Horned Things Journal, Issue One

Summer of 2022

“The Three Pigs” by Ronald Walker. Artist bio is listed with “Consider the Ramifications”


  1. “Aurochs” by Charlie Alcock, a poem
  2. “Red and Feathered” by Morgan Victoria, prose
  3. “The Wreck” and “Bend” by Sandra Hosking, two poems
  4. “This Slow Morning” by Edward Lee, visual art
  5. “Cat Bag” by Penelope Hamilton, a poem
  6. “Sister Slumber Parties” by Krista Sanford, a poem
  7. “Consider the Ramifications” by Ronald Walker, visual art
  8. “On the Making of Maidens from Flowers” by Sarah Royston, prose
  9. “Cellulite” by Charlotte Cosgrove, a poem
  10. “Timelessness. You and Me” by Irina Novikova, visual art
  11. “Limoges” by Bruce Meyer, prose
  12. “Jasmine” by Elizabeth Winthrop, a poem
  13. “A Drop of Courage” by Heather Haigh, prose
  14. “No Thing of Flying” by Angela Gardner, a poem
  15. “Chatty Crow” and “witchkin” by Jessica Sid, visual art
  16. “The Fog of Severin” by Edward Belfar, prose
  17. “I Am” by Chloe Cook, a poem
  18. “May Clarity” by Kurt Van Ristell, a poem
  19. “Not me or you or Oscar Wilde” by JW Summerisle, visual art
  20. “We Tried to Fly” by Nancy Iannucci, a poem
  21. “Ear Ache” by Amy Farrar, prose
  22. “Holy Cow” by Suputra Radeye, a poem
  23. “No. 169” and “No. 476” by K. G. Ricci, visual art
  24. “We are the Girls” and “It is Impossible not to Think about Home” by Sam Szanto, two poems
  25. “In the Year 59” by Kalman Applbaum, prose
  26. “Elegy for the Last Bigfoot in Alexandria” and “Partial Draft from a Dream… Either Mine or Yours” by Cortney Bledsoe, two poems
  27. “You Walk into a Swirl” by Lynn Finger, a poem
  28. Editor’s Statement

“Aurochs” by Charlie Alcock, a poem

They arose from the land itself

in herds; from rock and boulder,

soil and peat bog, the valley’s curve

and the rocky depths of caves, they walked

like spirit-gods in procession,

their Bible-skin unspearable,

their horns directed to the sky.

As one they part the forest,

the pine-tips brushing at their sides,

and the lake water sustains them;

they kneel at the bank and drink

while deer, wolf, and boar

chase around their hooves.

By day they cross the untamed plains

beneath the indifferent sun,

and by night, their silhouettes appear

as hills, their slumbering forms

creating a new topography.

When they make their calling-sound,

it travels low and long like the whale’s,

and when they touch their horns

to the ground, another of their kind

comes struggling from the Earth.

The child is held by them until

it can walk as one with the herd,

and after years, they break away,

walk alone up the mountain’s side,

climb its highest ridge, and in the cloudless air

become part of the wind.

Charlie Alcock is a writer living and working in Birmingham. He holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, which lives in a pile of other documents and 2016 Graduation Programs on a bookshelf. He likes crosswords, old horror films, cups of tea, and Doctor Who. He can be found on Twitter at @CharlieAlcock, and writes book reviews at https://www.atticusbooks.co.uk/bookreviews.

“Red and Feathered” by Morgan Victoria, prose

I made the cover of my playlist a zoomed in picture of my own blood. So close it was just a blend of reds, swatches of various shades of crimson like someone deciding what kind of accent wall they wanted for their kitchen backsplash. A Restoration Hardware gradient of what painted my insides.

It wasn’t from anything too exciting.

I started flossing recently.

Robert told me a few weeks ago that it was gross no one flossed anymore. Anymore, like people have flossed for generations and this recent crop of adults and teens have lost their love of dental hygiene. I own those flossing picks with the spearmint green mini handles. I bought them maybe two years ago when I daydreamed my way into thinking I could be the kind of person who flossed. After that conversation with Robert, I went home and tried flossing for what was probably the first time. I spat blood laced spittle into the faded ceramic of my sink, dusted with the ghosts of toothpaste past. But it felt good. I liked the twinging swing of pain as I whittled past the slight bend in my teeth, a product of forgoing my retainer too many nights in a row once I started dating someone.

I couldn’t bear the thought of someone seeing me close myself down for business for the night. God forbid one of us initiate sex only for me to pause and pull it out with a sticking pop from the wet roof of my mouth, fumbling with one hand for the plastic retainer case on my nightstand. It was enough to make my skin crawl. So, I spat in the face of the eight grand my parents spent on my braces. Which was fine, my teeth were still mostly straight, though some were starting to return to their normal shape, moving up and back in alignment. I told myself it gave me more character.

I spat into my sink and stared at its redness in awe. I kept going, twining the floss pick between all of my teeth, relishing the sting and the newfound openness now present in my gums. I swung my tongue over the sleek surface of my teeth, sucking on the taste of copper pooling in the new pinpricks of pain between each tooth. I stuck my fingers into my mouth, tugging my lips open wider so I could get a better look. It was an uncharted part of myself. Or rather, not uncharted, but ignored in favor of other, easier regions. I shaved, plucked, and picked apart the vast length of skin all over myself. I tugged and scraped the hair on my head into all manner of shapes. And I endured various hands of others mapping their progress through brisk fondles or few and far between loving caresses, but this went unexplored by me and everyone else.

I thought about sending my new playlist to Robert, seeing if he noticed how red the cover was. But he’d gotten enough of my music. He was one of those guys obsessed with female singers in a vaguely colonialist fashion, loving the music so they can drain their relevance, their emotional candor. These men’s absolute favorite bands and solo artists are always male. Elliott Smith. Radiohead. My Morning Jacket. Weezer, if you’re making an egregious error in who you want to be spending your time with. But while the pinnacle of pure artistry is always helmed by men, pain and its radiance belong to women. “Oh, this is a real heartbreaker,” they say, turning up the volume on a Mitski single. They luxuriate in the shuddering rawness of her vocals, the weeping high notes and guttural lows.

I’ve always wondered what it was about a woman’s pain that they found so alluring. What were they relating to? A few months ago I played Robert a song by one of my favorite female artists. He and I drove around at 2 am, the road and night mixing together in the darkness streaming out before us. I tried to blink away the emotion of the song, but it kept rising in my chest. He took my hand in a somber show of affection and solidarity. Two weeks later, I saw he’d put it on his crying playlist. It was added along with all the other tracks I’m sure different girls had sent him, each one skidding and skipping into torturous, feminine pain.

But I’d spent real time with Robert, invested in him. Every day, we texted each other rundowns of our life. We recounted the mundanities of missed buses to work or scheduling conflicts that meant a skipped workout class in favor of a writing session. And we even still had enough excitement for each other to fill phone calls that spanned hours, ending when one of us waved the white flag of sleep. I daydreamed about him when I didn’t see him, couldn’t believe my luck when I did. The magic, keeping us talking despite the distance of a few states between us, spun out over a chorus of months. It tugged on the end of its loom.

I put the flossing pick down on the edge of the sink, above the square of toilet paper I used to dab excess plaque. A bit of wetness darkened the paper. My reflection in the mirror mimicked my movement, matching me as I swiveled around to view my back. I lost weight this summer so my bones stuck out past my skin. I brought a hand up and gently touched one of the fleshy fissures on my shoulder blades.

It wasn’t from anything too exciting.

I started growing wings recently.

The feathers weren’t there yet, which kind of irritated me. If I was going to be some kind of medical marvel, I’d like for it to be for something a bit more seemly than appearing like a roast chicken or a parrot with an anxiety disorder. I ran my fingers over the lines of parted skin, feeling the bump and rise of wing joints, the naked curling of the wings. The first of fuzz helped me differentiate them from being odd, pointy tumors. I had to google ‘plucked bird’ and then ‘plucked bird back’ followed by ‘plucked bird back alive’ to figure out what was happening. Last week, my mom clogged up an hour of my time nagging me about the merits of signing up for health insurance. I had to listen to this with the faux interest of an early twenty-something who didn’t have the disposable income for more than one weekly iced coffee, let alone an insurance plan. I guess she was right, though I don’t think ‘growing wings’ would be considered a preexisting health condition if I signed up now.


“So, what’s my Halloween costume exactly?” Robert asked, fiddling with the switch to the string lights.

I smoothed a hand over the wound I crafted over the course of two days with Elmer’s Glue, black acrylic paint, a whole tube of fake blood and some liquid latex. It was a bit bigger than the sprawl of my right hand, a gory rhombus that I had to force myself to resist poking, it looked so real. It fit over where his heart should be. Yesterday, while Robert cooked dinner, I sewed twinkly lights on the inside of his shirt underneath the gore for some extra pizzazz. The joke being that I, with my bloodied hands and long press-on nails, had ripped it out. A bit of lipstick blood dribbled out of the side of my mouth.

“You’re uh–” I paused, adjusting a fishnet stocking back into place. “You got your heart ripped out. That’s the whole thing.” I expected more questions from Robert, but when I looked up his eyes focused on his phone. He did that thing he started doing two months or so ago when I last visited and he realized I’d caught him in the act. He ducked his phone as fast as possible into his pocket so I couldn’t see whomever he was probably describing his penis to. Then, he looked off to either side like he was thinking about crossing the street even though we were inside and he was just sexting someone else in front of me.

My back hurt. I imagined feathers puffing up and out full-sized on my skin like the seeds of a blown dandelion. They would start small and then build in size, a cacophony of black softness that wanted me to fly my way out of here and back home.

These visits to see Robert were like the subway. That uncanny space between spaces where you’re not really yourself, because you don’t have to be. In between everything, sandwiched, but not claustrophobic. Like the grocery store parking lot after hours, or the airport when catching a red-eye. I slipped off my work shoes and got to wear clothes I didn’t have the confidence to try at home. I kept my hair down instead of in a ponytail. In the beginning, Robert treated me like I belonged there. We went grocery shopping together, alternating who got to do the dishes and who got to cook. He took me to friends’ parties and showed me his favorite coffee places so we could work on writing together.

His first visit to my city, we sat knee to knee on the faded linoleum of my kitchen floor very late after my shift at work. He saw my impulse purchase waffle maker and found it funny that it was the size of his fist. We poured runny batter over and over for each tiny, sizzling confection until we got too tired to sit up. Smeared against each other in the dissolving way you do with people you either know really well or have had sex with, we mumbled about going to bed with syrup still lacing our lips. He kissed my forehead when he got up. Robert initiated a lot of things like that. Putting his warm hand on my inner thigh while we rocked and swayed on the subway. Finding excuses to tuck an arm around my waist while we waited in line for takeout.

Robert cleared his throat. “So, do you want to trip?” Robert didn’t drink, but loved psychedelics and watching black and white movies on ketamine. At six foot four, he was around the size of a horse in my mind, so I figured that was a regular drug to him. As a treat, I bought mushroom tea for us from a sketchy coworker, but had yet to muster up the courage to ask for his share of the eighty-dollar purchase. I’d ask him later. “Why do you have your coat on?” Robert asked. “Are you cold? I can turn the thermostat up.”

I may or may not have overheated around an hour ago, distracting sweat beading on the back of my neck. The coat served as a last resort effort to not show Robert my current avian deformity. As if we didn’t have enough going on to derail the enjoyment of our weekend. I felt closed in at his apartment, happy he invited me to stay there after I asked, but not realizing how much he wanted his space to himself until I got there. He got like this sometimes, closing himself down smaller and smaller and smaller until every step I took, my every breath felt so loud and invasive I had to leave for hours at a time. If I didn’t, then we would inevitably end up in some weird fight. Not a real fight, because we weren’t card-carrying boyfriend and girlfriend dating, but still a grounds-in-your-coffee grittiness that we had to smile through because I was only there for the weekend.

I pulled a robin’s egg blue canister out of my duffle bag, thinking about maybe tweezing some feathers off of my wings. It felt like my feathers were growing in, a prickling beginning of something new and painful. Maybe I could take some of Robert’s floss and thread them how I’d seen a friend tame her unruly eyebrows. “Let’s split the tea now before we get on the train.” I said. “We should have enough left over from the other night.”

I found myself planning out a lot of what I said to Robert. Once, I told him I only poorly reviewed the most recent short story he sent me because I’d sent him one of mine and wanted him to feel comfortable giving me honest feedback. That was true, I did want honest feedback. And I did send him some criticism because I wanted him to feel comfortable giving me some. I also thought his most recent short story hadn’t been very good. Despite him wanting to ‘shirk narrative conventions’ and ‘portray drama with Shakespearan irony’ it still came across somehow both flat and melodramatic. The emotional core of the story was good, but it lacked honesty. Not all of his stuff lacked honesty. The ones that didn’t always seemed to be about a male writer in his very late twenties having sex and romantic problems with younger women. I didn’t have much to say about those.


After the party, when we were coming down from the mushrooms, but not from the stack of Halloween candy bulging our jacket pockets, Robert and I leaned on each other on a sidewalk bench. I crinkled my way through my pocket to my lanyard of keys. They laid at the very bottom with a shock blanket of Kit Kat and Twix bars covering them. Yesterday, I made copies of his keys because I lost the set he gave me at the beginning of summer when he invited me to stay with him for a week. Six dollars on three keys, to return them to him after the weekend, if I even remembered to do that. I forgot to return them that first time and kept them for my next visit. I continued doing that for every requisite trip up to see him. That whole summer, the promise of their use slung around my neck, thudding between the line of my ribs with every step. I ran a fingertip over the nubby teeth of one of the keys, listening to the sound of people across the street from us laugh from inside the glow of a restaurant.

Robert offered me a piece of his candy and I offered him one of mine. We went back and forth until we successfully blended our little piles of treasure between the two of us in a rainbow of sugar and gleaming plastic. In no time at all, we reduced the candy to wrappers that fluttered in a breeze sidling right through the defense of my fishnets. On either side of us, trees and then beyond those, costume-clad customers loudly enjoyed the night on restaurant-lined streets. Where we sat split the city’s nightlife in two and it kept on without us. Our little park felt closer to an experiment in making the world’s biggest trashcan than somewhere for us to rest. Garbage peppered every inch of the place: a litany of coffee cups bearing the press of pink lipstick, beer cans crushed beneath the death stomp of angry boots and receipts ghosting their way through a tangle of bushes. It wasn’t very scenic, but my feet hurt because my shoes were too tall and we were still a little high from the drugs, so it was fine.

Two nights ago, the first night we tripped on mushrooms, Robert asked me if it was alright if he referred to me as his ‘lady friend’ when asking a buddy of his to come grab some food with us. “Yeah,” I laughed, rolling my eyes. “We haven’t had the ‘what are we’ discussion in a while, so why not?” I averted my eyes on purpose, not wanting it, but feeling for his reaction. He mentioned something about finding the bathroom and left me standing there.

When he came back, he told me a story of the last concert he went to, about the girl who went up to him and insisted he give her his number. This was all unprompted, apparently. They swapped numbers and began texting, but when he asked her how old she was, she turned out to be eighteen and Robert cut off contact in disgust. Ten year age differences were much too steep, but seven year ones were fine. I couldn’t make heads or tails of the story. I pictured the girl dressed up like Little Red Riding Hood. Her red cloak trailing on the ground in a grim reminder of the cold and inhospitable woods outside the concert venue. Why would Little Red Riding Hood want his number? Couldn’t he tell how old she was? Didn’t Red have a grandmother to be protecting? And who was supposed to be protecting Little Red from Robert? I’m sure it was the mushrooms making me feel sick. The coworker who gave me the tea said they sometimes made him puke.

On one of our phone calls a week ago, the first in a while, I needed to get out of my apartment. I felt sure I’d worn a trail around my living room from pacing while we talked, a footpath only I could see. I clutched a pen I kept clicking and twirling around my fingers, even though I wasn’t writing anything.

“So, I shouldn’t say this–” Robert began, and I muttered a curse to myself. I couldn’t hear him. I walked too close to a main road and cars’ whooshing interference overshadowed his already quiet, secretive tone. I felt like I was trying to prove that a recording of a ghost existed. If I increased the volume enough and jockeyed it against my ear in just the right way, couldn’t I hear it in his voice? Something there? “But I’ve been trying to date other people and–” A delivery van whirred past, and I stuck a finger into my opposite ear, pushing the phone so hard into my skin it hurt as I attempted to duck behind a building and further from the street. “–haven’t found anyone else that makes me feel the same way you do.”

The rush of relief matched the zoom of a nearby car, whipping and running over my whole body in a current, in an all-consuming prayer of a thing, as I clutched the phone to my ear. “Yeah I,” I couldn’t speak. “I’ve been dating around too and it hasn’t, well it’s been, well yeah. I feel the same way.”

“It just sucks,” he said.

I shook my head, wrapping my arms around myself to combat the Braille of goosebumps rising on my skin, now cold from the wind of the cars passing me. “Why?”

“Because you live in a different city.”

Robert rested his forehead on my shoulder and hummed something, his hand coming up to rub my thigh. My new wing joints ached, and my fake blood-stained hands twitched to touch them. I’d kept my coat on the whole time I spent with Robert, but we were going back to his place now. I was going to sleep over. I’d have to take it off and then what would he think? I should’ve called off the trip that first night once my wings started growing in, but I didn’t think it would get this bad. Or this noticeable. I’d definitely overcome worse things without going to the doctor. Maybe this was like a cold. Plenty of water, some rest, some time, and voila. Cured.

I looked down at him. The warmth of his body held me in place as people all around us carried on in their own little lives and little acts. I wished I could dig my fake press-on nails into the surface of the Earth and hold it still for this one moment. Everyone and everything would go silent and Robert and I could stay leaning on each other and nothing else would happen. I would lift his face with my free hand, cupping his jaw and kiss him for as long as I wanted with no consequences and no meaning. There couldn’t be any meaning or pain or long, drawn-out explanations of why we were ending this. It would just be.

A black feather drifted past our embrace on the bench, caught in the breeze.

Morgan Victoria is a barista and writer who enjoys listening to surreal horror podcasts, starting Greyhound trips at 1 in the morning, and going for runs with their glasses off. When not working one of their two jobs, they can often be found volunteering at the local anarchist bookstore, or scribbling nonsense into their journal in their native city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They were a finalist for the Ember Chasm Review Fiction and Poetry contest.

“The Wreck” and “Bend” by Sandra Hosking, two poems

“The Wreck”

Like a Victorian smuggler

Setting false beacons onshore

The contours of your face,

The light in your eyes

Lure me

I am wrecked on the strand of you

Pulled apart


Not one piece of silver left

In my hold


Red earth rises
Where lakes of sulfur burned
Amidst the cured basalt
A twisted hollow tree stands
Desiccated, inert
A shell of a soul
One stunted nubbin
Bent toward an absent heaven

Sandra Hosking is a poet, playwright, and photographer in the Pacific Northwest. Her plays, poetry, and photography have appeared in Joey, Red Ogre Review, 3 Elements Review, West Texas Review, The Uncommon Grackle, Cirque Literary Journal, Edify Fiction and the book Along Southern Roads. Hosking holds an M.F.A. in theatre and creative writing.

“This Slow Morning” by Edward Lee, visual art

“This Slow Morning” by Edward Lee

Edward Lee is an artist and writer from Ireland. His paintings and photography have been exhibited widely, while his poetry, short stories, non-fiction have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen and Smiths Knoll.  He is currently working on two photography collections: ‘Lying Down With The Dead’ and ‘There Is A Beauty In Broken Things’. He also makes musical noise under the names Ayahuasca Collective, Orson Carroll, Lego Figures Fighting, and Pale Blond Boy. His blog/website can be found at https://edwardmlee.wordpress.com.

“Cat Bag” by Penelope Hamilton, a poem

I thought my handbag was the cat.

Under the desk

on the sheepskin

while I worked at my writing

she slept

keeping me company

warming my feet

helping me think.

I kicked her by accident

and apologised

bending to give her a stroke

and a few kind words.

The bag stared blankly back.

Puss, meanwhile,

was busy with a bird.

The cat door clacked

and in she came

her mouth dripping feathers and blood.

She laid the corpse at my feet

and grinned and purred.

Penelope has been writing, and wanting to be ‘A Writer’, all her life, but she didn’t dare until now. She studied English, spent 20 years teaching in London and Yorkshire, and then moved to the Highlands to work for the Scottish Government. When her daughter died in 2006, grief and the experience of organising the funeral lead her to train as a humanist celebrant, and in this third career she has had the honour and pleasure of officiating at hundreds of funerals and weddings. Meanwhile, throughout these years, Penelope was writing, but rarely finishing, a variety of stories and poems, and a voice in her head kept saying, ‘Why don’t you stop making excuses? You’re mortal, like everyone – why don’t you try to get something published before you die?’ At last, Penelope’s started listening. @humannaturenotes.

“Sister Slumber Parties” by Krista Sanford, a poem

we put our beds

            foot to foot

so if our parents peeked in

they would see us in a straight


our feet connecting                 in the middle.

bunk beds building canopies for the bottom bunks.

one tall dresser full

plus a closet stuffed.

            the rest of the space

was to play.

barbies shared space with

            a baby bouncy chair

                        mixed with

books and paper

for drawing.

us sisters had a better room than the boys

            even with the extra person.

leo would huff and puff,

            constantly reminding us that our bedroom

was huge                     and we had our own bathroom

                        (but what

            leo left out,

                        what everybody knew, but nobody said

was that, in a three bedroom house

with four girls

three boys

two adults

            a master bedroom doesn’t                   exist.

instead, it went like this:

the biggest bedroom to the girls,

            second for the boys

and our parents in the smallest

trapping themselves


Krista Sanford graduated from Ball State University with her BA in Creative Writing and Literature. Her work has been published in Wicked Letters newsletter, Junepine Magazine, and Alternate Route Magazine. She is currently the HR and Media Manager for a marketing firm in Indianapolis, IN, where she is able to split her time between working and submitting her writing. In her free time, she loves to read and hang out with her dog and kitten.

“Consider the Ramifications” by Ronald Walker, visual art

“Consider the Ramifications” by Ronald Walker

Mr. Walker is an artist living in the Sacramento area of California. He works in a style he calls “Suburban Primitive”. This style combines his interest in the origins and functions of art along with life in the suburbs from both a physical and psychological perspective. Mr. Walker holds both a MFA and a MA degree in painting and his work has been shown in over 45 solo exhibits as well as being published numerous times.

“On the Making of Maidens from Flowers” by Sarah Royston, prose

WARNING: This instructional manuscript should be studied only by Masters of the magical arts. The notorious history of the Welsh enchanter Gwydion and his “Blodeuwedd” shows that the making of Flower-Maidens is an endeavour fraught with risk. The following rules, distilled from hard-won experience, will guide the artful blending of floral essences so as to endow the Creature with desirable traits, and guard against fatal flaws.

First, to ensure your Maiden’s purity and chastity, pluck the palest Roses in bud, or else Madonna Lilies. A spray of summer Meadowsweet instils a honeyed docility. Violets may seem appealingly shy, but are tainted by Sapphic symbolism and may stimulate unnatural proclivities. For a romantic sensibility (conducive to servile devotion), a bouquet of bridal Stephanotis and Orange Blossom is unrivalled.

All-Heal, Barley, Flax and Broom will foster housewifely accomplishments, if the Maiden is intended for such practical uses. (If the Creature is destined to serve your royal patron, take care to ascertain his particular desires). For fertility, seed the philtre with a ripe Quicken berry. Mayflower is famed as an aphrodisiac, but risks arousing unbridled sensuality: a single floret is sufficient. Apple-blossom is far too promiscuous in its pollination.

Mistrust blooms that thrive in harsh conditions, which could sow a sense of self-sufficiency. Snowdrops are tougher than they look. As a rule, plants of dry and rocky places (including Grasses and Lichens) are unattractively resilient.

Blackthorn is rightly ill-omened for its unforgiving spines and bitter fruit, but also for its habit of spreading unruly suckers: it will not stay in its appointed place and is sure to breed strife. Avoid the leaves of great trees such as Oak, Ash and Pine, lest the Creature root too deep or reach too high.

Reject all indecently vigorous weeds; the irrepressible Buttercup, the indecorous Daisy. Bindweed and Bryony may smother and stifle. Nettle and Mint spread themselves too luxuriantly, taking up space. Rebellious Thistle and Dandelion strew seeds of trouble far and wide.

Poppy, Datura and Hemp may kindle undimmable dreams. Narcissus promotes vanity, or worse, self-reflection.

Experiments have proven that it is disastrous to include plants of pond and river. While Waterlily and Iris may seem tranquil, any Maiden so formed is certain to drown herself.

Above all, under no circumstance add any Mushroom or Toadstool to the decoction. Deadly deceivers often masquerade as their innocently edible sisters. Furthermore, these strange bodies rise in the night, growing in secret and silence, beyond our knowledge and control. Their hyphae entwine underground, passing signals, sharing gifts. Flower-Maidens possessed of such capacities would be dangerous beyond belief.

Sarah Royston’s writing draws inspiration from nature, folklore and eco-feminism. She is currently working on a novel about hedge-hags, flower-maidens, and how lichens might help us “stay with the trouble” of ecological crisis. She lives in Hertfordshire in the UK, and in her day job she works as a sustainability researcher, focusing on reducing energy demand.

“Cellulite” by Charlotte Cosgrove, a poem

I remember the first time I saw cellulite on someone else

She pulled down her pants

Let the denim play at her ankles like a curled cat

Stood in her going out top –

Red with sparkles that moved like poppies.

She wore black cotton knickers

And below them; legs –

Triumphant royal staffs

Dimpled impertinence

With honeycomb holes.

Charlotte Cosgrove is a poet and teacher from Liverpool, England. She is published in Trouvaille Review, Dreich, Beyond Words, The Literary Yard and a Wingless Dreamer anthology. She has work forthcoming in Confingo, Amethyst magazine, The Broadkill Review, Words and Whispers, Sledgehammer Lit and New Contexts 2: an anthology. Charlotte was recently shortlisted for the Julian Lennon poetry prize and has been shortlisted (awaiting results) for the Loft Books poetry prize and short story prize. She is Editor of Rough Diamond Poetry Journal.

“Timelessness. You and Me” by Irina Novikova, visual art

“Timelessness. You and Me” by Irina Novikova

Irina Novikova was born in Minsk in 1987 and lives and works there. She graduated from the State Academy of Slavic Cultures with a degree in art and the Moscow Humanitarian and Technical Academy with a degree in design. She is a member of the Krasnogorsk United Community “Comp”, the Russian Federation of Watercolorists, the International Art Fund (IHF), the Union of Russian Artists, and the Creative Association. Her first personal exhibition, “May soul is like a wild hawk” (2002), was held in the museum of Maxim Bagdanovich.

“Limoges” by Bruce Meyer, prose

The problem, as his wife kept pointing out, was that he had too much of a good thing. Having less of something meant they could use it more regularly. It would be special because it was not profuse. Too much of something, she said, meant his passion had become an obsession, and obsessions scared people. With plates stacked high, with teacups nested in each other and teetering precariously, their dining room was a dangerous place. He didn’t need that much, but even though he didn’t need a profusion of bone china didn’t mean he could live without it. He didn’t like it when she reminded him of his preoccupation with acquiring pieces of the pattern. People ought to eat regally. They out to dine on fine china and feel as if they were among the crowned heads of Europe when they did so. He would try to explain why he collected it. He would try to say that if they were to live a good life, the kind of life she deserved to have, a life where people came to visit, where there were splendid parties and fine food, and friends who would be impressed with the way everything was served, they needed to have Limoges.

            She didn’t buy his argument. His usual fallback position in the countless point-counter-point about table service was that Limoges meant something. Good china had once been a symbol of a good family, a way to say to others that they were in a home where the rules of polite society, the old verities, the old values, were paramount. At least that’s what his grandmother had told him.

He loved his grandmother. Yes, she was dotty. Yes, she upheld values that were, as his wife put it, ‘antique.’ He insisted, however, that what the values stood for, right down to the tall flower vases painted with the family’s initial was gentility. Gentility was dying. The simple elegances expressed a grace, an attitude that never went out of style.

His wife would shake her head and repeat, soulfully, that no one used Limoges anymore. When friends came to visit, she said, they should be made to feel comfortable. They should help themselves to whatever was put out on the table for them, and afterward toss their plates and cutlery in the garbage. He shuddered at the idea of disposability. Disposability was a sign of being cheap. He would explain that paper plates and plastic cutlery were things people used at country churches where there was food enough to go around but no one stood on ceremony, and no one had the money to serve things properly. She called him a snob. He agreed. He was a snob. But life was all about ceremony and ritual. Eating was an event, and events required statements. He had to make everything into a ritual. That bothered her. The longer she lived with him the more she considered him odd.

            His wife told him how much she hated doing dishes. If they used the Limoges the hell began when the party was over. She would stand at the kitchen sink, sometimes until three in the morning, gently sponge-bathing every piece, careful not to chip the edge of a plate on the faucet, and lining and relining the bottom of the sink with old towels so the pieces of Limoges would have a cushion to rest upon as they soaked. The damned plates, she said, got better baths than she did. He would nod knowingly and appreciatively, gently patting dry each piece and conveying the dried saucers and salad plates to the dining room table for sorting and storage.

Despite his illusions, they never entertained – not in cheap style or grand style. It would be too risky. He would invite his guests into the dining room to show them his prized Limoges and there would be a moment when someone’s sleeve caught a three-tiered comport or a careless hand brushed a creamer. The only reason they still had friends, she said, was because he had cat-like reflexes.

There simply wasn’t room in their tiny house for the Limoges and their guests. He would remind her that once upon a time, his family had lived according to their station, that they were important people. She would ask, sarcastically how often the train stopped at their station. He would not answer that question. He considered it beneath him.

He would tell her that time had seen to it that their circumstances were reduced. He was just trying to keep up with tradition, to maintain a dignity that was slipping away by the day, fading like the butter dish, the spare butter dish, that had accidentally found its way into kitchen service. The pattern on the butter dish had been worn almost bone-white in the scrubbing action of the dishwasher. He lamented what technology did to beauty. She would roll her eyes. He would explain that someone, something, had to countermand the will of entropy. Ah, she would say, the will of entropy? Since when did entropy have a will?

 She would counter that their circumstances were reduced because he kept buying Limoges. Even when friends dropped by for dessert, which wasn’t that often nowadays, the rarity and delicacy of the dishes was a conversation killer. No one was afraid of spilling anything but losing a plate off a lap was what terrified the friends. The friends would balance the plates precariously on their laps and lay their silver forks gingerly on the side of the plate as if the act of finishing a desert were a test of dexterity and fine motor control., The sterling grapevine pattern was another partial heirloom he had expanded to serve twenty-three. The pattern was meant to reflect the wealth and generosity of their home in its symbolic expression of raised grapes on the handles. We are living in a goddamned museum, his wife insisted, and no one wants to visit it anymore.

            Perhaps she was right. He didn’t want her to be. He wanted to have his Limoges plates and bowls and eat off them, too. It gave him a sense of pleasure and satisfaction that was severely lacking in Corel ware or Chinette. Where was the beauty in cheap things? Cheap things are transient, he would tell her. She would say that no matter what he said she wasn’t going to get it. She refused to get it. She didn’t like Limoges. It was prissy, she said.

To him, the pattern was beautiful. It was pink. There are over thirty thousand Haviland-Limoges patterns. His pattern, the pattern he had inherited from his grandmother in a partial dinner service for five. Originally, she had a service for six. His grandfather, however, was clumsy, though for a good reason. His grandfather had cut off the top of his right thumb while trying to move an electric fan one summer night in the dark and had forgotten to unplug it before picking it up. Without the feeling in his right thumb, it was hard for his grandfather to know whether he had a firm grip on things. His grandmother called her husband’s condition ‘touch senility.’ The old man managed, over the space of the last three years of his life, to wipe out more than an entire place setting, by shattering all the bread and butter plates and fruit nappies. His grandmother felt sad over each piece. He felt sorry for his grandfather, but knowing it was Limoges, he had to side with his grandmother. It would have been wrong, wrong in the sense of family tradition, to have done otherwise.

The pattern, the one pattern among the thirty thousand, was known as “Princess.” His wife thought it was silly with its little pink roses. Why would he need forty place settings? Was he planning to rent a palatial banquet hall? If so, she was not going to do all the cooking or any of the clean-up. What was he thinking? But he would take a plate from the crammed china cabinet, walk to the dining room window, and hold the piece up to the light, letting his fingers pass behind it like a hummingbird. He could see the shadows of his fingers through the solid china. He would insist that no one could do that with a paper plate. That fact was indisputable. The finer things in life, he insisted, were transparent. So were ghosts, his wife would add, and he would let her have her way when she said that. Yes, he would reply, like ghosts.

            His grandmother had started collecting the pattern when her brother, Horace, was stationed in France during the First World War. Horace was a doctor and not merely any kind of doctor, but part of the medical team sent from Yale. The family had lived in Montreal when his grandmother was young, and the fashionable thing for a young man of Horace’s era to do was to forego McGill and head south down the Richelieu and Hudson Rivers to New Haven because, as everyone in the family’s circle said, American medical education was far superior to a Canadian one. Horace and his Yale medical unit had been among the first Americans to arrive in France. They set up a hospital in the porcelain factory at Limoges.

            Even though trainloads of French wounded were unloaded at the Burgundian town, far away from the horrors of Verdun, and even though the floors of the porcelain factory ran red with blood – a colour that would have seemed gauche on fine china – the skilled artisans continued to ply their trade. Undaunted by war, they sat, hunch-shouldered, and painted the delicate roses and ripe purple grapes framed by the anachronistic curls and flourishes that were bygones the moment the brushes left the porcelain. As he said when he related the story to anyone who would listen, beauty does not stop for the world; the world stops for beauty.

To muffle the screams and agonized cries of the dying who were only a matter of meters away from the solemnity of artisanship, the owners of the Limoges works hung a large wooden door between the porcelain workshop and the hospital portion of the factory. There was never enough morphine for the dying, yet for the living, there was the sense that civilization and delicacy were continuing unabated by untold horrors. Civilization, Horace wrote to his sister, was worth fighting for if only to see the light of a spring morning pass through a perfectly painted serving platter. He told his wife the story of Uncle Horace. She insisted the story was a macabre and twisted vision of what was mistaken for humanity by those who were foolish enough to believe that a gilt-handled serving platter was the reason men died for a few feet of mud. He, however, felt the story was a testament to the enduring qualities of art, and it made him love the Princess pattern even more. Horace had said he had watched a place-setting emerge from the clay, had seen it born of fire in the kiln, then painted with the refreshment of eternal spring, before it was laid before him on a shipper’s table. It was, said the Uncle in one of his letters home to his sister, the witnessing of a miracle.

            A miracle. That is what Horace wrote in a letter that accompanied the first place-setting to his younger sister. He told her how, when the hospital ran out of heat because of a boiler problem, they had moved the wounded soldiers close to the kiln – one of the great concessions of art to misery, and how the men had turned their faces to the warmth. One had even remarked that the heat of the baking bone paste had reminded him of his beautiful wife. His grandmother often wondered what became of that soldier, whether he had lived or died, and if he had lived if he had gone home and pressed his face against the cheek of his beloved. Wars should end that way, she told her grandson. The grandson, the great collector as his wife referred to him sarcastically, wondered if the idea of the lie, the nobility, and beauty of the war, the sweetness and goodness of dying for one’s country, was not a mask for the truth. After all, he often thought, millions of men suffered so that civilization, the civilization of a teacup, could live on. It troubled him that his wife didn’t see this in the pattern.

            The second miracle connected with the Princess pattern in the family had been how it had arrived in Canada. In 1917 when his uncle had mailed the first place-setting to his younger sister, the U-boats had been sinking everything that floated in the Atlantic. Nothing was getting through. The situation at the front, so the newspapers reported, was dire. Ammunition was running short. Food was rationed in France, and much of the country was starving with the gnawing emptiness in many stomachs that had inspired the French Revolution. People simply couldn’t live like that, even if they were eating off Limoges. The bloom may have been painted on, but it was quickly coming off the rose of France.

            The miracle, however, was that the package did make it through. To him, the fact that his grandmother was able to start a small portion of her future – the place setting was a cornerstone of her trousseaux – was nothing short of a divine gift. He wished his wife understood that fact. They were meant to have Limoges in their home. It meant that something of the fin de siècle elegance of a time when there had been no war, was still present in the world. It had survived.

            Horace was not so lucky. When the war ended, he was the doctor on the first ship back to Boston, a ship full of men who had lost arms and legs, and eyes. He carried with him in his footlocker, four more place settings of the fine china. They were to be a Christmas gift for his sister. He had even written a card: “To Sis, Dine well. Love Horry.” The ship pulled into Boston Harbor in May, and a week later, at the army base just outside of Lowell, the chief medical officer had summoned him to the laboratory area and explained that men on the base were dying at an astonishing rate and he could find nothing wrong with them. They drowned in their own bronchial fluid. The best, said the senior doctor, were the targets. Horace wrote to his sister that he had stared into the narrow aperture of a microscope, and to confirm the doctor’s suspicions had said he, too, saw nothing wrong with the lung tissue. He said they were fighting an invisible enemy. Three days later, Horace was dead.

            The collector’s grandmother raised a family, celebrated birthdays, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas on the Limoges, and lived a long life. Though she never said much about her brother, the collector speculated that his grandmother never really got over her brother’s death. She would pause as she set the table for a special dinner, and stare into an empty plate as if it contained an answer to a question she never spoke aloud.

When he went to visit his grandmother, she would place an empty plate in front of him as he sat at the Victorian dining table that had been handed down since the time of Confederation and ask him a catechism about the service – what it meant to him, how he would use it if it came to him, and how he would treat the gift. Could he recite the stories about it?

Would he pass it along with the stories to his children and then his grandchildren? Would they be taught to care about the Limoges pattern, the Princess, and would they even know what a princess was, aside from those in Disney movies, if they lived in an age that did not value finely painted buds or intricate gold embellishments around the edges?

Would they be so foolish as to put the Limoges in a dishwasher and have the pattern worn away by detergent? He had given his grandmother the answers she wanted to hear, and because of that, to the chagrin of his female cousins and his sister, he became heir to the crown of dinnerware.

After his grandmother passed away, he became a connoisseur of Limoges. He learned the history of the porcelain. The city on the western edge of Burgundy had been the center for the production of crude faience pottery, the heavy, brightly decorated jars and beakers that became synonymous with France before the French evolved into a refined and civilized culture. Under the reign of Louis XVI and the direct control of his brother, the Comte d’Artois, Limoges had emerged as the center of hard-paste production in France – hard paste is the medium from which fine bone china is made. Every piece had to be painstakingly crafted. Louis has intended his porcelain factory to challenge the excellence of the English Staffordshire manufacturers, and, indeed it had. When the Revolution eradicated the aristocracy for whom the Limoges works had been intended, and even though it had been eclipsed by the far more dainty and expensive products of Sevres, the English upper classes bid each other into poverty in the auction houses of Paris to come by the rare and beautiful porcelain.

In terms of porcelain, Limoges was the tougher dog among the French manufacturers. Realizing it could not compete with the haute couture of Sevres, Limoges became the center for French bourgeois dinner services – upper bourgeois, of course – that would challenge the English Coalport and Worcester ware as the polite way of serving a fine lunch or a late candlelight dinner. But the roses, the petite jardin, and the almost sentimental quality to designs such as the Princess pattern, meant that it was more of a daylight pattern, something that would brighten a table in the light of day rather than a serious contender as a forum for beef Wellington or lamb au jus. He tried to explain all these facts to his wife, and his two daughters. They stared at him in disbelief.

Their eldest daughter went as far as to ask what was wrong with a microwavable mug? She preferred mugs. They went into the dishwasher. He was alone with his passion, and even his closest friends questioned the sanity of a man who spent his hard-earned money on hand-painted rosebuds. In his defence, he would argue that it was art. His youngest daughter would reply that art was what a person made it. She pointed out that nowadays people were smashing up the old chinaware and making mosaic garden tables from the pieces. When she had said that he didn’t speak to the girl for a week. He was hurt she would even consider such a monstrosity.

Once something has been thought or said, as his grandmother often remarked, it was like letting a genie out of a bottle. The spirit of the thought was in the air. Eventually, the thought would become a reality. Monstrosity needs to live somewhere. His worst nightmare came true as he was sitting on a beach in Florida. The family had flown south for the last March break the girls would spend together. The week had been rainy. The girls argued incessantly.

His wife buried herself in a cheap novel about a man who had collected shrunken heads and who had been asked to solve a series of murders where the victims had been decapitated. The policewoman in charge of the case guesses that the collector knew a thing or two about heads. Four hundred pages later the shrunken head man had solved the case, though not before receiving a serious gash in the throat that left him speechless. His wife had described the book to him on the last day of the vacation, a good day when the sun came out and the sea was warm as bathwater. He said he thought the book sounded like a waste of time.

His wife pointed out that the man in the book sounded a lot like him, only instead of collecting shrunken heads he had collected Limoges. People become like what they love, she said. She suggested that the character in the book had become a shrunken head, that his universe had narrowed to a very small space, and in that confined, almost prison-like interior, all the character could do was live inside a very small space for the imagination until, in the course of police matters, it was almost too late. He disagreed. He wasn’t like the character in the book. But you are fragile, his wife asserted to him. You are breakable. He shook his head that he was not. He had closed his eyes.

He imagined that a Limoges Princess pattern tureen, just like the one he had on the buffet in their dining room, was a personal Grecian Urn, but instead of Arcadian figures chasing each other in a timeless netherworld, the flowers in the rose garden were real. Courtly Eighteenth-century French ladies and gentlemen were walking arm in arm among the beds of fine pink roses. A gold trellis ran behind the plants, and delicate wires of enamelling wound themselves around the stalks to hold the blooms upright. His grandmother was there. She was walking arm in arm with her brother, the doctor who died from Spanish influenza. And as they stopped and bent to smell each rose and hold the perfect blooms in their hands, the flowers opened into porcelain teacups in the sunlight. It was the perfect moment, and he wanted to hold on to that vision forever.

Husband and wife and the two daughters arrived home late the next night. He opened the door and found the house had been ransacked. Every inch of their space had been violated in some way. Someone had slashed the couch and then taken a shit on it. The lamps on the end tables had been smashed. The carpet had been set on fire but not before someone else, perhaps several people had urinated on it. His wife called the police. He stepped into the dining room. On the floor lay every piece of Limoges, shattered, almost methodically, so that not a plate or demitasse survived intact. The tureen, the pride of his collection, the centrepiece of the service, had been thrown through the dining room window. He sank to his knees, clutching at the pieces of broken china, and wept.

For a week he refused to go back to the house. His wife had taken the insurance adjusters through the place, assessing what was missing, what was broken, and what was vandalized. He couldn’t bring himself to enter. He sat in a room at the local Best Western, the drapes were drawn, the room in darkness. When his wife returned at the end of a long day, she told him she could have used his help, that the whole day had been draining for her beyond belief. And the Limoges, he asked? She shook her head and turned on a bedside lamp. She told him he couldn’t sit there in the dark. She told him he had to face the fact that the world changes and sometimes the change is forced on a person whether they like it or not. He sat silently. Then she began to lose her temper with him. They were just things, she said, just things. Things come. Things go. There is no permanence to things. He still said nothing. She wanted to either locker herself in the bathroom or leave the room, leave him to his dark, abysmal grief. But she couldn’t.

She sat down beside him on the bed, then reached into her purse. She drew him close with a hug and handed him a piece of the tureen. It was larger than he expected it to be. He had thought the destruction would be absolute, but in the piece, curved in shape as if it, too, wanted to wrap itself around him, was a bouquet of perfect pink roses. The small buds looked as if they were ready to open. The tea roses looked as if they had just come from the garden. She put it in his hand, then held the piece and his hand up to the bedside light. Through the porcelain, he could see the ghost of his hands, and she reminded him he could always find more of the pattern if he was determined to find it.

Bruce Meyer is the author of 70 books of short stories, flash fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. He is Professor of Communications at Georgian College.

“Jasmine” by Elizabeth Winthrop, a poem

In the garden room, glass magnifies

the heat of the low winter sun, forcing

the jasmine to spray a perfume

so dense and sweet it chokes me.

My mother, on two canes, stares

in rage at the lush blooms. She learned

to garden in a scrabby backyard patch

of wartime London, to cook inspired meals

by candlelight, constrained by rations

and blackout curtains, wrapping herself

in darkness by official decree.

She can no longer smell or taste,

each sense dependent on the other.

Of all the nasty tricks her body

has played on her, this latest

treachery seems hardest to bear.

She turns her back on the jasmine,

eats oatmeal for dinner. Her days,

already short, are darkening.

I keep the watch with her, closing

the curtains earlier each day

against the wintered over garden,

against the black glass reflecting

that traitor in the corner, taunting

her with its jaunty white flags.

Elizabeth Winthrop(she/her) is the author of over fifty works of fiction for readers of all ages, including a short story entitled The Golden Darters, selected by Robert Stone for the 1994 Best American Short Stories as well as award-winning novels for children. Her novels for adults include In My Mother’s House (Doubleday) and Island Justice (William Morrow). Her poetry has been included in various journals such as Berkshire Review, Peregrine, Enizgram and 10X10X10, an online magazine and anthologized in The Cancer Poetry Project. Her memoir, Daughter of Spies: Wartime Secrets, Family Lies will be published by Regal House in Fall, 2022 under the name Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop.

“A Drop of Courage” by Heather Haigh, prose

I knew I could rely on Colin. He had me sprung from the hospital, and the wheelchair chucked in the back of the van, double-quick. Dan and Bryan had the drinks lined up. A bloke needs mates he can rely on.

            “Here y’are, you daft sod, I’m not sure you deserve it after letting three in.” Dan shoves a pint across the scratched mock-Tudor table.
            “Losing the game’s the least of my worries.” I grimace. “Dor will bloody kill me when she finds out I’ve busted me leg.”

            “She doesn’t know yet? Mate….” Brian peers over his specs, disapproval stretching his ugly mug into a parody of me gran’s. Good old Brian never leaves his missus in the dark. Which is no doubt why she hen-pecks him all the way to the allotment and back. Shame she can’t lay eggs as well. Those tatty rescue hens he keeps in the shed lay bugger all.
            “I’m working up to it. Oiling the tonsils, before I let on that it’s likely to be two months on sick pay.”
            “Well, it’s still your round. Hand over the cash, Jack.” Dan shoves his palm, half the coal face still ingrained in the lines that criss-cross it, under my face. I pull out a fiver and he snatches it away to the bar with a flourish.”

            The second pint slides down grand. I draw the line after a third. Doreen is used to me having a few after the footy… but not rolling home plastered—from toes to knee.  “Best get me home, and that chair back to the hospital, before I end up in even more bother.”
            “Aye lad, that’s my limit when I’m driving.” Dan’s been on halves, but insisted on all manner of snacks to accompany them—from pickled eggs to pork scratchings. Just to even out the rounds, like. Brian says we’ll have to roll him down the coal face one day. But he’s a hard-working bugger so he never runs to lard.

So, that’s how it came to this. Being shoved in the front door on a borrowed hospital porter chair, and left at the mercy of the missus.
            “I’m not one to nag Jack…”

            I reckon she does believe that.

            “… but you could have given the beers a miss when you know you’re throwing on the sick.”

            “I only had the three. I’ll take it easy till I’m back at work now, but don’t forget we’ll have the pay rise to look forward to.”

            “For what it’s bloody worth. We’re still paying off the debts from the strike. Typical, we were just getting turned round and this happens. Wayne needs new shoes again. I swear that kid needs shoeing more often than a racehorse….”
            And she’s off. I sit back in the chair and allow my eyelids to droop. She can’t begrudge me. An invalid needs his kip.
I’m sick of egg and chips. Dor bought a big sack of spuds for four quid, which is fair do’s, but can’t she do anything else with them? She’s got the face on because I bought a few tinnies.  Unbranded ones that taste like the proverbial; but you have to make do when you’re skint. The lads take it in turns to pop over. A bloke’s got to have a can to offer a mate.

That kid of ours is driving me up the wall. Dad can I have this? Dad can I have that?  I keep reading him a story like Doreen says, but then it’s: No, do it like mummy. No pleasing either of them, I swear.

            I’m getting around on crutches now. Colin’s happy to pick me up and there’s a bit of spare cash in the biscuit barrel. I’m pretty sure there’s stuff in proper ale that a body needs.

Seems the cash wasn’t spare. Doreen was saving it for the lecky bill.

            “We’ve managed with candles before,” I say.

            “Yeah, it was shit.  I’m not coping with a four-year-old running amok on my own in the dark again, just ‘cos you can’t stay out the pub…”

            “I needed to get out, Dor. I’ve been stuck in this ruddy house for weeks.”
            “And now we’re all stuck in the bloody dark. You’ll have to borrow it.”


And that’s how we ended up hiding behind the sofa from the Provi man. Wayne thinks we’re playing hide and seek. I suppose we are. We just don’t want to be found. At last, we hear the gate close with a clatter as the loan shark gives it up as a bad job.

            “Get down Wayne!” Doreen nearly has a heart attack when the bairn climbs up on the sofa arm and starts banging on the window.

            He thinks we’ve won and it’s time to show the Provi man our amazing hiding place. I grab him by the ankles and pull him back down, trying to stifle his giggles by rolling over with him. My leg gives me no end of gyp.  

            “You’ll flaming suffocate him,” Doreen says.

            “If the Provi man sees him, with no parents, we’ll have the bloody social services round next.”

It’s when she’s straightening the furniture up that Doreen finds the vodka. Shoving it under the sofa wasn’t so clever after all. I point out that it’s the cheap stuff and I’ve only drunk half of it.

             She’s having none of it. “You know we can’t flipping afford it. I swear you’re getting a problem.”

            “The only problem I’ve got is that I can’t work and my leg’s driving me nuts. And….”
            “The physio didn’t go too well. The leg’s not healing as it should be. I can walk, but the limp might stick. It’ll be bad enough at work, but I reckon it’s fucked the football for me.”

            Doreen puts her arm around me. “There’s other hobbies. It’s not the end of the world. We can do some proper family stuff instead now that Wayne’s getting bigger.”

            All the hours I put in that bloody pit and she resents the one time I get to be breathing God’s clean air with my mates. No matter that we’re a two-bit team and lose more than we win. It’s what us lads do.

            “You’re still back at work next week though?”
            “Yeah. I’ll manage.”
            Doreen clumps off to the kitchen, them fluffy high-heeled slipper things clacking on the lino, and rattles around for a minute. She returns with a tenner and holds it out. “I saved it out of the last loan. For emergencies. We’re nearly out of the woods now. Go on; meet the lads for post-match drinks.”

            I’ve no idea where she had that hidden; all the usual spots were empty, but I’m not complaining.


I’m a bit miffed that the reserve goalie only let one in. He’s a pit top lad, not a member of the proper crew. Barely gets his hands mucky—expect that makes the ball easier to catch. I cop for some right ribbing.

            “Doug’s got a bit comfy in your boots now, lad,” Colin says, “you’ll have a job on getting your spot back.”
            “I’m probably hanging the boots up, anyway. The leg’s knackered. I’ve got used to listening to music on a Saturday.”
            Doug’s girlfriend leans in. She’s one reason the lads don’t really want Doug nicking my spot on the team. Getting your bird to meet you at the pub after the match is well out of order. But, bloody hell, with the body she’s got, you’re not going to bin her off for being a bit clingy.

            “What you into?” She looks at me and licks her cherry-bright lips.
            I swallow. Hard.  “Disco, rock, punk. Blondie’s damn hot.” I’ve twigged her cop-off Debbie Harry hairdo—though hers looks more like a bird’s nest. The eye-stuff’s on a bit wonky too. But, ah, that body.
            “I love Blondie.” She pats her barnet. “I’m Jane, but my mates call me JJ. We think it’s a bit more sophisticated.”
            “Oh, it is.”
            I go home owing a couple of the lads a few bob, but no worries—it’s work on Monday. When a man’s got a blond bombshell in his sights he needs to keep his end up. If Doug can nick my spot as goalie, well….


So. I’m a pit top lad now. Same as bloody Doug. Foreman reckons my gammy leg is a worry down the coal face. My first day were a bit of a mix. I got to feel the fresh air and the weather, and to put up with bloody Doug and the other poncy gits.
            The lads are right as rain with me when they knock off, but none of them’s up for the pub.  Not on a Monday. But it’s no normal Monday for me. My life’s been knocked off-kilter and a fair whack’s been knocked off my pay packet. I suppose I should count myself lucky I’ve got a job. Doreen won’t see it like that. Down the pub, for a drop of courage, it is then.

My luck’s in. I was hoping there’d be a friendly face, to keep me company. Makes you look a bit desperate drinking on your own. Jane and her mate, the dizzy ginger one, are just about to leave but Jane takes pity on me. A fellow Blondie fan can’t be left to drown their sorrows alone, after all.

 I let her witter on while I oil my chops. She’s easy enough to tune out. Dor’s all bloody grumbles lately.


It’s only half eight and the house is weirdly quiet. At first, I’m relieved that she’s got the nipper to bed. Till I find he’s not in bed. He’s not in the house. Nor is Doreen. I can tell by the open wardrobe doors, and the missing suitcase, that she’s done a bunk. Probably gone to her mam’s to sulk. She hasn’t left a note, but she’s left some photos out on the coffee table. Old black and white photos of my mam and dad. The lighthouse at Flamborough. One of our wedding day. Our house on the day we moved in.

            The photo of Flamborough sends my mind hurtling back to the day I proposed to Doreen. We’d walked along the cliff tops, the wind buffeting us, but we’d laughed and clung onto each other so we didn’t get blown into the sea.  I’d told her all about my mam bringing me up on her own, then getting the cancer. How I wanted to be a better dad than mine. The weather calmed and we watched gannets and skuas gliding so near to the cliff’s edge we could almost touch them. I felt like I could fly, so I popped the question.
            What the hell happened?

            Sod it; this is too big for my brain. I dig the vodka out of the airing cupboard. I was saving that for an emergency. A bloke needs a drink when his wife buggers off.
My head thinks nothing to daylight.  Bollocks, late for work. I’ve barely got the kettle on before the bloody phone’s ringing. It’s either Dor ready to read me the riot act or the boss up for the same. I take a swig from the bottle I’ve left out before I pick up the phone.

            It’s the pit. But, not ringing to tell me to get my arse into work. It’s to tell me to stop at home. Summat’s up.

I rattle around. Waiting for one of the lads to say they’ve been sent home and tell me what’s going off. A hair of the dog gets me over the hangover. I make myself eat some toast and marmalade. Then I ring Brian.

            “Jack. You’ve heard then?”
            “Heard what. All I know is there’s something up at the pit.”
            “Put the local news on the telly, mate.”

            The pit’s on the telly. Our pit. There’s been a flood at the new coal-face. Brian’s still on the phone as I see the drama playing out.

            “So, we’re all off work today?”
            “Mate… Keep watching.”
            Five men are believed to be trapped. Rescue crews are assessing the situation with urgency.

            “Bloody Hell Bri, there’s men down there.”
            “Yeah. There are men down there. Dan’s one of ‘em.”

I’m not sure where the last week went. I woke in this bed with vague memories of endless news bulletins and phone calls. It’s all a haze. Doreen’s just left, mumbling about how she always knew my drinking would land me in hospital. But she said it sad like, not in a temper. Guess you can’t shout at a man when he’s lost one of his mates and can’t remember much about it. Besides, the nurses might have heard her.

I’m getting ready to go home when an old woman stops by my bed. She looks me over, as though measuring me up for something. Hope she doesn’t work for a bloody undertaker. “You’re looking better; but then you were out cold when you arrived.”
            “I’ve had a rough week.” I’m guessing she’s heard that it was the booze that landed me in here.
            “Me too. I lost my nephew in the pit flood. I’m here visiting my grandson. He was one of the firemen that tried to help with the rescue. Then the next day he was at a house fire and the roof came down on him.” Her eyes are red but her voice is brisk.
            “I thought I had a rough week.” I know I did. But what can you say?
            “Family’s important. I lost my parents, husband, and one of my daughters. You can bet I treasure those still here.”
            A strange mix of awe and shame churns my guts. It makes me want a pint. Or five.
            She changes the subject with an abruptness that makes my head spin. “I always wanted to be a painter. My family said artists never make any money and I thought I was too ordinary to try. Then one day I realised that every artist starts out ordinary—it’s doing what they love that changes that. I have three paintings in an exhibition next week. Did you ever have a dream?”
            “Just wanted a normal happy life. Family, holidays, mates, all that. And a train set. We could never afford one, and my dad buggered off.”
            “Was that your son that came with your wife earlier?”
            “I bet he’d like a train, and a dad to share it with. I wonder how many beers that would cost.”
            She’s a frank old bugger; I’ll give her that.
            She presses something into my hand. “I’m Emily. I bet you get lots of women offering you their number. But, I’m guessing your wife won’t be jealous this time.” She has a twinkle in the eye that she fixes me with before she shuffles off.


I finger the scrap of paper from Emily. My sweat has worn the ink to smears.

Emily smiles as I walk in, and offers me a seat. “It’s lovely to see you again. I’m glad you could come. We’re all friends here. Friends with strong hearts and minds. Friends with courage. I’m sure you’ll fit right in. Would you like to say hello to everyone?”
            I look around the faces: some smiling, some haunted, some closed.

            “Hello. My name is Jack. And I’m an alcoholic.”
            Sometimes a bloke don’t know what he needs.

Heather is a disabled, working-class writer, from Yorkshire. She discovered writing late in life and is loving the journey of exploration. When she’s not writing she enjoys nature, yarn crafts and reading. Her words have been published by Blinkpot, The painted word, Flash Fiction Magazine and Hysteria.

“No Thing of Flying” by Angela Gardner, a poem

It could be any city we come from

half under construction and half demolished.

On a wave, hauled across water from a rickety empire

parading its avenues of flags with rust and neglect

its beauty queens and baseball pros. Sometimes

we have papers, all neat and tidy, sometimes not.

Not just the split-shifts are killing us. We arm ourselves

to prove, as of a fly, that we may learn no thing of flying in common

with the numberless that lose their wings. So irrelevant the soul may flee

the bodily self. Listen, mr potato head, held or suspended

there is a problem with livestream, not surface movement

but the twitching in our minds that attends it, unutterable

between the self and other. Young men with acne and assault rifles

vantage into position on rooftops. Hold

your breath. Fortress or prison, the constitution is silent.

We must keep secrets from one another.

Angela Gardner’s six published poetry collections include the Thomas Shapcott prizewinning Parts of Speech and verse novel The Sorry Tale of the Mignonette, 2021, Shearsman Books, a UK National Poetry Day recommendation. Recent poems are published or forthcoming in SoftBlow Singapore; The Yale Review and West Branch USA; Blackbox Manifold and The Long Poem UK; Plumwood Mountain, Southerly and Cordite, Australia; Poetry Salzburg Review Austria; Tír na nÓg and Ogham Stone, Ireland. She lives in West Cork, Ireland.

“Chatty Crow” and “witchkin” by Jessica Sid, visual art

“Chatty Crow” by Jessica Sid
“witchkin” by Jessica Sid

Initially born in Stockholm, Sweden award winning photographer Jessica Sid takes inspiration-personal and shared-from the connections of life, the natural world, and the surreal. Her published works have appeared online, in print and in solo exhibitions. Jessica has studied photography at Butte College in Chico, CA where she resided for the past twenty years. Recently, Jessica has returned to her home country to nurture her artistic talents and renew her ties with family and the beauty of Scandinavia. From her visceral images of animals and nature to her flair for the nordic noir art form, Jessica brings photography to life.

“The Fog of Severin” by Edward Belfar, prose

That autumn, when all the teachers in the city went on strike, the boy found himself at loose ends.  An only child, soon to turn seven, morbidly shy and undersized, he had a handful of occasional playmates but no close friends.  His amblyopic left eye necessitated his wearing both a beige patch over his right and bulky black-framed glasses that sat crookedly on his nose.  The eyepatch made him a target of the neighborhood bullies, who called him “Cyclops,” and cuffed him about.  Often, he wished that he possessed the size and ferocity of that mythical creature.  Lacking those qualities, he rarely ventured beyond his backyard, where, weather permitting, he would pass hours tossing a Spalding in the air and catching it about half the time when it came down, all the while imagining himself patrolling centerfield in Shea Stadium.  

The boy’s father, a high school geometry teacher, was also homebound due to the strike. He spent his days fretting over bills, while listening to local news broadcasts on a transistor radio and hoping for word of an impending settlement. 

He and the boy’s mother argued frequently, and with increasing bitterness, often forgetting that the boy was in the house and could hear them.  Money was the main source of contention.  For the sake of economy, dinner often consisted of soup and sandwiches, and long afterward, the boy would associate that troubled autumn of 1968 with the smell of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup.  Still, the boy’s father would say to his wife, “You’re killing me with the spending.”   On occasion, they fought over politics.  Two bêtes noires haunted the imagination of the high school geometry teacher: Mayor Lindsay, the “limousine liberal,” and some “rabble rouser” named Rhody McCoy.  Together, in his mind, they bore the blame for the strike and the precarious state of the family’s finances.  A lifelong Democrat, at times he even hinted, to his wife’s horror, that he might just vote for Nixon in the upcoming presidential election.  Never one to back down from a fight, she would sometimes goad her husband by gushing over the mayor’s patrician good looks. 

Often, the boy sought out the company of his grandfather, who occupied the apartment on the upper level of the family’s gray-shingled Queens duplex.  The old man, with his twig-like limbs, concave chest, gnarled fingers, comically large ears, and gray flannel pajamas that hung upon him like a sack, looked to the boy like a scarecrow.  The living room where the two of them would sit was a place of perpetual twilight, illuminated only by a small table lamp and whatever light from outside could filter in through the windows.  With the thermostat always cranked up to seventy-eight degrees, the room felt like a greenhouse.  In a corner behind the old man’s chair, a humidifier pumped out a white mist in volumes sufficient to befog the windows and the boy’s glasses.  The powder-blue wallpaper nearest the spout had begun to blister.  A smell of disinfectant suffused the air.

Still, the boy could listen for hours, spellbound, while his grandfather told him tales about a childhood friend named Pipik.  Pipik first appeared as a young boy who also had to wear an eyepatch and endure teasing from his peers.  The taunts stopped, though, when Pipik invented a fog machine that saved his little town of Severin by hiding it from the marauding Cossacks who constantly plagued it.  When Pipik grew a little older, he decided that he wanted to see the world beyond Severin, so he built a small but very sturdy boat and rowed it all the way across the Atlantic to America.  In another version, he made the trip to America on foot, after inventing special shoes for the purpose.  The shoes, which had wings and a motor, enabled him to glide over the water at 300 miles an hour.  Arriving in America without a penny to his name, Pipik lived as a vagabond, until he grew rich by inventing a suit that made its wearer invisible.  With his newfound wealth, he found that many women wanted to marry him.  Wary of gold diggers, he wooed the one woman he truly loved by disguising himself as a poor student, revealing his identity only after he knew for certain that she loved him, too. 

            The boy’s father insisted that the stories were nonsense, that neither Pipik nor Severin had ever existed.  Pipik wasn’t even a real person’s name; it meant belly button in Yiddish.  One day, pointing his thumb at the ceiling, he said to his wife, in front of the boy, “It’s not only his lungs that were damaged by the poison gas.”

            “How dare you?” replied the boy’s mother, and a terrible row ensued.           

            Later, however, she admitted to the boy that she did not think that Pipik was a real person either.  Grandpa had always been one for telling wild stories that he got from books, movies, operas, and his own imagination.  As a child, she had loved his stories, too, but she had outgrown them.  She even suggested, gently, that the boy might benefit by spending a little more time playing outside with other children.

            “I think your dad is right about that.  It would be healthier for you.  Besides, Grandpa’s not well.  He needs his rest.”

The next day, though, when a sudden squall chased the boy in from the yard, he went upstairs again. 

“Grandpa,” he said, “Mom and Dad say Pipik isn’t a real person.”

            The old man began to cough, and his brittle scarecrow frame shook. 

            “Grandpa, are you all right?”

            As he often did when worried, the boy picked at the lower edge of his eyepatch.

            “It’s nothing,” wheezed the old man. 

            He spit into a tissue, which he then balled up and dropped into the waste basket beside his chair.  For a long time, he did not speak.  The humidifier gurgled on and on, the tall maple in the front yard groaned as its denuded branches bent to the wind, the rain rapped against the roof and the windowpanes, and from downstairs, there came the first rumblings of a nascent marital storm. 

Removing his glasses, the old man wiped the lenses with a tissue, all the while gazing sorrowfully at the four-by-six-inch black and white photograph of the boy’s mother, which stood on the small lamp table beside his armchair.  In the picture, she was seventeen years old, her thick, lightly curled black hair flowing to her shoulders, her smile brilliant, her eyes possessed of a radiance that had dulled long ago. 

“So, tell me.  Do you think Pipik is real?”

Wiping his own clouded glasses on the bottom of his t-shirt, the boy hesitated.

Nu?  You don’t know?  Well, it’s like this.  Sometimes, your old grandpa tells a story, and maybe he adds a little bit here and a little bit there.  He colors it in a little bit, like in a coloring book.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not mostly true.  Pipik is real to you, isn’t he?”

The boy nodded, but in his eyes there remained uncertainty.

“Well, then, that answers your question.”

“But what about Severin?  Is that a real place?”

“It used to be.  But it’s gone now.  You won’t find it on any map.”

“What happened to it?”

“Ah, well, it was so long ago.  Let me try to remember.”

Closing his eyes, he drummed on the armrests of his chair with his bony fingers. 

“Well, it was like this.  When Pipik left for America, there was nobody else in the town who knew how to use the fog machine.  The Cossacks started causing trouble again, and the mayor of the town turned the machine on.  But neither he nor anyone else in the town knew how to turn it off.  So, the machine kept pumping out fog, even after the Cossacks were gone.  Eventually, the fog got so thick that the town just disappeared.”  

“What about the people who lived there?”

“They disappeared, too.  All the people Pipik knew there.  The ones he had left behind. 

His mother, two of his sisters.  They all disappeared.”

“Where did they go?”

“Nobody really knows.  The fog must have carried them off somewhere.”

The boy gave him a puzzled look.

“Why didn’t Pipik leave instructions for the machine?”

“He didn’t think of it, I suppose.  Pipik was very clever, but he could also be very

careless sometimes.  He didn’t always think things through.  If he had, he would have sent for his mother and sisters.”

            There came another coughing fit.  Two more balled up tissues joined the growing collection in the waste basket.

“Grandpa, why do you cough so much?”

“It’s because my lungs don’t work so well anymore.”

“Because of the poison gas in the war?”

The old man grimaced.

“Instead of talking about poison gas, why don’t you go fetch me my mandolin from the other room?”

Listening to his grandfather play had, of late, become an increasingly rare treat, and the boy was not about to let the opportunity pass.  He ran to the bedroom.

In both sound and finish, the instrument had lost much of its former luster.  The old man spent several minutes tuning up.  Then he started to play, haltingly, stopping when he missed a note and starting over again.

“Ach, these fingers.  They don’t do what I want them to anymore.”

Still, he persisted, and his playing slowly became more fluid.  He even began to sing, his voice a phlegm-muffled croak: 

Oyfn pripetshik brent a fayerl,

Un in shtub iz heys,

Un der rebe lernt kleyne kinderlekh,

Dem alef-beys.

A thunderous cough brought an abrupt end to the recital.  Looking exasperated, the old man slipped the instrument back into its case.

“Grandpa, what’s that song about?”

“It’s a lullaby.  I used to sing it to your mother when she was a little girl.  When we lived in Brighton Beach.

 “You would have loved it there.  There was a carousel, a roller coaster, Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show—everything a boy could want.

 “And at night, I would meet my friends on the boardwalk, and we would play our instruments and sing, sometimes till morning.  We had mandolins, accordions, clarinets, violins.  What didn’t we have?  I could really play my mandolin then.  The whole neighborhood would come out to hear us and sing and dance.  And everyone was happy.  And the women were so beautiful.”

Closing his eyes, he inhaled deeply, as if he were breathing in the bracing air of the seaside rather than the vapors of a sickroom. 

“Why don’t we go there?”

The boy began to pick at his eyepatch again, for the conversation had taken a worrisome turn.  Twice before the old man had attempted to act on that oft-expressed desire.  The first time, he barely made the kitchen before a coughing spell sapped his energy and resolve.  On his second try, he managed to get out the front door of the apartment, but had stumbled on the landing and nearly fallen down the steps.  The boy had not told his mother about the latter episode, for he feared upsetting her.

“But, Grandpa, how would we get there?”

            “We’ll take the train.  We’ll walk to the station.  It’s not a million miles away.”

            “But it’s cold, and it’s raining.  And it’s getting dark out.  And Mom will be coming up soon to give you your supper.” 

            The boy realized that he had pulled his eyepatch loose at the bottom.

“Too far.  Too cold.  Too this.  Too that.  That wouldn’t have stopped Pipik.  He had a sense of adventure.”

Reaching for the thick hardwood cane that stood propped against the lamp table to his right, the old man pushed himself up onto his feet.  His legs began to wobble, though, and he quickly sat back down.  The cane fell to the floor.

“Why don’t you go get me my coat and shoes from the closet?”

Despite his misgivings, the boy did as he was told but as slowly as he could, hoping that he could stall until his mother came.  Rummaging through the front closet, he plucked a badly frayed black woolen coat from a hanger and then returned to the living room. 

“I couldn’t find your shoes, Grandpa,” he said, though he had spied a pair of dust-coated black wingtips in a corner on the floor of the closet.  “Do you want me to go look some more?”

“Never mind the shoes right now.  We’ll do the coat first.”

The old man slipped his right arm into the sleeve. 

“Now pull the rest around behind me.”

The coat became so bunched up between the old man’s back and the chair that the boy could not pull the left sleeve free.   

There came another barrage of coughing.  More tissues found their way into the waste basket.

The boy sat down again.  Outside, night was descending.  The wind had diminished, and the beating of the rain against the roof tiles had ceased.  The boy’s parents had, for the moment, exhausted their extensive catalogues of grievances against each other, and for a long time, the only sounds to be heard in the apartment were the wheezing of the old man and the gurgling of the humidifier.  The mist inside and out had rendered the windowpanes completely opaque.

The boy wiped his clouded glasses again.  He felt uneasy, for he noticed that the old man’s lips had taken on a faint bluish tinge, as his own sometimes did when he stayed too long in a cold swimming pool.  Putting his glasses back on, he tugged some more at his eyepatch. 

“Are you all right, Grandpa?”


“Should I go get Mom?”

“No.  Let’s just sit for a little bit.  I’ll tell you another Pipik story.”

The boy waited eagerly but in vain. 


The old man, looking past the boy, did not answer. 

 The boy continued to pull at his eyepatch, until, suddenly, it came off altogether.  He heard a creaking noise coming from the wooden stairway leading up the apartment.  Recognizing the heavy, weary tread as his mother’s, he tried to stick the eyepatch back on, pressing it against his skin with all his might, but to no avail. 

A key turned in the lock, and the boy’s mother entered the apartment.  Her face was wan, her eyes puffy, her auburn hair oily and disarranged.  She looked like someone who had just awakened from an uneasy sleep. 

Crossing into the living room, she stopped short.

“What is this?  Why aren’t you wearing your eyepatch?”

 “It came off.”

“Did you pull it off again?”

“No, Mom.  I swear.”

“And why does he have his coat half on?”

“Grandpa wanted…”

“Grandpa wanted what?”

“To go to Brighton Beach.”

Her jaw dropped.  She turned to the old man.

“Brighton Beach?  On a day like this?  Are you mad?”

He waved his hand dismissively.

“Such a fuss over nothing.  I wanted to get a little air for a change.  I get tired of looking at these four walls.”

“You can’t even walk, and you’re going to Brighton Beach?”

“I can’t walk?”

He groped for the fallen cane but his hand came up empty.  Pushing against the armrests, he tried to lift himself from the chair, but his wasted arms soon gave way, and he fell back.  His torso listed to the left, and his elbow struck the armrest.       

Gott in himmel!  I’m the one who’s mad?  No, I’m living above a madhouse.  You think I don’t hear what goes on downstairs?  I hear every word.  And it chokes me.  Like the poison gas, it chokes me.”

Hesitantly, his daughter reached for his left arm.  He recoiled from her touch.

“Go away!  Leave me alone!” 

He then appealed to his grandson: “Do you think I’m insane?  Your mother does.”

The boy, so often caught between the warring parties downstairs, squirmed in his chair.

The boy’s mother began a slow retreat toward the kitchen.

“I’ll go make you your supper.  You’ll feel better after you eat.” 

“I don’t want any supper.  I want nothing.  Nothing!  Better the gas had done away with me back in France than killing me slowly for fifty years.  I’ve lived too long.  That I should come to this.  Gott in himmel!

The boy’s mother winced as though someone had cut her.  Never had she looked so worn, so defeated. 

“And you go downstairs, wash up, and get ready for your supper.  I’ll be down soon.”

“Yes, Mom.”  

As much as he wished to comfort her, he could find no other words.  He hugged her, and she nearly squeezed his breath away. 

“You’re such a good boy,” she murmured.

When she released him, he scurried out the door.  

Downstairs, the house was dark, save for the kitchen.  The sickly odor of cream of mushroom soup hung in the air, and as he stood in the narrow foyer at the front of the house, the boy felt a faint nausea.  From the kitchen, there came the sound of rustling papers and the stentorian voice, peppered with static, of a radio news announcer.   The boy wished that, like Pipik, he could shroud himself in fog and slip past the kitchen to his room.  That way, he could avoid his father’s sour look and the inevitable, “So, you were upstairs again?”—which sounded to the boy more like an accusation than a question intended to elicit an answer.   Turning around, he tiptoed back to the door.  He opened it slowly, for it had a squeaky hinge, and stepped out onto the porch.  There he would remain, he decided, until his mother came downstairs.  His disobedience might upset her further, and that he regretted.  Still, her anger—at least when directed at him—was more tempered than his father’s and tended to dissipate more quickly.. 

As he stood waiting for her, a white fog, the likes of which he felt certain that nobody outside of Severin had ever seen, engulfed him.  The night seemed unusually dark, for not only did the fog obliterate the natural light of the moon and stars; it muffled and distorted that which emanated from the street lamps, scattering it into a million lusterless particles.  The boy saw solid things—telephone poles, the maple tree, a neighbor’s plank fence, a wood-paneled station wagon parked in the driveway of the house opposite—lose their familiar shapes, dissolve, vanish, and reappear.  Shivering in the midst of the cold, wet cloud, he thought of the lost people of Severin, and he felt as if he, too, had been transported, somehow, to a place that he did not recognize, one very far from home. 

Edward Belfar is the author of a collection of short stories called Wanderers, which was published by Stephen F. Austin State University Press in 2012.  His fiction and essays have also appeared in numerous literary journals, including Shenandoah, The Baltimore Review, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Potpourri, Confrontation, Natural Bridge, and Tampa Review. He lives in Maryland with his wife and works as a writer and editor.

“I Am” by Chloe Cook, a poem

After Sylvia Plath’s “Metaphors”

I am a brick-oven fire with a gentle, heartbeat flicker

a sweaty handshake

a hurricane confined to a kitchen sink.

Trampoline worn down with holes, still fun,

little girl wearing her mama’s size 8 heels

(always trying to fit where she doesn’t).

A cricket on the moon shouting to the Earthlings

“Over here!” “Over here!” “Over here!”

A distraction the magician gestures towards mid-trick,

one moment in limbo,

the feeling just seconds before a first kiss.

Surely I am sugar,

a chance to be chocolate cake, pop rocks, wasp-food.

A really good nap in a cabin in the mountains:

a little cold, a lotta quiet.

Perhaps, most of all,

I am an ounce of gold


Chloe Cook is an undergraduate student attending Northern Kentucky University. She currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for the student-run creative magazine, Loch Norse Magazine. Her work is featured or forthcoming in Haunted Waters Press, Suttervile Review, Oakland Arts Review, Stoneboat Literary Journal, Sledgehammer Literary Journal, and dancing girl press. She currently resides in the NKY region.

“May Clarity” by Kurt Van Ristell, a poem

You feel it like a tide coming,

The gentle swell about your ankles, which are wet

Already, your mind elsewhere as you fill

A spreadsheet—

Inking cells; your heart bending and scooping seashells,

Their fossae—curled in hither—drain a warm slurry

Of sand and spittled seafoam. Faceted among the wash,

Starry glass constellates

In your palm like a blinking


You snap the day in two at lunchtime;

Dunk the latter half into your sweetened mug and watch

The tawny disc like a gull.

It spills in drips—gentle plocks which imperfect

The cotton of your pristine lap.

And back on the beach, the waves lap too.

And you close your eyes and lean back

And imagine the clock-hands as they converge on five,

And the long drive home. Your towel and swimsuit

Already packed.

Kurt Van Ristell is a poet, artist and author living in South London. He works in education, in Lambeth, which is a storyteller’s boon, and writes broadly around his own life experiences, which reflect life in London, perhaps filtered through mixed-race background. He writes poetry and novels and digitally paints—largely because travel is so expensive.

“Not me or you or Oscar Wilde” by JW Summerisle, visual art

“Not me or you or Oscar Wilde” by JW Summerisle

JW Summerisle lives in the English East Midlands. Their poetry & artwork can be found in Resurrection mag, Catatonic Daughters, The Madrigal, SAND, & Re-Side. They may sometimes be found on twitter @jw_Summerisle.

“We Tried to Fly” by Nancy Iannucci, a poem

Geese arrive

like a band of bagpipers

forcing me off 

Matinecock land

before I even understand

this Carolina wren.

he’s been trying

to tell me something.

I want to know him

like I wanted to know you,

but it was impossible.

I cawed. you warbled.

our strong yet lightweight

skeletons clashed

whenever we tried to fly.

Nancy Byrne Iannucci is a widely published poet from Long Island, New York who currently lives in Troy, NY. Defenestration, Hobo Camp Review, Bending Genres, Typehouse Literary Magazine, Glass: a Poetry Journal are some of the places you will find her. She is the author of two chapbooks, Temptation of Wood (Nixes Mate Review, 2018), and Goblin Fruit (Impspired, 2021); she is also a teacher, and woodland roamer. Visit her at http://www.nancybyrneiannucci.com.

“Ear Ache” by Amy Farrar, prose

The medicine woman had assured him that the tincture would be side effect free. When the creature first emerged from his ear and slipped the tips of its claws into the rim of his shirt collar, Leopold thought that this outcome was considerably worse than the earache.

It began by testing the pads of its paws on the blade of Leopold’s shoulder. It ran the hook of a sluggish pink tongue over its teeth, widening the pebbles of its eyes in delight. They sat, slick in their sockets, like two rotting apples at the bottom of a paper bag. Standing with a proud spine, it perked up its mossy feathers and surveyed the room. It gave off a discomforting but not unpleasant smell of morning breath and furniture polish. Scoffing at the over-flowing ashtrays on the window sill, its gaze wandered down the mould-speckled wallpaper to a small table littered with brown paper, left greasy from pork sausages and pickled cabbage. It no doubt noticed the long underwear and unwashed linen shirts left strewn over the back of a walnut chair, mustard stains on the wrists, like some miserable ghost.

“Are you having some sort of crisis?” The creature asked.

“I think I’ve hit the peak of a perpetual one.” Leopold replied.

Flecks of satsuma rind sat in a pile by the windowsill. A spider crawled across a sliver that had become callous like dead skin peeled from a foot. The creature recoiled. Leopold apologised for the mess as he rifled through his notebooks and newspapers for the medicine woman’s business card. He was certain he had kept it somewhere safe. The image was clear in his mind. A watercolour painting of a willow tree. H. Herschmann in blue ink. Hannah Herschmann.

It was a mere six hours since she had opened her apartment door to him; a modest red door, three floors up on Kolingasse.

“I’m here to see H. Herschmann? Is he at home?” Leopold had barked, cradling his jaw in one hand and the business card in the other.

He had looked past her into a bright ivory hallway. Overgrown side burns protruded defiantly through the gaps between his pink fingers.

“I am she. Please call me Hannah.”

The woman twisted her spine and leant into his eye line, offering a hand. He shook the tips of her fingers and found them surprisingly rough. She smiled without showing her teeth and pushed a loose curl behind her ear. Leopold noticed that it was not, in fact, held up with pins but had been chopped beside her cheekbone and was left to move however it wished. Her neck was not encased in lace but poked out from a crisp white shirt. A smudge of rouge lingered on the bulge of her bottom lip.

“You are sure to catch a fly with your mouth hanging loose in such a fashion,” she said.

Leopold snapped his jaws shut and finally looked her in the eye.

“My name is Leopold Gruber. I have a terrible ear ache. Simply terrible.”

“Well, Herr Gruber, shall we take a look?”

He had followed her down the ivory corridor and into a modest parlour, empty aside from two red velvet chairs; the material worn through at the edges. A mahogany cabinet crouched in the corner. It had multiple drawers of varying size and scratches at the handles, as if some small animal had been gnawing away at the bone. The wooden floor creaked beneath his boots.

“Take a seat.”

Leopold perched on the chair nearest the window and picked at the skin around his thumbnails. The room had an unusual smell that he could not fathom. It could have been whale fat, burnt hair or unwashed skin. It was fresh, bodily, too intimate.

The woman approached him with some sort of metal device. He had not seen from where she had procured it. She squatted beside him in a manner which, quite frankly, shocked him. The cold implement was inserted into his ear canal and slid around like a rat probing for scraps. Her eye moved toward the glass and looked inside him; searching. The breath from her nostrils landed in his beard. Her foot protruded from beneath her skirts. The boot was far from dainty and scuffed from walking. What decent woman owned such boots in Vienna? He enjoyed the closeness of this unusual woman more than he dared admit.

“There is a great deal of swelling.”


“In your canal. Caused by an infection. Do you have an idea of how this may have occurred?”

She pulled away from him. He shook his head.

“The good news, however, is that your ear-drum is wonderfully healthy. There is just a problem with the flesh which surrounds it. How is your hearing?”


“Well, I have just the thing.”

She pulled at the smallest drawer in the cabinet and plucked out a vial the size of his thumb. As the light hit the glass, it shone a glossy cerulean.

“Three drops a day for a week.”

He took the vial and examined it.

“This is a most unnatural shade.”

“I can assure you it is perfectly natural.”

“Are there any side effects?”

She bared her teeth. A wrinkle appeared on the bridge of her nose. Leopold noticed a sprinkling of freckles and looked away. After he had paid and climbed down the tight staircase from her apartment, he slipped the vial into his coat pocket and wandered until he found the nearest wurstelstande. He ordered a kasekrainer and watched as the cheese melted into the meat. He prodded it into the mustard and mopped up the oil with a dry piece of brown bread, licking the grease from his lips.

Returning to his own apartment, he laid on his side in the last of the sunlight. His papers lay in piles on the floor, and he kicked them aside. The vial had become warm from the heat of his hip and felt satisfactory in his palm. Pulling the dropper loose, he let the liquid fill the glass canal and let one fat drop slip into his ear before promptly falling asleep; his belly full of pork and his ear full of goodness-knows-what.

The creature was now tugging on his ear lobe.

“Can I have something to eat? I’m awfully hungry.”

He gave the creature his last packet of butter biscuits which he nibbled on merrily, sprinkling crumbs onto Leopold’s lapels. He checked his trouser pockets and found the card which was stained with grease, the address of the apartment obscured. Blue ink stained his fingertips.

“I can’t remember the apartment number.” He pinched the bridge of his nose.

“I ran out of biscuits,” the creature replied.

“How did you eat so many so quickly?”

“Do you have anything else to eat?”

Leopold decided to take it to a cafe on Berggasse that was open all night. They sold coffee that was bitter but cheap and brought glorious dots into his vision by the third cup. He decided to wear his grey woollen coat; the one that he had bought second hand for forty-five krone from a man with one leg, because the man said a very similar one was owned by the King so he was sure it would lead to a great fortune. He had spilled onion soup on it the previous week and the aroma had never quite left.

“Where are we going?” the creature asked, picking a dead fly from between its front teeth. It swung from his ear lobe as Leopold wrapped a thick green scarf around his neck and then it settled neatly into the moth bitten folds.

“We are going to a place where I can think.”

“Oh, you’re a thinking man, are you?”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Leopold asked.

“You know, what do they say about academics?”

“What do they say about them?”

“I have no idea, I was asking you. Don’t forget your hat.”

The creature pulled a limp felt hat from a brass hook on the wall and balanced it neatly on Leopold’s tuft of hair. He was not a handsome man, but he was often complimented on his hair. It was the colour of rich gravy and he was immensely proud of it.

“Damn that witch.”

“You know a witch? How terribly exciting,” the creature replied.

They made their way down the stairs, past the locked doors that oozed with the smells of roasting chicken and salted potatoes, and stepped into the street.  It was already a quarter past seven and the street lamps had begun to fuss. The air was chilled like a glass of good beer and the pavement was littered with the mulch of well-trodden leaves. Carriages slid past and the creature bared its fangs and hissed at the white horses which pulled them. With their eyes blinded by hoods, they whinnied and shuffled their hooves as the drivers screeched at Leopold and branded their stunted whips.

“For goodness’ sake! You cannot hiss at people!” Leopold said.

“They are such horrid creatures.”

 “You should take a look at yourself before passing such a judgement.”

The creature clutched at its chest and its feathers bristled.

“How dare you! You oaf! I have never been so offended. Horrid!? Well, I do say. I am generally considered rather dashing in the circles I frequent.”

“What circles are those?”

“I am not going to share such details with an oaf such as you. At least I am well groomed. Horrid indeed.”

 “Well, I apologise. Your feathers are in fact quite remarkable,” Leopold said.

“That wasn’t so difficult, was it?”

“I suppose not.”

Entering the cafe, Leopold moved straight to his usual, small table in the far corner with a clear view of the street. Other solitary men sat hunched over their own tables. The air was dense with the smoke from cigars and stale but expensive cologne. An elderly waiter with pock-marked cheeks came to take their order. Leopold asked for two portions of apfelstrudel with extra cream and a large pot of black coffee. The waiter nodded and cleared mucus from the back of his throat. He took the order of a young man on the table beside them who was biting down on the end of a pencil, muttering and flicking through pages and pages of crude illustrations. When he noticed the waiter, he smoothed the points of his moustache and ordered red wine and buttered asparagus.

Both Leopold and the creature watched the man for several minutes. He became increasingly erratic and bit the end off his pencil.

“Excuse me, Herr?” Leopold asked.

“Eel testes,” the man replied.

“Excuse me?”

“I am having great difficulty, you see, in finding the testes of eels. “

Leopold and the creature exchanged a glance. There was indeed a slight waft of oily fish emanating from his direction.

“I think this fellow is afflicted with some sort of…complex,” the creature whispered into Leopold’s infected ear.

“What an interesting fellow you have on your shoulder. Does it have a name?” The young man asked, pulling a splinter of wood from the tip of a thick tongue; grey as a veal chop.

“Of course, I have a name,” the creature said, grooming its feathers. “Herr Gruber is simply too much of a bloated narcissist to have thought to ask. You really ought to ease up on your sausage consumption, Leopold.”

“I have no such problem with sausages.”

“I was referring to your species,” The young man said, resting his bearded chin in his palm. “I have never seen the like before.”

The creature grinned at Leopold and admired itself in the gilded mirror on the wall. A coffee pot appeared on their table. It sat like a fat, steaming eyeball. The man ignored his wine.

“Are you a student?” Leopold asked the man, pouring some coffee into an egg cup that had been abandoned on a shelf and handing it to the creature who eyed it with suspicion.

“Of biology, yes, at the institute of comparative anatomy. My professor tasked me with discerning the whereabouts of an eel’s gonads. One of the great mysteries of our time.”

The creature slurped the coffee and spat it over Leopold’s shoulder. It hopped down onto the table and began scooping up cream and pastry, devouring it by the handful.

“But what of this little mystery?” The man lifted the wine glass toward the creature who had sauce matted into his feathers and a chunk of apple resting on its snubbed nose.

“May I take a look?”

The creature climbed into the student’s hand, and he began to study him under the dim red lights.

“Fascinating. Simply fascinating.”

Leopold poked at his own apfelstrudel with a stunted silver fork. It was then that he caught a glimpse of some unpinned curls moving past the window. He sprang up from his chair and ran towards the door. The medicine woman had darted into the street, her body swerving in front of an oncoming automobile, as sturdy and black as the shell of a beetle.  The driver repeatedly squeezed the horn with a leather clad hand. The woman ran toward the closing door of a tram, one arm stretched toward the handle and the other laden with brown paper parcels.

“Frau Herschmann! Hannah!” Leopold shouted through the shrill of horns which rose up from the street. He followed her footsteps and narrowly missed the wheels of a horse drawn carriage, the foam from the lips of a sweating mare landing on the curve of his cheekbone.

As the woman jumped into the doorway, she turned to see Leopold running through a pool of orange light. She pushed a lock of hair away from her face and narrowed her eyes, as if searching for a particular face in a photograph.

“Wait, please Frau Herschmann! I need to talk to you!”

“Sorry! I can’t hear you.”

She motioned toward her ear as the conductor blew on his whistle with one pained breath and pulled the door shut with a metallic thud. As the tram slid down the street, Leopold stood beneath a beech tree and cradled his own ear in his palm. He pulled the grease-stained business card from his coat pocket and returned to the cafe, the fumes of burnt coal lingering on the hair in his nostrils. The creature was sat on the student’s shoulder. They were sharing a particularly large cigar. As Leopold approached his seat, he pulled the cigar from the creature’s sticky claws and examined it.

“Herr Gruber?” the student said, “You have missed the most enlightening conversation. This feathery fellow here has provided some wonderful inspiration.”

“Has he indeed?” Leopold replied, watching the purple smoke rise along with the wretched pain in his ear.

“Herr Freud is being terribly modest,” the creature said, pinching the students ear lobe. “I made an observation about this cigar you see, and Sigmund has altogether forgotten his obsession with an eel’s gonads and has come up with an entirely new idea.”

Amy is thirty-one years old and currently lives in York in the United Kingdom. She has received a Bachelor’s degree in Film studies and completed a course in creative writing with a focus on the short story, where her work was marked with a distinction. Her short story, The Artist, was published in the debut issue of The York Journal which was described by the editor, Luke Downing, as being “grotesquely sensory and assured.” Amy Is working on her second novel.

“Holy Cow” by Suputra Radeye, a poem

the holy cow

caused riots

in the bazaar today

when raheem was lynched

by a mob accusing him

of selling beef

that was banned

through a bill.

Sutputra Radheye has published two poetry collections of his own: Worshipping Bodies and Inqalaab on the walls. His works have been published in prestigious platforms like Frontier, Countercurrents, Janata Weekly, Culture Matters (UK), among others.

“No. 169” and “No. 476” by K. G. Ricci, visual art

“No. 169” by K. G. Ricci
“No. 467” by K. G. Ricci

K.G. Ricci, a self-taught New York City artist, made a collage on a file cabinet in 2015. The creative possibilities of the medium immediately inspired him. Fifty cut and paste panels followed, visual improvisations on 20” x 40” or 2’ X 4’ hardboard. Next, Ricci completed another series on 8” X 24” hardboard with implied literary reflections or narrative lines. He categorized hundreds of his panels in groups with names like “Femma Dilemma”, “Hotel Kafka” and “3:43 A.M.” Recently, Ricci sustained his implied narrative focus in “Numbered-Not Named”, a series of original pieces, 6” x 9” on black stock.  His current project: “Random Thoughts in the Waiting Room”, is a visual flash fiction series of books with a single word or a fragment of text in each collage composition. K.G. Ricci has exhibited in 27 galleries including solo shows and many more online galleries. His collages have been published in poetry and literary magazines nationally and internationally online and in print.

“We are the Girls” and “It is Impossible not to Think about Home” by Sam Szanto, two poems

“We are the Girls”

soaking on stone-cold sand

under a stunning paperweight of sky

We the girls who flew kites

while police radios chatter and splutter

we listen like windowledged flies

            We had sleepovers and giggled all night

we hardly speak the language

and the dead are stuck in our throats

            We girls had an orchestra of songs

the boat that brought us here leaves

the sea clogged with corpses

            We had stories soaring from us

After the queueing, there is no room

the cold slaps us, the rain slices us

            We are girls who had silk throws at home

“It is Impossible not to Think about Home”

Home is like soap, but try to get clean with a home, try to get warm

with a room, try to sleep in one bed with four others, together they huddle

like hailstones inside a storm in a temporary room

where the windows are picked-clean bones, the smell is maroon solitude

and the sound in their pockmarked ears is bombs and screams and silence,

they try not to think about home, to sew calm into the morning but the memories

are sky-blue silk, impossible not to think about, “Will it be safe to go out, Lilia?”

her husband asks. His wife cannot smell maroon solitude, that is what he smells

remorselessly, and he fears this outside world, terrorised by the thought

that people he has never met will think they are here to steal – jobs food whatever

etcetera. Lilia needs to go out, so they hold hands, take up children

too young to have learned about memory, “Ana uHibukka”

they say to each other, rain shining upon them, before blanking their tongues

Sam Szanto has had over 30 poems and short stories published and listed in competitions. Most recently, her poem ‘On Hearing Vivaldi’s Winter – the Four Seasons’ was published in Alternate Route Zine. She won both the 2020 Charroux Prize for Poetry and the First Writers 12th International Poetry Competition. In 2019, her poem ‘So we will leave before they come with guns’ won second prize in the Hammond House International Literary Prize. Her work was also shortlisted for the Grist Prize in 2019. Sam is currently studying for the UK Poetry School / Newcastle University MA in Writing Poetry.

“In the Year 59” by Kalman Applbaum, prose

In the year 59, I awake to someone else’s existence. All that remains of my past is the trace of a dream in which my ex-girlfriend, Becker (I can’t remember her first name), says to my replacement, in front of me, “We should go discuss linear algebra.” It’s a hint for me to leave. I say to her, “We should discuss analytical geometry sometime.”

In the year 59, I am in someone else’s house, a rather nice one, with hardwood floors, graceful furniture, enlarged black and white photographs, bookcases. The books and photographs establish for me that this is not my home, though whosever it is, like me, has led an ordered life, with attention to detail and a spare aesthetic. The closets are stocked but not stuffed with clothes, winter in front, summer in back. The kitchen is used and clean. The walkway outside is scraped of snow down to the pavement. There’s a cairn of salt on the stoop where someone dropped too much of it, a householder’s mishap. I’m tempted to open the door and sweep it away before it eats into the concrete. In a room on the first floor, the door to which is closed, I hear a woman softly crying. I raise my knuckle to knock but change my mind.

I climb the stairs to what must have been the study, a garret office outside a spare bedroom, floodlit from low windows by the reflection of snow on the sloped roof beneath. The snow is untouched but for the footprints of a heavy bird or a squirrel. On the desk I find a closed laptop and four dictionaries stacked in a pyramid, disciplined and a mite dusty. A chubby-faced girl with dark hair cut in silky bangs stares out introspectively from a silver frame the size and shape of a man’s ear. Her attire and the black and white suggest it belongs to the year 59, nothing to do with the present, and not of the desk owner’s child but of a woman, someone’s woman, perhaps the one sobbing in the room downstairs, the sound of which rises faintly to my ears if I set my mind to it. I am filled with compassion for her, I may even love her, now that I see the child in the photograph. I want to go downstairs and console her, I am so moved. Who I am and what I am doing in her husband’s place—I surmise much in my effort to make sense, and I did see man’s clothes in some of the closets, man’s boots in the mudroom—I will be unable to explain, standing at the door. It’s as abstract as analytical geometry, as tricky as linear algebra.

I am gripped by the urge to run or, I think more rationally, to force myself awake. Whatever manner of dream within dream this is, inhabiting someone else’s hushed, intimate and, I can’t help thinking, desperate life, I want out of it. “Get me away from here!” But the words come only warbling from my throat, as though I sang rather than hollered, begged rather than importuned. Whoever has put me here exerts scriptural jurisdiction.

I lean back in the chair to reorder my thoughts. I stare out upon the sloped roof and the naked trees beyond. Touring the house, walking from room to room, pausing before the bookcases, scanning the contents of the refrigerator, sitting at the dead man’s desk staring into the photograph of his wife as a child, if that’s indeed who she is, all transpired casually, without either suspense or curiosity, as one would expect to have in a stranger’s house. My heartrate has been as steady as sleep while I undertook all these movements that were, I form the words now, the beat picking up, accustomed in every regard. Yes, I reflect both casually and with mounting alarm, beholding atop the winter light of the garret the paradox of incongruent yet equally binding proofs of human love and loss, this is my house. These dictionaries, slightly covered in dust, are my dictionaries. The woman downstairs is my woman, or I am hers, or—and here my heart plummets and I am bone and flesh for the first time since I dreamt awake in this beautiful, horrendous place—I am she.

Kalman Applbaum is a professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin. He is represented by Catalyst Literary Management.

“Elegy for the Last Bigfoot in Alexandria” and “Partial Draft from a Dream… Either Mine or Yours” by Cortney Bledsoe, two poems

“Elegy for the Last Bigfoot in Alexandria”

You live among people but you’re not

sure you are one. Maybe something left

behind after the last ice age. Maybe

just too dumb to die. Here, you’re not

the only one with fleas, and they sell

collars in your size. The sun followed

you all the way from Arkansas and likes

to peek in and say hi whenever you walk

anywhere. It’s kind of nice to be

remembered. As long as it’s not forever.

You understand when the squirrels talk

shit about your neighbors. The crows,

nobody understands. The difference

between an apartment and a coffin is

something to do with dimensions, as in

we all shrink, with time, parts we’ve

accumulated sloughing off. None of

your family was buried in wood. You’ve

got one in the closet just in case. None

of this means failure unless you want it

to. But you’re not that kind of (maybe)

person. You’re the kind who’s afraid

to smile because you might like it too

much (and show off too many of the wrong

kind of teeth). This city stinks like any

city, is too full like any city. The forest

stinks of a different kind of dying.

Your life has been not so much a search

but a whine for better stink. Can’t order

pizza anymore because the delivery guy

wants to talk about conspiracy theories.

Also, you’re broke. Pull one more tooth

and sell it on eBay. If that doesn’t work,

make a mold of your foot and leave it

by the river. Maybe something will follow

you home, itchy hair hiding in a Nationals

cap. Maybe someone with snacks.

“Partial Draft from a Dream…Either Mine or Yours”

It was my first time co-teaching a creative

writing class, and more than anything,

Barbara and I didn’t want the students

to realize we were slowly transforming

into dogs. We pulled our sleeves down

over our paws, turned the heat up to explain

why we were panting. The barking was

due to allergies—have you seen the pollen

count today? We had them fooled, even

though I growled at a student’s cat sweater,

and Barbara kept scooting her butt on

the floor. I kept telling her, you’ve got

to take your worm medicine. But she

was on a diet and wasn’t taking any treats.

Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of more than twenty-five books, including the poetry collections Riceland, Trashcans in Love, Grief Bacon, and his newest, The Bottle Episode, as well as his latest novels Goodbye, Mr. Lonely and The Saviors. Bledsoe co-writes the humor blog How to Even, with Michael Gushue located here: https://medium.com/@howtoeven. His own blog, Not Another TV Dad, is located here: https://medium.com/@clbledsoe. He’s been published in hundreds of journals, newspapers, and websites that you’ve probably never heard of. Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.

“You Walk into a Swirl” by Lynn Finger, a poem

of shorebirds, cyclones in the beach fog,

cast you into sawdust, fine with light.

Every morning I go to find you

as you vanish down the street

humming, blown by winds. No one

offers what you need. You stare

blankly at all who walk by,

a sandpiper with gouache wings.

You taught me that losing my outline

is a fact of life, desires displaced.

Stupendous tigers of abandoned rage

follow me. I did what you couldn’t,

folded a story from promised first

bones. I am silhouetted in red

wire, torn empty by the storm

of everything. Melted sand

& burning sun take me apart,

the sky falls in ash, & you continue,

a survivor’s puppet, without

knowing anything’s gone.

Lynn Finger is a social worker who has a Master’s in Social Work and a Bachelor’s in English Lit. Lynn’s poetry has appeared in 8Poems, Perhappened, Wrongdoing Mag, Twin Pies, Book of Matches, Drunk Monkeys, Not Deer Magazine and also forthcoming in Corporeal Lit Mag. Lynn is an editor at Harpy Hybrid Review and works with a group, “Free Time,” through the University of Arizona’s Poetry Center, that mentors writers in prison. Follow Lynn on Twitter @sweetfirefly2 and @lynmichf on Instagram.

Editor’s Statement

Thank you, dear reader, for visiting us and seeing the wonderful work we have organized for you in our first issue. We aimed to include a variety of themes, styles, and voices. We hope that the diversity of work was such that you found something that really rang true for you or got you thinking. If a particular piece really spoke to you, we encourage you to search the biographical statement for the appropriate piece and reach out to the author on social media if such information is included. It means so much for an artist to hear that their work was appreciated by someone.

We would like to thank our submitters most of all. The editorial team of Horned Things is comprised of three women who submit art and writing for publication and we understand how slow, disheartening, and frustrating the submitting process can often be. As a new journal putting together our first issue, we certainly struggled with technical difficulties and growing pains. We sincerely thank all who patiently stood beside us during this process.

In the near future, we hope to offer interviews, book reviews, printed work, and more. We hope you will come back to visit us again as we develop.

Holly Eva Allen