Issue 39


In Issue 39 we seem to have naturally gravitated towards poems and prose with a slightly melancholic feel. That isn’t to say that this issue is sentimental or sad, more that it is nostalgic for times past, for lost youth, for moments of clarity and epiphany.

Beliz Mckenzie’s ‘Hammock Revisited’ is one of those poems which manage to capture a moment in time perfectly, as does the gentle rumination in Mike Farren’s ‘Inheritance’. There is also a feeling of recognition of ‘calling out’ the world in which we live. Emma Lee’s poem ‘The Bridal Dresses of Beirut’ and Avril Joy’s poem ‘What Men Do’ stand out particularly for their scalpel-cut clarity and careful observation. Prose wise, we have a real mixed bag – funny, moving, quirky, sad, all of the above.

Maggie MacKay’s ‘Jock Tamson’s Bairns’ is one I keep returning to just to experience the joy of a well-crafted story. In fact, the quality of writing stands out in every piece of creative writing in this issue, and after all this time spent reading and revisiting the accepted work, when I now run my eye down the contents list of this magazine it is like revisiting old friends. I know each piece intimately, or feel that I do.

I would name them all, here, and tell you about their individual strengths, their disclosures, their unique and surprising points of view, but that would take away from the adventure that a good quality literary magazine should be.

Adele Karmazyn’s art give the issue a dramatic attention taking feel. The Victorian melodrama reinforces the melancholic feel for the issue and creates a strong bond throughout the issue.

Enjoy your journey into issue 39 and we look forward to hearing what you think.

The Bridal Dresses in Beirut

Each dress hangs from a noose.
One is plain satin with scalloped lace,
another an orgy of tulle,
dreamy organza with applique flowers
hanging from wire
strung between palm trees.
One is short, a shift with a tulip skirt,
the sort of dress picked
in a hurry to satisfy a shotgun
or Article 522.
The breeze breathes through them,
bullies the dresses into ghosts,
brides with no substance,
angels bereft of their voices.

Emma Lee

Hammock Revisited

Sandwiched neatly between
other neglected images
in my time-dusted album:
the Goa hammock pose.
Part sitting, part lying:
all teeth and bare legs,
flat childless stomachs,
eyes wine-glazed from the night before.

We’d booked a faraway break –
chasing a promise
of guaranteed February sunshine –
to escape our most hated day
smothered in hearts, red roses,
endless “I love you”s.
But in the meantime,
each becoming half
of a newly formed couple.
We think fleetingly of the men left behind
as we exchange intimacies, gorge
on chipatis and beachside novels:
lazy moments suspended
in the hammock. We bronze ourselves,
indulge in massages, the greasy oils
leaving us smelling of curry for days.

Later, this will be etched
on our minds as the ultimate getaway,
a slice of freedom grabbed
before life took over.
But for now we debate
white or red Indian wine, contemplate
our outfits for tonight, discuss
how well our tans are progressing.

Beliz McKenzie


Now you actually have to look:

of course, it’s smaller than you remembered,
the carpets really chocolate and orange,
worn to underlay where they actually walked.

The cupboards in your childhood bedroom
are stuffed with out-of-date cans
of food you never saw them eating.
There’s the Christmas gift of port and Stilton
unopened in the pantry for a decade
and thick black mould that’s eaten
its way through the oilcloth.
There’s the roomful of the presents
people bought them, never
taken out of their boxes.

And it takes you weeks and months
to sort and sift and give or throw it all
away, not daring to overlook a pocket
or an envelope in case it holds
a wad of decommissioned fives or tens,
not daring to read the pencilled diaries
with their tale of a life fossilised
to a houseful of gimcrack possessions
you can chuck in a skip
but will never leave you alone.

Mike Farren

What Men Do

I knew a man who swapped himself for a hostage; brave, as the taker had a degree in torture and humiliation.
I knew a man who swapped himself for me, when the going was tough and I was out with the tide not waving but drowning.
I knew a man who cut a prisoner down – too late.
I knew a man, big as he was, at a loss, who called me to his office to tell me a woman had disclosed and him dumbstruck.
I knew a man who liked a tab – I sometimes scrounged one – wore his heart on his tie pin, had a sick wife. The prisoners liked him.
I knew a man unjustly charged. I knew a man who got what he deserved.
I knew a man wore gold chains under his collar, like a gangster the prisoners observed.
I knew a man who let the pain in through his ears and had to leave.
I knew a man who made us laugh and we were glad.
I knew a man who tried to kiss me in the yard.
I knew a man with a big job and the concentration of a gnat, who put his foot in my hotel bedroom door and had to be persuaded out.
Who didn’t speak to me at breakfast the next morning.
I knew his boss, a man who rubbed his hands up and down your back any chance he got.
I knew a man who came to work smelling of gin.
I knew the man who minded him.
I knew a man who wasn’t happy about the L.S.D. in the teacher’s staff room kettle, none who’d had coffee that morning were – confinement is not good when hallucinating.
I knew a man who was frightened of women. I knew a man who hated women.
I knew a man who wanted to come to work dressed as a woman, but as far as H.M.P.S. was concerned that’s not what men did.

Avril Joy