star’, which were given to those who saw service between August 1914 and December 31st 1915.

He fought in Gallipoli from April 1915 to December 1915. The conditions that the troops at Gallipoli had to endure were horrendous, bad sanitation led to a dysentery epidemic. Granda, along with thousands of others, contracted dysentery, which stayed with him all the way home through France. He also suffered frostbite and on his return to England was treated for several months at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, in Buckinghamshire before he was able to return home to Tyneside.

After his recuperation he returned to working in the shipyards of the Tyne.  It was while working in the yards he gained his nickname ‘Tot’, as he was a small man. However, he always preferred his full name, James Robert Henderson, which he would say slowly and with pride.

His mother, Margaret, known as ‘Polly’ died in 1937 and now the Second World War was on the horizon and his sons fought in Borneo and South Africa. 

He continued to work in the yards throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s and when he retired from the shipyards took a part-time job on the building of Jarrow shopping centre in the 1960’s and later at a bakery on the Simonside Industrial Trading Estate. His wife, my grandmother, died at home, in 1969.  Grandfather died not long after being told of the birth of my sister Maureen’s son, Stephen. Granda was 83.

There they are the bald facts I have gleaned over the years. Do I know him any better? I can still hear his voice: deep, slow and resonant but recall little of what he said or not enough. I want to know more, but now it’s too late to ask.

‘Fog Warning’ by Liz Young

It is dangerous to attempt to retrieve anything from fog/ the name of your sister’s dog/ the right door/ evaporates/ will not heed when you call/ no recall in dense///

fog/// go slow/// put your hazards on/ let others know you are dealing with fog to maintain the correct distance/ but if or when/ then/ keep expectations low/ strangers will flash articulation/ synaptic claps blind/ your dim road/ path/ trail// footprints// track/// go back/// iron out the one sentence you have/ fix it straight/ repeat/ write it down for posterity

do not imagine/think/ fog will last/// forever//// the current forecast anticipates one hour before dissipation// it may feel like several days/// ablur in brume /// singing each verse of a theme tune to perfection//astonished that a mist though familiar settles in a room you have entered///expectant as hunger that your hand will find what you came for//or was that yesterday// or before

when fog shifts your lost words will return/ migrating kittiwakes drop your syllables/ wayward eggs/ into the right nest too late for your unfathomed tongue// left unsaid 

when your fog lifts 

there may be rainbows

About the Author

Liz Young is a non-fiction writer living in Sunderland, North-East England. She has a background in illustrated book publishing and is a former co-editor of Kindred Spirit magazine. Her poems have appeared in Magma, South Bank Poetry, 14 and The Alchemy Spoon.

A Peruvian Autumn – Part 3

Broken

 by Filonilo Catalina

We 
who are broken
are always trying to fix ourselves
either with a glass of wine in our hand
or with a syringe in our arms.
Always
we always try to mend ourselves
in church with our hair neatly combed
or with a partner by the hand.
We
who are broken
walk until our shoes are worn out
we stand in long lines in the pews
and with sad smiles we wait well seated.
We 
who are broken
say good morning without thinking
and without remedy 
we leave this world 
with our suits on and our hair in a ponytail.

Until the last song

by Lourdes Aparicion

In memory of Evelyn Rondinelli, my Blue Orbital

I have searched for you under the rocks
who have been sleeping since you resigned from Ayacucho
your shadow was a blue bird
I was walking the glory
shaggy heads
and the adobe houses
where we lived when you were meat
you used to hide
under that river that led us
and dance to the last song
in dis-crazy parties,
You expected that every night
tear themselves apart before your eyes
with your smile
a blue rainbow
a serene and blue sky
a calm blue river
a blue rain
and this heart that
I know
gather
shrink
rips apart
blunts
from
that
your
voice
flew

Hymn to Seeing

by Valeria Chauvel

I’ve seen nature, infinite, boundless
The life I see around is countless
There is hope with us, I may prove
I’ve seen them breathe and move.

I’ve seen the night white colours
In between its dark hues
I’ve seen the light undercover
Behind the clouds, it diffuse.

I’ve stopped to walk and talk
To learn, to see and hear
In the space, timeless clock
The beauty and sounds in here.

The New Life

by Willy Gómez

We were leaving in your car and we had an open moon chasing us. 
On your body grew other shores of high meadows, 
and in my hands your photos, my glasses, your citrus cologne and my cigarettes.

We were driving at 120 km/h listening to the radio Tragedies of Priam, 
astonished because of the alum stains on the track 
that darkened the road towards a horizon of frightened lights.  

A protagonist of the escape was going with us to the Lima carnival. 
I was saving for the arrival of its bridges and its gardens, 
the waltzes of the old neighborhood, the adobo recipe and the modern dance.

Until the narcissus came to us wanting to fight, 
after the desire to go further 
while the cars slowed down one after the other
and slid over the real landscape of wires and poles of the Costa Verde. 

That starless night we were caught in a double collision between machines. 

But we could still hear the sea breaking the waves.

About the Authors 

Lourdes Aparicion (Apurímac, 1993). Lourdes Apari Moscoso, also Lourdes Aparicion. Migrant, activist, psychologist and community cultural manager. She lives in Paracas (Pisco, Ica), where she is the co-founder of the Emergentes del Mar Cultural Group. She is the author of the “Warmi” plaquette. Likewise, she has been invited to participate in different literary events, national and international, and some of her texts make up various literary exhibitions in Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Mexico. In 2020, she obtained the first honorable mention in the XI El Poeta Joven del Perú Contest with a first version of her book entitled Apacheta.

Filonilo Catalina: He is a cultural manager. He won the COPÉ prize for poetry in 2005 with his book El Monstruo de los Cerros and, in 2015, he obtained the first place for poetry in the “El País de Ofelia” award in Spain with the book Arquitectura de Pájaros. He has published seven books of poetry. In his youth he was a member of the Box team from Arequipa. Nowadays he is currently dedicated to make musical compositions. He directs the label “Rupestre” with which he disseminates the poetry of his country.

Valeria Chauvel Moscoso (1998, Lima, Perú). Studies philosophy at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, and is as passionate about poetry and visual arts as she is about her career. She has participated in a collective publication with the FCE in the poetry book “Versos desde el encierro” and in the recital of La Huaca es Poesía, “De las voces del Perú y Latinoamérica para el mundo” (From the voices of Peru and Latin America to the world). She is currently part of the organization La Huaca es Poesía. Also, she is about to finish her first collection of poems, where the search for meaning, existential emptiness and the absurd are the themes that prompted the creation of this first book of verses.

Willy Gómez Migliaro was born in Lima-Peru on August 13, 1968. Winner of the Latin American poetry prize Festival de la Lira 2015. He has directed the poetry magazines Polvo enamorado (1990-1992) and Tokapus (1993-1996). He has also published the books of poetry Etérea (2002), Nada como los campos (2003) and La breve eternidad de Raymundo Nóvak (2005), all under the Hipocampo Editores label; Moridor (Pakarina Ediciones, 2010), Construcción Civil (Paracaídas Editores, 2013), Nuevas Batallas (Arteidea Editores, 2013), Pintura roja (Paracaidas Editores, 2016) Lírico puro (Hipocampo Editores, 2017), Among the research books it has been compiler of the book OPEMPE, relatos orales asháninka y nomatsiguenga (Editorial AndesBook, 2009) y Cholos, 13 poetas peruanos nacidos entre el 70 y el 90  (Catafixia, 2014). His poems have appeared in major Spanish-American and European magazines. He has been published in different national and international poetry anthologies. He is currently a professor of literature, creative writing, and literary consultant.

‘Counterpoints’ by Anita Goveas

Jayanti burrows into the lavender-scented pillows on the carved walnut bed, surrounded by an orchestra. The mice scrabble in the red-tiled roof again, the percussion. A rhythmical chorus of April raindrops dribble down, plucked like a swaggering violin. Her stomach gurgles, an oboe. She should eat, but there’s no need yet, and no-one would notice if she doesn’t.  She should get up to finish her unpacking, but she’s safe here. Nested. 

The door rattles, claves or a hand-drum. There’s enough percussion, so she ignores it. If it’s the whistling postman with another letter from the lawyers, it can wait. The cymbal chime of the letterbox flapping, a fluting voice says ‘I’ll just leave this vinegar cake on your porch, dear.” Not a good start with the neighbours, but Jayanti is waiting for the crescendo, the sign to begin the day. That’s been harder to pinpoint lately.

The fluting doesn’t stop, transforms into a background pipe of choop, choop, choop. The eaves outside her window flutter, the barest suggestion of frantic wings. She rolls across the plump mattress, peers down from the latticed window. The piping is in the middle of a lavender bush, a jarring note. She glances into the guttering of her aunt’s cottage, it doesn’t feel like her cottage yet, spots a clump of apparent pebbles pale against the silvery, damp-streaked slate walls and a glimpse of beak.

Rain runs down her neck, a drop travelling to her armpit, as she edges outside. The chooping becomes a chord, several notes at once. Jayanti runs back inside, emerges ripping the tag off a checkered tea towel. Reaching into the lavender, drenching her wrists with scent that lingers for days, she cradles a bedraggled baby swallow. Inches into the kitchen, finds the box that contained the kettle, layers it with more cloths. Makes a cup of tea and munches soggy, fluffy, fruity cake while she works out what to do with this unexpected guest. No-one has needed her, not for a while.

#

Outside May’s door, small children march to school, tramp, tramp, tramp. She marks the splash of discovered puddles, the airy giggles, the squeal of drenched ankles. She knows every sound of her snug kitchen, in the enforced silence.  Conversation can be found, in the slowness of the post-office or the bustle of the fish-mongers. No-one’s crossed her threshold though, not for a while.

The wide pale oak table squeaks as she scrubs it, stacking up the splattered utensils from making a cake for her new neighbour. On your birthday you should bake a cake, May always has done before, when there were people to gorge themselves. She returns the apple cider vinegar, the currants, the caster sugar to their places, slowly closing the whining cupboard. The ancient Aga grumbles as it settles down from working unexpectedly. She often eats her meals straight from the tin now.

The loudest noise is the silence of the black plastic telephone, layering over the familiar ones.  Her stomach gurgles, she should eat, but no-one would notice if she didn’t.  The hum of the kettle echoes. The flutter of the cuckoo clock chimes in, an artificial chord to cross off another hour. It almost drowns out the whistle of the postman, his fluting “Morning, May”, the slap of paper on her rubber doormat. 

She bends to retrieve it, an ivory envelope covered in daisies, and the swallows in her neighbours’ eaves cheep as if to announce it. It’s wedged between the mat and the skirting-board, she opens the door to rescue it. The new girl is driving off in a tiny car, May waves on an impulse, unsure she’ll be seen. The girl smiles, waves back forcefully. May props the half-flattened, half-streaked birthday card from her daughter on the cluttered pine dresser, pops some granary bread in the toaster, rattles all the jars as she looks for the good marmalade.  

#

The whistle of the kettle startles Craig today, although it’s part of his routine. Coffee at 9.15am, one thickly buttered crumpet, take the round pill. Something isn’t right, he’s missed the footsteps of the postman walking past his door. He takes low, slow breaths, hands pressed under his diaphragm, centring himself in time to the rattle of the fridge, hmmm, hmmm, hmmm. Nothing can hurt him here, he’s safe. 

He should eat, his stomach gurgles in agreement, but there’s no need just yet.  Sometimes it’s good to test his limits. He’ll wash up as he goes, an old way of pleasing people although he knows he doesn’t have to do that now. 9.20am, he could take the butter out of the fridge anyway. He stares out of the rain-streaked window at the carefully pruned, butter-coloured Noisette roses instead. 

Something flutters at his front door, there’s a shadow blocking the left-side of the window. Craig knows it’s the postman, but he opens the door a sliver, to be sure. A pony-tailed woman shivers on his door, holding up a box full of tea-towels. She mumbles something, squeaking like a flute, Jayantinewneighbour, help me please? She stumbles over the threshold, 9.21 am, the box chirps at him. He leads the way to the kitchen. The kettle will need boiling again.

She drinks his syrupy coffee, he talks about nestlings and fledglings, and how the mother will come back. The fledgling swallow pipes in, now and again, a note of enthusiasm in the quiet room. 9.38am, Craig carries a ladder over to her cottage, holds it while Jayanti edges the box into a beech tree next to where the swallows have retuned again to nest. She thanks him brightly, offers to make the coffee next time, says she has to buy some more cups and a new tea-towel. He looks at the cottage across the road as he walks back, where his best friend from school’s mother lives. He could go and say hello, 9.45am, check if she needs anything. It’s been a while.

About the Author

Anita Goveas is British-Asian, London-based, and fueled by strong coffee and paneer jalfrezi. She was first published in the 2016 London Short Story Prize anthology, most recently in Little Fiction and Gone Lawn. She’s on the editorial team at Flashback Fiction, an editor at Mythic Picnic’s Twitter zine, and tweets erratically @coffeeandpaneer Her debut flash collection, ‘Families and other natural disasters’, is available from Reflex Press, and links to her stories are at https://coffeeandpaneer.wordpress.com 

Emily Cooke – ‘I’d like the lightness’

of grasshoppers,
of soda water with lemon,
or tumbleweed,
or cooking magazines, the ones
I leaf through to take in
brightly lit pictures
of things I will never make

I’d like the lightness 
of the sort of digital clock
you get free in the Readers Digest,
that         flickers with regret after
barely     weeks in-situ
but carries on ticking 
nonetheless

I’d like the lightness
of you as you watch             and immediately forget 
the news,
it’s gone 
and it’s just time to take the pink pill
and then the green one
according to the note
on the microwave

About the Author

Emily Cooke is a Boltonian poet who has spent most of the last year in bed. Luckily this left plenty of time for writing and she has just started to send her work out into the wider world. Find her on instagram @emily_c_cooke