International Special (July 2012 / 12.15)
Artist, Eleanor Leonne Bennett: Bennett is an internationally award-winning artist. Her photography has been published in the Telegraph , The Guardian, BBC News Website and on the cover of books and magazines in the United states and Canada. Her art is also globally exhibited.
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Auckland, New Zealand
After the sculpture by Emily Valentine, 2009
In the woods that day it was sombre
As: graver than remembered
years before; a dry October,
wind making up for lack of rain.
There seemed fewer leaves on the ground,
so that each twig we trod sounded,
crack: the cocking of a gun. I recalled
walking the same track with my father,
each of us carrying coal
black plastic sacks, reeling back in mock horror
and admittedly part delight
as he dragged up a rake load
of worms and other nasties with his spade
hands and chucked them in the bin bags
before clutching the lot like a highwayman,
shooing Bess on ahead
and hoisting our nipper on his shoulders,
nearly topping him on a low branch
of beech with moss moulded
along one side. We should have reached
the quarry the period
of time we’d been tramping but had
yet to see the cut out slice of orange
clay: the drop like citrus on taste buds
after sugar. You turned.
That’s when I grabbed your arm,
pointed. Yis, it was the fearst
robin you’d ivver seen and I let you
admire it while I gave daggers to the lad
taking aim a few feet behind
it, air rifle framed by bare lime.
You talked all the way home
about how in New Zealand
you only see the mynah birds:
pists, nah, vermin, you said, you would
shoot the berluddy lot of ‘em.
I cannot shout praises, or even speak
my mind, my tongue is not complete; my own
half father’s, half mother’s (theirs cleaved in form
from others similarly), it is split
in two, but I can mimic perfectly. In the morning
I am nurture mother, tender succour to infant life,
off peak sage advisor and child’s advocate.
By afternoon I manage (badly)
mason entrepreneurs, part clown
(to amuse, plus it helps with the juggling), part
accountant (I’m told it never adds up, even
if one can count), and part IT radicle, tapping
into unseeded territories
in the ether. In the evening, I wear
comedy and tragedy (two faces
optional, and here’s where juggling’s handy),
directions given from the rocking chair
concealed in joviality. I sing
them to sleep: lullabies, ballad of girl who stole
riches from her parents, half sum
from each, to buy herself a baby’s life, a swim
to her death. I sing wife,
take my new husband for a sleeping pill
until he pulls the cover over
me and I am silent, once again, till dawn.
south west of a rock
shaped like a lion by a thousand years
of storms and wild seas
and an artificial eye.
Your phone rings. Mynah
with a yellow eye mask
and white arm bands, scavenger, turns
her head to look, burns
and I do not ask why
you do not answer.
Clouds make pied outcrops,
changing and transient as the point of who
last used the shed key;
what pudding your mother likes.
And there is something
else, a new message,
and your shirt, the one I didn’t buy you, printed
roses, red, scattered,
lying stained at my feet.
In the darkness the motions, however small,
like sounds, are exaggerated
so that a tired sigh, even a breath,
takes on the auditory aura of the sea,
so that doing nothing feels like doing something.
There are no screens in our room, no tv,
no visual means to play out others’ lives.
Only a black, now lightening to grey, expanse
of window looking out on other windows
looking somewhere into darker shade.
Rolling on my side, I feel the briefest touch,
fingertip to fingertip, like a bird
caught deep inside the pit of me,
feel the pull of a hand contracting.
Opening my eyes I am now able to see
the small sooty outline of his face, peach stone for eye,
rib cage unmoving. I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat.
There was a black bird caught inside the chimney,
when we had a chimney, and fire of course.
It could be heard in there for days. Even in summertime
it wouldn’t turn, couldn’t work out that escape
came only by first going down.
And it was quiet one evening, until the flies.
We lit a fire then, in June. Thirteen weeks it took to kill it.
We turn out the lights and it’s still there; listening
now I can hear it, trapped in the burnt shaft
of malignant bricks, covered in soot, flying up.
A black face
appears in the mouth
of the hole
in the electrical box
at the top
of the telegraph pole
perhaps it isn’t wired up right
shouldn’t be there
but it’s making
a go of it all the same.
with the best sea views
on Beach Road.
Born in Yorkshire, currently in Auckland, Rachel J Fenton has work in Horizon Review, Otoliths, Blackmail Press, Brief, Monkey Bicycle, Flash Frontier, and others. Shortlisted for the “Fish One Page Prize,” “Binnacle Ultra Short Competition,” and longlisted for the “Sean O’ Faolain International Short Story Prize” and “Kathleen Grattan Award,” she won the 2012 “AUT Creative Writing Prize” for her graphic story “Alchemy Hour“. She was Guest Editor for The Aotearoa Affair “Past Myths, Present Legends” Blog Carnival. As Rae Joyce, she writes an epic graphic poem about stuttering and migration, Escape Behaviours. She blogs at Snow Like Thought.
The Particle Don and the Desert
The road in the desert seemed meaningless, its purpose eaten by the sandstorm.
Don slowed his car and stuck his head out. On his thirty-five-year-old face, sand particles collided with an intensity that made him think of the particles in a tube called the Hadron collider.
A physics professor, Don stopped the car, got out and squinted up and down the road. His friends and fellow professors at the college had warned him against taking the trip. But Don had not listened. Ever since his girlfriend had walked out of his life, he’d wanted to take a journey all by himself.
Don was hungry and he followed the scent of chapattis, careful not to step on thorny cactuses. When he arrived at a house a short distance from the road, he knocked on the wooden door – heavily enough to make sure the people inside heard him over the noise of the storm.
A slight man in a yellow turban opened the door and welcomed Don, mumbling that a guest was like a God. Don followed the man inside. They entered a courtyard where papaya trees shook crazily as if in a psychedelic trance, some raw papayas wallowing on the yellow earth.
The open kitchen showed a light and in it sat a woman. The camel announced its introduction from across the courtyard, farting loudly. The man finally spoke to the woman, who handed Don a glass made of steel. He drank the contents, thanking her profusely. Seconds later the small world began to blur.
When Don woke up it was a new morning and his back was resting against the car’s door. The man in the turban must have brought me, he thought. The sky was clear and the wind gone. He looked at the acacia trees which grew in between the cacti, like deformed shoe brushes turned enormous in size. The road snaked away from him like a gypsy dancer.
He searched for the house, the man in the yellow turban, the woman, the camel, and the papayas. But there was nothing except for the steel glass which was lying next to him.
Don felt thirsty. The urge was instantaneous, just like when he decided to take this trip. He recalled how his friends had admonished him before he left, calling it a dangerous stretch of wasteland. You could be killed, they’d said.
He drank from the steel glass. The liquid felt heavy in Don’s mouth, but he realized this a fraction of a second late.
Thieves, all in yellow turbans, looted him an hour later while he slept peacefully. They stripped the car to a skeleton and didn’t even spare his clothes. Then on an afterthought they killed Don, angry they couldn’t find any money.
But there was no way of knowing if Don realized his death. He dreamt of becoming a particle in the Hadron collider in the French underground, now helping physicists conclude how the earth was created. One of them was wearing a yellow turban, he noticed. Don looked closely. It was him, but from another time perhaps. And his girlfriend was by his side, smiling, wearing a wedding dress.
Kulpreet Yadav is a novelist from India whose short fiction has appeared in literary magazines like Sonora Review, Muse India, Monkeybicycle, and Salt River Review among others. He edits Open Road Review and lives in New Delhi.
Allen Qing Yuan
Vancouver, British Columbia
It is his spirit’s secrets
That makes him bluer than blue
A branch longer than the root
A banana unlike any other fruit
But my growth has been
Like a scale unable to measure
The weight of my quasi white soul
Is melancholy, ever depressed
Flapping against evening winds
Confined behind black bars
I’m blue, bluer than bold blue
A composer without compositions
A conductor without a baton
To even guide himself
The song beats away
As I’m singing my blues
Author’s note: American/Canadian-Born-Chinese (ABCs or CBCs) are often called ‘bananas’ because they are yellow-skinned, but white-minded.
Allen Qing Yuan, born in Canada, currently attends school in Vancouver and, encouraged by his poet father Changming Yuan, has developed a keen interest in poetry. His work has been published or is forthcoming in literary journals in seven countries, which include Chysalis, Contemporary American Voices, Istanbul Literary Review, MOBIUS, Ottawa Arts Review and Taj Mahal Review.
Romania / North Carolina
It’s a Princess’ Life
I loved the name. I don’t know if it’s a real city. I read it in a book my dad gave me when I was just out of university. Bermondsey. It could’ve been the name of our city. The Great City. It’s a game Dad and I used to play when I was little. Maybe four or five. He’d lie down on the couch and I’d ride on his back to The Great City. He was the ship and I was the captain. I’d sail like that and he’d fall asleep for a few minutes. He’d give me hard candy when he’d wake up. Say he’d bought it from the gypsy vendors selling in the outdoor market on the docks of our Great City.
Later, when things were dark, he’d take me to the cinema on Saturdays. When I could get out of bed. He was a good dad. I never told him that. He was always there. Always. It was his turn, though. After all those years alone, it was his turn.
It was just stuck in my head all those years. It sounded nice and English. So proper. It sounded like somewhere where I belonged. In some other time, maybe. In a pub with some lasses. Fish and chips. And a warm fireplace on a dreary day. Maybe.
We had our rows, though. Dad and I. The night I came in after I broke my finger, when he took the bottle. That was our biggest row. He grabbed just below the twisty top and pulled it out of my hands. He was too strong. And I was trashed. My skin was itchy and blotchy around the neck. The drink always did that. I had eczema when I was little. Or psoriasis or something. The drink always made it come back. He took the bottle to the sink and emptied it. All of it. Perfectly good bottle of vodka. I had just bought it. Sixteen dollars. All of it down the drain. He had no right. Bloody fucking hypocrite. That’s what I thought then. The rage came up from my belly. I grabbed his hair and pulled so hard, blood came out of his scalp. When it ripped it sounded like Velcro. There was blood trickling down his nose, into his mouth. It was awful. It was awful what I’d done. But I didn’t care then. He dumped a full bottle of vodka down the drain. That was more important. Then.
When I had my accident, he was there. Dad.
I used to call him that, and he loved it. I used to do it in an Irish accent. Da’.
After I drove the Rabbit into the telephone pole. He was there. I broke my knee and my foot. After the impact, I ended up in the passenger seat. The police found me, and for a while they thought I was the passenger and the driver had bailed. It’s what I told them. And they went looking for a drunk driver on foot. They went looking for a man who’d fled the scene. Only, I honestly didn’t remember I was the driver. It’s how soused I was.
I didn’t hear him on the other end. He must’ve just picked up and listened.
I didn’t hear him. The room was too loud.
–Yes, love. I’m here. Livy. I’m here.
–I’m here. Coming to get you. Coming to get you?
He’d said it twice, I thought. It sounded funny.
–Livy. Where are you, love? Livy? You called me. Let me come get you. Where are you? Love?
It was the only thing I could think of. It’s where I wanted to be. The Great City.
I had cut my hand on something. Fuck. Broken glass.
I don’t know how he found me. How he got there so quickly.
I vomited off the patio into the weeds. And then I fell into it.
He was always there for me. I just never told him. I should have. I loved him.
Since emigrating to the United States from Romania in 1980, Alex Pruteanu has worked as a day laborer, a film projectionist, a music store clerk, a journalist/news writer for the U.S. Information Agency (Voice of America English Broadcasts), a TV Director for MSNBC and CNBC, and a freelance writer. Currently he is on staff at NC State University. Alex has published fiction in Pank Magazine, Camroc Press Review, Specter Literary Magazine, Connotation Press, and others. He is author of novella “Short Lean Cuts,” (Amazon Publishing) available as an e-book at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and in paperback at Amazon.
Breda Wall Ryan
The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife
(woodcut, Katsushika Hokusai. c.1820)
In the dark my fisherman
shapes me, this girl-diver, to his wants,
tastes not me, but his dream-geisha,
inked teeth in her reddened moue,
face nightingale-shit bright,
hair a lacquered bowl, camellia-oiled.
I slip from his shingle-hard grip,
sink in the dark undersea with octopi.
I dream Hokusai dreaming me,
a frisson as his paper-thin blade pares
deep into woodblock, each of us
picturing jet hair undone,
strands fish-oil glazed root to tip,
a reef-knotted waist-long cascade.
Two days have passed since I bathed;
my breasts are sweat-pearled,
ripe with aromas of fruit de mer.
My tentacled one unfurls, his touch
exquisite as the brush of electric eels,
his glossy fingerings on my nape
supple as young pine shoots.
The artist’s chisel probes
again and again, sliver by fine sliver
till at last I am dreamed
heartwood, printed in India ink.
He hand-tints my skin
while I dream his mouth-filling tongue,
my dream of a thousand years
in colours fleet as this floating world
no fisherman comes near.