I Sniff Your Brown Bin – Camillus John

I sniff your brown bin
because it stinks when I pass it
on my way over to the bus stop
in the morning.

Every two weeks you put it out
to be collected by the bin company.
I’ve got no choice in the matter.
Your brown bin is on a footpath I can’t avoid
so your compost wafts up at me as I pass.
I cough. Choke a bit. And my eyes water.

When I return on my way home from work,
although your brown bin is physically gone,
I can still smell its putrescent contents
and hear the buzzing of its ticks and flies
from earlier, I sneeze I do, I sneeze
when I’m passing, even when it’s not there.

That time you went on holiday
you didn’t put it out, so I didn’t have
to sniff your brown bin.
I thought I’d be excited
and really rock ‘n’ rolled at such a scenario,
but no, I missed the stink
and the fumes
and I was soothed
when I got to sniff it
four weeks later when you
eventually put it out again
full to the overflowing brim.

I have to admit though, I lingered
a little longer than I should
have on that public pavement
outside your home
that Tuesday morning, after four whole
weeks of going without,
and it felt like kissing someone
with bad-breath standing there
amongst all the bluebottles.

 

Camillus John was bored and braised in Dublin. He has had work published in The Stinging Fly, The Lonely Crowd and RTÉ Ten and other such publications. He would also like to mention that Pats won the FAI cup in 2014 after 53 miserable years of not winning it.

The Cabinet Of Heed Issue 29 Contents Link

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Beloved Father – Omotoyosi Salami

I

You’re outside, wearing your pink flowy dress,
the beads in your hair clinking softly against each other.
You’re twirling and twirling
and you can feel yourself start to lose balance
but you continue to twirl anyway.
The sun is shining. The grass tickles your feet. Breeze carries your arms.
You can be nothing but happy at 4.
And if there’s anywhere you’re going, you’re stumbling.

II

The lights still don’t point out the guilty, not even today,
meaning you still don’t understand what is going on. Why this happens.
But you know what a puncture is.
You know the sound of a punch from the pretty voice of a singing doll.
You know that cigarettes mean death and some other immoral thing.
You know that your mother’s breasts belong to your father and you know
what the punishment for defiance is but still,
you do not want your mother beaten.

III

So today you’re your even littler sister’s enemy.
You would knock her into the dirt if it called for it,
if she is stupid enough as to get the fork for your father.
All you hear is your mother’s high cry for help.
But you don’t cry.
Not one tear drops from your eyes.
Instead, you open your head and remove the straws in it
and throw it at your mother,
so she might cushion the effect of the landing.

IV

Now you’re 16 and not quite as dumb.
And you wish this could be a clean-cut, one-sided story but unfortunately it is not.
But unfortunately for who? Your father? You?
Or this dark haired boy currently wrapping his arms around you and
begging you to accept the love he feels
so strongly for you,
this boy kissing the space behind your ears?
You won’t let this go to ruin, you can’t let this go to ruin.

V

This man who looks relievingly unlike your father comes and says
Tell me about the dreams, darling. Tell me about the dreams.
His arms are open, biceps bulging, and you’re deluded into thinking
a house on fire is better than a storm outside.
How naïve. Are you naïve? You’re smarter than this. You’re 21 and know not to victim blame. Not to blame your own damn self.
But look, we’re jumping into the future. Now all you see is a one big arm
and then another long one, longing to hold you.
Never your father, not ever your father.
And you wouldn’t be your mother and ruin this for yourself either.

VI

A dark room, a dark house, a loose woman.
So loose, things simply slip through all the holes in you
To never again come out.
Take for instance, this husband of yours.
No man would want his fingers in that nest of a head,
Those saggy bags you call breasts.
(No man wants to drown.)
Nothing will impede hunger, do you not know this?
But, keep at those windows, stare at the stars.
The husband you await is in a brothel, drinking from a shimmery, lustrous lady.

VII

And finally, you’re now something of a freak.
You shrink at nature’s touch. You stifle yourself.
It’s your own body that repulses you;
there are no enemies hidden anywhere,
everyone knows this.
Suddenly the wind sounds like it’s wailing,
suddenly you’re no longer the shallow girl that thinks only of the sweet things.
You’re an overnight poet now, and you want to testify something.
You always have something to say, and it’s never happy.
But there are tragedies and there are tragedies and there are tragedies.
It simply is the order of things.
Whose judgement is it to make?
Whose dirge is it to sing?

 

Omotoyosi Salami is a poet and writer living in Lagos, Nigeria. A lot of her writing is influenced by the various inequalities that exist in her country. She has been published in Vagabond City Lit, Constellate Lit, and Brittle Paper. If you do not find her reading a book, you will find her writing something in her phone’s Notes app.
She is on Twitter as @HM_Omotoyosi.

The Cabinet Of Heed Issue 29 Contents Link

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The Raid – Richard Bower

The wizard made coffee. The warrior drew the plans on a napkin. The elf mistrusted ink and white sugar. The healer brought breakfast bananas. The wizard knew a hidden way into the king’s chambers. The warrior wanted to visit the princess first. The healer thought the kitchen should be secured for provisions. She was famished and more anxious than the rest. The elf noted the siege water supply. The sewer warranted an upgrade, but castle residents drank beer. And you can imagine what that would bring.

The elf swung over the moat light as the tooth fairy. The wizard carried himself in on lightning without thunder. The healer struck the gate rope with her crossbow bolt. The drawbridge lowered. The healer looked distinguished walking into the castle, her magic cloak drifting behind to frame her beauty for all. The elf didn’t identify with any gender, and the wizard admired the elf for this. The warrior believed he was all masculine but really wasn’t. He was only muscle, no bones in his body at all. The Healer worried about the violence afterward. She was right to be concerned, but the princess could protect herself. She had skills and years of practice. The king was not so fortunate when his soldiers defected. Blood, pillage, and more blood was the way it went. Don’t imagine it too much.

The wizard felt fortuitous about the secured real estate. The warrior felt sad he could not marry the princess. The elf mistrusted himself and ate bacon for breakfast every day. He feared no heart disease. Every day the healer regretted she could only do so much. So much repair needed doing. And though the sewer was wrecked, the beer tasted good. Each would deal with the stink privately. And you can imagine what that would bring.

Word reached them the king’s brother was on horse to retake the castle. The wizard made coffee. The warrior drew defense plans on a fancy handkerchief. The elf mistrusted the plans, diets, and their fellowship. The wizard kept secret what he knew about the invaders. The exhausted healer abandoned them to farm vegetables and raise pigs. And you can imagine what that would bring.

 

Richard Bower had previously published or has forthcoming flash in Postcard Shorts, Enchanted Conversation Magazine, Gingerbread House, Ghost Parachute, and Fiction Kitchen Berlin. He teaches writing for Cayuga’s School of Media and the Arts (SOMA).

The Cabinet Of Heed Issue 29 Contents Link

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Enduring Night – Judy Darley

I haven’t been here yet, but this is what I imagine it will be like. Dark as ink from waking till sleeping, with an occasional reprieve when the sun lifts its lead-heavy head. Fissures of aurora borealis dancing above bare-branched trees as ice crystallises in the air. Eyeballs rolling in the fight not to freeze; skin tightening; breath blooming like fog.

Laughter – awkward, as I try to understand this alien place where myths create a richer backdrop than the cityscape where we fell out of love. You, at ease? Or uncertain too, embarrassed by the suddenness with which you left me behind.

I’ll meet you at the hotel you’ve recommended, a boutique one that exploits its eccentricity to holidaymakers who regards it as ‘quaint’. By the time I reach you, I’ll have travelled from the airport to Reyjavik, by winged chariot perhaps – although my funds are limited, especially in this climate.

The volcano slumbering nearby, an ever-present danger, grumbling quietly through its dreams.

Every cell of me will be tingling from the extreme temperatures. I can’t even anticipate the cold that awaits. During a winter stroll on Clevedon Pier, when sea battled wind and my nose was crimson, I asked: “Is it like this?”

You’d beamed at my naivety. “It’s more like when the shark bites the legs off the girl in Jaws and she doesn’t even know until she reaches down, feels the sliver of bone…”

Hmm, inviting.

I’m the kind of person who is always cold – who can sit indoors on a relatively mild day with the central heating switched on, and still shiver. The idea of your sub-zero homeland makes me nervous – I’m already bracing for the shock.

In just a few hours, I’ll be standing in the hotel foyer, scrabbling through pockets for a lip balm, when I’ll feel your gaze fall on me. My suitcase at my feet, coat half unzipped, I’ll cease my searching and raise my head.

But I know I’m not travelling in hope of reconciliation. You made that all too obvious in your tentative email – your painfully polite request for us to meet up so you could apologise in person. You offered to come back to England, but in an abrupt way that made it clear you’d rather not.

“It’s one of the steps,” you told me in our first Skype chat since you left. “I have to make amends. I’ll pay for your flight, Steph.”

My sister looked at me hard as she dropped me off at Bristol airport. “There’s no such thing as a free trip,” she warned me. “You don’t want to do something you’ll regret. Tell Arn you have your period.”

I laughed. “What? Nice to see you, Arn. By the way, I’m on the blob.”

She nodded. “More reliable than contraception. More reliable than that man after he stomped on your heart.”

“My heart’s just fine,” I assured her.

The phrase rang in my head all through security, passport control, queuing for overpriced airport coffee. It’s drumming now with the rhythm of my pulse as I stare out of the oval window at the cloud-rippled sky. My heart’s just fine. My heart’s just fine. One two, one two…

I sit in my cramped airline seat and imagine Iceland’s enduring night – the magic of easing into darkness, no expectations of dawn until spring. Natural human needs for sunshine suspended.

The acceptance of it must feel like surrender. In England we fight against the cold, the rain, the shortened days. We whinge about needing to switch on electric lights at 3 or 4pm. Every dreary dawn is a disappointment. How much happier might we be to let our shadow-side out, rightful and at home, instead of fearing the dark like children?

If I think of it like that, I can see why you snapped, packed and departed. Your culture and mine are at odds when it comes to elemental things like seasons.

But people do make it work. They have lifelong love affairs despite fundamental differences. Your shame should be less about failing than for your willingness to give up on us so easily.

It’s not like we‘d need to live together, or even in the same country. There’s email, FaceTime and all those other modern conveniences. This flight, for example, takes just a few hours.

If I come all this way and you really do only want to apologise in person, face to face, breathing the same air and close enough to touch, no problem, I tell myself. But deep inside my chest, I feel something smouldering: a hibernating dragon preparing to stir. The naivety of hope isn’t always a bad thing, and in this case, that hope has a heart of fire.

*      *      *

The truth, of course, could not be more at odds to my imaginings. My chariot is, after all, a coach and then a mini-bus; my views sunlit and slanted with drizzle. Daylight comes late here, but dusk little earlier than in England.

The biggest surprise is the country itself. No trees, few houses, but tourists – so many tourists – all clamouring to see the sights.

And you, where are you? There’s a message at my hotel – an apology that I suspect, lips pursed, might be the first of many. Wasn’t the whole point of this trip your opportunity to say sorry? You’re busy at work, but will see me in the morning. You have sights to show me that you’re sure I’ll love.

What makes you think you can guess what I love?

I unpack my case, peel off my clothes and redress, adding the armour of a vest and thermal leggings beneath jeans, a long-sleeved top and the thickest sweater I own. Outside, the rain has stopped and thermal-heated pavements are already drying. A promising snowflake swirls past my nose.

By the time you arrive the next day in your four-by-four, snow is declaring itself the natural state of water here; rain was the anomaly.

Your eyes are the same, almost, although the creases around them seem deeper. There’s a fresh clarity in the way you look at me, as though I’m no longer blurred.

I turn my face away, ducking your gaze.

“Steph,” you say, and I shake my head. A honk of laughter escapes my throat, warding off storms of emotions threatening to descend.

You’re wearing a wool sweater that looks soft to the touch. For an intense instant, I want to rub my face against your shoulder – feel your knitted fleece against my cheek, inhale the lanolin. Instead I present my hand, firmly formal, reining in my beam. You blink, but shake it, agreeing to boundaries.

You tell me we’re going to feed the Icelandic horses.

“But I don’t like horses,” I protest, as we drive through the pewter pre-dawn light. It’s already 10am.

“You’ll like these horses, Steph,” you say, “They’re not a bit daunting. Vikings only brought what they could fit on the boats, and smaller animals allowed more space for alcohol.” You wait for me to join in with your amusement, but I’m only up for a smile.

Memories of nights waiting for you to come home in pieces crowd my mind. My stomach lurches as though it’s on castors.

Throughout our drive from Reykjavik to Þingvellir National Park, you’re quieter than I’m accustomed to. Your profile is sharply offset by the snow beyond, your lovely face tense.

The snow holds more colours that I would have thought possible – curves painted with blue and purple shadows, convex swoops gleaming gold.

At last the silence is too much. I say one word, aware of how heavily the two syllables sit between us. “Rehab.”

You inhale, your focus flickering from the road to me. Somehow your expression is one of relief. “Long time,” you say. “Long time coming.”

“Difficult?” I ask, reduced to one-word-at-a-time questions.

You nod. Your eyes return to the windscreen as you negotiate a patch of black ice. I flinch from the glimpse of unearthed pain boiling beneath your retinas.

“Necessary,” you say.

Rather than bringing oats or hay, you pull in at a bakery and buy dark bread that makes my nose twitch.

“In England we feed bread to ducks,” I say. “And hedgehogs. But we’re not meant to. It’s bad for them.”

“We don’t have hedgehogs here,” you say, missing the point deliberately, I think. “Probably because we don’t much have hedges.”

The horses’ muscled bodies form a snow-matted wall, protecting against the worst of the weather. “They have a hierarchy,” you say as we approach, bread in hand. “This one at the front is the leader. That one alone over there is the outcast.”

The loner, I think. “Poor thing. Or maybe he chooses that,” I suggest, and look you in the eye. I see your jaw clench, then release.

Sensing our lapse in attention, the horses lunge forwards, lips quivering and teeth exposed.

I jump back, and narrow avoid face-planting into a ditch.

You catch me by one arm. “Careful, Steph, the little folk will have you.”

“Who?”

I know the answer – who in Iceland could not? But I suspect it will please you to tell me.

“The elves. It’s like politics in Britain. It’s always those who don’t own up to their convictions who are the loudest complainers about whatever goes wrong. Here, every bad thing is the fault of the little folk.”

I glance around us, and at this ice-white landscape where trees determinedly fail to flourish. I recall your favourite riddle on that subject, shared during a night of whisky, rum and tequila slammers overlooking Bristol harbour. “What should you do if you’re lost in an Icelandic forest? Stand up!”

It’s the differences I like, I want to tell you. The differences between your sense of home and my own. I can see that you’re better, I want to say. I trust in your recovery.

But I don’t want to press the moment to shattering point. “Take me to see the geyser,” I say instead. “The one every other geyser is named after.”

You shake your head. “That one is snoozing these days. His cousin Strokkur is awake though. We can go there.”

So that’s where we drive to next, through hail and wind and the ice that’s slowly thawing between us.

We talk about weather, and the English way of filling silences with talk of the weather.

“In England there is always drizzle,” you say. “And you always need to discuss it.”

“Only because it’s constantly changing.”

“Oh yes, such dramatic change! From light drizzle to heavy drizzle to the kind of drizzle that somehow is lightest of all and yet makes you soaking wet.” You laugh and I laugh too, hearing fondness in your words.

“Mizzle,” I say, presenting the word shyly. “I think it’s a mix of drizzle and mist.”

“Mizzle,” you echo. “So many different words for rainfall.” You sound delighted. The ridicule I became inured to in your drinking days has filtered away. I allow my habitual anxiety to loosen its knots.

The sun creeps out and blue light particles ignite in the sky.

Geothermal heat unleashes lurid green algae, ochre, and a dense peaty brown with shades of purple and gold. A paved track leads through the blue-white snow, with rivulets steaming on either side. A group of sightseers cluster ahead.

You stride onwards as I slither carefully behind.

Everyone is staring at a single fathomless pool. The water is too opaque to see through, but I have the sense of something curled up deep, scales protecting it from scalding temperatures.

I think of the fissures scarring this terrain, hidden beneath the veneer of snow. A small gratitude wells in me.

The pool’s surface begins to slip and slide. A low rumble creates miniscule waves. Strokkur shoots up – a column of energy striking the frigid air. In an instant, it collapses. The crowd cheers.

Show over.

“How’s that for timing?” you exclaim, and I spy a glimmer of your old joyful self. My insides churn, but I match my smile to yours and take your hand in mine.

 

Judy Darley is a British writer who can’t stop writing about the fallibilities of the human mind. Her work has been published in the UK, New Zealand, US and Canada, and performed in Hong Kong. Judy’s short story collection Sky Light Rain is out now. Find Judy at http://www.skylightrain.com  and  https://twitter.com/JudyDarley.

The Cabinet Of Heed Issue 29 Contents Link

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let the moon haunt them – linda m. crate

the sun
husked open
burnt
flesh from bone
wrinkled youth into elderly

his rage could not be
silenced,
backhanded everyone into
horror;

then i opened my eyes
realizing
that even nightmares
are dreams—

there is a darkness
in everything,
but they’ll tell you to turn
your back on the shadows;
even if the darkness is part of you

they don’t want to remember
your monsters
lest you rip them apart
for what they’ve taken from you

i say let the darkness break
free
let the wildness of your moon
haunt and lick them into insanity—

if they wanted better
the perhaps they should’ve
been men and not monsters.

 

Linda M. Crate’s poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in a myriad of magazines both online and in print. She has six published chapbooks, and one micro-chapbook. She is also the author of the novel Phoenix Tears (Czykmate Books, June 2018).

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Tornado Preparedness Drill – Ace Boggess

If the power’s still on, make coffee.
If you prefer whiskey, sleep
on a futon by the nearest phone.

I have better ways to spend my time:
complaining about loud noises &
worrying over this coming storm

which brings with it fish &
frogs that fall from the sky.
In the past hundred years:

one tornado in this county,
that so small the horror-movie
flying cows ho-hummed.

Nobody asked for my opinion,
but I give it while the city sirens
hit their spine-chilling notes &

radio stations sing,
“Get down, get down,”
as if a disco boogie jam.

 

ACE BOGGESS is author of four books of poetry, most recently I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So (Unsolicited Press, 2018) and Ultra Deep Field (Brick Road, 2017). His writing appears in Notre Dame Review, Rhino, North Dakota Quarterly, Rattle, and many other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia.

Cabinet Of Heed Contents Link 23

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A Self-Analysis – Brice Maiurro

Some days I leave my arms at home
to give other people the chance to show me
how to conduct a symphony.

I am an owl in many ways
but most of all in the way I like to be alone at night
staring out my window
sitting on my tree branch
waiting for the field mice to come to me.

When I look at the hairs on my legs
I see thousands of tiny trees and I think about
the day each seed was planted.
I think about the way I am so very large
because I am one billion things so small.

I have a hard time with spiders
because I don’t want to kill them and
I know that I am ultimately unimportant to them
but I feel them crawling up my leg in bed
and when I look they’re never there
but my vulnerability is sometimes counter-intuitive
to my survival instinct
there is a certain amount of acceptance of death
that comes along with trust.

I refill ice trays in the freezer like a madman
like some great fleshy robot filled
with a singular algorithm to make sure there is never
one moment where this house will be without ice.

I don’t drink enough water.

In the middle of the twilight I talk to ghosts.
They carry all these stories about regret and war
and I’m just trying to sing myself
to sleep with songs of faith and renewal
but they clean their guns on the edge of my bed
and sometimes I like to swim
on top of their uneasy oceans.

I papercut my finger
on my contract to myself
and when the blood begins to run
I put it beneath the cold water faucet
and watch as it pours down the drain
and sometimes the water rises
and the sink fills up and the bathroom floods
until I’m underwater in my apartment
scuttling along like a crab
on the warped wood floor
but I do not drown, I sleep best in rip tide.
I dance in disaster.

Sometimes I fall asleep to radio static.
There is a room so quiet you can hear your blood
in your veins and the silence will drive you mad they say.
I talk so loud about how good I am at silence.
How American it is to always know what to say and that’s the thing.

I think I’m an auditory citizen of the world until it gets quiet
and I can hear the national anthem reminder
that I don’t know how to sight read a page of rest symbols.

I dance like I am protesting dancing,
Like if I flail my arms enough they’ll call it satire.

When I dance with women I follow their hips
and pretend I am so keen to the difference between
control and influence.

Sometimes I get stuck in the middle of a poem
and I don’t know how to end it.
Sometimes I’ll get real cute
and just throw out a one-liner like something
Oscar Wilde would say at a cocktail party
but sometimes I’ll just take a minute to be in it.
I’ll walk around the poem like an empty apartment
opening the closets looking for clues about
the person who lived here before
and sometimes I’ll find that there’s nothing but
wire hangers in the closet
or sometimes I’ll run out screaming
chased by skeletons

not tonight.

 

BRICE MAIURRO is a poet and writer from Denver, Colorado. He is the Editor-In-Chief of South Broadway Ghost Society and the Poetry Editor of Suspect Press. His second collection of poems, Hero Victim Villain, will be out June 24th, 2019 through Stubborn Mule Press. You can find more about him at http://www.maiurro.co.

Cabinet Of Heed Contents Link 23

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Tichners Point – Doug Stuber

Gale winds and lightning push me a mile or more down the lake.
As the aluminum Grumman canoe fills with late-spring rain.
I bullied my sister, insisting on paddling alone, so she raged.
The storm wiped the smug smile from my face, added pain.

That canoe remains the symbol of love in my heart.
I cling to it in my dreams. Its nurturing hand saved
A ten-year-old that day, and inspires further pours of art:
Paddle trips for trilobites wedged in cliffs of shale.

It waited every winter, unlike others I know
We wrapped cross bars with life preservers to portage lake to creek.
We pulled ashore on Squaw Island, a long way to go,
Retracing the frightful past strengthened this belief.

Fifty years later, there you are, not a spot of rust,
We hit Canandaigua, my love, my arms, my trust.

DOUG STUBER: father, professor, abstract expressionist, Hippie-punk improv rock bassist. Twelfth volume “Chronic Observer” now available at Finishing Line Press’ online bookstore.

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