Came via Joe Linker, and provided sharp pleasures.
GEORGE GUNN‘s The Great Edge is to be published by Grace Notes in November 2017. A Selected Poems is coming out from Kennedy and Boyd much the same time. Gunn also writes for Bella Caledonia.
IRENE CUNNINGHAM has had many poems published in magazines and journals across the years; now she’s preparing for old age, hoping for more time before the scythe lands. Writing is now heading up her priorities ladder; it usually wins the fight between lounging around or walking round Loch Lomond. Her new website is: http://ireneintheworld.wixsite.com/writer
MARK RYAN SMITH lives and works in Shetland. He has published poems, stories and essays in various magazines, and a book about Shetland’s literary tradition.
The light draws cello music across Bourifa Hill
the peatbanks terrace into the distance
in shelfs of time-packed turf paddies
the lapis lazuli lochs are silent & still
ghost cart tracks emerge from…
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These are letters of love, if any are!
Thanks to the Daily Challenge for the invitation to share this writing:
AN ORDINARY DAY
For ten days I lived the learning curve
of diabetes, partnering with my beloved son
to help his through maternal leave,
given the grace of time to relish
each extraordinary moment.
The first hour’s sing-song babbling
lifts from crib to giggled hugs and undercover
hide-and-seek en route to the day’s first blood glucose test
followed by calculations of insulin and carbs,
breakfast planned to even out
the hours to come.
This child, so gentle and joyful of spirit
accepts each poked finger and prodded thigh
with grace, a lesson I cannot fail to notice sets
the warp of our day through which we weave
our patterned way, each hour
a new adventure.
From Grandma’s blocks we build
to hold what he loved at the aquarium –
octopus by the elevator climbing glass walls,
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Source: Snake Slayer or Civil Serpent?
Shelley Sackier- MY favourite sender-upper. I can’t tell her so, since she is clever enough to be closed to comments ( sensible writer she) so I’m telling you.
For Bank Holiday frivolity. Cheers.
A dream restarts the writing engine. The spark plug reset.
The Infected Splinter and a Dream
I have neglected the friends who do read my posts for a long time. I have neglected writing anything much for months. Before Donald Trump gave me every reason to stop I felt that words of any kind were inadequate, worse, self-indulgent. Instead of writing I tossed from pillar to pillar (no post) leaving a wake of wrappers, half eaten programmes that would find me ten thousand readers, book funnel avenues that would hook and land and lead to the sunny uplands of clamouring fans thirsty for my next succulent offering. All the writing I did was the writing of cheques to pay for dead-cert best sellers.
But I have passed some of that time reading other people’s posts. Many expressed my own despair (so endorsed no need to add to them) and apart from the successful nose- to-the-scent success stories of the series, the sequels, the genre specific authors, they exuded a waft of artificial hype. So many WRITERS chasing too few READERS, and many of those writers lamenting that their raison d’etre had evaporated in blockage, depression etc. In essence the unspoken question seems to be ‘why can’t I accept failure and give up?’ I have repeated that mantra for years. I am trying to detect a labyrinthine escape route from boring myself.
Following an arresting dream ( which I will come to) I realised that all this inflamed despair stems from an infected splinter; the splinter of hope. None of us can tweezer it out. When we try it is like getting a ball from a dog…it just moves further away and dares you to try. It now strikes me that there is an implied hypocrisy in the professed inflammation of despair. If we believed in it and knew we would not find readers, then the lack of them should cause no grief, no? We could either give up (if despair was as total as we pretend) or we could carry on regardless without disappointment, shaping beautiful stories for a single friend.
That’s my thought for the day.
What has greatly added to my particular disillusionment was being introduced to two new Amazon stratagems. The first was the discovery that writers who put books on Amazon unlimited will get increased payment upgrades per page depending on their twitter follower count ( Facebook too I think). So go to work on behalf of Amazon befriending , liking and licking, (all you writers prepared to stuff its Christmas stocking), and you’ll be rewarded! The other one was a new service by which you can feed in your book idea before you write it, through a narrow slot and see if it emerges to fly. So write books that Amazon can sell and don’t bother with any other kinds of book!
Now rolling that around my particular situation and I come out like coffee grains from a grinder. Which brings me back to my forays into the treadmill of marketing. All are based on what you write being ‘useful’ ( non-fiction) or entertaining ( fiction a la genre). Which is why I have flirted (pointlessly) with approaching agents- pointlessly because there is no money in the literary places I lurk. Not one of my books is an indicator of any other. So what started as a personal attempt to accept my limitations has now turned into social commentary. There has never been a better time to be a writer? Provided…….You are Neil Gaiman, and young. I used to think it was my advanced age but now I know that is neither a reason or an excuse.
I promised you a dream which has consolidated something, and those of you who help out with dreams may see what I have not. It was an admonishing dream.
I was in a crowded and chaotic kitchen, sitting at a nice scrubbed table, talking to friends, listening to snatches, pots a-boiling, carrots a-chopping, thinking that order might have given some serenity, but maybe at a cost of spontaneity. My daughter entered through a distant door carrying something in a cloth between two hands. It looked like a grapefruit. She pushed it at me across the table and I saw it was a very tiny baby. I sort of took it from her, leaving it on the table, but went on talking to neighbours for some time. They drifted away and suddenly I remembered the baby I had neglected and with a rush of horror I saw it had melted. On the table was just a puddle of milk, dripping over the edge onto the floor! I woke
My first thought was a cliché.’ No use crying over spilt milk’
I know what I think this meant (and it is not hard) but I would value your impressions, observations and remedies?
All I can say is I am grateful to the grapefruit for prompting this rather odd post. You never know I might keep at it. A dream prompted my last book. I wrote it in the dream/examination, and handed it in and woke up. I have just been brave and asked a few to read, perhaps that spilt milk might yet be drunk by a cat- there is a cat character in the book, an important cat.
Source: The Grave Danger of Being Silent
Another of Shelley’s skim off the cream, place to one side, and enjoy with Amaretti biscuits and chocolate sauce posts.
She is closed to comments or even ‘hang-on-a-second’ raised fingers.
Stimulated by a post from Nicholas Rossis that disabused me ( I thought this idea had been original) instead I offer a short short story for your delectation! A collection soon due. Free taste.
Yesterday was my best Valentine ever; the day when I, nobody from nowhere, knew that God loved me. You can keep your red roses. Usually on Wednesdays I have two hours to meself, seeing as how Tuesdays is the night Dad spends with his bit-on-the-side and comes in late. After I open up the factory I makes a cafetière of decent coffee and I sets out some fresh scones or rock cakes, and then I open up me magazine and usually have two hours fancying a new hairdo or planning a recipe with duck. I love duck.
Not this one. I didn’t have to wait for Dad to appear and start complaining that I ought to at least look busy.
‘Can’t have my own daughter slacking, sets a bad example’ He always says that and I always takes no notice.
So it was the last thing I expected when, instead of Dad, his Land Rover spat through the gravel and hand-braked like a rally stop in front of the stores. Who do I mean? Well that’s the something! It were Heil Hitler Walthorpe hisself. Not his manager, not his driver, but Lord High-an-Mighty at the wheel with his farm hand in the back holding on for dear life. He got out, slammed the door and stood waiting for service like we was his herd of cows and would come running. He’s a right arrogant git in his combat trousers trying to look like a man of the people, when everybody knows he inherited his millions from Daddy who made it selling hardware from the back of a van in some concrete Midlands jungle…
He seemed in a hurry. Well I wasn’t, so I took me coffee with me and strolled across the yard.
‘Your father, where is he?’ No good morning, how are you, nice day.
‘He could be anywhere’ I says, ‘Maybe up at mother’s, maybe down at Mole Valley…’
‘Well fetch someone, will you.’ I obviously wasn’t a Someone.
‘Righty ho’ I says.
‘And don’t say righty ho, just do it’
That’s the sort he is. If I hadn’t had the coffee I might of given ee the Nazi salute with me finger under me nose and practised me goose-step back across… He just stood watching me like I was a mangy dog, too old to bark.
I found Marcia doing her cuticles in the cloakroom and told her that Walthorpe wanted something from the stores so she’d better take the keys. She looked right smug to be doing the honours; bustled out with that person-of-importance clip-clop she puts on. Marcia is Dad’s PA, she thinks she’s a cut above and she resents that Ed, me brother, and me will inherit the farm when she is pensioned off. She will have to take her see-through blouses and her shorthand with her.
I watched her open up and then, blow me, Walthorpe and the farm boy start throwing all the metal cheese moulds into the back of the Land Rover like they was due for scrap, sounded like a harrow chewing barbed wire. Anyway they moulds had only been made last month. Just then Dad arrives and I see him trying to talk to Walthorpe who ignores him. Then he points to the stores and Dad nods. Then he drives off with the same mad frenzy. Dad tells Marcia to lock up and he comes in looking real puzzled.
‘What’s going on, what did he say?’
‘Not much. Just that we’re not to make any more of those heart-shaped cheeses’
‘Well you never wanted to make them anyway. You should be pleased’
I had never thought dad should get involved with that rubbish. The formula was crap, the milk organic but only just, and the method? Well let’s just say MacDonalds would not have batted an eye. They could’ve made it in their sleep. I mean who in their right mind would want to give their Valentine a plastic cheese looking like raw liver?
‘Don’t get sarky with me girl. You know why I agreed to it. It was just to keep the work-force on through January instead of laying them off till March. Now I’m going to have to pay compensation for breaking their short contracts…’
‘Didn’t you tell him that?’
‘Some things, girl, you just have to let go. I knew I shouldn’t trust him…I was a fool to ignore it’
‘What’s he planning to do with they moulds?’
‘Scrap, he said’
A week earlier we’d had six hundred of they cheeses stacked like outsize German Lebkuchen waiting for custom. It weren’t no Christmas. It was horrible seeing those swollen hearts sweating in the dark at the back of the stores, not like Dad at all. We make good Cheddar and we get lots of prizes at agricultural shows. I couldn’t really understand why he’d agreed to put our reputation on the line with a short order for Johnny Walthorpe. The only good thing was that although Dad had agreed to make them, he said no to marketing or distribution; so maybe the damage was done. Nobody would need to know we’d had anything to do with them. All but eight had already gone.
On the whole I think Dad was relieved, but worried that he couldn’t get a handle on the why’s and wherefore’s. Dad deals with real farmers like hisself, not these tax-loss Johnnies whose farms are left to rot while their Statelys are rebuilt, and their driveways re-surfaced. Walthorpe had set up his so called ‘vintage organic’ cheese five minutes after his farm was registered ‘organic’. How do you get both vintage and organic that way? No wonder he sealed it in plastic after it was punched out with cookie cutters like fat biscuits. A cheese that can’t breathe, can’t age. Dad had to watch Walthorpe’s fleet of trucks bustlin about the country with ‘vintage organic’ written everywhere, when he’s spent his life trying to improve already good real cheese.
Walthorpe wasn’t the sort Dad could talk to. He couldn’t ask the proper questions, like ‘why have you changed your mind’ but had to content hisself with the ‘what’s and when’s’ instead. Dad may be slow but he’s used to being in charge, understanding things. I made him a fresh cafetière and put out a rock cake as well. You know what they say about a man and his stomach.
What I couldn’t understand was why Walthorpe had cancelled the operation just after the whole consignment had been bought. Didn’t make sense. We’d had a sudden phone call from the other side of the County and told they had to be delivered that same day, which was last Friday. Seeing as Valentine’s Day was yesterday that figured and Joel, the driver, had put on a clean shirt and managed to take the whole afternoon off, and stretch the delivery into Saturday when he was due to be off anyway. I had a hunch that the two was connected. So I went to find Joel. He didn’t seem too co-operative but went on cleaning his nails with a screwdriver, not looking up.
‘Joel, where did you take that consignment of hearts?’
‘Bridgewater way, leastwise in that direction…’
‘Look Joel I’m not bothered about the time it took, or what lay-by you parked in to snog Tracey just say where exactly…’
‘Cherington Manor first, then on from there… Cherington unloaded ninety two himself, and then gave me fifty quid to take the rest to Butlin’s Holiday camp. He said I was to say they was a gift for their Valentines Day bash from a nonymous well-wisher…He also told me about a place, St Valentin, where heart cheeses has allays bin…intrestin’ bloke Cherington…’
‘Lord Cherington?’ I could hardly believe it.
‘Yup’ No wonder Joel had kept it dark. Fifty quid bonus on Dad’s time was out-of-order. Still, we could think about that later.
This was big time fishy. You have to realise that Cherington is the cat’s pyjamas when it comes to cheese. He never has to exhibit. His entire output goes to the Palace, or to Fortnum’s. His is the real crème brulée. He even imports the linen from France to wrap the truckles and ages it for five years. What would Cherington want with a load of plastic cheese tasting like soap?
I decided not to tell Dad about Lord Cherington. It was hard enough that his Lordship knew who had made that cheese, let alone that the only time we had any contact with him was through jumped-up Johnny Walthorpe. Cherington is Dad’s God on two counts; first when it comes to cheese, and second on the Countryside Alliance. He reckons Cherington is one of the few gentry who understand country ways.
I need not have bothered keeping stumm.
That evening it was in all the papers; our bleedin’ cheese, worldwide! When we turned on the telly Dad went white. To start with he thought it was a plant to get him banged up for being so mouthy on the Countryside Alliance. It was much worse than that. It was first in the six o’clock headlines.
‘Today, both Houses of Parliament were evacuated due to a bomb scare.’
It turns out that heart-shaped ‘bombs’ had been left first thing outside MP’s offices in the House of Commons. Major panic! No wonder Walthorpe was going to destroy the evidence…There was pictures of all they politicians being shepherded out, and the Lords being escorted like a crocodile of vintage schoolboys across the bridge, with their fur and flaming gowns a’flyin. The Japanese tourists were snappin’ away while the bomb squad was shunting them back. There was serious interviews of MP’s nodding in that know-it-all way, sayin it was clearly an Al Quaeda plot because they timed it for Prime Minister’s Questions, being Wednesday… Bingo to the British Government.
Then someone reckoned that Al Quaeda had got together with the Mafia (it being the anniversary of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre) and there was pictures of the police in Palermo rounding up every Mustapha wid a moustacha…..with helicopters hovering…
Of course I knew it had to be Cherington and I was sure it was supposed to be a joke, a political joke; ninety two cheeses, ninety two hereditary peers. Work it out. Come to that, some of the MP’s seemed miffed they wasn’t important enough to get a personal heart-shaped explosive.
The bomb squad likewise took it po-faced. They marched off all the cheeses and x-rayed and scanned and reckoned by the weight it was semtex; but they couldn’t find no detonators. They did a controlled explosion on one and everyone agreed it tasted like semtex. Anyway one swallow does not make a summer so they took the lot off to a disused quarry and blew them up. At this point I realised Dad was crying… tears of laughter.
‘If they’re so keen on re-cycling why didn’t they use them to demolish the Dome’ he says. I decided not to tell him there were still 500 unaccounted for via the Butlin’s knees-up.
They are still running around trying to decide how the terrorists got into Parliament and why they chose the people they did. After they let them all back in they found three more under the Dispatch box. ‘ Sorry fellas, out again’ Then there’s Blair tryin to find his emergency face and swingin between ‘ Churchill’ and ‘Plum scared,’ and stroking his tie the way he does for the cameras, like it was a ferret. Loved it! Much better than Question Time.
You know the best bit of all, the hug yourself forever bit? I, Emmy Johnson, who yesterday wasn’t even a somebody, is the only person in the Country that knows the recipe. The last cherry on the top was added after.
In today’s local paper there’s a small paragraph which is going to put egg on everyone’s face. It says that Butlin’s have started this new tradition, the anti-Valentine Party…you send a present to the person you hate most in the entire world (hate being more common than love they say). All they cheeses were given out to start the ball rolling. No wonder some got three. Cherington must have got the intelligence early somehow. I can’t decide whether to show it to Dad. Best not probably; less he knows, less he’ll hang hisself. He’d never be able to keep it quiet.
No wonder Lord Cherington is God; wiping the smile off the Prime Minister and doing in the scam of the local Ponce. That’s what dad calls economy of effort, that is.
What I must do is get me brother Ed (he’s the local post-man) to drop they last eight at the Grange. He could drop them in a sack by the kitchen door. Better still, I’ll put a candle in the middle of each and leave a flickering line to Walthorpe’s oak portal after dark. I’ll light up his ‘Fetch someone!’ He’ll never know which local nobody might be a Somebody. It’s put paid to the ‘vintage organic’ that’s for sure.
My sweet secret is like chocolate on me tongue.
IMage By Myrabella – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6814083
Taken from Asymptote Journal. Quite wonderful poems in their use of searing language to speak of the unspeakable…. ( translated from the Arabic by Yasmine Haj)
Do Not Believe Me Were I to Talk to You of War
War preoccupies me. But I’m ashamed to write about it. I flagellate my metaphors then implore them. Pain makes me depict a bullet, after which I recede into depicting an emotional slap. I disembowel the words and the harakiri victims awake, all of them, and disembowel me.
Do not believe me were I to talk to you of war, because when I spoke of blood, I was drinking coffee, when I spoke of graves, I was picking yellow daisies in Marj Ibn Amer, when I described the murderers, I was listening to my friends’ giggles, and when I wrote about a burnt theatre in Aleppo, I was standing before you in an air-conditioned one.
Do not believe me were I to talk to you of war. Because each time I bombarded the city streets in a poem, the concrete would recline, the lamps would sway towards it, and the prophets would pass by in peace.
Whenever I imagined my father’s skin flayed in it, I could still touch him afterwards, safe and sound, with an embrace. And whenever I heard my mother’s wailing, she would lull me to sleep with an old song, and I would sleep like a baby.
But dreams are open cheques
Signed by a Hourani woman whose….Read More
I have always been fascinated by Gibran’s ‘source’. The chapters in The Prophet speak so universally, and have done for decades across all cultures, that one might assume his ‘Road to Damascus’ had been a detached spiritual encounter. Certainly the tone of his pronouncements, the universally loved sage, drenched in light, implied that.
Instead today, thanks to Brain Pickings and Maria Popova I find that it was the deepest personal passion, but that passion sacrificed by the object of it, ( Mary Elizabeth Haskell) for his own greater fulfillment and the eternal preservation of what they both ensured would stretch beyond them. I have always believed that love denied the narrower road, would spread above , and over all, in creative expression for love has to be expressed.
Since this site is entitled ‘Letters of Love’ it seemed imperative to share this quite literal exchange of letters. You can read the full article here:
A similar encounter for Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freemen was similarly described in a previous post on Brain Pickings. It is, for me, wonderful to encounter such confirmations of the explosive creativity of personal longing, because ‘love’ is the universal Creator, and so often diminished to ‘happiness’ or ‘fulfillment’ rather than the Souls’ search for Self.
This re-discovered interview merits re-exposure. Particularly in te light of a recent review ( of another book by a different author) rejected by Amazon ( without clarifying any reason) which may well have been this post! Tragic that the little one has to offer ( merely a spontaneous response) is now suspect because the world is full of people who abuse the liberty of reviewing for spurious reasons! It was good to rediscover this!
This post was sparked by a stimulating and taxing interview Philippa Rees conducted with the writer Vivienne Tuffnell The interview attempts to re-define the gulf between writers and readers in the way commercial algorithms define values for readers, blanking out the appearance of new green shoots.
This disrupted my sleep, in addition to lots of other stuff going on, so I tried stepping back for a wider perspective. No answers, only a few muddled reflections …
My generation, whose early years were without TV, needed to adjust to rapid periods of change, particularly the change from analogue to digital recording, – two entirely different metaphors. The true significance of this shift has not yet been absorbed by the general public. In a dissertation during a sabbatical film degree as a mature student in the mid-nineties, I quoted Jean Baudrillard who saw the forced silence of the masses no…
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