Don’t Go to Denver by Melissa Grunow

Fiction, Uncategorized
Mothwings

Mothwings by Stela Brix, 2018

In the dark, my hand was shadowed against the angel wings on his back. Some time ago ink-filled needles had ripped apart his body and taken on images and symbols with unexplained meanings, words without definitions. His skin, light and smooth, was an access point into the world within him. It was twisted, complicated, uninviting. I wanted all of it and nothing to do with it at the same time.

His tattoo crawled across my hand and danced with the shadows, consuming my palm.  His exposed neck waited, while he laid there facing away from me. I had attacked him while his soul was raw, his heart vulnerable. I had told him the truth about us, about him. And he didn’t like it.

“I’ll never completely trust you. You’ll never respect me in the way that I deserve. And we’ll always come back to that,” I had said just moments earlier.

Silence. “So what do we do?” he finally asked.

“I suppose we have two options.” I didn’t sound like myself. I was always asking the questions; he always had the solutions. He could see things that I couldn’t. But in the dark, something had shifted, and I was the one with the voice. “We can compromise, and that’s what makes us, well, us. Or this ends it.”

We hadn’t even defined it yet. Our worlds had collided together suddenly, physically, a sloppy attempt to fill gaps in ourselves left by others: his by a lover who left him because he could never be something he wasn’t, mine by an attacker who left me with a black eye and a persistent fear of parking lots. We found solace in how we mutually exist in the world. As the days passed, though, it became strikingly evident that how we react to and engage with others was so notably different. We didn’t know if we could survive it.

“This can’t last forever,” I had told him a week earlier during a late-night phone call. “This will change. We will change.”

We argued about love. He ran his hand over the Emily Dickinson quote tattooed on his chest, “That love is all there is, is all we know of Love,” and said, “Love is a promise that I will hurt you less than anyone else.” He turned over, looked through the dark and right through me.

I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe in love, either, but I did understand loyalty. What I did not understand was why he would still go to Denver in the morning. Why he would pursue love with another, even if just for the weekend? Especially when I had just come home, whatever “home” was, to be with him.

I’ll be a wreck, I had told him. You already are, he had said. We had spent the past two hours talking about it. Being reasonable, fair, giving each other the chance to complete our thoughts.

“Don’t go to Denver,” I pleaded. My suitcase was sitting, still packed, at the foot of the bed. His empty suitcase was waiting next to the closet. There was still time for him to change his mind.

It doesn’t have anything to do with you, he said. I can’t accept that, I said. I’m not asking you to, he said. You can’t just use me, I said. I’m doing this because I want to be used, he said.

Round and round and round we went until I bit into his shoulder, and the talking stopped. A train blew its whistle outside the open window; a gentle fall breeze crept into the room, settling over the bodies of two lovers causing just one to shiver.

 

About the Author:

Melissa Grunow is the author of I DON’T BELONG HERE: ESSAYS (New Meridian Arts Press, 2018), finalist in the 2019 Independent Author Network Book of the Year Award and 2019 Best Indie Book from Shelf Unbound, and REALIZING RIVER CITY: A MEMOIR (Tumbleweed Books, 2016) which won the 2018 Book Excellence Award in Memoir, the 2017 Silver Medal in Nonfiction-Memoir from Readers’ Favorite International Book Contest, and Second Place-Nonfiction in the 2016 Independent Author Network Book of the Year Awards. Her work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, River Teeth, The Nervous Breakdown, Two Hawks Quarterly, New Plains Review, and Blue Lyra Review, among many others. Her essays have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net and listed in the Best American Essays notables 2016 and 2018. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction with distinction from National University. She is an assistant professor of English at Illinois Central College. Visit her website at http://www.melissagrunow.com for more information.

A Tangible Beauty of Absence by Sue Pearson

Fiction, Uncategorized

 

CockelShell - A Tangable Beauty of Absence

A Tangible Beauty of Absence, India Hibbs, 2019

                                                     

She saw the shell, there, on the sand, on a still autumn day when the calm lapping sea melded into the sky at its horizon.

This was the first walk of autumn and it had taken some cajoling to persuade the teenagers to leave the cottage. They had grumbled and straggled behind until they breathed fresh sea air on turning the corner at the top of the hill. Then their long strides easily overtook her and suddenly she was alone. Forgotten in the moment, as they linked arms, engrossed in themselves and each other.

She bent down and picked it up. At first, it appeared sealed and she thought that the occupant may be dead within but she looked more closely. It was open a sliver and she saw and smelt that it was empty. Left home, gone fishing, just popped out. Such a clean salty exit.

The children were play wrestling ahead. The man-boy and his sister, almost as tall as each other. A tangle of limbs and wind-carried laughter.

Over years and seasons, over notches on the kitchen door jamb, they had taken this walk. At first within and then carried, later with uncertainty, holding her hand. For years, running on and back, on and back, zigzagging over the beach, hunting, scouring for treasure. Dog shark egg purses, feathers, jellyfish, crab shells, animal tracks, clean washed bones, sea glass and shells. So many shells; limpet, cowrie, cockle, whelk and top shell, lots of top shells because they twinkle silver in the sunlight. All excitedly gifted to her until her pockets could contain no more.

This one was a cockle and she popped it into her pocket. With her fingertips, she felt the sea smoothed ridges on either side, felt its coolness, the weight of its emptiness. Within her pocket, her fingers scooped it to fit the hollow of her palm. The creature’s lifetime artistry. This accumulation of such magnitude left behind.

A few grains of sand trickled from it and became lost in the dark seam of her pocket.

 

 

About the Author:

Sue Pearson began writing two years ago and had her eyes opened and brain massaged by the MA Creative Writing course in 2019.  She enjoys crafting short stories and creating poetry. She lives in Newcastle with her husband, two children, cat and dog, all of whom are muses. She stepped away from a career in law to feel the joys and frustrations of creativity and hopes that life will be different ever after. 

This story has been originally published in an online students’ literary magazine and then again reprinted in Bridges 2019, an anthology of works by creative writing and writing poetry students at Newcastle University. with the financial support of the School of English Language, Literature and Linguistics. The very same anthology is out tomorrow with Bandit Fiction. All money made from its sale goes towards the National Literacy Trust.

 

 

Causeway by Oz Hardwick

Poetry, Uncategorized

 

speakeasy

Speak Easy, India Hibbs, 2019

When the tide’s out you can walk to the island. There’s a name for this, but then there’s a name for everything, and knowing that name rarely makes much of a difference, so I decide I may as well make up my own. I decide to call it the by the name of my first pet, a black and white rabbit of which I was inexplicably frightened, just as I was inexplicably frightened of loud noises, mirrors, and the woman who sat on the side of my bed solicitously whispering that she knew everything about me. In truth, at that age there wasn’t much to know, but her voice, the darkness, and the shuffling of the rabbit in the chest of drawers, was enough to tell me that I should be wary of names and dangerous tides. The island isn’t far, and beyond that is a fragmenting Europe, then nothing but melting ice. There are rabbit tracks on the drying sand, the figure of a woman in the dying light. Names keep their power even as their referents recede, and although I keep my lips sealed the sea knows them all.

 

 

 

 

About the Author:

Oz Hardwick’s work has been published and performed internationally in and on diverse media. His chapbook Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: IPSI/Recent Work, 2018) was the winner in the poetry category of the 2019 Rubery International Book Awards, and his most recent collection – his eighth – is The Lithium Codex (Clevedon: Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2019). Oz is Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, where he leads the Creative Writing programmes. http://www.ozhardwick.co.uk

 

The Gecko’s Tale by Abigail Ottley

Fiction, Uncategorized
20181105_143405 (1)

Children by Kasia Grzela, 2018

 

‘Jesus Christ,’ says Jerry, ‘the little bastard bit me.’

Eli doesn’t look up straight away but keeps his eyes on the workbench.  His neck is hunched into his narrow shoulders and his complexion is more than usually grey.  ‘I’d watch my mouth if I were you.  The boss don’t care for that kind of language. Outed someone two days ago. Heard it down the canteen.’

Jerry is using his long, bony thumb to squeeze the fleshy pad of his finger.  His angular features convey a mixture of indignation and pain.

‘Look,’ he says, ‘it’s bleeding.  It didn’t oughta be allowed.’ He inserts his finger into his mouth and sucks on the wound.

‘We oughtta have gloves,’ he says.  ‘They should issue us with gloves.  Anyways, why are we doing this? What’s the point of it all? Forty-eight hours and they’ll all be dead and stinking to high heaven.’

It occurs to Eli that Jerry might well have a point. Eli has worked at the depot for a much longer time than Jerry and, in the course of his experience, he has had to deal with some very strange job sheets. Once it was two truckloads of turtle doves, another time three thousand white mice.  There had been trouble over that one, a lot of bad feelings.  Three thousand mice, whatever their colour, don’t amount to no rose garden.  Some of the guys got all worked up and took it into their heads to complain.

‘I ever tell you about the walk-out?’ says Eli, ‘There was this really big guy. Name of Luke.’

Jerry looks blank and shakes his head so Eli goes ahead and tells him.  He tells how the boss is under pressure that day and in no mood to listen and how, eventually, voices are raised and then all guys walk out.  For a while, it feels good, like back in the old days, before they changed the regulations.  But then next morning the boss comes around wearing this big, sticky smile. The boss takes Big Luke and a couple of others upstairs to the office and when they come back they’re all buddy-buddy and grinning fit to bust. Then the boss says he’s glad they’ve cleared the air and how he’s sorry for the misunderstanding. He raises the daily rate and everybody smiles.

‘So?’ says Jerry. ‘What’s your point?  What’s this got to do with me?’

Eli sucks in his cheeks and purses his lips.‘Well,’ he says, ‘when the boss has gone, the guys make a fuss of Big Luke.  They slap him on the back and make thumbs up and pump away at his hand.  And, when Luke says it ain’t nothing at all, they say he is just being modest.  Luke makes like he don’t want to hear it but, all the same, he’s pretty damned pleased.’

Eli narrows his eyes and fixes them on Jerry.  He wants to be completely sure that his audience is paying attention.

‘Thing is,’ says Eli, ‘about eight months later Big Luke goes missing from the depot. Word goes round that he’s put in for a transfer and maybe he did. Fact is, though, no one knows for sure. No one knows nothing.  There ain’t no one I know of, not man or woman, ever saw Big Luke again.’

Eli sees that the point of his story has not been lost on Jerry who returns to the conveyor belt but no longer has his mind on his work.  For two or three minutes, he sifts through the lizards, sorting them for size and colour.  Some of them are dead already, others are plainly too big. Finally, he turns to face Eli with the air of a man who wants answers. A thirteen inch gecko hangs limply from his fingers.  He holds it by the tip of its tail.

‘So you are saying’ he says, ‘that I shouldn’t complain.’ He makes the gecko swing about a little and seems to be studying it real close. ‘In short, you’re telling me to hush my mouth lessin’ I get what’s coming and end up like this little fella with no bark or bite.’

Eli shrugs his shoulders and turns back to the belt.‘I ain’t telling you nothing,’ he says. ‘Plain truth is, I ain’t rightly talking at all.  What I is doing is minding my business and working my way through this job sheet. Maybe it’s about time you was doing the same.’

Jerry looks at Eli quizzical like and then they turn back to the belt. Lizards of all species, all colours and all sizes, are still trundling by. On the platform that stands to Eli’s left, there is a growing pile of corpses.  Funny thing is, it just so happens nearly all of them are geckos.

***
About two hours later the lizards are done.  Eli is finishing the paper work and Jerry is sluicing down the belt.  It has been a hard day but Eli is happy that the job didn’t drag on till morning.  He likes it best when he can come in early knowing they are up to date.

‘When you’ve finished that,’ Eli says to Jerry, ‘don’t forget to spray.  That stink will be ten times worse once the place has been shut up for the night.’

‘Ok, ok, I know,’ says Jerry and you can tell he’s kind of touchy but he goes off to get the spray and his boots make muddy marks on the floor. Anyway, Jerry comes back and you can see he isn’t happy. He has the freshener spray in one hand and his mop in the other.  He is fairly stomping along.

‘Shoot,’ he says as he is retracing his steps, ‘wouldn’t you damn well know it?  Hey, you know,  I just bumped into one the guys from upstairs.  You ain’t gonna believe what he told me.’

Jerry is in the act of pitching the air freshener canister to Eli when the double doors open and in walks the boss. He has on this very sorrowful look like he has just heard someone’s died and Jerry watches with horror as the canister strikes the floor.  Everybody else kind of freezes on the spot but the boss just raises his eyebrows and makes with this great big cheesy smile as if to say that everything’s ok.  Then the smile is kind of wiped away and the sorrowful look clicks back into place. The effect, Jerry thinks, is as if one clown mask is being worn over another.

‘Eli,’ says the boss, ‘I am glad I have caught you. I’ve been mulling things over. I think we may be wrong about the lizards.  It’s too much like the frogs. Fact is, I’m pulling the plug on this one. We need to start afresh.’

Eli is taken aback.  His mouth sags a little.  On the other hand, he is a wily old fox and too long in the tooth to let on.

‘Yes, Sir’ he says, ‘I’ll pick up the job sheet first thing in the morning.’

‘No,’ says the boss, ‘you misunderstand me. I need this attended to now.’

Eli and Jerry exchange looks but the boss doesn’t see this.  He is too busy checking on the figures that he keeps in his little leather book.  He doesn’t see Eli raise his hand in warning or Jerry’s eyes narrow.  He doesn’t feel the tension between one man and the next that tightens like a net across the room.

The boss closes his notebook and puts it in his breast pocket. He pats the pocket as if to satisfy himself that everything is in order. ‘Two thousand ought to be enough,’ he says.  ‘Shall we say not later than seven?’

He doesn’t wait for an answer but is already half way out the door.  But then he pauses and stands in the doorway, his head cocked to one side.  He looks like a man who has just forgotten the very thing he came there to say.

’By the way, Jerry, it almost slipped my mind. I wonder if you can give me a minute. There’s something I’d like to discuss with you — in the office upstairs.’

Jerry looks at Eli and Eli looks at the boss.  Then he shrugs his shoulders, a movement so small you can hardly see it at all.  As the door closes behind Jerry, Eli is starting up the conveyor belt.

‘Mice,’ he says. ‘Friggin’ mice.’

                                                         © Abigail Elizabeth Ottley

 

 

About the Author:

 

Abigail Elizabeth Ottley writes poetry and short fiction from Penzance in Cornwall. Since 2009 her work has appeared in numerous journals, magazines and anthologies. These include ‘The Lake’, ‘The Blue Nib’, ‘Atrium’, ‘The Atlanta Journal’ and ‘Ink, Sweat & Tears’. Abigail was featured in ‘Wave Hub: new poetry from Cornwall’ edited by Dr. Alan M. Kent and was among the winners for ‘Poems on the Move’ at last year’s Guernsey Literary Festival. 

My Place by Lynn White

Uncategorized

 

TheGardener

The Gardener, India Hibbs, 2019

 

My Place

 

I creased the page

to keep my place,

but when I returned

I was unsure,

unsure if I had found it.

Was it really my place,

the place

I’d once inhabited.

It didn’t seem quite right.

Perhaps I’d moved on too quickly,

turned over two pages instead of one.

Perhaps I should go back,

retrace my steps.

Maybe then I’ll find my place.

 

About the Author

Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy, and reality. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud ‘War Poetry for Today’ competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including Apogee, Firewords, Capsule Stories, Light Journal and So It Goes. 

  https://lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com and https://www.facebook.com/Lynn-White-Poetry-1603675983213077/

 

 

Natalie Crick: 2020, A NEW YEAR FOR WRITING

Uncategorized
8th Jan Photo for Blog

Photo by Natalie Crick

Happy New Year to all of our friends, followers, and supporters.

The turn of a new year can bring new possibilities and challenges. For me, a new year is often a new start. I spring clean, put together new outfits, write lists of resolutions and I usually make plans to submit new drafts of poems to journals and competitions.

The Christmas period is a perfect time for writing when the air is cold, and we crave warmth inside our houses. Our thoughts are heavy with memory and hope that New Year can bring.

As January 1st dawned, I began to consider where to submit my poetry next. There are some exciting opportunities out there that might interest followers of Fragmented Voices.

I’m planning to submit poems to The Stinging Fly, datableed and Butcher’s Dog, and I’ve already submitted to Pain; one of my favourite new journals.

There are some great competitions open at the moment too – the Magma Poetry Competition 2019/2020 closes on January 11th…but maybe there is still time to write something before the deadline….

I find that the National Poetry Library website is a great source of information for magazines, competitions, and other creative opportunities. There are some great venues to submit to for prose-writers here too.

Thank you also for submitting to our new literary press, Fragmented Voices, if you have already done so. We are grateful for your support.

If you haven’t tried submitting to us yet, why not spend a few moments reading our submission guidelines at https://fragmentedvoices.com/submissions/. We accept creative work purely on the strengths of the work itself, as oppose to a writer’s CV or publication history. We’ve already had the pleasure of reading some wonderful submissions from all over the world, many of whom will be the first voices to represent our press. Keep following our social media pages over the next few weeks as we reveal the first gems of poems, prose, and essays that we have enjoyed reading.

We hope 2020 will be a special year for you and a time to celebrate your writing and showcase it to others. Find your voice.

 

 

Natalie Nera: The Floodgates Have Opened

Uncategorized
pexels-photo-3496992.jpeg

Photo by Evie Shaffer on Pexels.com

 

After eighteen months of preparation, drafting and re-drafting our plans, discussing, debating, changing our minds, having to change the whole concept of our project because of my move to Prague, we have finally done it: we are open to submissions for our online literary blog.

We have received many submissions, including some proposals for books, and one of the things that is obvious – there are many incredibly talented people worldwide. The standard of writing is very high, so consequently, it is sometimes difficult to decide why we accept some contributions, whereas in other instances they get rejected. Sometimes the reason for rejection is as simple as the author not reading the profile of our small print properly therefore his writing is not a good match for us. In other words, rejection is not always a reflection on the quality of the work but it is still hard. We both recognise it as we both have suffered many rejections. They hurt even if at the same time on your desk you have a pile of successful publications and awards in literary competitions.

I thought it was important to mention it as we try to give every author the attention they deserve and the space they need.

It brings me to another idea that came to me in December when I was in bed with beautiful hallucinations caused by endless fevers. Only the third sort of antibiotics worked on my bacterial infection (a worrying trend these days), I was hours away from being hospitalised. Although not catastrophic, it was pretty bad. The upside was that when I was in my unconscious state, I had superpowers. I could fly and hover over the meadow full of blossoms. The sun was shining. I was also a figure skater, jumping salchows and axels. Fact check: I am a miserable skater.

One day, I even held a lecture in English on the topic of what makes a writer timeless. I was so brilliant! I had never been so clever, so witty, so knowledgeable! In my real life, I am full of self-doubt and only through a lot of self-training did I learn how to speak publicly without having a nervous breakdown each time. My recall is rubbish so oral exams or quizzes are a no-no. I usually get myself into a state when I don’t remember my own name.

 

However, in this dream-like, fever-induced state, I was so good with my arguments! Sadly, I can only remember mentioning Chekhov. Which brings me to my final point. We cannot do anything about the fact that the language mutates and changes. Our “normal” expressions will sound archaic in twenty or thirty years. Yet, someone like Chekhov seems timeless despite that. He is utterly modern, like he wrote his stories yesterday. I always learn something new from him.

Then you have another very good writer called Karel Čapek. I devoured every single published book of his writing when I was a teenager – his columns for newspapers, his short stories, his plays, his Letters from England. He was an exceptional person, too. He was a convinced democrat, a defender of democracy, hounded by the nazis in the late thirties to his untimely death in 1938.

Many of his ideas put in his writing are still valid – his satirical novel The War with the Salamanders was mocking the ascend of fascism but in many ways could be transposed to today. The search for eternal youth in the drama The Makropulos Affair reflects today’s cult of perfection, plastic surgery obsession, filtered Instagram images we have to wrestle with; the representation of an ideal unachievable in the real life. He gave the world one new word – a robot. He was nominated for Nobel Prize in Literature many times but never received it. Yet, when you open his books today, yes, they have valid ideas but are heavily overwritten to the point when it is difficult to enjoy them.

Another example: whenever I happen to read some of the campus fiction created in the past forty years, I cringe. Yes, they are clever, the authors are skilled but they feel dated, slightly patronising towards the reader, which was presumably thought of acceptable and perhaps even funny at the time. Today, opening those books is like walking into one of those village or town museu

ms where everyone is dressed in Victorian costumes. They feel more like a memorial that has been built to testify about the long-gone era than literature that can inspire.

So what is it that makes an author, poet or artist timeless? I am sorry but I cannot remember the clever and confident answer I gave in my dream. Over to you. Happy New Year!