Poems by D J Tyrer

 

Old Paths

 

Old paths

Invisible to the eye

Crisscross the globe

Slowly fade from memory

As travellers cease to travel

Settle down

Forget their past

Overhead aircraft fly

It’s not the same.

 

Writers Wild

 

Just slam some words down

Whatever’s in my head

No rhyme, no reason

Nothing that I’ve said

A stream of uncensored memory

Or a stream of meaninglessness

Full flow, full throttle

I’ve no idea what it means, I confess

Just let them escape

Each one a wayward child

A tumble, a jumble

All writers should be wild.

 

 

DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing, and has been published in issues of California Quarterly, and Tigershark, and online at A New Ulster, and Poetry Pacific. SuperTrump and A Wuhan Whodunnit are available to download from the Atlantean Publishing website.

Unforeseen Circumstances – A Story by Nick Sweeney

 

Unforeseen Circumstances

 

 

I never found out exactly why, but the first thing I turned to in my local newspaper was the Accommodation Wanted section. An urge born of sadism, a therapist told me, or a delusional superiority over those in transit and not, like me, smugly settled. She depicted me as a man leaning over an ant hill, pitying the mindless, scurrying masses.

 

I dreamed one morning that was doing that very thing. I told my therapist, who was not as pleased as I thought she would be. She said, “We’ve talked about this,” and dug a tetchy note into her pad. She suspected me of lying to match my real life to her therapy. I didn’t tell her the end of my dream, the ants plodding in a soldierly fashion up my legs. I kept watching them, unperturbed, then was tasting and swallowing them, pretending I was the one feeding, and not them.

 

That dream revealed that my habit had a touch of masochism. I wasn’t sure what made my flesh creep when I read Student seeking Under/Graduate house – up for a laugh. Just one? Or all the time? Wouldn’t that be tiring? For everybody? Or Crazy music scholarship girl seeks central zone under a hundred dollars a week? Crazy, what, for real: rolling-on-the-floor frothing-at-the-gills self-harming need-to-be-restrained-and-force-fed-and-avoided-and-shunned crazy? Had to be, desiring that rent. Or merely optimistic, a form of insanity in itself. And Teaching couple seek share with other teachers – eh, but why? Were they going to share whiteboard markers, tranquilisers, or just the sheer black-dog-soul-destruction of teaching Inner London kids?

 

Vegetarian seeks family home, will do housework, babysitting, etc. in exchange for living space. That went to the crux of why I searched the columns, so I could muse over questions like: dirty dishes – yay – and wiping congealed baby food off sparkling surfaces – great – but looking after the kids? I wondered. Couldn’t vegetarians be child-slaughterers, like the rest of us? And – living space? What, a corner of the garage? A toy box under the table?

 

Fit man mid-thirties will do all your home improvements in exchange for room, city centre preferred. For how long, though? Who lives in such a ruin that there are enough home improvements to sustain a business relationship? And who would seriously want to move into such a place, even in the city centre? And if he did, and he worked builder magic, would it end terribly and dramatically with last bit of paint dry, now off you fuck, fit man, and close the now non-sticking, silent door behind you?

 

I could only pity them, which was useless for everybody, even me and, I guess, fear them. I couldn’t help them; it wasn’t like I had an apartment to let, or even a room in the house I live in, no corner of the garage – no garage, in fact – and no toy box, because – of course – no children. I read the ads because I needed to know that maybe I was a sad sack alone in a brown house under layers of paint among ancient newspapers and spiderwebs and dust, but out there, pining for such spaces, were even sadder sad sacks. If I didn’t find one lurking at the end of the column, my hands trembled. Then I would find myself in a crouch near the spotted potted palm that had given up the will to live or at least gone into a self-induced coma until it could find a more companionable owner. I would look up only when it was dark and the vaguely Balkan music bounced faintly from the apartments across the grass, knowing that there was no bigger sadder sack than me.

 

The thing was that looking at the few words allocated them by the ads section allowed me a glimpse into the minds of the great unsmug and the great unsettled from a safe distance. Only an idiot would reduce that distance.

 

I’ve had the Virus, the ads started to announce, in banner capitals – conquered it, done, gone. Or there was Virus-Free Flatshare Sought – neg test certs a must, show you mine if you show me yours. The virus was not going to come to my home. The virus was afraid of my home, I sensed, and what was trapped in it.

 

But Hugh wasn’t.

 

Hugh’s ad was headed Help out an Underdog, eh? It read: Teacher, philosopher, lecturer, guide, ex-Cambridge and Sorbonne, needs room in a household in a desirable area. Cambridge – hey, the one in England, near Oxford? Philosopher – what? And guide to what? Eh? And what was a Sorbonne? Some fancy watery ice cream, that was all. His ad continued: Due to unforeseen circumstances, temporarily in receipt of welfare checks. Sadly I smoke.

 

I analysed those last three unpunctuated words. Did he sit there puffing away and looking miserable? A better question came at me out of the mist: what kind of idiot would answer an ad that more or less said Pretentious jobless smoker with no funds wants to live in your house with you?

 

When I smell that tobacco pong rising, I go down to Hugh’s foggy ground floor. It used to be the living room and kitchen diner, I think. I ask Hugh if he wants anything at the store. He does: a packet of cigarettes, which now cost the arm and leg we will surely both lose from smoking-related hardened arteries. But at least we don’t have the virus. And if we do, Hugh will write us a negative test result cert on the doctors’ notepapers he has amassed over the years, his little sideline to supplement his dole payments. When I ask myself, again, what kind of idiot would answer an ad like Hugh’s, all I have to do is rub a line into the yellow patina on the hallway mirror and see a puzzled, anxious face peering back at me.

 

 

Nick Sweeney’s stories pop up in pixels and print. Laikonik Express, his Poland-set novel, came out with Unthank Books. His novella A Blue Coast Mystery, about the swingin’ sixties and genocide, is out with Histria Books. He is a freelance writer and musician, and lives on the UK’s north Kent coast.

A Story by Chitra Gopalakrishnan

 

Crabwise

The sodden swamp will only take you halfway there, to those depths you long to reach.

 

Through its estuarial tangle, its water dance, its twisted winds, its shifting tides, its salt-bleached slush and its earthy-smelling seaweed to its lulling gray depths, you must make the rest of your way, alone and unaided.

 

This to find your wondrous world, one you will call ‘your’ home. An   unchanging place in a changing world.

 

This is a truth that mangrove mud crabs like Aru, living in the Sundarbans of West Bengal, know instinctively and well. And must know to survive in a place where the rivers and the sea are primed with primeval energy to seep into the porous earth and swallow it.

 

Hoping that her shell exterior mottled with two shades of gray, one that matches the glassy, ash colour of the marsh, will hide her from the sharp-eyed eagle soaring above on a misty December morning, Aru uses her walking legs, stealthily at first and then with surety, to move across the semi-solid sludge of sand, silt and clay banks and their narrow, shallow creeks.

 

She knows she must find her underground haven before she begins to molt as her exposed flesh will be a succulent temptation to her predators.  With her pincers raised, eye stalks waving in the light breeze, swimming legs firmly tucked beneath but flexing the second joint of each of her ten legs, which act as hinges and bend sideways, Aru walks fast on the tips of her legs.

 

She goes past tall, sturdy, green-grey mangrove roots, some upright, others tilted. She can hear them breathing, straining noisily, to anchor the loose gravel, to fasten the sandbar slime and to stop the bank from being pockmarked with tide pools and drowning completely in waters of both the rivers and the sea.

 

As she advances, she makes a rough guess that to her flying predator her gait must look like a sideways scuttle, a sidling. In the same breath, Aru also assumes, that, perhaps, to the eagle eye, her Sundarbans must look like a forest with a series of restless yet determined blue rivers cutting through the land to reach the Bay of Bengal.

 

But Aru knows better. She knows that her mangrove is so much more. That it is a sponge of the living unconscious. That a billion tons of ancient sediment and memories from the freshwaters of the Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna don’t simply reach but mingle inextricably with the truths of the saline, prehistoric, seawater from the Bay of Bengal.

 

And that over and above all this, at the heart of her sultry Sundarbans, is a terrain of in-betweens. And that all living things here fluctuate in-between a swampy land and the sea. Fresh water and saline sea sprays. Clear blues of the Bay of Bengal and murky waters of criss-crossing river systems. Hot, rainy summers and dry, sluggish winters. Peaceful and wild cyclonic days. And, strangely, yet truly, in-between swimming tigers and walking fish.

 

She knows that they also swing between stasis and change. The familiar and unknown. Giving and taking away. And in-between the privileged oppressor and righteous oppressed.

 

It is hard for Aru to tell where one vexing middle will begin or end. Or which will take over and when. Or whether they will war or work together. But what she does know is this. That these in-betweens of her dry-damp microcosm have lain powerfully encamped within her from birth as her search for a place in it.

 

As the wet shores glisten in the sun like a silver forest and yet another depression forms over the sea causing humidity to leach into her, past her shell, even in December, and as the dull heat assails her, Aru chooses to concentrate on the subtle sounds of life around her, on the enchantments rather than the menace or her region’s agitating ambiguities.

 

She tunes into the soft lapping of waves, the murmurs of the mangrove, the faint cadences of low-hanging gewa and sundari branches, the muted calls of pitta birds, the far-off exhalations of the shushuk, the bottle-nosed freshwater dolphin, and the muffled sounds of sea snails, mudskippers and amphibious fish that hop out of the water and scribble patterns on the banks.

 

This till she spots a water monitor lizard swagger along the bank, flicking its long, forked tongue and a crocodile step out to soak up some sun bringing harm to her path.  She can also distantly hear the sounds of human crab catchers, their voices echoing past the noises made by their squishy, squelchy feet pushed deep into the gray mire of the banks.

 

Alert and poised for escape, Aru’s eyes track a moving object, a woman. Her sari, its anchol and the ends of her long hair drip with a liquid curtain of marsh sediment. Instinctively, Aru knows that the woman, like her, is battling the in-betweens of her world. That is she, too, is a fugitive, fighting to survive.

 

Prioritising her own escape, Aru is determined to not be exposed on the open bank, to push the frontiers of her young life as much as she can and to find her pit in the underworld, her home. As a crab, she knows that active resistance is not the only or best way of warring the chilly amorality of the natural world. That there are other equally valid ways of fighting.

 

Quickly and noiselessly, Aru burrows in the sandbar, clawing her way in, deep, deeper, until she is out-of-sight to her captors. With her ten legs, she grips the soil within and then quickly engineers its physical and chemical makeup within her hollow to suit her needs as those of the tiny insects who companionably move in alongside with lightning speed.

 

Now, inside, with safety in her trough and hope in her dust bowl, the picture of the woman comes to Aru’s mind.

 

Aru has been told by other crabs that women in the human world have to, like them, adapt to the high salinity and caprice of the mangrove biome, find their food and battle with large predators, sometimes visible, other times not, things like history, culture, religion, political faiths, class, family and relationships, things she does not know too much off, to find their place.

 

She hopes that this woman, like her, finds her own safe mangrove sandbar, her own world complete with golpattanipa palms whose fronds are used to thatch roofs, and her footing in it. That she fights her fight intelligently, without belligerence or aggression but with a quiet understanding of strategy and determined astuteness.

 

Who knows maybe…in-between the baritone growl, pugmarks and scat of the tiger, its rushing blur of stripes and the gentle scents the khalshi, garan and baen trees, where bees make a light honey, a darker one, and a runny one…the woman will, before long, raise a seashell to her escape, to her new discoveries and to what can be still discovered.

 

Chitra Gopalakrishnan, a New Delhi-based journalist and a social development communications consultant uses her ardour for writing, wing to wing, to break firewalls between nonfiction and fiction, narratology and psychoanalysis, marginalia and manuscript and tree-ism and capitalism. Author website:  www.chitragopalakrishnan.com

Poems by Kim Malinowski

 

My Goddess Ain’t Thin

 

In the entire damn history of the world,
women have always had bellies.
Nice, big, round ones.
Venus of Willendorf is proof
of fat women
30,000 years ago—hot as fuck.
Show cellulite some love—
modern bellies covered, fussed at,
rejected and doctored.
Shamed into shapewear, weakness,

lack of decent medical care.
If I have a belly, how can I be strong?
And yet, women were goddesses,

with curves, wombs revered,
still sexy without a baby,
belly and hips arousing.
So, wear that fatkini,
get your belly a little sunburnt,
worship fat goddesses.
They know all about your shame.

 

 

Dandelion Wish: Update

 

I blew seeds into stars

            burned myrrh—stopped

burning myrrh.

            Asked why not my family?

Weren’t we in more danger?

            Our ice rinks turned into morgues.

 

I ceremonially slid myrrh and olibanum soap over body for months.

            It disappeared into residue.

 

Should my grief, dead wishes, flow down drain?

 

There are so many dandelions to pluck,

            seed the galaxy with, create more galaxies with—

but while wishes multiply—there are none strong enough

            to fix our family.

 

I talk to your mother once a week,

            sometimes twice,

send flowers,

            gourmet marshmallows,

anything to break up nostalgia,

            endless holidays smearing her calendar.

 

Each seed that I have blown to ether

            drifts back into my chest.

The cave there holds tight those seeds,

            but no dreams come true.

Wishes are magical on their own—

            buy we manifest, not necromancy.

 

I clutch your dandelion wishes.

 

The myrrh is gone, the seeds safe,

            but my wishes have changed.

 

You are all dandelion.

I mushroom.

 

While you dream.

            I blow your wishes.

 

 

How She’d See Me 

for Carrie Fisher 

 

“I drowned by moonlight” dangling, tangled by sideways rainbows, unsure of dramas typing in my head, 

unsure of “motive” and “pure” and glances 

 

I gasp when others sigh and frown as others giggle and contrariness comes in threes and “I’m feel I’ve very sane about crazy I am” and still sigh 

 

raw emotion dips 

 

 

leaps out of mouth 

dreams out of hands 

 

 

I wish we could “inaugurate Bipolar Pride Day,” I mean, mania is one step more magenta than the rainbow—and if you throw in ribbons, glitter, and bondage boots—yea pretty much got 

 

the dirty drip 

 

 

“strangled in my bra” would headline my fizzled eyes and the books tossed aside in the corners where the spiders read. 

 

And I would rest—deep forest—deep moss—”There’s no room for demons when you’re self-possessed” 

 

it’s true, how many demons does one need? 

ten? five? I guess twins might be nice 

a serious one for mania—keep ya reigned in 

one—one step loonier than ya to pep up depression 

 

“Instant gratification takes too long” 

 

Damn straight. 

 

 

 

 

*quotes are by Carrie Fisher 

 

Kim Malinowski is a lover of words. Her collection Home was published by Kelsay Books and her chapbook Death: A Love Story was published by Flutter Press. Her work has appeared in Mookychick, Songs of Eretz, BLUEPEPPER, Enchanted Living, and others. She writes because the alternative is unthinkable.