Three Years On…

Dear Reader,

If you’ve followed us for long, you will know that this all began in 2019 with three friends getting frustrated. We were looking at the literary world and seeing the same kinds of voices again and again – and many others being left out because their owners were “too pointy”, or they “didn’t fit” the publishing model…

We wanted to create a platform without borders, a space to celebrate the triangles! Finn the Fox, our mascot, is made entirely of triangles. When you put enough stunning, unique voices together, you end up with something truly special. You build bridges. You see the world is bigger than you thought, after all.

We especially welcome first time writers – those who have struggled to have their work published. English isn’t your first language? Wonderful! We’d love to hear from you, or see your translations.

We became accidentally international when our fantastic Prose Editor Natalie Nera moved back to Prague with her family – in the middle of Brexit, and as we were trying to become a CIC. Eek! We’ve embraced the madness though, and love that our international status means we can better connect writers and readers across the globe.

So, thank you.

Thank you for submitting your work to us – to our online magazine, published twice a week between February – May, and September – December! Thank you for being part of the conversation, and for reaching out to look at life from a different perspective.

Thank you for getting involved with our yearly Big Books – collections of poetry and prose which celebrate the wildly different experiences we go through on the face of this here rock.

Want to know something exciting?

Since we began, we’ve had over 45,000 reads of our online magazine. It’s reached over 20,000 different people, and has nearly 3000 pairs of eager eyes on it every month!

Our first Big Book The Language of Salt featured voices from around the world, including Ireland, Europe, Nigeria, the United States, and the UK. We received 1500 poems during our callout, and whittled it down to a mere 50 poets for the final collection!

Our second Big Book Heart/h was a celebration of the short form, and featured writers from the North-East of England, the rest of the UK, Iran, the United States, Germany… Again, we distilled your incredible entries down to only 40 authors, who explored what home was to them in tales of diaspora, of rushing to safety, of loss and longing.

And our third Big Book? Well, that’s this year’s Summer Callout. You’ll have to keep an eye on our social media on Wednesday 1st June!

Spoilers!

Rue

‘The Fells Slumber’ by Helen Openshaw

Giant resting gravestones 
Anchored in the setting sun,
The fells slumber on. 
A tin drum moon
Awakens them to the sharp,
Sweet, night.
Rising, 
rumbling,
cloaked in the evening stars,
They survey the land,
And stake their claim.

Meet the Poet

Helen Openshaw is a Drama and English teacher, from Cumbria, England. She enjoys writing poetry and plays and inspiring her students to write. Helen has had a short monologue commissioned by Knock and Nash productions. Recently published and upcoming poetry work in Words and Whispers magazine, Green Ink Poetry magazine, The Madrigal, Unfortunately, literary magazine, Boats against the current, Forge Zine, Moist poetry, and The Dirigible Balloon magazine. Twitter – @Pocket_rhyme

‘Harley’s Rescue’ by William Falo

She jumped when a gust of wind ripped the restaurant door off its hinges. It disappeared down the street. She lived on the streets, but the restaurant workers fed her. Where did they go? The water got deeper by the minute. It now covered her paws and soon would touch her stomach. She sloshed through the water, looking for the humans. 

The last one hammered something on the building.

She heard someone’s voice. A boat drove toward the building. She meowed, but it was drowned out by the engine.

“I’m leaving.”

The human sloshed through the water toward the boat. 

“Get in. The storms getting worse,” the human on the boat said.

“I will, but there was a stray cat around here. I fed it. I hope she will be okay.”

“They’re tough, she’ll be okay…”

“I hope you’re right. I wanted to take her home, but I’m allergic, so I fed it here.”

“Let’s go.”

The engine roared, and she watched as they faded from view. The wind roared outside as she climbed onto the deck outside the restaurant. The patter on the roof increased as the storm intensified.

A board hit the deck and jammed on the steps, blocking her escape route.

She was trapped. The water streamed onto the deck.

The boat was gone, and she was alone. Things floated by, and she strained to see them. A raft floated by, covered with moving ants. She wanted to jump on it and follow the humans, but the ants would bite her. She remembered many painful bites from fire ants when she was a kitten in the woods. 

The memory made her think of when she was a kitten, she wondered where her siblings were, but there was no way of knowing. One day she wandered away from them, and when she went back, they were gone. Still, she remembered smelling a human and someone saying adoption, but when she meowed, they didn’t hear her, and she was alone, and she followed the scent of food to the restaurant. She’s been living near it ever since. She then remembered the warmth of her mother’s fur and meowed. 

The water now covered the deck. She jumped up on a chair. It wobbled, and she thought it would collapse, sending her into the water, but it stayed up. The human used to sit on it when he smoked a long stick and fed her scraps. She could still smell the smoke.

A long rope floated by before it moved and hissed at her. A snake. She hissed at it, and it drifted away.

She shook repeatedly, but she stayed wet, and a chill grew inside her. She curled up on the chair. The chair rocked like a boat when the wind roared, and darkness covered the area like someone had turned the lights off. She was so exhausted that she drifted to sleep despite the raging storm. 

Dreams. A warm mother, fights with siblings, catching a mouse, food from humans, catnip, a few pets, kind words, and an inside place that was warm and dry. A home that she never knew. 

A strong gust of wind shook the chair and woke her up. The chair started to topple over. At the same time, a bright light shined on the deck. She splashed into the water along with the chair. 

“Look at that sign.” A voice said. “A cat is around here. Please save her. She doesn’t have a home, but I call her Harley. Do you see her?”

She tried to climb on the board that blocked the deck, but it was too slippery, and she plunked back into the water. She was too weak and sank under and closed her eyes. Before she hit bottom, something grabbed her and hoisted her out of the water. 

“I got you.” A human with long hair lifted her up and stared into her eyes. “Give me a blanket.” 

She trembled despite the blanket being wrapped around her. Could she trust these humans?

“The sign says her name is Harley.”

“Harley, you’re a good cat.” She knew those words. They were good words. They got back into the boat, and the engine hummed to life. 

“I will take care of Harley,” Katie said.

“You are a Harley Quinn fan.” The human laughed.

“Yeah, I am. I also had a cat before. She lived to eighteen years old.” Harley felt warmth. 

The memories stayed, but she felt something new too. She stopped trembling and rubbed against the human’s hand. 

“Katie, she likes you.” 

Katie kissed her head and rubbed behind her ears. 

“Harley, you’re coming home with me.”

She knew love. She knew it started slowly; maybe this was the beginning of it. Maybe she would have a home now like she dreamed all her siblings did. She purred.The sun came over the horizon as the storm moved away when they reached dry land, and a new day began. 

Meet the Author

William Falo lives with his family, including a papillon named Dax. His stories have been published or are forthcoming in various literary journals. He can be found on Twitter @williamfalo and Instagram @william.falo

‘Placing you’ by Clive Donovan

I have put you on this hillside
in order to prepare for you
a rock-scree slide-show,
freakish as it goes down
the perfect 45° slope

and over that precipice
about which I should warn you.
Do not move from your spot.
You are placed on a special rock
island of basalt.

I arrange a sprinkling of trees
to halt and hold the flow
and a layer of some hedging roots.
See already rabbit hare
and pigeon hop among the bush

making themselves at home
and a shy tortoise appears
shuffling up to your hand in admiration.
You sit with passive gaze at the distance.
On the river bend a boat.

Meet the Poet

Clive Donovan is widely published in magazines, including Fragmented Voices. He is a Pushcart and Forward Prize nominee this year for best individual poem and his first collection is recently published by Cinnamon Press. Many of his poems explore the eternal circle of desire, control and escape.

‘A Portrait’ by Duncan Bennett

Words fail me – even as I stand before her, absorbing her beauty and marvelling at the cold intensity of her gaze.

I can’t describe her presence. There are words – they rise quickly to my lips – but before this heavenly apparition their portent seems as rudimentary as stone, and I worry my mastery of language is too poor to attempt even the feeblest articulation of her grace.

However, in truth, I know I’m spellbound, and realise that only by conveying something of her allure will I be able to exorcise my infatuation and free myself of her thrall.

And so …

… her hair – a fine, lustrous, ebony-black which promises the texture of spun satin – is both long and full and frames her face perfectly; its loose tresses caressing the line of her high, finely sculpted cheekbones before falling in a cascade of curls about her slender shoulders.

Her face is just so dramatically beautiful: a beauty that I wager even the most passionately enthused artist could never aspire to paint, sculpt, depict nor design.  The delicate features are at once both angelically child-like, and remarkably sensuous.

Her eyes are immediately entrancing; they are hypnotically deep, yet from their dark fathoms emanates a bright, powder-blue lustre. But, though they betray a yielding temperament and vital intelligence, I fear they are perhaps too waxed and haunted to be properly described as vibrant.

If her eyes offer a window to her soul, then her mouth reveals the pathway to her heart: it describes a perfectly formed bow; rich, yielding and inviting though, as I can’t imagine it has ever been kissed, would, perhaps, seem far more readily given to hushed whispers than passion.  Their fullness contrasts vividly with the ivory-white pallor of the flesh upon which they are so delicately stencilled for, though unpainted, they are yet possessed of a deep, naturally blossoming, cherry-red flush.

However, for one whose features are so exquisitely endowed and classically composed, her expression is one of fast held – and seemingly long suppressed – anxiety; the pain of life is clearly etched upon a slightly gathered brow, and mistrust – so potent that it is almost offensive – draws a hard line upon a jaw too firm for familiarity.  Likewise, the eyes are held just slightly too focused, just slightly too alert to ever – one might imagine – evoke a passionate concordance with the world they observe.

Sonorous and languid; attentive yet unmoving; she gazes forlornly through a vivid dream of long, un-slept centuries.

Her blood no longer flows – but sleeps, cold and still in her veins.

She has no name.

She is a vampire, imprisoned within an impassioned canvas.

Meet the Author

Duncan Bennett is a West Lothian based poet, writer and photographer who enjoys a wide range of subjects but has a penchant for horror writing and street photography in particular. He can be reached at duncan.bennett121@gmail.com

Bex Hainsworth’s ‘Walnut Street’

is lined with oak trees.
No sharp crack of fossilized
brain tissue, all ridges, like the inside
of a rodent’s skull, beneath my feet
as I walk to the bus stop at dawn.
Instead, cupless acorns bursting, splitting,
as furniture becomes firewood.

There is a mushroom. It seems to be
growing out of a paving stone,
pressing its bare feet against the cold slab,
far from soil, leaning wearily against a wall.
It is a pound of grimy flesh, an amputated limb.

Passed over, like a beggar in a doorway,
head bowed beneath his grey-brown cap.
Displaced, rootless, lonely, in a land
with a strange name that doesn’t match,
from forests and fields to this urban plot.
I pause, and mourn for this mushroom:
a headstone for all the disinherited of the earth.  

Meet the Poet

Bex Hainsworth (she/her) is a bisexual poet and teacher based in Leicester, UK. She won the Collection HQ Prize as part of the East Riding Festival of Words and her work has appeared in Visual Verse, Neologism, Atrium, Acropolis Journal, and Brave Voices Magazine. Find her on Twitter @PoetBex. 

Four Flash Fiction Pieces by Victor Schwartzman

Entry Level

Miriam’s job, an entry level position, was to cut open garbage bags in the city dump.

She cut open garbage bags to inspect their contents, eight hours a day with a forty-five-minute lunch and two coffee breaks. She worked for the city.

Her job was to look for what did not belong in the garbage. This dump was destined to use the garbage as landfill. Plastics and other recyclables were forbidden.

Miriam opened garbage bags, looking for the forbidden. If a district sent forbidden garbage to the garbage dump, its taxes increased.

Miriam had the job for six months. The promotion was running a tractor to push the bags into large holes, filling in a swamp.

Each bag told a story. One was full of used toys, another TV dinner cartons and plastic utensils. Another had body parts. When Miriam found a foot she called the police.

Miriam fretted about her career path but civil service jobs were hard to find.  

Achieving Happiness Through Career

From childhood, Thelma read obituaries of great achievers (regular folks never get obits.) In her twenties, every morning before leaving for work she read obits. And continued reading them at work. Indeed, her career had become writing obits.

Great success, she believed, came partly from genuine talent but mostly from a single-minded focus on one issue. Over- achievers were obsessed with one issue, whether it was in the arts, business or science. They followed it all their lives.

Obits, Thelma believed, kept their achievements remembered. But along with the achievements came unpleasant realities. While over-achievers were universally celebrated, frequently Thelma wrote obits of famous people she’d never heard of before getting the assignment. Over- achievers were eventually forgotten.

Also, their personal lives were often disasters.

The issue was personal. Thelma recognized herself: single- focused, isolated, troubled social life. She felt alive only when reading and writing about dead people.

Thelma wanted to change but denying her obsession was impossible. She tried therapy but withdrew–after helping her therapist write an obit about his father.

However, after writing the obit of a method actor whose obsessive behavior drove his colleagues crazy, Thelma took up acting classes. Pretending to be a nicer person was the solution, given she could not be a nicer person. She eventually learned where her inner niceness was and, after intensive study, used method acting to smile.

Eventually Thelma retired happy, believing she had achieved something unique. Her crowning achievement was to write her own obit.

It was printed after she died. Her story was widely spread and celebrated until a new obsessed obit writer emerged.

In the afterlife, Thelma regularly met people who complained she’d gotten their obits wrong. 

Making Old Movies Marketable

The movie executives met in a panic. New films were an expensive, difficult gamble.

The company had a huge catalogue of old films, but no one wanted them.

“The problem is bias,” a consultant, Melanie, told the executives. “Up until around 1990, films targeted audiences which were white. Minorities were ignored. However, yesterday’s minority is today’s majority. The paying audience now is White, Black, Latino, Asian and more.”

Melanie paused. The executives were all White men.

“You can accept the racism and low sales. Or,” she added, “you can make money by altering the movies to eliminate the bias.

“That would open them to new audiences.”

Thus began the digital altering of old films.

Stepinfetchit and Willie Best, two Black actors used as stereotypes, were digitally turned white. Their dialogue was redubbed.

However, that was not enough. Now the casts were all white. White actors were digitally altered to be from other groups. Sherlock Holmes became Japanese.

Also, almost all actors were able-bodied, so some now had disabilities. Some actors became gay, some non-binary. Most films had to be changed because bias was so pervasive. Stories were altered. More dialogue was redubbed.

The new old movies reached different audiences and made a decent profit. The company went on to changing music it owned which had been appropriated from other cultures.

Meanwhile, Melanie met with the news media. 

Living Art You Love

Marina thumbed idly through her many streaming channels, bored. Years ago she turned on the tv and rediscovered favourite films. Now she could watch them anytime.

Marina decided to implant movies into her brain. That certainly would make old movies special again because she would see them in a totally new way. She would be closer to living the art she loved.

The operation was unusual but not difficult. Marina then sat in bed and watched The Maltese Falcon in her head. It was good! She used parts of Lawrence of Arabia while at the beach, Road Runner cartoons when caught in traffic and Lust For Life when looking at skyscrapers.

But soon Marina felt more bored and distanced than ever. She saw movies better but was not living them! She had to change!

One evening, strolling downtown, considering how to become more involved, she realised everything around her had turned black and white.

Suddenly Marina was IN a movie! Her desire and implant had merged. She was in New York City, downtown, in the 1930’s, judging from the cars and clothing. She was no longer a bystander, no longer an audience. She was actively involved, in an entire black and white world!

Fantasy was finally reality—what could be better?

She boarded an elevated train, holding onto a strap, enjoying being in the movie, not realizing it was King Kong.

It was too late for Marina to realise that, given the content, much of the art you most love is best viewed from a safe distance.

Meet the Author

Victor Schwartzman decided to take his writing more seriously at a later stage of his life. His work has appeared in Cherry Bleeds, Zygote in My Coffee and St. Vitus Prose and Poetry Review.  Recent acceptances have been in The Academy of Heart and Mind and The Potato Soup Journal.  

‘Smiley Face’ by Harry Wilding

When I bought you
five years ago?
your                      smile
your big innocent smile
it was cute
but now as you lean
lean still against the side
your                      smile
your big mocking smile
it condescends 

I wanted to learn guitar
was able to vaguely produce 
The Simpsons theme
‘Seven Nation Army’
parts of       ‘Come as You Are’
‘All Right Now’
lo-lo-lo-lo-‘Lola’

but really 
I just wanted to play guitar
round the campfire  in the stadium
on my knees  ten minute solo
smash smash smash like Simonon
impress the girls  impress the boys
so you         are what?
not as rock & roll but
less strings   less size   less chords
= the easier option?
your                smile
your big rigid smile
it is unyielding
below your hollow empty eyes
dust layering your sunshine yellow while
your             innocent  mocking  rigid
smile
it remains sickeningly optimistic
that one day   I will play
I will learn
perhaps a chord or two
of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’
on you

Meet the Poet

Harry Wilding writes in Nottingham, where he fantasises about elaborate heists that steal from the rich and give to the poor. He has had poems published by the likes of WriteresqueThe Drabble and Selcouth Station. He likes doughnuts and equality very much.

‘It’s Hard To See When You Don’t Have A Head’ by Ross Crawford

‘That’s Hugh Headless outside again,’ she said, looking through the curtains.

‘Right, I’ll go and speak to him.’ 

The man walked down the driveway and cleared his throat. Hugh Headless spun around as if alarmed.

‘Evening Hugh, it’s John from Number 32 again. It’s Angie you’re haunting, isn’t it? She’s just down the road, Number 43.’

If Hugh had a head he would have nodded.

Meet the Author!

Ross Crawford is a writer/scriever/poet based in Stirling, Scotland. He takes most of his inspiration from the history, nature, and folklore of his home country, especially the rural landscapes of Ayrshire, the Trossachs, and the West Highlands. You can find him on Twitter at @RRMCrawford.

‘One Day This House Will Be Empty’ by Tom Kelly

with messages found behind wallpaper
photos buried in pelmets
strangers smiling back. 
Walls disappear, make way for a glossy kitchen,
have visitors asking, ‘Who lived here?’
Filigree ceiling dust settled for too long disappears.
Orphaned keys in a jar under the sink.
Walls, floors and ceilings gouged,
leaving gaps where only memories lie.
Children once filled every room: cots to king-size beds, 
long legs sliding out of a too small divan.
One day this house will be empty of us.

Meet the Poet

Tom Kelly is a Jarrow-born writer now living happily further up the Tyne at Blaydon. He has had eleven books of poetry, short stories and a play published in as many years. His new poetry collection THIS SMALL PATCH has recently been re-printed by Red Squirrel Press.  His second short story collection, NO LOVE RATIONS, will be published in April, 2022. 
Website www.tomkelly.org.uk