# 'Boost Mobile' & 'On Being Told I Am Too Black Therefore Ugly' by Joshua Merchant
# 'CabrÓn's guide to losing girls' by Christian Ramirez
# 'Cold Trail' by Matt Gilbert
# 'The Hygienist' by Philip Berry
# 'We Are Just Two [Birds]' by Ana Easterwood
# 'Painkillers' by David Cattanach
# 'Where Life in a Coloured Skin is the Twin of a Movie Shoot' & 'Missive to My Mind' by Mazeed Mukhtar Oyeleye
# 'The Last Waltz of Arnos Finchley' by Laura Cooney
[an excerpt of which previously published in Roi Fainéant]
# 'A Natural Display' & 'Puzzle Piece' by Rachelle Renken
# 'My Father, The Space-man.' by Tinamarie Cox
Letter From The Editor
Here we are, kissing the old year out, kissing the new year in...
During the last year I have taken leaps and losses, I've seized opportunities, lost something precious to me, and surrendered things which I didn't need to hold on to, and nevertheless through it all this magazine has prospered. Now here we are, having crossed the horizon into another year. Another blank calendar. Another 365 blank pages for each of us.
Over 2022 Spare Parts Literary has blossomed into something more beautiful than I could have imagined at its beginning, and I have fallen in love with reading submissions, curating volumes and making a noisy gong of myself on social media platforms.
The work that Spares has published so far has been triumphant and inspirational, and I can say with genuine pride that Volume 4 has surpassed my expectations. The works collected within this issue are astounding - passion drips line after line from these poems, every flash rumbles with the fervor with which it was written. I am profoundly honoured to be the first one to hold and admire these creations, to cup them in my hands and have the privelige of sharing them with this community.
Before Spare Parts first launched I was given some wise counsel and I have held fast to it, I was told "perfection is the enemy of progress so once it feels ready, do press the launch button!"
This feels ready. 2023 feels ready. We're ready Volume 4, lets begin.
(Editor in Chief)
By Joshua Merchant
the random crack of lightning
on my way home from work
is not the same as the vomit
on wheels with a tail
the shape of the driver’s
bottom lip collecting rain.
I briefly forget how lightning
works: the tallest thing in an
open field will be hit first. I
walk pass billboards, trees,
some fury from the sky breaks
open and I say to myself if I too
must split then so be it forgetting
my surroundings. it’s not all me.
it’s not all up to me either.
the childlike secretion behind
the wheel had a choice. I walk.
there are buses but I trust
my legs. the driver
soaked me; trusted their ability
to give my eyes a ruby glint- to
look how I feel. I could’ve had
a gun. or food. I could’ve had
a cell phone with no case
texting my boss. or loved
one. I could’ve been a new
reason to spin the block
with a thumb on speed dial.
ON BEING TOLD I AM TOO BLACK THEREFORE UGLY
this Black has ran me off the courtyard
into my father only to be greeted by
a succession of slaps, and a stop crying,
what you gon’ do about it. I couldn’t see
the love in telling my father a girl threw
a popsicle in my eye and I don’t know how
to fight someone bigger than me. and what
would he have said anyway? called me a liar?
told me to pick a raisin from the sky
for every black boy tear of his that went
ignored? what was I to do? but remain still
crying the way I know I was supposed to stop.
each open palm soft enough to be painless
and hard enough to keep my cheeks a saltlick
cooking words I didn't have to say, like, I don't
believe I deserve to be hurt like this. but y’all
love me like this. so I guess I’ll be quiet. he knew
no other way to tell me that our rage was just
another part of us that needed no permission.
Joshua Merchant (they / them) is a Black Queer native of East Oakland, CA exploring what it means to be human as an intersectional being. What they’ve been exploring as of late has been in the realm of loving and what it means while processing trauma. They feel as though it has become too common to deny access to our true source of power as a people for the sake of feeling powerful. However, they’ve come to recognize with harsh lessons and divine grace that without showing up for ourselves and each other, everything else is null and void. Innately, everything Merchant writes is a love letter to their people. Because of this they've had the honor to witness their work being held, understood, published or forthcoming in 580Split, Anvil Tongue Books, Spiritus Mundi Review, Roi Fainéant Literary Press and elsewhere.
CABRÓN’S GUIDE TO LOSING GIRLS
BY CRISTIAN RAMIREZ
I keep losing lovers to Jakarta. I don’t know why I fell for these women, but I think their nonchalance had something to do with it. They arrive in a cloudy haze: a drink, a smile, a long conversation in the same bourgeois café where I’d met the previous fling. They come with their flirty grins, full of promise and life, and they leave with their frowns.
First came Hitomi. She strolled into the coffeeshop wearing a long, faux fur coat; she was an Asian Sally Bowles. I was nervous. What version of me would impress her? She kept me at bay, over texts and in person. No doubt she was sizing me up, analyzing my every move. When she finally let me into her bed, it was not awkward, it even seemed natural, as if we had planned it for months. We flung our bodies together in the dark. The condom fell out of her with a ‘plop’ and off to the pharmacy I went. Fuck, all the Plan B’s are gone. Damn those state school kids. I bought a generic morning after and met her the next evening. She lit up a dull orange under the Northampton lights.
“Thank you,” she said.
“Um, sure. Sorry.” We chuckled and parted ways, terrified.
Over the next few months, we talked deeply and fucked competently. One night, she looked me in the eyes, took me out of her, and pulled the condom off, as if to say, ‘no more barriers between us.’ Another night, she wept after sex. Tomi covered my chest with tears, shed over her dead sister. I loved her. The whole routine was so banal. Drive through the snow, share cheap wine, talk about books, spend the night, go to breakfast. Repeat, repeat.
One day, we slept in, and she was late to work. She taught high school English and was passionate about her class and her students. I wouldn’t quite understand until the next year when I taught my own class. I watched her denim skirt shake from side to side as she ran frantically out of my run-down blue Ford. I pictured us back in bed, the glimmer of a diamond ring on her hand, and the sound of a crying baby in the room next door. The honks from the Xanax-dosed parents in the cars behind me shook me out of it. Then she was gone through the front doors of the school.
There was less than a week of bliss left. One night, after dinner, the Ford died in the snow banks behind a ramen joint. The all-white patrons watched us from the window. We sat in the car, willing it to live, as it sputtered pathetically and died.
“Shit,” I said.
“Hm, in Spanish, that’s mierda,” she replied. “And in Indonesian, kotoran.”
“Can you stop for a second? Fuck, I think we’re stuck.”
The engine howled and the lights flashed but no roar came from behind the dashboard. The tension built in my shoulders and made my head boil in the cold. I grabbed a wrench from below my seat and fumbled for the 10mm head somewhere in the center console.
“Don’t stress out so much,” she said. “We can always walk home. I wore my nice boots today, see?”
I smiled and looked down at the nubuck caramel boots she wore on her dainty feet. I wiggled my toes inside the sneakers I inexplicably decided to wear on this slippery Massachusetts night. Fuck, after I just spent my entire paycheck on those goddamn LL Bean boots. I spent all my time, energy, and sparse money trying to fit in with the preppy white kids at school. They all got their Bean boots for Christmas, probably.
I climbed out of the Ford slowly and deliberately, as if the cops were ordering me out, careful not to slip on the icy asphalt or hit my head on the car’s frame. Hitomi did the same. I could hardly see her on the other side of the car - like she had disappeared – maybe she took off running. I wished she had, rather than see my red-hot embarrassment as I popped the hood of the decade old, rusting car, all I could afford with no credit and no cosigner. Instead, she reappeared beside me, her frame dwarfed by the open hood.
“Anything I can do to help?” she said.
“Nah, just sit in the car before you get frostbite.”
“Okay, Mr. Big Man.” Her smirk lingered in my brain long after she closed the car door. I cleaned the battery connections and tightened them. My knuckles were red from the cold. The car started and I drove her home. That night, we fucked for the last time and afterward, she wept. When the tears dried, she told me about the Fulbright.
“It’s in Jakarta! I got my second choice!” I was glad for her, and I knew she’d drift away now. I was an expendable lump, trying to find a place for myself in her life. I asked her to date me, and she refused. It was my turn to weep – a pathetic, guttural moan that carried through the thin walls of her haunted Northeastern townhome.
“Was there a dying cat in your room last night?” Tomi’s roommate asked in the morning.
“No, just a boy,” she laughed.
Now she doesn’t want me.
“Platonically,” she said. “Sorry.”
I could’ve sworn she’d glanced back as she disappeared from my life.
Next was Larissa. She was 18 and I was 22. Was it immoral? Seducing a teenager? I taught teenagers. I watched her push into the café, with beaming eyes that scanned the room wildly. She sat down and grinned.
“I was born in Indonesia, where are you from?” I told her the disparate jumble of places I call home. Rissa and I talked like old, rekindled lovers. She sang for me on the condition that I come to her a cappella show.
“This Saturday on campus, just follow the signs, we’re called The Poofies,” she said. “Shut up, stop laughing!”
I dreamt about her hair that night. I was lost in the black, thick forest of her bushy hair. On the next date, we made pad thai in my shared, damp kitchen. The Walmart wok held the sticky, colorful stir fry nicely. The peanuts crunched satisfyingly under the thick German knife blade. Outside, the snow powdered the backyard and covered the shitty grass. I scanned the corners of the kitchen and prayed last week’s mouse wouldn’t have an encore. I watched Rissa stir the noodles lovingly; she inhaled deep.
“Holy shit, this smells like God,” she said.
I carried her halfway up the stairs. A valiant effort, we declared. I kissed her neck and pressed my hands into the small of her back. Over the speaker, I played a terrible playlist. We fell on the floor laughing when ‘Let’s Get It On’ came on. I poked my head up from under her skirt.
“Boys in Indo don’t do that,” she said.
A few weeks passed. We took road trips to the trucker diners scattered throughout the Pioneer Valley. As we drove, the idyllic Northeast roads shined against amber backdrops as they climbed up into the stratosphere and dove down in winding spiral labyrinths. Our heads swam in bliss for a while.
In May, I drove her to Port Authority. We sang show tunes the whole ride there. I pulled over on 40th and 8th, blocking pissed-off cabbies in the taxi lane. They honked and hollered; I didn’t give a shit. As I hoisted her suitcase down to the sidewalk, she wrapped her arms around me. Rissa turned her gaze on me and kissed me quickly.
“I love you,” she said.
Her face turned red. I didn’t respond. She turned and rushed into the bus terminal. That baby blue dress with the orange floral pattern is how she lives in my mind. Over the next few months, we talked sparingly. The shaky internet connection in her Indonesian hometown cursed us. Over Skype, I saw the blurry outline of her Jakartan home. I met her brother and mother, clumps of pixels and smiles on my overheating MacBook screen.
“Kotoran!” I said. In broken English, they replied kindly.
Through those summer months, the dread of teaching for another year made my palms sweat and my head burn. The messages from Larissa peppered the days and gradually faded. One day, she showed up stateside and I took her to a gaudy Asian fusion joint. She ordered pad thai and we made awkward talk. We chortled like strangers. On the ride home, I asked for the cigarette she puffed out the window of the Ford.
“Huh, didn’t know you smoked,” she said.
In her dorm, she sat across the room from me. Over a joint, I realized she had no interest in me. She’d cast me aside. I grew cold; hurt and enraged. I knew what was coming and I didn’t give her the chance.
“Platonically?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “I gotta go.”
“Just like that? We’ll never hang out again?”
I desperately wanted to tell the truth. I wanted to try again, to plead that I loved her. Instead, I left and never saw her again. Some days, the smoky horizon of her non-existence looms over me and I dream I’ll find her, waiting for me in Indonesia.
Cristian Ramirez is a writer, medical student, and former teacher from Lima, Peru. His work appears in Sky Island Journal and 805 Lit + Art. As a first-generation immigrant, Cristian loves stories that transport readers to new destinations – both real and imagined. He resides in New York. Cristian can be reached on Twitter and Instagram.
BY MATT GILBERT
Never thought you could be sick of trees,
until trudging through New England
woods for miles, woods for days,
passing under tree battalions, raising shadows
over jilted fields, stone walls tracing
former boundaries, long after settlers left
to suck new pastures dry, out west,
but here it felt like memories, or worse, lingered
on in cellars, beneath departed houses,
so we tried and failed to lift the gloom
with flakes of coconut in trail mix,
eventually, breaking cover, we found a town –
Great Barrington, MA, wandered in
for breakfast, ravenous for people.
Matt Gilbert is a freelance copywriter, who also writes a blog about place, books and other distractions at richlyevocative.net. Originally from Bristol, he currently gets his fill of urban hills in South East London. He has had poems published by Atrium, Black Bough and Green Ink among others. He can be found (still) on Twitter.
BY PHILIP BERRY
Her scarred forearm crosses my eyeline. The hand is covered in blue latex and carries a steel tool for probing teeth. My teeth. I study the swirls, jags and mounds of fibrous tissue above the wrist. What happened to you? I ask in silence.
It is her most notable feature. I mean, she is older, I am not attracted to her. Her accent is eastern European. Maybe Romanian. We have half an hour of this. I close my eyes.
He’d like to ask. They never do.
She introduced herself to me when I walked in. Crina. I’d say she’s fifty-plus. I am not an expert in injury, but I think... I imagine, she burned her arm as a teenager. Back in Romania. A poorly maintained generator. She was trusted around the house, no, the farm. She went to fill it with petrol. There was a leak, a drip, a spark. Whoooofff! She screamed, she ran to her mother, her father…
I see him telling stories behind his eyes. It was not like that. If he asks, I’ll tell him. Maybe. But why would he ask? He’ll be gone in twenty minutes. All I will know of him is the plaque I chip from his teeth. All he will know of me is this surface.
What is it with scars? They elicit sympathy. Like the eyepatch, the amputated limb… I want to break through, make a point of not ignoring them. What happened to you? I like to ask. We need to be together for a minimum period of time, otherwise it’s just odd. And the response? Usually, they tell me but they do not elaborate. They do not want to discuss it, but I think they appreciate the demonstration of interest.
He is tempted to connect with me. With my past. I wonder what stereotype he is drawing. Perhaps he assumes I was tortured by Ceaușescu. In a way, I was. My family fled because of him. But we were not taken into a basement and chained to the wall by the Securitate. Our home was taken. In ’85 we drove west. Father paid someone, a broker, who arranged a crossing at an unguarded border. The car overheated and stalled. Father was agitated. Mother was crying. My little brother was curled up in a blanket, unaware.
Her hand trembles. That’s unnerving. The hooked tool is sharp. Did she catch my eye just then? She did. I really hope she doesn’t think I’m being inappropriate. I’ve done nothing. Only lain here and played out scenarios. It wasn’t the generator. It was a silly prank in a suburb of Bucharest. Her gang found an old motorbike and… no, not that. They were siphoning fuel. Ceaușescu rationed everything, didn’t he. No. She was out in the streets looking for warmth. She and a friend made a bonfire, threw on fuel…
The way the muscles contract around his eyes. He’s reliving an accident about which he knows nothing. I think I will tell him, for his sake, not mine. He’s what, thirty? Less. Sensitive. But naïve. Reminds me of the men who wanted me when I was younger, when we were making a new life in Hungary. They glanced at my arm and showed they cared. A strange phenomenon: protective, patriarchal. Like I needed to be looked after. Like I wanted to be sheltered. For which I should feel grateful, of course. Grateful for the pleasure of their pleasure. Only a special man, a kind man, would overlook… that deformity. So come in, please, come in to my bed. I’ll tell you my story, in the afterglow. If you are still interested.
She knows what I’m thinking and she has closed me out. She’s tired of being patronised, she’s lived a hard life looking forward. We’re nearing the end of the session. There will be a moment, an opportunity. But no. I am passing through this room, skimming her life. I’m a random, average client.
“Here you are Mr ______.’
She holds out a sheet of paper.
“What is this?”
“A summary of the treatment, for your records.”
“Oh, thank you. Crina.”
She told it to him barely half an hour ago.
“It means Lily flower,” she adds.
She smiles. Then checks the clock on the wall. Her next client is due. They run a tight schedule in this practice. He glances at her arm. The scar extends to the elbow and beyond. How it must have hurt. How many weeks was she in hospital? What chances in life did she miss?
Her eye follows his, down to her own arm. The tension, the stiffness, the pain map that only she can navigate. If he is going to ask, it must be now.
He stands, buttons up his long winter coat. Nods, and says goodbye.
Crina watches the door wheeze shut on its safety spring.
“Put in more water!” shouts her father, on their journey west. They are ten miles from the border. Crina takes the reused milk container bottle and runs around to the bonnet. She releases the catch. The overheated engine growls and seethes. Her father is looking backwards, down the road, fearful of the Secritate. They will have been missed by now. It is 5AM, still dark.
“The radiator is leaking. You know what to do Crin! Pour it in. Fill it up.”
She tries to twist the cap open. It won’t move.
She is fourteen.
“Try harder.” Încearcă mai mult!
It moves. Crina releases it, using her sleeve to protect her fingertips from the heat.
There is a high pitched sigh, more a whistle, then a rush of steam escaping under pressure. The jet screams upwards, plastering the thin material of her sleeve to the pale skin beneath, cooking the natural layers until they are no longer recognisable.
Mother kneels by her on the unsealed road. Holds her head. Sobbing.
Trebuie să plecăm! “We must go!” Father shouting. No time.
No time to comfort her.
Philip Berry’s short fiction has featured in Ellipsis Zine, Liars’ League, Headstuff, Spelk, Literary Orphans, Metaphorosis and The Corona Book of SF. His short story collections Bonewhite Light, Malady/Therapy and Flicker-lit are available on Amazon. He lives in London. www.philberrycreative.wordpress.com | Twitter
WE ARE JUST TWO [BIRDS]
BY ANA EASTerwood
and even if there is nothing more to us
than just cells in organs and organs in a plastic frame,
damaged instincts and pretty feathers.
fluttering wings and blinking eyes
quiet, sliding notes of crisp chirps
tiny tapping feet on the wooden fence.
a pretty picture to be painted,
just wanting to talk.
we are so
and it occurs that this is our intimacy.
our intimacy, dancing on a fence, singing to each other. our intimacy should not
care about the meaning behind our dance.
we do not dance for a reason
any reason other than connection,
it is so
simple, we think,
beak against painted bark
pretty polished quills
look at our hard work.
It is not simple to think that we
were meant to commit this courtship with a friendly fire
achieved by us
is nothing more than a prickled-to-perfection plume,
but glad we don’t know that,
we do our dance
infertile and imperfect.
Ana Easterwood is a poetry enthusiast, writing mostly in the fields of nature, activism and surrealism.
She’s from Florida and currently working for The Echo Teen Art & Lit Mag.
[Only uses personal acct’s - Instagram]
BY DAVID CATTANACH
The news had leaked out Andy wasn’t on the mend, his face had turned from a white pallor to a rose colour because of the painkillers. Colleen his wife had coaxed Andy out of his wheel-chair into a deck-chair on days when the sun was out. To the neighbours this was interpreted as an improvement, for he would wave at them, when they walked by the end of their garden gate. Andy felt safer in his wheel-chair, its safe confines meant he didn't have to walk with sticks where a sudden rush of wind could bowl him over into a wall or into a river. The scars were not only physical but mental, tied to the inferno that had burned away his work mates at the steel plant. Loads of molten metal were carried every day by overhead gantries, chains carried the tubs, their movement only stopped during lunch breaks. Flames from the hot material held back by cast iron gates. The buckling of the chains happened slowly, Andy had watched the liquid mass fall on Dave, then Joss and finally Alec. There were no screams just apparitions, silhouettes formed in the smoke and fog when lava metal hit the floor consuming them. Nothing was left, only their clocking-in cards on the wall rack. Andy suffered from that enormous loss of real life, they hadn’t died in a bed or in a cancer ward. Andy’s pupils had watched them being wiped away.
In an earlier time Colleen had muttered in Andy’s ear about a letter from Bill, in Aberdeen, he’d been called back to the rig. Andy had watched an unfolding news broadcast of the blazing Piper Alpha platform toppling into the sea. He imagined the ash of bodies collected in the box and how it would eventually settle on the sea bottom. Colleen opened Andy’s shirt buttons to let the sun’s rays burn him, gently. Kneeling in front of Andy, Colleen ran her hands along his thighs into his groin and tugged, gently. Andy smiled remembering amusement arcades on the pier and games they played in the hall of mirrors. But then the glass shattered and a realm of particles caught in a draught, catching them, covering them in a fine ash from head to toe. Then Andy saw the crows gathering in a burnt cornfield walking, inspecting the toasted bodies of rabbits, mice and hares. These were recurring images for Andy causing him to weep again, Colleen kissed him on the lips, smearing the tears.
“It’s coming again” Andy said in his usual quiet way.
“Look at me Andy” comforted Colleen. “ I’m in the way. Feel my Hair, Andy. It’s warm. It’s not burning.”
Andy raised his hands to his face, seeing briefly the shovel which he held when it happened. Then he parted his hands, the sun burnt into his retinas. Colleen pulled them onto her head, Andy felt the tugging of knots as he wove his fingers through her hair.
“Come on Andy. Come to me. Hold me.” Colleen kept urging Andy with these admonitions every time he seemed to be leaving her.
The painkillers had slowed his shakes and involuntary peeing. All these reactions set off by terror. His staring encouraged his weeping, keeping his eyelids open without blinking had burst capillaries in the corneas. Language was dead sucked into a hole, a cauterization made by the molten metal; laying a causeway for an unknown beast
Andy’s head dropped into the nape of Colleen’s neck, he liked the darkness and the perfume. But then the crows flew overhead again, the deep drone of their caws caused an involuntary shake and he held on tighter to Colleen.
“Remember Andy, it’s Sunday. It’s strawberries on Sunday. I’ll get them and show you.” Colleen left Andy and ran quickly into the house, opening the fridge door, halved sugared strawberries sat in a bowl, along with a juice.
“Look Andy. Go on, open your mouth ,”encouraged Colleen.
Andy lay motionless in the deck-chair and slowly his mouth opened into an ‘O’. Colleen looked into his mouth at tonsils vibrating, observing his laugh-lines, some people call them crows’ feet sitting at the corners of his eyes.
“Your first strawberry of the season.”
Andy gripped the flesh of the fruit and sucked slowly. I feel the liquid, Andy thought, he couldn’t taste burning either. Then he remembered the giraffe, the park and the donkey ride. Then he thought of the woman in red, leaning over, spooning strawberries into his mouth. And how she kept kissing him as he tried to munch the fruit and how the juices ran down onto his white shirt. Then it happened again the giraffe’s neck caught fire followed by its ears and short horns; it had tried to reach water but a zookeeper kept it away brandishing a torch of fire, waving it above his head . Andy turned away and felt a dryness in his throat.
“Another one.” called Colleen.
Andy wanted another, to feel the juices and forget the dryness. But then he blacked out.
Colleen knew it was time for more painkillers.
The river flowed carrying debris from the land creating a fertile mud and man reclaimed it where the flow slowed. On Piper Alpha the phones melted and lives ended. Andy walked to work that morning, passing the rookery sitting close to the graveyard. David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ played on the radio, in the vocal breaks chains clamoured. He called to them as he took his sandwich tin out of his knapsack. Then the splash happened, a curtain of liquid metal - white hot - clothed them. Like a slow moving volcano the metal crept across the floor sinking it. The men were not given the status of statues, they existed in Pompeii but not at Garbothnot & Son. The heat shot out the sinews that supported Andy’s skeleton, he fell and tried to roll away - the bones rattled. His upper body was saved but his legs were ruined. To be alive meant pain, he could not turn without an aide. Sounds were amplified and the rooks and crows flew always over his roof. Small pleasures injured him. The unknown beast snook up on him and all he did
well was scream.
Painkillers were dished out throughout the day, morphine led to exultant dreams, creating a different peace. Injection sites littered his torso. Colleen cleaned the sites with medicinal alcohol, soothing the rashes with emollients. Andy lost the conversation tags that his three work colleagues related to in their everyday conversation. Colleen watched him, washed him, held him, talked to him and that would be how it would continue.
David Cattanach has made previous appearances on Zoom platforms and on the page in online Journal 'Flights' (Flight of the dragonfly), also in printed form 'Dreich'. The gestation of David's work has been developed through Creative Writing platforms at Swarthmore Centre, Leeds. In addition he is a long standing attendee at Otley Poets monthly meets.
WHERE LIFE IN A COLOURED SKIN
IS THE TWIN OF A MOVIE SHOOT
BY mAZEED MUKHTAR OYELEYE
I live on earth, hosting
Myriads of hurtful words
Who dine in my pinna, eager
For a chance to get to me, but
I am not willing to let them in
As I do the director's plethoric
Barks of "Take! Cut! and Action!"
Welcome to the location
Where my hide frolics in
Much more attention than I,
Who feeds on charity; free
Cloaks of dehumanising gazes
Because of her dainty colouring.
And I remember grumbling
Over retaking a 'slap' scene, as
The director demands more reality.
Here, signposts from bulky
Scripts truncate my siestas, and
I read the lines of beautifully set
Words "dogs and blacks not allowed"
The sound of the clapperboard
Does nothing better to my reveries.
I read of the sorry plight
Of brown kids, and I abhor
Being the subject of soft foci.
If only the planet lets them
Be the divine props, pictured
On God's storyboard; agents who
Unite races in the gaffer's cutting room.
Lo! They're frames, frozen and cutaway.
Pan the karma of my kind,
Let your mind direct the scenes
In which we star, donning a brand
More famous than the triangle
Deftly blazoned on Adidas vests.
Is 'incorrigible criminal' what your
Optic nerves bring to your sentience?
Track not the stage alone,
Let your mind's lens film actions
Behind the scenes; make animations
Of the gory shoots where the Shere Khans
Responsible for poor Mowglis' security
Asphyxiate and hunt them down, mindless,
Sending their souls to exile in worlds unseen.
Burn your imagination into discs and
Play them to delight your swaddling
Kids; let them judge your imagination,
Or let purpose elude your production.
Tell them why men die once on earth,
But reign immortal during movie shoots.
If we're relieved not of our cross,
We will be taken out, like we are
Otiose scenes from a movie shoot;
Breathless, nevertheless deathless.
MISSIVE TO MY MIND
I wish you love me as much as
I love the moments you display
Before me the plethora of antique
Souvenirs we mustered from yonder
Towns, whose names once donned royal
Apparels, made of future and present tenses.
I wish you love me enough to help
Sever my kinship ties with the bygones
Whom you usher in, to bequeath me with
Pandora's Boxes of deft blue devils who build
Fountains in my eye-sockets and paint harakiri
As a portrait of victory over saddening memories,
Sculpting for me an enticing sepulchre in my prime.
I wish that your kin, who tarry
In the skeletons of my hominid
Brothers do not cloud their sight
With relics of the ills of my hands
And spills of my tongue as you do
To me, drowning me in a pool of rue
And twisting my tongue to seek refuge
Under the pardon and grace of the Divine.
I wish that you love me enough to
Read through these pregnant lines
And relieve them of the messages in
Their uteri; I love you like the euphoric
Moments whose reminiscence you gift
Me, but I fear I would not live to get more
If you do not spare me ugly recollections.
Mazeed Mukhtar Oyeleye is a creative writer whose works have appeared in Litlight's Road to Success and SprinNG's Come Back Safely anthologies, Allpoetry, Book O'clock Review and elsewhere.
He is on Twitter and Instagram and when he is not writing or reading, he plays mobile games.
THE LAST WALTZ OF ARNOS FINCHLEY
BY LAURA COONEY
With thanks to Roi Fainéant "Petites."
The horses race circularly… silently. Where there should be an organ there is an empty space and where there should be names on the horses there are none. The paint is long faded though the sad show before you goes on.
One man stands beside the dilapidated fairground ride and one man stands beside the coconut shy. It is the same man. Another man stands beside the skittering dodgems and also stands beside the Sky Rocket, the last of its kind in the world. It is still the same man. He runs this place.
When you play in the penny arcade the lilting music carries you away and the ghostly girlish giggling makes you turn. But there are no people. There is no candy and the ducks bob aimlessly under the canopy. The magic mirrors have distorted your mind and the distant arcade music does not help as it jilts along the air.
The red scarf you wear is cut into three pieces and looks absurd around your neck.
A little later nails dig into her chest and the coffin opens to reveal gnarling teeth, what should be scary IS definitely scary. And, as you disembark, you are sure the man that runs the place is watching you. He is here, and he is also there.
The horses continue their silent ride to nowhere and you finger the last of the tokens in your pocket.
When Nevill had told you that you must visit this place he told you something important too. Something you were supposed to remember. Racking your brains, you cannot recall…
You turn once more on your heel and find that you are in a completely different part of the hall. Where you were just on the penny arcade you are now standing at the rifle range and a child’s toy ride jilts on its frame. Music playing and empty.
The last of the tokens are in your hand and you find you are placing them on the counter. The man, the same man that is everywhere smiles a graveyard smile and reveals his tombstone teeth. He merely points at the rifle and you are obliged to shoot at the targets, first the duck and then the clown, when you get to the third shot you realise that there is a mirror in the last target and you fire at your reflection which is both there and eerily… not there also.
It is time to leave and as you make your way to the exit you remember what Nevill said to you.
“Whatever you do. Keep the last of your tokens, you’ll need them later”
But you’ve spent them. No matter, you think. You won’t return to this creepy place anyway.
As you step out of the door and the afternoon sun strokes your face you suddenly realise how cold it was in there. The suns tendrils linger on your fingers pulling you clear, but you’ve just remembered your scarf! You’ve left it inside and you’ll need it later.
You turn for the last time.
The building is huge, made of wrought iron and from the outside you’d have no ideas what was inside.
The heavy door is now closed, you bang three times. As it opens the man appears in the frame. He holds out his hand.
You realise without him having to say a word that he wants tokens. You have none! Nevill was right!
You shake your head.
He shakes his head back at you and looks at your chest. At first you are confused, Are you are wearing the red scarf you left behind? It takes a moment for you to realise that this red on your crisp white shirt is blood and it is spouting from the hole in your chest where your heart was only moments ago.
It’s in his hand. And as he closes the door, the last thing you hear is the lilting child’s ride and the giggling laughter and you realise that there were always people there before.
It was only that you just couldn’t see them… yet.
Laura Cooney is a writer from Edinburgh with work in Vine leaves Press, Roi Fainéant and The Voidzine. She has work
forthcoming for Kobayaashi Studios and Heartbalm later this year. She can be found on Twitter and www.lozzawriting.com.
When she isn't doing lots of writing you'll find her with her children as near the sea as possible. There will be ice-cream!
A NATURAL DISPLAY
BY RACHELLE RENKEN
The meandering trails through the evergreen
canopy painted with vivid white,
icy dew drops, drip
with no known pattern
to the paths laden with rocks,
twigs and colorful autumn leaves.
Feet slip, hands flail
every few steps,
the eyes frozen,
highlighted by the muted afternoon
of the spectacle
on natural display.
In the wake
of the wreckage
created by greed,
cheered on by the horde –
the melody of the earth
dissolves into dissonance
bound by the rhythm
of barren waters
pulsing over borders
into putrid lands.
The fungus of decay
thunders through the ether,
chokes the cadence
of the innate harmonics –
a new symphony emerges,
shatters the shroud of reality
a cacophony of chaos
upon the masses
they are only
a miniscule piece
in life’s grand puzzle.
Rachelle Ann Renken is an introverted nature loving gypsy at heart who loves to play with words. She also uses her poetry to accompany her photography to give a glimpse into nature most do not see. Over the years she has had various poems published. She currently lives in Northeastern Pennsylvania and is planning on moving to the south next year.
MY FATHER, THE SPACE-MAN
BY TINAMARIE COX
I am a child of the stars, so Earth has never felt like my true place of residence. No matter who insists, this blue and green marble swirled with white and spinning around the sun is not my home.
When I was small, my mother would tell me my father came from another world. She tucked me into bed and told me of a handsome stranger who traveled across the galaxy and found her. And though he loved her, the most beautiful love stories must have sad endings. My father had to return to his planet.
I gazed at the starry sky every night and wondered which little light was his. There were so many possibilities. My mother pointed up, in a general direction, saying his planet was too far away to see with our human eyes. She asked me to trust that he was there above us, watching over his little family from afar.
I would fall asleep wishing I had gotten to meet him. If only he could have remained on Earth a little longer. But I believed he would have stayed if he could. I imagined him trying his best and petitioning his superiors to let him stay. I knew he loved me as much as I loved him. And I held tight to him even when the other children laughed at my space-man-father narrative.
When I got older, my mother changed her tune and said her stories hadn’t been true. She smeared the tender images I had painted of my father with a dark sludge that filled me with disgust. I felt the repulsive film of it on my skin and tasted its ugliness on my tongue.
She called the stories “fantasies of a psychotic break,” which were brought on by the trauma surrounding my birth. Once on the proper medications for her visions, my mother said her mind was cleared of the fog. She returned to reality. She remembered the truth. And she wanted me to know my actual lineage. It was time I grew up.
But I prefer the stories she told me while she was delusional. It hurt less to be laughed at and teased for my mother’s madness. I’d rather my father have been a space-man searching the universe for his one true love, than some lonesome and greasy stranger who stuffed fifty dollars between her breasts after their encounter at a truck stop.
Tinamarie Cox lives in Northern Arizona (USA) with her husband and two children. She writes to escape her mind and explore the universe. Tinamarie has work published with Nevermore Journal, The Sirens Call, Oddball Magazine, Dark Entries Journal, and others. While she doesn't consider her life exceptionally interesting, she invites you to follow her writing journey on Instagram and Twitter
BY ANDA MARCU
You opened the door
one morning and said
the front steps have been
replaced with an ocean
that's not at all wide
but has enough room
for ships to sail and
climb up the waves,
balance on their crests
or hide in the troughs
to soak in the blue.
I left the bed and
hurried down the stairs
with no slippers on
to witness the view,
to inhale the breeze,
to let the salt dry up on
my bare ankles.
you said and we jumped in
holding hands and
found our own ship.
Anda Marcu (she/her) is a multidisciplinary artist, writer and curator living and working in London, Canada. Her work has been published in various print and online magazines and anthologies. She is a member of the League of Canadian Poets and the founding editor of the literary & art journal The Purposeful Mayonnaise. Anda can be found online at www.andamarcu.com and on Instagram.