The ‘Writer’ Aesthetic: Performative or Productive? by Jasmine Jade

Essay
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The Artist and Composer Vladimir Franz by Ida Saudkova, ca. 2000

                     ‘Writing is writing. Everything else is everything else.’

–          Mark Siddens[1]

I spent most of my early childhood believing I was some sort of sorceress because I often found myself spinning verses about the moon and stars at silly hours on school nights. That was when I was able to write at all, other times I would be kept awake by some unnameable urge, pen poised above paper, literally without the words to express myself. I would later find solace in Clarice Lispector’s assertion that ‘one can have vocation and not talent; one can be called and not know how to go.’ I would read these rhyming verses aloud to my teddy bears and occasionally my parents and, eventually my mother, who had read little save for newspapers and quit smoking guides since school, took me to a poetry reading at our local library. The poet, whose name I cannot recall, was a bright new talent reading from her first collection. Sat in the dark of the back row, my eyes filled as the syllables fell from her tongue with an effortlessness I had only hitherto heard in the soft repetitions of a priest’s refrains, on the few occasions my grandmother had taken me to church. She seemed to photosynthesize the spotlight, gathering energy and gradually growing taller, sitting up straighter, transcending herself. I yearned in my childish egoism to supplant her; me, a child who still referred to English class as ‘literacy’ on occasion, with my insightful stanzas about moonlight and dreamscapes and my twenty-six—and counting—spiralbounds. That evening, feeling both entirely out of place and yet strangely at home amongst academics and artists, I discovered a dream. I went out a sorceress and came home a poet.

A narrative such as this one is not uncommon amongst writers. Indeed, most of us will treasure similar moments which printed writer on our brains with an imaginary click of typewriter keys and shaped our decisions thereafter to include anything which allowed us to put words on paper (or equivalent white-coloured square of arranged pixels.) David Almond has described these moments as ‘personal mythologies’, which rightfully indicates a gap between the reality of the experience and the recall of it.[2] The dream of writing is particularly prone to this kind of embellishment, due perhaps to the emphasis on meaning inherent in the craft and the romantic stereotypes associated with the profession. As well as harbouring ‘personal mythologies’ about how we came to write, there are more widely held mythologies surrounding the ostensibly enigmatic ‘writer’s lifestyle’. Born of these mythologies are two opposing ‘writer’ aesthetics. I aim to examine the productivity of these in practice, addressing the commercialisation of a distinctly middle-class writer aesthetic through social media and its consequences, as well as the poet-maudit-esque, impoverished writer aesthetic, and how the stereotypes arising from these differ from the reality of the productive and at least semi-sane full-time writer.

I detail the anecdote above firstly to introduce the romantic vs. reality dichotomy with which this essay is concerned, and also to demonstrate that while my child-self, despite my nocturnal scribblings, my enjoyment of and inherent easiness socializing with artists and general desire for the attention the spot-lighted poet garnered, was not a productive writer. She was, at this point, concerned with aesthetics: she did things she knew to be typical of writers; stayed up writing by streetlight, nestled, nose-in-a-book, under a tree, kept a journal like the red-wine-sipping academic beside mam at the poetry reading with the curly cursive. Writing is, however, a craft: it requires honing. That is to say, aesthetic does not equal productivity, nor talent, and where the two become muddled, issues arise.

Any lifestyle has the potential to become enmeshed with the regular consumption of particular services and goods, and thus, there is unsurprisingly a consumer aspect to what I term here a ‘middle class writer aesthetic’.[3]  At the time of writing, I sit with a steaming thimble of espresso in a certain green-logoed coffeehouse listening to indie bands and admiring the satisfyingly consistent circumferences of coffee rings some inattentive barista forgot to wipe from my table. I might as well add that among my favourite things in the world besides coffee, are new typewriters made to look vintage and the musk of old books I collect but will never read. I type ‘#writerlife’ into Instagram. Here is a list of what I see in the posts:

  • A chocolate-topped cappuccino beside a MacBook and folded jam-jar spectacles.
  • A plastic cup skewered with a green straw atop an open journal endowed with illegible cursive (link to fountain pen used in caption.)
  • A perspiring scotch on the rocks beside a book (this dedicated bookworm’s 30th read this year, the caption informs us, and there’s an affiliate link to Amazon Audible—your first book’s on me, guys!—but she just had to have a physical copy of this particular gem.)
  • An advertisement for an Indiegogo-funded new-fangled writer’s laptop that supposedly inhibits its user from procrastinating by having no functions other than typing and saving, to the tune of £267. Has anyone informed the hipsters that £1.49 notepads are also devoid of ‘distracting apps’?

Social media platforms are the new lifestyle magazines. Glossy screens have usurped glossy pages, but the intention is the same: to sell. Whatever your profession, interests or niche, there is a hashtag infested with influencers and advertisements, ready to endow you with all you need to be successful at it, for a price. We are being sold an idea of what it is to be a writer, and it is costing us.

    Where livelihood, identity and lifestyle become inseparable, a certain interdependence is produced between the three, one which is perhaps not particularly helpful or productive. ‘Lifestyles are creations of markets and media, mutually reinforcing each other through a cycle of advertising images that arouse consumptive desires to fashion a self compatible with a particular lifestyle.’[4] The question becomes, then, what is the result when both livelihood and identity become contingent upon a lifestyle which demands specific levels of social and economic capital in order to be maintained?[5] This is a particular issue for younger aspiring writers, especially those with working-class upbringings, whose lack of professional experience coupled with their exposure to these idealistic and consumerist portrayals of what it means to write might be enough to turn them away from the profession entirely. The internalisation by working-class writers of the false necessity of such writer ‘accessories’—audiobook subscriptions, particular pens, laptops and the regular consumption of extortionate coffee—as prerequisites to or the paraphernalia of success might well contribute to and perpetuate feelings of imposter-syndrome and self-doubt, and prevent already underrepresented voices from being heard.

The other issue inherent in this interdependence between lifestyle, livelihood and identity is our proclivity to decide on prerequisites to writing, these lifestyle ‘accessories’ we come to believe we require to write, which may or may not have anything to do with the act of writing itself. Coffee, perhaps, is one of my own. Another is being ‘out of the house’, which usually equates to being in a café. I once knew a very talented aspiring writer who would only write alone in a dimly lit room with a glass of red. I had to wonder how much more productive he might be if he could write on his morning commute to his day job, or at his desk between taking calls. There is something performative in this, an apparent need to play the part of what one suspects a writer to be, which may prohibit writing when access to such conditions is unattainable. Eliminate the obstacles you yourself impose. They are procrastination masquerading as productivity.

Ernest Hemingway boldly asserted, there is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.’ This quote introduces some of the main qualities of the second writer aesthetic I will examine in this essay—that of the tortured and impoverished writer. The quote, from the same writer who advised us to ‘write drunk, edit sober’, suggests that writing is a process for which one must suffer, but there is undeniably an element of self-indulgence inherent in the assertion. The language alone is romantic, and the suggestion that writing is merely an outpouring of one’s emotions which comes as freely as blood from an opened vein is of course a highly romanticised perspective on the craft. This indulgent, perhaps even hedonistic and excessively emotional ideology is typical of the poete maudit (that is, the ‘cursed poet’) for whom the craft of writing becomes bound up with a lifestyle characterised by drug and alcohol abuse, crime, insanity and generally living on the peripheries of society. One might hesitate to label this stereotype an ‘aesthetic’, but there is undoubtedly something performative about it, a certain pleasurable sadness inherent in projecting to the world the lengths to which one would go for their craft, irrespective of the suffering it causes to its creator. We see this in perhaps its plainest form in artwork created using the artist’s own bodily fluids. Take Rose-Lynn Fisher for instance, who, in her Topography of Tears, creates landscapes from her own true and onion-induced tears.[6] Or Gottfried Helnwein, who, confronting his country’s Nazi past in his youth, was expelled from university for painting a portrait of Hitler using his own blood.[7]

Poverty, mental illness and substance abuse are the three defining factors of this aesthetic, and it is important to note that the latter two are inextricably bound up with the former. The prevalence of both mental illness and substance abuse are highly correlated with poorer socio-economic circumstances.[8] Could it be then, that the existence of this aesthetic provides a counterpoint to the aforementioned consumerism-focused aesthetic to which less privileged writers might aspire? Personally, I have always gravitated more towards this aesthetic when trying to decipher my place in the world of writing, simply because it is closer to my own experiences external to my professional life: working-class parents and peers who drank and smoked, and suffered with depression among other mental illnesses.  Whether the perpetuation of this aesthetic through artists and writers whose work emerges from and perhaps romanticises these circumstances is validating or problematic for aspiring writers is a complex question. Perhaps both are so.

Mental illness is often associated with the creation of good art, and indeed, much enduring literature has been composed from such experiences, from the darkly poignant work of Sylvia Plath, to the scathing cynicism and black comedy of David Foster Wallace. It is true that both the process of developing and overcoming mental health issues can provide insight into the human condition, which makes for convincing, emotive and universally relevant writing. It is also worth noting that the creation of art, including writing, is often prompted by a desire for self-expression, and thus can be considered a therapeutic endeavour. There is, undeniably, a link between mental illness and artists: ‘In 1983, the psychologist Kay Jamison, herself bipolar, surveyed 47 British artists and writers and found that 38 percent had sought treatment for mood disorders — a percentage about 30 times the national average.’[9] According to Jamison, ‘poets had it worst of all: Half of those surveyed had been hospitalized for depression and/or mania’. Jamison attributed this to poets having the most ‘creative fire’, and Sarah Nicole Prickett in her article ‘A Woman Under the Influence’, addressing Jamison’s work, states ‘this seems a suspiciously convenient thing for poets to believe: It’s better to burn, burn, burn than to pay the heating bill.’[10] Again, there is this romantic and excessively emotive idea that one’s life and one’s art are mutually reinforcing entities, as if ‘burning’ with creativity could actually negate one’s survival-driven requirement for warmth.

The creation of particularly original and enduring writing has sometimes been attributed to the involvement of drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, amphetamines, and LSD and other psychedelics, particularly that of the modernist period wherein the sharing of writing in bars and jazz clubs was common practice. Jack Kerouac once advised ‘if possible, write “without consciousness” in semi-trance’, an approach perhaps best facilitated by being under the influence.[11] Ginsberg yearned to transcribe his intoxicated nocturnal experiences in his generation-defining poem ‘Howl’, lamenting those ‘who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty incantations which in the yellow morning were stanzas of gibberish’.[12] Erik Mortenson suggested this desire to capture such experiences is also mirrored in the form of ‘Howl’, describing it as ‘benzedrine-inspired’.[13] During a panel discussing the association between artists and mental illness at Newcastle-held event New Art Social, the topic of writing under the influence of alcohol was raised. Several audience members attested to the suggestion that alcohol can be beneficial for the initial stages of writing, particularly for writers prone to perfectionistic thinking. This has been true of my experience also, as a writer who finds it difficult to begin new work with the unrealistic expectation and desire for the first draft to be flawless from the start. Drinking alcohol can certainly facilitate writing by lifting such expectations, which is possibly why it is touted for aiding creativity; it lowers inhibitions and thus we are more likely to explore ideas and write liberally.

Certainly, the use of substances in the creation of art, and channelling experiences of mental illness into art can be advantageous, but here we return to this issue of having prerequisites for writing. Enduring and esteemed writing has and can be produced without its creator having utilized drugs or suffered mental health issues. It is therefore my conviction that the tortured artist aesthetic can be considered a romanticisation of mental illness which can contribute to maladaptive behaviour in aspiring writers and at worst, ultimately result in the development of mental health issues and even addiction. With regards to mental illness and the creation of art, one need not look further than the symptoms of depression (including lack of motivation, disinterest in previously enjoyed activities, low mood and decreased self-esteem) to deduce that the mindset produced by such an illness is not a productive one. The insight attained from these experiences might be applied to writing productively post-hoc, but such insights may also be collated from interviews and other research, as well as first-hand experience. Where substance use is concerned, one might consider the consequences on productivity the following day, as well as the long-term consequences of substance use, including dependence, particularly if writing is one’s full-time profession.

We all come to writing with preconceptions about what it means to be a writer. The writer ‘aesthetics’ discussed here are two which I found to be particularly impactful whilst trying to discover what kind of writer I was aspiring to be. I have found, however, that whilst expensive accessories bolster motivation for a time, and a few whiskies can lubricate a creative block, it is imperative to rely on nothing save for words when it comes to writing. No amount of espressos, bleeding, depression, vodka or evenings spent shivering (even in the dazzling presence of one’s imperishable ‘creative fire’!) can ensure that one’s words reach the page—that is our work alone. ‘Writing is writing. Everything else is everything else.’[14]

 

 

 

[1] Mark Siddens, Introducing ‘Useless Suffering: Marina Tsvetaeva in Moscow‘, (Reading given at Ernest, Newcastle: 2019).

[2] David Almond, ‘David Almond on the Notebook’ (Lecture given on October 16th, 2018).

[3] Lynn D. Wenger, ‘Cigar Magazines: Using Tobacco to Sell a Lifestyle’ in Tobacco Control, Vol. 10, No. 3 (2001), pp. 279.

 

[4] Ibid.

[5] Mark Tomlinson, ‘Lifestyle and Social Class’ in European Sociological Review, Vol. 19, No. 1 (United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 97-111.

[6] Rose-Lynn Fisher, The Topography of Tears, (New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2013).

[7] Peter Selz ‘HELNWEIN: THE ARTIST AS PROVOCATEUR’ (1997) (Available online here: http://www.helnwein.com/artist/biography/article_3414-With-his-own-blood-Helnwein-paints-a-picture-of-Adolf-Hitler-Fuehrer_-The-Professors-are-discomposed-and-the-school-administration-confiscates-the-painting). [Accessed 16/05/2019].

[8] Iris Elliott, ‘Poverty and Mental Health: A review to inform the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Anti-Poverty Strategy’ (London, 2016), p. 16.

[9] Sarah Nicole Prickett, ‘A Woman Under the Influence’ (2018) (Available online here: https://thenewinquiry.com/a-woman-under-the-influence/) [Accessed 16/05/19].

[10] Ibid.

[11] Sarah Ramshaw, Justice as Improvisation: The Law of the Extempore (Abingdon: Routledge Publishing, 2013), p.70.

[12] Allen Ginsberg, ‘Howl’ in Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems (London: Penguin Modern Classics, 2009).

[13] Erik Mortenson, ‘High Off the Page, Representing the Drug Experience in the Work of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg’, (Wayne State University), Online PDF Access: < http://www.janushead.org/7-1/mortenson.pdf> [Accessed 16/05/2019].

 

[14] Mark Siddens, Introducing ‘Useless Suffering: Marina Tsvetaeva in Moscow‘.

 

About the Author:

Jasmine Jade is a poet from South Shields, Britain. She won the South Tyneside WRITE Festival Poetry Slam, was shortlisted for the Terry Kelly Poetry Prize 2018 and came second in the Mind Short Story Competition 2019. Last year, she completed an MA in Creative Writing at the Newcastle University.

 

A Plant Grows in Concrete by Yash Seyedbagheri

Fiction

 

Suburbia

Suburbia by Stela Brix, 2018

A plant lies on concrete. I pick it up. Leaves are withdrawn, hiding from the sky. As if growth is too much to ask.

I don’t blame it.

I should take this home. Even if Mother finds plants saddening now. Too cheerful, too vibrant, she says.

Nancy, my big sister, hated leaving things behind. She saved the smallest articles, except herself. Plants, coins, so much.

Psychiatrists prescribed attitudes. Activities.

The world demanded excess. Take care of your brother, become a wife, subordinate dreams of creating art.

I will not let the plant wilt. I’ll keep it in the brightest spaces. I’ll keep it in the living room where Nancy used to teach me to dance. On the back patio. I never told Nancy I loved her, never told the psychiatrists to take a hike. But how I love this little plant.

Live, I whisper. Live.

 

About the Author:

Yash Seyedbagheri is a graduate of Colorado State University’s MFA program in fiction. His story, “Soon,” was nominated for a Pushcart.  Yash’s stories are forthcoming or have been published in Café Lit, Mad Swirl, 50 Word Stories, and Ariel Chart, among others.

Three Poems by Andi Talbot

Poetry
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Close Your Eyes by Ida Saudkova, model Czech pop singer Ilona Csakova

 

Eyes of a Stranger

It’s funny

how you find yourself

reflecting in someone’s eyes

for the very first time

not knowing what their impact will be

not knowing the comfort they will bring

not knowing

that here

and now

before you

is the mirror

in which you’ll grow old.

 

Sunset

Her eyes

painted

a shade of dusk

I’m yet to witness

 

I long

for my lips

to find

the constellations

hidden on her skin

 

I wrap

falling stars

behind her ears

brushing the night sky

to sleep.

 

A Decade On

Years before

I walked these streets

with an empty heart

and veins filled with the blood of youth

but here I find myself again

in more ways than one,

it would seem,

youth fading

heart now a little less empty

as I try to find my way

through a city

I swear

I am only seeing for the very first time.

 

About the Author:

Andi Talbot is a writer and performance poet from County Durham. Andi has poetry published in various literary journals including Vamp Cat, Bonnie’s Crew, Grindstone Literary Magazine and Paper and Ink Zine. He has headlined poetry nights around the North East of England including Stanza and Black Light Engine Room and this year he performed at Poetry Jam in Durham. His first pamphlet, Burn Before Reading, was published with Analog Submission Press (2019). Andi is a poetry editor and submission reader for Periwinkle Literary Magazine.

Instagram: andichrist19

Introducing Amy McCartney

Art

Our regular readers will be familiar with this week’s artist, Amy McCartney. Her beautiful and imaginative works have accompanied many works of our talented authors.

Amy is a BA (Hons) Fine Art student at Newcastle University, in her last year. She works predominantly in painting. Last year she completed a semester at the Kunstakademie in Münster, Germany. She exhibited work in the academy’s ‘Rundgang’ in January 2019 whilst there. She has also exhibited in ‘MASH’, a group exhibition at Hoochie Coochie in May 2018, as well as in her course’s first year exhibition ‘Saga’ at the Tyneside Cinema film school, in May 2017, and multiple in-departmental course exhibitions.  Last year she collaborated on illustrations for the Bridges 2019 anthology, published by Bandit Fiction  earlier this year. She enjoys drawing and illustrating, an interest which was stimulated during the Visual Communication strand of her Art and Design Foundation Diploma, and has since produced some Illustrative commissions, as well as a book cover design.

 

As always, you can use this stunning visual work as a launch pad for your own writing or other creative work. Today’s prompt: Reflection.

Left to right/to to bottom: Puddle; Helderberg Mountain; A Loving Cup; Empty Home; Bridging Hands; Shoulder Carry; Reflection; Above Us

Everything Was Wild by William Falo

Fiction

 

 

Hand

Your Hand by Victoria Holt, 2016

 

                        Romania when everything was wild

I stopped at the edge of the woods and every part of me said to turn around, but I slipped into the graveyard and placed flowers on Violeta’s grave. I collapsed on it and guilt washed over me. My empty hand shook when something touched it. “Violeta,” I called out, but it was only a leaf.

I calmed myself down and stared at my hand. The same one that let go before she ran into the street at the same time a drunk driver drove his car down the narrow street. I needed to get back to the woods. The woods provide me the escape and peace I needed. There were no children to haunt me, no one to blame me, and no reason to think about starting a new life. Nothing could hurt me there and I could linger forever in a numb state.

I gripped the knife I always carried. It felt reassuring when it caused my hand to bleed. The blood dripped on to the path and I saw a bear’s tracks and followed them deeper into the woods. Bears were common in the Carpathian Mountains, but it was always better to be behind one than surprised by an attack.

I heard a girl’s voice. Maybe I was losing my mind. I knew it would come to this; I would go crazy before any physical aliment did me in.

The voice again. With no plan, I followed it sure it was not real.  In a clearing, a girl about twelve years old was holding a gun, the bear stood at the edge of the clearing pacing back and forth accessing the situation and in a chair, a man slept. Something was wrong.

The bear saw the girl and then me. I was closer, so it took the easy target and lumbered toward me. My knife looked small, but I didn’t back up. I never do. I had nothing to lose. The bear grunted, and I saw that part of an arrow stuck out of its side. A hunter hit it once, the bear was in pain making it deadly. It came closer.

“Run away,” I yelled at the girl, but she stood in place.

The bear lumbered toward me and raised his paw to swing a fatal blow just as a sharp sound filled my ears and something hit the tree behind me. Pieces of bark rained down on me. The bear ran back into the woods.

“You could have killed me?” I yelled at her. I glanced at the man on the chair. He didn’t move. When I looked closer, I saw that part of the man’s face was white. I then knew he was dead.

I needed to get out of here, but the girl kept the gun pointed at me. Did she aim for the bear or me?

“You shot at me?”

She didn’t answer. The presence of the dead man made the whole campsite look like a scene out of a horror movie.

I walked closer. “I’m Elena. What’s your name?’

“Ana.” She lowered the gun an inch.

“Him?” I pointed at the dead man.

“My father.”

“Okay.” I wanted to leave. I could run, she probably would miss if she shot at me.

“He’s just sleeping.”

“Forever.” Bluntness is a flaw of mine.

“No.” She lowered the gun some more.

I backed up. She noticed. “Why are you in the woods?”

“I’m looking for my missing daughter.” I lied.

“I can help you?”

“No.” I’m not a good person.

I didn’t want to deal with any of this. I resorted to lies. “Maybe, you can help me look for my daughter.” I lied. It was easier the more you did it. “We’ll come back for your father.” I stopped.

“I’m not stupid. I know he’s dead.” Ana began sobbing.

“What happened?”

“He spied on his neighbors and they found out.”

I got chills. He had been one of THEM, Securitate, the secret police. They were feared once, but now some people sought out anyone who spied for them to take out their revenge.

Ana wiped her eyes, but a few tears still made it down her cheeks. They fell onto the ground before she could speak. “They beat him up really bad. We hid here, but he died.”

“Where’s your mother?”

“She’s dead too.” She wiped her eyes then lowered the gun all the way.

I hesitated to ask how afraid of the answer. Everyone knew sadness here.

“Am I a bad person like my father?” Ana asked.

“No, you’re not. Don’t ever think that.” But what I planned to do made me a bad person.

Ana dropped the gun and before I could change my mind, she was at my side.

When we reached the town, I led her to the police station. We passed a church with a tall bell tower that loomed over the town. Four gargoyles sat on top of it and stared out in every direction. It looked like they could jump down at any minute and reign terror on the town. They sent chills through me. When the church bell clanged, both of us let out a scream and hurried inside the station, a policewoman sat Ana down and stared at me, I motioned toward the bathroom but walked straight out the door. I stopped outside and looked back, Ana looked in my direction, I saw the tears on her cheek glistening under the bright lights. I froze, then took a deep breath and walked toward the woods.

Part of me wanted to help her, I did, but I couldn’t. In the woods, I couldn’t sleep, everything seemed too quiet like nature was mad at me. I was mad at me.

I wanted to forget, I really did, but every time I looked at my hand, I saw a tiny hand letting go of it. No therapy or medicine will erase the memory or ease the pain. I once held an ax above my hand ready to cut it off, but I couldn’t even do it. I wanted to disappear and never see a child and to never feel that pain again. Ana changed all that. She made me feel things that I avoided. My heart could be broken, that was a pain I never wanted to feel again, but I worried about what would happen to her. She was all alone. I needed to get away, go deeper into the woods or even to the mountains and disappear forever or I would do something dangerous like going back for her.

A low bark broke the silence. I froze and watched as a red fox strolled by and fell over. I pulled my knife out, but it wasn’t here to attack. I looked closer and saw its leg was caught in some kind of trap. The rusty thing didn’t close all the way, but at any minute, it could slam shut and cut off the fox’s paw.

I slowly approached, it let me. With the back of my knife, I pried it open, and the fox sprung free. I watched with tears in my eyes. Shortly afterward, I saw two sets of small eyes join it in the distance. They faded into the darkness. How did it know to come to me for help? Somehow, I thought Violeta led it here. Big tears ran down my cheeks and I struggled to fall asleep, but I was unable to get rid of the image of Ana crying.

 

****

 

A week later, I looked at the walls inside Orphanage Number Three and was surprised by the lack of color. Inside, they led me to a room door where I could watch Ana from a window without interrupting the others. It was lunchtime. She sat alone and didn’t touch her food.

“Why is she alone?”

“She prefers it. We tried to help her.”

I heard smaller children in another room. I struggled to breathe and turned to leave.

“By the way, she wants to talk to you. She always asks for the tough woman who found her.”

Before I could run out, the door opened.

Ana reached out for me and I let her hug me.

“I’m ready.”

“For what?”

“To help find your daughter. The one that is missing.”

I stepped backward. “I.” I turned away. My mouth opened, but no words came out. Ana remained quiet waiting for an answer and I cleared my throat before telling the truth. “I know where she is, she’s buried in the cemetery.”

“What? Since when?”

“When she was small, I let go of her hand and she was hit by a car.” I hid my eyes with my trembling hands.

“You lied to get me here.” She stormed around the room. “I’m sorry about your daughter, but.” She stopped and banged on the door. “Let me out.”

“Ana, I’m sorry.”

The door opened and banged shut leaving me alone in the empty room.. My hand shook as the memories of Violeta came back.

I ran to the woods like I always did. It was always my escape. I couldn’t hurt anyone or be hurt there. Near my shelter, I saw a small body. One of the fox’s kits died. It was crazy to think the mother brought it here hoping I could save it. I couldn’t. Maybe I couldn’t save Violeta either, but there was still hope for Ana.

I returned to the orphanage and the same worker let me in. In the small room, I told Ana to get her stuff. I was ready to fight anyone who tried to stop me. She came out with just one small bag and a smile. I held out my knife as we walked right out the door. Nobody tried to stop us. They didn’t dare.  In normal times this wouldn’t have worked, but these weren’t normal times. In fact, everything was wild.

When we walked away, I looked down and saw that Ana grasped my hand. I made sure I wouldn’t let it go.

 

 

About the Author:

William Falo lives in the USA . He studied wildlife in college and was a volunteer fireman. His work has appeared in Vamp Cat Magazine, Fictive Dream, Litro Magazine, Vaughan Street Doubles, and other literary journals. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He can be found on Twitter @williamfalo and on Instagram @writerwilliamfalo 

Call for SUBMISSIONS: LOVE POEMS

Uncategorized

 

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Graphic #9 (Poems) by Greg Morrissey

 We are searching for Love Poems for our first print anthology.

Most of us love someone or something, and are loved, even if we do not fully understand the feeling. Fragmented Voices celebrates diverse writing. We want to read about beautiful love, not only the romanticised and sentimental side of love, but also darker more complex aspects of ‘LOVE’ – shame, lust, the sadness and anger of loving someone who doesn’t love you back….. Love in any form and shape.

Poets should send their poetry submissions on the theme of ‘LOVE’ to fragmentedvoices@gmail.com.

Poets may send a maximum of 3 poems in a single file. Poems should be up to a maximum of 40 lines each. All work must be your own. We accept previously published poetry on the understanding your wprl does not breach the contract or agreement with the other publisher/organiser. Please include a brief biography in the body of your email, including your contact details. The deadline to submit is June 30th 2020.

Tender Places by Helen Anderson

Poetry
Loving cup

Loving Cup by Amy McCartney,

She possesses no vocabulary for this pain she feels.

It’s “not an ache”, “not a throb” – “more of a strain”, she feels.

 

“Certainly not psychosomatic.” She rubs at imperceptible

ulcers on her shin, like a baked-on stain. It feels

 

like she’s losing whatever “it” might have been.

Yet taking tablets goes against her grain. She feels

 

things were best when things were left unsaid –

lips stiff and chins up. No bones about the disdain she feels

 

for this limp modern language of disease. No sense –

no relief for you, daughter – in urging her to explain how she feels.

 

 

About the Author:

Helen Victoria Anderson lives near Redcar and has an MA in Creative Writing from Teesside University. Her chapbook ‘Way Out’ is published by Black Light Engine Room Press and she is the author of ‘Piece by Piece: Remembering Georgina: A Mother’s Memoir’. Winner of the InkTears Flash Fiction Contest 2015 and the People Not Borders Short Story Competition 2017, Helen is a bereaved parent, a widow, and a firm believer in the therapeutic power of words.