Singing to the Cow – Maureen Sherbondy

I belted out the entire Sound of Music
soundtrack to Denny the cow
while he chewed cud in sync with
Climb Every Mountain
Do-Re-Mi, Edelweiss.

I swear he listened,
even swaying his tail
to the daily tunes.
Then one evening on this dairy farm
in Upstate New York
I inquired about Denny’s
absence from the singalong.

Too late, the mother grinned
as she pointed to
the half-eaten meat on my plate.
Though the Von Trapps
had escaped death
by fleeing, this did not prove
to be poor Denny’s fate.

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Ylem – Mehreen Ahmed

Her name was Andromeda. She swam on satin water. Lapped up in the silk, her mind was restive. Her thoughts were agile, but discrete and non-linear. Absorbed her musings, her dreams were clear. She swam in them, out of her depths, just as well, they kept coming back. Braided in and out, oscil-lating, and edgy, they chased her almost, inconsequentially. In a way her swim impeded, these half-formed thoughts, writ on water’s hem.

In the aftermath of the war, random bodies floated. Down by the stream which eucalyptus skin coated. Covered by stringy barks, pale faces were spotted. The enemy gloated; bodies were quite bloated. Marked with agony, of the swollen bodies, some eyes shut, peculiarly, some were still open. Her focus turned in a moment.

She sat next to her mother. They chatted in an oval room, mother and daughter. Her mother looked fresh and young, way back, a maiden. Andromeda was born much later.

She asked.”Where have you been all this time?”

“I had been out to a conference,” her mother replied.

“How did it all go?”

Her mother answered, “Very good. All was good.”

“Ah, but I missed you. I really did.”

Her mother smiled. Father entered the room. His handsome face was radiant, the atmosphere lightened. Mother rose to offer him her chair. But father took a stool, sturdy and bare. Father died nearly a decade, Andromeda thought, in retrospect. The room darkened. Over the water, bold and low, fluttered a lorikeet, a flying rainbow. It seemed it was going to gouge her eyes. But the sprightly bird frolicked, passed her elbow.

The neighbour, who like a father, died indeed. She went to his funeral with a wreath. Then he dropped by to meet her that night, this reverie, held her cheat tight. When she asked him,“Have you seen God?”

“No,” he replied. This, a silent place.Where am I? This present moment. Vast, and void, this light space, offers no air. Did I die? Am I really dead?”

“No, God then?” she asked.

“Where is He? He hasn’t come to meet me, yet,” said the respondent.

“Do you miss us?” she had asked.

Tears in her dreams, she felt surreal.

“Yes, I miss your aunty,” he answered, then he vaporised like a collapsed star.

A fusion of elements, hydrogen and helium, led to the birth of a cosmic star. The helium ran out. Star collapsed. He collapsed. She saw the neighbour, driving his car; through the suburbs of his choice, with his wife, whom he referred to, as aunty. The chemicals conferred. An accident oc-curred. He died. Of her dreams. Finite lives made of infinite gasses. Of the cosmos, of the elements, life perished. Andromeda contemplated, the stuff of life. This precious breath, did it not live outside the orbit of death? Helium, and hydrogen, oxygen, iron and zinc.

Mountain passes were rugged. She walked through the terrain. A storm picked up, she looked for a spot. She found a cave. In the dark shelter, she sat amidst litter. A lightening fell outside. That creepy light, opened her mind to shadows below. She was not alone; somebody there. In a flash, the shadow disappeared. She was out of her wits. She tried to sleep. Just when she saw some cave paintings. On the wall, they looked ancient. And they were, ancient. In a bit, she saw a little boy. A broken charcoal in his hand, he sketched stirring stories, like the fall of Troy. He lit a small fire.

Lights emanating from the fire helped, this sentient boy, to see better. He drew stick figures of many shapes and sizes: tall, short, men, women and children. It was almost dark, on the rugged wall, shape of the boy silhouetted in the moonlight. Floodlights in the dark cave, paintings of tall tales, some washed up partly in the rain. Segment of a story, like this painting of an alley, people walked through with missing hands or hair. Many even defaced, in the falling rain. Colours ran down the leaves of trees, and turned them into lighter shades of green. Pure paintings filled the dingy walls, and onto the floor, some scribbles crawled.

Gallows hung without much peruse. Kings devised a horrendous ruse. Spilled blood into the soil to infuse. Children sacrificed, for fertility of the soils, far better use. Heavy harvest at stake, people kept quiet, no one to refuse. Little boys to be taken, gods to be appeased. Telltale signs of ominous days. The King’s men marched, and dragged the boy away. Off to the gallows. Off with his head. The artist, little boy, broken into shreds. In white loincloth, wrapped around his waist, the boy’s gaping horror, clouded his face. His small hands trembled. She looked through a portal. Tears, and cries of the innocent sacrifice. No one took pity at the bloody altar. Wounds remained unaltered. Cosmic parameter, a stern factor.

Flashbacks played wistful memories, she lay on a beach a mere bystander. A silent witness to the many silken dreams, lovers entwined a beautiful beginning. Sunken sands, in waxed moonlight. Of the mandala, an ephemera, imperfect finale of the drama; done and redone until time had spoken, given up on the beach, a part of resurrection. In the hours all became sand, quintessentially minus-cule, and indestructible. In the heart of it, each wave flow, atom of H2O.

Over those swelling waves, she boarded a pirate ship. And saw a thousand vessels, a war imminent. On the horizon, a ship appeared like a phantom. A skeleton of a ship, spectacularly luminous, shone in the lantern. There was a gunshot fire. She was hit. Oh! It hurt! She was hurt. She felt the pain of the gunshot. But she lived. She saw ships pass by, while her own cruised towards the nearest beach; sea-gulls, scoured the skies. Sands, the most wondrous, where monks built palaces, and played Kings and Queens. Of a greater imagination, ruled by them, the three Moirae sisters. Monks made mandalas, painstakingly intricate, human history and destiny pleached. Giant pyramids erected with care, and the Taj-Mahal, The great Ozymandias. The King of Kings, his life sized statue pitched on the beach. Immortalised in the scroll, the statue awash, the mandala destroyed, flattened to the ground.

The hollow sand; into the sand, she buried her legs deep to the waist. A hybrid formed of part sand and part flesh. At its best, a mermaid tail; she lay half covered under the clay. High on her imagina-tion, her dreams displayed, decrepit old castles’, windows’ deep splays. Such was the beach, on the edge of which, the tireless seas creased. Where romantics rode unicorns, nomads wild horses, Homer, churned verses, now deplete.

Time’s most valued, gift offerings to gods, watched this once how their altars burnt? Stars burnt out. The sun burnt. This gleaming altar made out of gold; plush gold clouds, nestled the thrones. A toy boat marooned, on gold-plaited sheet, uncertain of directions, an aluminium plate; hot liquid gold, poured into the mould, this sea basin, replete to the brim. Gods’ own altar, never to erode, shimmering and sure, until pilgrims came home.

Andromeda swam, a big hand bagged a snake. There was a man though towards dawn. He told her this, expressed a wish that he wanted to leave, to be born again.

“Born again?” she asked.

“Yes, that is possible,” he said.

“Impossible. Because in order for you to remain what you’re, you need genes from both par-ents.”

“It is possible, though,” the man said.

“What about your wife?”

“What about her?”

“Does she have a say in any of this?” she asked.

“Probably not.”

The wife loomed. But she didn’t seem to mind. She heard his desire. So, she did not hinder.

On a fevered night, in one short month, the man left for a forest, of illuminated fireflies. The blue forest sparkled, a pathway was strewn, with sprinklings of fire ubiquitously flown. Around tall trees and slim short bushes, he walked alone through a lucid forest. A forest transformed into a conduit, this hermit of a man, roamed its bended unit. Reincarnation on his mind, soul in another body, stars in the sky, twinkled a smile.

Here she was, with this lady in white, appeared in her dream, that’s how it transpired. Some sy-ringes in her hand, wet lips in betel juices, glowing with health, she stood at her bed. Holding them out, those long syringes, she knocked into her some worldly senses.

“Your mother’s injections.”


The lady vanished. Her mother had run out of insulin and was on the brink of a disaster. The lady had come to tell her this, to ask her if, she could get her some insulin. Andromeda’s grand-mother, this dear lady, kind and Godly, rests now sadly. The silken waters blanketed her skin. Her swimming undeterred, held her by a spell. This undying chemical, once produced within her organ, the failing pancreas, now injected for survival.

“I’ve come to say goodbye,” it seemed he taunted. She looked at her brother, then understood his intent. Upon waking, she found to be true, that this saintly priest had passed away too. This dream-land, not entirely unreal, of sense perceptions, a world parallel. Sights sounds and smell, shaped up to be real, pain compounded a curious blend.

Disjointed thoughts came to pass. Mesmerising chimera seeped. Tantalising glimpse, of enormous replica, as shaded entity. Who’s to know, what’s with the truth, this wakeful life of actuality? A dream within a dream; doll within a doll, within a doll, the picture awry, always off limit. That cave painting in the rain, defaced people walked up the streets, the greens washed off. Waters dribbled over, of a partial reality, conceived by this artist in utter antipathy.

Such fragmented cognisance, manifold layered dream, alluded to allegory of the cave theme. Half a dream, a broken thought, the unfinished story, manifested to Plato’s shadow reality. This palpable existence, transcended truth, hinged on puppeteers beyond familiar scope. Answered with certitude, flung within the stars, lay a larger image, the fate of the universe. The long and short of it, dismantle the stars, dismantle Leda, a sense of foreboding descended Andromeda. For, “It is the stars, The stars alone, that govern our condition,” Shakespeare foretold


MEHREEN AHMED is an internationally acclaimed author. Her books, The Pacifist, is “Drunken Druid The Editors’ Choice for June 2018″, andJacaranda Blues,”The Best of Novels for 2017 – Family Novels of the Year” by Novel Writing Festival. Her flash fiction, “The Portrait” chosen to be broadcast by Immortal Works, Flash Fiction Friday, 2018. Bats Downunder, one of her short stories, selected by Cafelit editors for “The Best of CafeLit 8, 2019”.

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Disasters – Jared Pearce

When the storm kills your cat,
or the cold kills your mother,
or the heat kills your father,
and we could go on to the end,
then it’s easy to see nature

coming alive. But most of the time
we scurry around each other,
leap from another’s shadow,
keep our ears twitched for any
crunch on the pine needles

because it’s people crashing
cars, burning tires, casting bullets,
razing sunflowers. We know
the real deal when we see it.



JARED PEARCE’s collection, The Annotated Murder of One, was released from Aubade last year ( His poems have recently been or will soon be shared in Xavier Review, Blue Mountain Review, THAT, Adelaide, and The Aurorean. Link and upcoming events are featured here:

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Parallel Lines – Tina M Edwards

I was a child of the ‘70’s. Growing up amongst bell bottoms and foot long collars, brown and orange wallpaper. It was a time of political change, and one very hot summer. Fleetwood Mac was on the record player and Stevie Nicks was pinned on the inside door of the garden shed.

On the days that dad went to see a man about a dog, I was allowed inside the warm small space. ‘To keep an eye on things,’ Dad said. Make sure Mum didn’t ‘tidy’ the place. When he eventually returned, stumbling and slurring words, we sat in a haze of Woodbine that mingled with the smell of fresh creosote. We were happy then. Me, Dad and Stevie, until mum started banging on about how she always did everything around the house while we had a life of Riley. Whoever he was, he must have been one lucky bugger, because I thought it was us who were the lucky ones.

Then one day Mum decided to get a job, as a Tupperware lady, and almost overnight everything changed. The fridge was full of plastic containers stuffed with carrot sticks and there was no dinner on the table when Dad got home from work. That was when the rumours started, from number 28, that Mum was carrying on with another man. Someone high up in Tupperware. So when she upped and left, one Sunday evening, dragging an oversized brown suitcase down the back lane, I guessed it must have something to do with the Riley bloke.

By the time she came back, six months later, the fridge was full of Vesta curries and Dad had finally brought the dog home. A deaf black and white mongrel with a dodgy back leg who we named Debbie. The shed had been dismantled one night when the coal bunker was empty and Stevie Nicks had been stripped and used to pick up Debbies shit. Dad was growing side burns and ironing his own shirts, and on the record player was Blondie. And all dad said to mum when she walked through the front door was; Pamela, things are going to be different around here now.

The next morning I opened the fridge and found a lone Tupperware container on the top shelf next to the cheese. A piece of paper had been stuck to the lid and read; ‘This is a reminder to never leave things for too long or else they will go off.’

It stayed there for a while until I saw dad remove it after breakfast one morning and replace it with a Vesta curry. He winked at me and I nodded as if I knew. Knew what the hell was happening in the cold space that no one talked about. His secret was safe with me. I’d not let on I’d seen the woman down the road from number 28 shopping in the corner shop, her basket full to the brim with Vesta Curries.


TINA M EDWARDS poetry and fiction has been published in the U.K. and America. She has a penchant for ducks and Cornwall and has been told since childhood she has a vivid imagination. Which is just as well, considering she loves to write. In another life she was probably a Chirologist.

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Banshee – Claire Loader

They say the banshee came the night my grandmother died, the night my mother was born. Through their screams and wails it was said another sound could be heard, a keening howl that tore about the hedgerows, raced upon the fields. The desperate cries of life and death dancing above the thatch as both bled into the floor beneath it.

I never really believed in all that shite. My Grandmother dying as she gave birth on the barren earth of a dingy cottage was horror enough without the need of a spectral element. I think Mam was always disappointed in me in that way, as if not believing in another piseog I was turning my back on her somehow. Just another disappointment to add to the pile.

“Could you make your bed this morning please, just once?”

“Yes, Ma.”

“And don’t go using the dryer so much. You know it eats up the electricity.”

“I’m sorry, Ma.”

“And you better not fail that maths test this morning. If I have to be called in to talk to Mrs Kennedy one more time…”

“I’ve been studying Mammy, don’t worry.”

If the banshee really did exist surely it was in the form of Mrs Kennedy, she heralded the death of all things. That pursed upper lip, those awful tanned stockings, the way she spoke Irish like she was squeezing it past a carrot squashed up the hole of her arse. Her classes were like one long drawn out scream in which we were all forced to remain silent, not knowing which one of us would drop next from shear boredom. And I was late, again.

“Ms Kavanagh, Dia dhuit.” The words slid out of her mouth like putrid yoghurt. “Delighted you could join us.”

I sat quickly in my seat, determined to ace this thing, to prove to Mam I was more than just a future burger flipper at Supermacs, pregnant at seventeen to the likes of Enda Costello. I looked up at him from my exam paper, broad shoulders hunched over his own, the bottom edges of his pants mucky with this morning’s dirt. Up early on his Dad’s farm most like, his large hands at work long before I managed to drag mine out of bed. His pen was dwarfed by them, and I could suddenly see myself in its place, albeit far less rigid…

“Ms Kavanagh! Eyes on your paper please!”

The banshee again, screaming at me from my future. I looked at my blank paper, then at the clock. I didn’t need the gift of foresight to know I was in deep shit.

When I arrived home Mam looked shook, as if she knew already of my imminent F.

“You alright, Ma?”

Her hands paused in the sink, “Yes. Yes, it’s nothing.”

My eyes narrowed, full sure she could somehow see into my mind, into all of its scraggly compartments, see clearly my morning equations that had nothing to do with numbers. I wavered like an unsure cat, not knowing if it was truly safe.

“Why don’t you go walk the dog or something?”

My brow creased in suspicion. “Sure, Ma.”

I grabbed the dog, hand sliding over the small box in my pocket as I headed out to the quiet of the back field. My parents hadn’t built far from the old cottage, its stony gable end the only thing visible now through the tangle of brambles. I turned from the kitchen window, lighting up a cigarette away from the ‘Great Eye of Mammy’ that was otherwise always watching, Molly rustling about the long grass as I drank in the quiet of the afternoon, certain at any moment Mrs Kennedy would appear with my fast food uniform at the ready, the stitched white shirt proclaiming my doom.

Molly started barking suddenly and I nearly tripped as, quickly turning, I saw her growling wasn’t at the house but the ruins, a dark movement catching my eye from between the bushes.

“Those little Halloran shits again.”

I don’t know what I was doing heading towards the cottage, as if my cigarette was some kind of lightsaber against local vandals, but I stopped abruptly, the dog trembling at my feet, a hooded figure looming out from the stone.

“What the…”

A shriek broke the air and, not waiting to find out if it hadn’t come from my own mouth, I ran through the paddock, my fingers fumbling on the kitchen door, before slipping inside and slamming it safely behind me.

Mam spoke suddenly from the middle of the kitchen, as I leaned heavily against the door, my chest heaving. “You saw her too, didn’t you?”

“I, no, um… maybe?”

Mam stood ashen, her gaze suddenly fearful and I barely made out her whisper, “But she only comes to warn of another’s passing. But that means…”

Our eyes locked. Perhaps now was a good time to tell her about the test.


CLAIRE LOADER was born in New Zealand & spent several years in China before moving to County Galway. A photographer & writer, she was a recent winner in the Women Speak poetry competition and blogs at

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The Layover (Bellies On The Breeze) – Stephen Mead

Some birds have heart attacks in mid-air,
the pulse suddenly fluttering at too rapid
a rate. We, as well, often travel that
accelerated. Our eyes, cameras, process
micro seconds, our limbs; long distance
runners, our energy; hormonal stimuli
thrown into overdrive…

Let up. Let up.
Tranquility spills into panic, sifts
like rain through tired joints, spreads,
steams invisibly.

Remember the bends?
They are resigned now, detached, clasping
stillness like wings that have flown
into the tower of a large glass marina…

As water things slide, fin-sprinting
here & there for the ebbing of concentric
ripples. The beauty of such motion,
observed & next, entered, is what holds us
to existence as we again dive, gut-gripped,
in flight.


A resident of NY, STEPHEN MEAD is an Outsider multi-media artist and writer. Since the 1990s he’s been grateful to many editors for publishing his work in print zines and eventually online. He is also grateful to have managed to keep various day jobs for the Health Insurance. In 2014 he began a webpage to gather various links to his published poetry in one place.

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Flamenco Tat – Chloe Balcomb

Turning the corner into Vernon Street, Daisy tastes vermillion and her unease grows. It’s been a while since Rhoda had one of her turns but then she’s just finished a commission, always a trigger. Daisy sighs. She’s an Art student herself so it’s not that she minds having an unusual mum who’s a bit batty and dresses like someone from the 1920s, it’s just the unpredictability factor.

Daisy pauses at the front door and takes a deep breath. Beneath the grey blue paint, the grain shimmers. She admires its silky taffeta appearance, will one day replicate it on her own front door, ‘Not long now!’ she thinks giddily. Living with Rhoda is taking its toll.

‘Rhoda, I’m back! ’ Daisy calls from the hallway. She squeezes her jacket onto the overflowing hooks, pausing to rest her cheek against Rhoda’s favourite, a moss green maxi coat that looks incredible against her mother’s auburn hair. Daisy’s own hair is an ordinary brown, though thick and glossy, while Rhoda’s is beginning to thin.

She bends down to unlace her boots. They’re still pinching at the bridge, which is weird because surely ‘vintage’ Docs should be worn in by now? Her mother distrusts second hand shoes, says they bring a stranger’s energy into the house that’s hard to eradicate. Claims Daisy’s been ripped off anyway, says purple Doc Martens didn’t even exist back in the day.

Daisy hates it when Rhoda bursts her bubble but has learnt to keep quiet. The consequences of shaming her mother are worse than the initial pain. Take that time Rhoda killed Goldy in an ill thought out spell. To be fair, though Rhoda had found a substitute, Daisy had spotted the change. Tired of her daughter’s protest and growing impatient at her tears, Rhoda had turned herself into a hat.

A straw boater trimmed with green ribbon was completely useless to eleven year old Daisy, who for the rest of the week had to cook her own meals and walk the four miles to and from school because Rhoda hadn’t thought to leave bus fares. A week felt like forever in a quiet house and a hat wasn’t something she could easily chat to.

Daisy’s father Robert had left them by then. And little wonder, given her mother’s outbursts and eccentricities, though the suddenness of his departure and his continuing silence, still rankles.

Daisy’s tried hard to respect his choices but this Christmas, after one too many Snowballs, she found herself asking Rhoda whether she ever missed him? Annoyed, Rhoda declared that she certainly didn’t and nor should Daisy. She went on to list Robert’s faults, including his unimaginative dress sense, complete lack of skills and general neediness.

Despite her mother’s vehemence, Daisy detected a note of regret in this tirade but was deterred from further questioning by Rhoda’s final remark that Robert smelt strongly of seaweed. This last part was true at least and suddenly reminded of his metallic, salty scent, Daisy had mourned that too. So what if Robert had dressed conventionally, couldn’t’ summon smoke or turn cupcakes into mushrooms? As far as she knew, neither could anyone else’s father.

’Mum, I’m back!’ Daisy calls again but still there’s no reply. She wiggles her bruised feet and pads into in the front room.

Light splashes through the stained glass window, flooding the carpet with colour. As a little girl she’d loved bathing in the translucent strands and relished the way they’d clothed her skin. Purple was her favourite because it made her happy and she loved the underwater feeling of emerald green. The blue was deliciously calming and made her sleepy. Orange could be sickly if you got too much of it and red made her so itchy that she’d continued to avoid it.

‘Why are you standing there, Poppet?’ Robert would ask, but such things were hard to explain and though he ruffled her hair and nodded seriously, she could tell that he didn’t understand.

By contrast, Rhoda positively encouraged unusual behaviours and signs of exuberance. She understood that Monday, a red day, was spiky and uncomfortable. She knew instinctively which fabrics Daisy would enjoy and why her daughter rejected clothes that smelt wrong when loosely crumpled.

Early on in Secondary school there’d been an embarrassing Parents’ Evening when Miss Price had openly gawped at Daisy and Rhoda’s contrasting velour capes, before suggesting that Daisy might be on the Autistic Spectrum, what with her ‘heightened sensory reactions.’ Rhoda had responded by pinching Daisy’s cheek delightedly and laughing her wild laugh, before saying,

‘You might call it that but we know different, don’t we Daisy love?’

To all future events Daisy wore her school uniform. She became a model student and avoided further incident by saying that her single parent working mother, was unable to attend. Of course, things would have been simpler if Robert had still been around. Daisy fondly remembers her father’s ordinariness, the nubbly feel of his soft worn corduroys, his wooly cardigans.

Gradually, over time, Rhoda has become more stable and there are fewer surprises. Usually when Daisy returns from college, Rhoda’s absorbed in one of her spectacular paintings. Great splashes of colour on vast canvases, she works on them late into the night. Daisy herself can only glance briefly at them before she’s affected, but Rhoda’s London dealer has no such problem and they always sell well.

As a result, Daisy has rarely gone without, though it’s true to say that Rhoda, an ardent anti-consumerist, is increasingly a hoarder not a spender. Despite her love of textiles and original design, Rhoda’s wardrobes creak with faded garments that no longer fit her and are pocked with moth holes. Like elderly recalcitrant relatives, Rhoda declares that they have earned their space and must stay.

Standing in the sitting room Daisy takes stock of the overstuffed bookcase and ancient couch spewing its innards. The place is cluttered with useless objects, like these on the mantelpiece – a pile of irregular shaped green stones, a carved elephant with a broken trunk, the sooty stump of a candle and a creamy limpet shell that, if she’s not mistaken, has recently migrated here from Rhoda’s bedside table.

A delicate thing with a tinge of softest primrose yellow, it reminds Daisy of a summer dress she once had. She picks it up tenderly, blows dust from its slim flutes and feels an intense and immediate sorrow. A tear plops onto the shell. Rubbing it in gently she feels the hairs on the back of her neck rise to attention.

She turns round slowly. To all intents and purposes the room is empty but the air crackles with electricity and little puffs of wind ruffle the curtains,

‘Mum?’ she murmurs tentatively and then more impatiently, ‘Mum, I know you’re here somewhere, please make yourself known!’

There’s no response and Daisy finds herself sighing again. Rhoda’s timing stinks as usual. Either she’s forgotten that Daisy’s having friends over from college tonight or this is a deliberate ploy because she doesn’t want others in the house.

Daisy stalks into the kitchen and makes herself a cup of tea. She fills Smokey’s empty saucer with milk and calls him. He doesn’t appear either and her irritation rises. How many times has Rhoda promised she’ll stick to inanimate objects? And what can possibly be learnt by turning a cat into a notebook or place mat anyway? Smokey will be cranky and off his food for days, no doubt emphasising his annoyance by crapping in the bath.

Daisy fishes out her teabag and throws it in the compost bin before clocking the acrid smell of singed paint from near the pantry. She scans the area for alien objects and spots a black enamel tea tray, blowsy with roses and rimmed with gold, the style of which can only be described as Flamenco Tat.

The tray shimmers. She picks it up carefully. It’s faintly warm and sticky, the enamel not quite set. Anger rises in her body. Surely Rhoda could have given Daisy a chance to talk her round? Or at least chosen colours more thoughtfully? God knows how long she’ll be in this form, leaving Daisy as usual, to field awkward questions.

‘Jesus Mum!’ she exclaims, ‘You’re an Artist! Why not choose a Faith Ringgold or a Tracey Emin? At least I’d have something decent to look at!’

Daisy slaps the tray back down and stomps back into the front room. To her relief Smokey slides in beside her. She picks him up and strokes his soft grey fur but he struggles uneasily from her arms.

Alerted, she looks around. Something in here is different but what? She turns to the mantelpiece, her skin tingling. The air around and above it is shimmering softly, creating light and shadow, a sense of movement.

The tingling continues and she finds herself picking up the limpet shell and inhaling its briny odour. Its pleated creamy surface is emitting heat and appears to be pulsing. Daisy stands stock still, blood pulsing in her head. Surely Rhoda couldn’t’t have? Wouldn’t’ have?

‘Robert,’ she whispers incredulously and the shell gives the smallest of shivers,

‘Dad? Is that you?’


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Ballade For Single Women – Irene Cunningham

Cavaliers on the weekend tour
we keep our eyes peeled for well-heeled
men with wallets, and hair just groomed.
My hot lips squint from lurching cheers
in clouded rooms, guessing careers
comparing body parts to heights
though any one might test the means
come the end of the long long, night.

Sliding from cocktail to bar, whore
they call us; our skirts laugh at sneers.
We slant eyes across pints of Coors
nudge each other Had him last year
condommed to the armpits, no fear
and necks stretched against boisterous bites
walled up dark lanes with trembling knees
come the end of the long, long night.

Now bare-back riders buck no more
no sucking and jumping bones, dears –
safe sex penetrates. No encore.
My fingers don’t feel the same here…
turns the man into a gloved peen.
In these diseased years thighs are tight,
the months are passing, now eighteen
come the end of the long, long night.

So cancel my ticket to ride
blow sweet kisses, goodnight good knights,
sing softly of white wine and beer
come the end of the long, long night.

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The End of the Night – Scott Laudati

I remember some good years.
The old pilings of
the Baltimore pier
that swayed under the crowd while
we watched our favorite band.
And when I told her
I didn’t love her
for the third time
she threw their record at me
and it hurt
but we laughed
I decided to break her heart again.

There was the year
I ate sixty oysters
at the Aqua Grill.
She’d paid attention
when I said
I only wanted to eat oysters
from states I hadn’t been to
so she had the maître d’
bring out a special menu
and I tried them all
and the Damariscottas
and Hog Islands were the best.

I woke up in the parking lot
of a Long Island casino
one time
and when I put
two chips
on red
I won $800.
I paid for everything
that weekend
and the four of us walked home
arm in arm
puking in the snow and laughing
like it was our last night
on earth.
We don’t call every year but
I still smile when I think about
that birthday
and the best friends
I never see.

Some years
I feel like I’m losing.
And there are others where the score
seems to be even.
I’ve lost cousins
and girlfriends
and a brown dog
with a white cross on her chest.
But there were the other years.
There were friends who
didn’t leave me in their wake.
Girls who left me believing I wouldn’t
always be let down.
And my mother,
using expensive ingredients
to cook me a birthday dinner
that fit with my new diet,
always making sure something was safe
in a world that started licking its teeth
as soon as you
walked out the door.

Tomorrow doesn’t always come with a nightmare.
Seeds grow.
Leaves fall.
I tell my friends to hold up their bottles
and look around.
“Remember our tribe,” I say.
“Nothing will ever be better than this.”
And I know I’m right
because I still haven’t found a place safer
than a backyard
in New Jersey.
And no matter how long I’ve been gone
there’s always a family waiting for me
when I come home.


SCOTT LAUDATI lives in Bushwick with his shnoodle, Dolly. His work has recently appeared in The Bitter Oleander and The Columbia Journal, among others. Visit him on instagram @scottlaudati

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