Friday 30 April 2021

To the scald a salve after 'Snake' by D.H. Lawrence

 by Maura Barrett


 By ancient stone walls in stolen away places, clandestine. Shadows splayed on limestone towers; sunlight sparkled on the Boulick stream. He a Pharos, to which I was drawn, lured by the corona of his eclipse. He liked the reflection, how it shimmered 'on a hot, hot day'. My vessel glides serene, assured, rose tresses in my wake. He rested a soft-cover book against the sill of a stone arch and cited verses. I consumed his stance; his mystery and I inhaled the breath that he exhaled and tingled alive. Listened and 'like a second comer' waited. His foot rested on 'a fissure in the earth-wall' solid. High above in a cloudless sky, a pair of swallows spiralled in elegance.

           'Was it perversity that I longed to talk to him? Was it humility, to feel so honoured? I felt so honoured.' There was something in how he held his wrist, in how his unbuttoned shirt sleeve revealed a filigree of capillaries and soft skin. There was something too in how he fingered his hair shyly, unconsciously, his eyes gentle and cordial, noble yet mischievous. The literature or rather his delivery of the poem, enticed me like fairy music. Perhaps he was the King of the Sidhe, for what was in him was potent and primal, 'earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth.'

           There was between us a channel of ionised air charged with a current that fizzed. I knew it in an instant. Knew by the tone in his voice when he spoke with me in the mill 'and mused a moment', by how he leant his hand against the wall behind me and 'looked at me vaguely', and by the scent of him. Lightning strikes aged walls and grounded and all as I was, it scorched me. Then there was the hand of providence, meeting in unexpected places, reaching for the same book, the hook of history, the love of words. And so began my enchantment.

           Trifling with the fairies is never wise. I of all people knew this and we had promises to keep. So I donned my warp shield and kept it in check and he shrouded me in a woollen brat. Once he morphed into a horned stag and I was very nearly lost. I had to dig deep, source the strength from the core of me, unleash those uncharted waters by way of defence. Each time I quelled it, it depleted my resolve. 'And voices in me said, if you were a man you would take a stick and break him now'. The woman in me, responded to the man in him 'and yet those voices' and the contradiction seared me. 'But must I confess how I liked him, how glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough.'

          So that is how we went on, surviving intact somewhere in the midst of contradiction. 'And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, but even so, honoured still more that he should seek my hospitality from out the dark door of the secret earth'. Time mulled along. Catastrophes happened, lives changed. I hid from his gaze a while, seeking refuge in the shade. Wondrous things happened and in the joys we celebrated, ever mindful, ever careful, ever drawn. And in those times he quenched his thirst 'he drank enough and lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken' and I imbibed in the honour of keeping that pitcher replenished. Paradoxically the more he consumed the more intoxicated I became. Then he faced the heart of darkness 'and looked around like a God, unseeing, into the air, and slowly turned his head' and left me.

          'A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole, deliberately going into the blackness' found a home in me. 'And I thought of the albatross and I wished he would come back' and a spell later he did, Fate sending out her tendrils to snare us. By more ancient walls on the Shannon shore, I invoked the Goddess Sionna in her wisdom as my guide. My well spring was as arid as the deserts of the heart of darkness, and I could divine no more. She sent us wine and she sent us sunlight and she sent us the hook of history.

          Somewhere on that quest, on the boundary of a townland we crossed a line and 'suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste writhed like lightning, and was gone.' Being slighted made me harsh and I spat curses in his wake. It was a fury begot in rejection and rancour and I banished the Sun Deity, who cited me verses,

         “Don't contact me ever again!'

I stomped away intact; my flag of righteous victory unfurled trailed after me. Joan of Arc, Bodecia, Maeve, 'and immediately I regretted it, I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!' I despised myself and the voices. The flames followed, licking, searing, scorching. I curled the flag around me, wounded and hurt and settled into a mire of anger, a morass so laden and shrouded in mists of wrath that no sun would pierce it. He was gone 'pacified, and thankless' and good riddance.

          Until thirty moons on, the night of a super moon eclipse, when planet and satellite and sun tug and play light against shadow. The Moon in her dance exudes sapience. The Earth tilts in homage and the Sun's fire soothes not seers, balms are born. At once 'he seemed to me again like a king, like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld, now due to be crowned again.'

          Somewhere by a window in a Celtic night, a woman sits, moon shadows on a freckled face, rose hair soft on her back. She looks into the night, and wonders. She marvels at how light it feels to have laid down the burden of resentment, the power of hate. Her scald is salved. She wishes him well and sends him good thoughts to waft on his crinkled face in gentleness and in light and in love, penetrating the heart of darkness where she thinks he might be. She hopes that on the turn of the axis mundi that they might reach him, on this special night.

 ‘And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords of life. And I have something to expiate: A pettiness.’

About the author 

Maura Barrett is an emerging Irish writer who grew up in the Comeragh Mountains. She believes that there is a language in landscape that seeps out of her and fires her imagination. It is sprinkled with metaphor; the ordinary, everyday event trickles out and tells the deeper story. 

Thursday 29 April 2021

Midnight Marauders


by RV



Moonlight poured through the windows and onto the canvases. Lofty ceilings hoisted up by arches of marble protected the artwork. The wing of the museum could have been mistaken for a painting itself. The only thing breaking the still of the hall were the paintings themselves. Sleeping portraits danced. Beautiful landscapes rustled with the wind. The sounds of majestic horses trotting through a stream filled the room. The worlds on each canvas came to life when nothing alive was around to witness.

A door creaked and in an instant they froze.

A chubby security guard sauntered through the corridor whistling off key. His footsteps echoed through the hall slowly getting more and more distant from the canvases. As soon as the chubby guard was out of earshot, the canvases woke again.

Two shadowy figures darted into the room and near instantly the paintings went still.

“Did you hear that?” said Al.

“Hear what?” said Bill.


“Horses? We are in a museum you goddamn idiot. Where the hell do you see any horses?”

“Why would I make that up?

“Well, maybe, it’s coming from the paintings.”

“Don’t mock me.”

“Well, then don’t talk like a fucking idiot when we are working, Al. I’m going to go grab the Westmyer in the other room remember don’t touch any with the gold frames those will set off the silent alarm. Grab at least two canvases and meet me back at the drop zone,” said the bigger of the two men. “Got it?”

            “Got it,” said Al.

            As soon as confirmation was made, the burly burglar crept out of the hall, leaving Al alone. Al didn’t look like a burglar. His face had a soft expression his eyes were warm, but his skin was rough. He was tall and lean, not fit for brute work but had obviously done enough of it. He was dressed in black from head to toe however his shirt was much too big for him and his pant leg only went down to his ankles. He had on black gloves and a black ski mask rested on the top of his head.

            Al strolled through the hall, past the canvases as if time was not a constraint. He came up on the horses and the stream, paused, and went to keep walking. As he walked away, the horse canvas came to life. He spun around and the galloping stopped. His face had a look of utter disbelief. His eyebrows raised as he peered over his shoulder.

“The fucks going on?” he said.

The hall was silent.

He turned toward the canvas and paced back slowly to assess the situation.  

The horses drank from the stream birds chirped.

Standing directly in front of the painting, Al stared in awe.

The two horses stomped around the creek as sun came down through the leaves of the tall trees and bounced off the stream.

            Al kept creeping closer and closer to the painting until he was face to face with the canvas. He put his hand on the outside of the frame to position himself better. As he did this, the horses looked up spooked the wind whistled through the clearing. The horses turned and galloped away.

In the hall one of the doors swung open. Security guards rushed in.

“Put your hands where I can see them,” yelled a guard with his weapon raised.

Attempting to face the guards his hand shifted and went through the painting as if the canvas had gone from a solid to liquid. This threw him off balance and as a result Al fell right through the painting, landing on the ground hard.

As he pried open his eyes, a bright light blinded him. Slowly, yellows and greens faded in with the white until the picture became clear. Al sat himself up against a tree. He clenched his ribcage as if the fall had busted one or two. By the expression on his face, it was obvious he started to recognize his surroundings, but he could not believe his eyes. The stream he watched the horses drink from glistened in front of him.  “This isn’t real,” Al said.  He looked around and tried pushing himself up with the tree at his back. He started to limp away around the stream. “Where the fuck am I?” he said in pain.

“I think you already know the answer to that question,” said an elderly voice from behind him.

Al’s face went white and as he hobbled to get a look at the voice. A short but stocky old man sat on a ledge on roots and stones behind Al.

“Am I dead?” asked Al.

“How am I supposed to answer that question for you, boy?

Al sat there in disbelief.

“You are here, now aren’t you?”

Al nodded.

“Then that’s the only place you can be,” said the old man. The old man grabbed the whittled cane sitting to his left and pulled himself up. Walking in the opposite direction of Al. “I thought the same thing when I fell through but later, I realized I was just meant to be here.” 

About the author 

RV or Jacob Renard-VerVoort for long is a stand up comedian in the Orlando area who is studying creative writing at Full Sail University.








Wednesday 28 April 2021



by Judith Skilleter

a large cup of milky coffee


She is Jennifer, never Jenny, never Jen. She lives on her own and is quite Okay with that. In fact her whole life has been solitary. She was the only child born to elderly parents, dad in his 50’s, mum in her mid-40’s who, compared to other mums and dads, seemed very old. But Jennifer never felt she had missed out by not having brothers and sisters or having elderly parents. It was how it was; she adored her mum and dad and those feelings were reciprocated a thousand fold and that was Okay.

There were no uncles or aunts and cousins either. Both Jennifer’s mum and dad came from families where their generation died young, never married or were childless. But again Jennifer wasn’t bothered by not having an extended family. It was what it was and that was Okay.

I have to say that Jennifer wasn’t entirely isolated with her mum and dad all her life. She had friends at school, she had had boyfriends and had even had sex once or twice. But the boyfriends and the sex were a long time ago as were the friends. By the time Jennifer reached 18 years the health of both her parents took a dive. They needed not quite 24 hour care - but nearly. Jennifer could not bear the thought of both or either going into residential or nursing care, she could not bear the thought of others looking after her adored and adoring parents, and she could not bear the thought of their threesome being destroyed. So she put her life on hold. Successful university applications were put on hold, jobs were put on hold, her social life was put on hold and friends disappeared to further their education in other towns. Jennifer became her parents’ full time carer. It was what it was and that was Okay

Jennifer’s family was not short of cash: getting by each week and paying the bills had never been a problem. Jennifer’s dad had had a good job followed by a good pension and inheritances from their many single elderly relatives and shrewd investments meant that Jennifer also did not need to work. They did not have an extravagant lifestyle and the family’s bank balance seemed to increase every month instead of decreasing.

But Jennifer is now approaching her 40th birthday. Her parents died fairly recently within weeks of each other. They both died at home in comfort and in peace and Jennifer has no regrets, she could have done no more for them and she felt that they died at the right time before pain and  dementia became too much of an issue. She misses them and still cries herself to sleep from time to time but by and large it was what it was and it was Okay.

As a 40th birthday treat Jennifer decided to go to Paris for the day. She went to London the night before her planned trip, stayed in a hotel near St Pancras and caught the first Eurostar the following morning to Paris. She had a passport but it had not been much used in recent years. The last time it was dusted off was her 21st birthday celebration when she and her mum and dad caught the ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge. They had a few days wandering, very slowly, her mum by this time was in a wheelchair, round Bruges. They admired the architecture and ate chocolate and enjoyed chips with mayonnaise in the Markt. Jennifer, after her mum and dad insisted, did a canal boat trip by herself as getting the wheelchair down onto the canal boat would not have been possible. It was a successful arrangement. Jennifer enjoyed a trip on her own where she did not have to look out for others and her mum and dad enjoyed a cold Belgian beer at a nearby pub while they waited for her to return. As for Jennifer she was surprised at this new world she briefly glimpsed that did not have the emotional and physical care of others as a prerequisite. She was surprised how much she enjoyed it and felt very guilty. It was a brief and rare glimpse of another world out there.

As a treat she travelled to Paris on Eurostar first class. She so enjoyed seeing Kent and Northern France whizz by; this other world out there that she have never explored and being pampered by Eurostar staff was wonderful.

Jennifer’s day was carefully planned. Her first stop would be a café near La Gare du Nord where she would take in the air and enjoy a café grand crème and a croissant.  She found the perfect café, with glass floor to ceiling windows, dark red paintwork on the outside and round tables and chairs that were a combination of wickerwork and wood. She felt she had seen this café many times on jigsaws. This made her briefly sad as jigsaw puzzles had been a source of enjoyment for both Jennifer and her parents during the many years they had together but she soon shook herself out of this lull and began to absorb and enjoy the surrounding wonderful Frenchness. She tried out her well-remembered A level French with the waiter and he replied in English. Was her Englishness that obvious she wondered?

Stop number 2 was Montmartre and she had planned to walk there. There were a lot of steps up and her legs grumbled so there were a number of stops on the way where she turned around and admired the growing view of Paris. At the top, standing in front of the church, she looked in amazement in every direction; the wonderful milky white church behind her and the fabulous and recognisable places in all the other directions including the Eiffel Tower and  Les Invalides, where Napoleon had been  buried. Napoleon was not her favourite historical character. This came to mind when she remembered her A level history over lunch - a delicious omelette and a glass of wine in a café similar to the one in the film Amelie. This had been a favourite film of Jennifer and her mum and Jennifer felt she had a lot in common with this French heroine. For Amelie too it had been what it had been but Jennifer wondered if it had really been Okay for her.

Her next destination was the River Seine but it was too far to walk there from Montmartre so Jennifer took a taxi. To her delight the traffic in Paris was heavy so she was able to sit back look at and enjoy everything closely and pretend she belonged, pretend she was a Parisian. Everything was a source of delight and Jennifer was so pleased that she had decided to visit this amazing place.

The taxi dropped her at the Musee d’Orsay but there were far too many tourists in the queue to tempt her to go in. It would be a waste of a lovely sunny day so Jennifer decided instead to walk along the river, the left bank, towards Notre Dame Cathedral, so recently and tragically almost destroyed by fire.

As she got there she noticed the scaffolding and the boarding protecting this marvellous creation from the outside world. The shape and fabulous stonework of what had once been and would once again an amazing place was hidden behind the determined work of rebuilding and recreating. The French were attempting to find again the lost wonder that had been Notre Dame but for the moment any newly created wonder and  any wonder that had been saved were hidden.

One day, for Notre Dame, there would be life again after this temporary enclosed world. A beautiful butterfly would appear from the chrysalis of scaffolding and board.

Jennifer burst into floods of quiet tears. Suddenly she was seeing her past through very different eyes. Her own very loving chrysalis of love and responsibility was no longer there and she could allow herself to imagine what might have been a very different life in her past.  For both Jennifer and Notre Dame much had been lost forever. It had been what it had been but perhaps her anticipated future was no longer Okay.

About the author 

Judith Skilleter is new to writing fiction after a long career in social work and teaching and her first children's novel will be published shortly. She is a Geordie, who settled in East Yorkshire 45 years ago and is married with nearly 3 grandchildren

Tuesday 27 April 2021

My Great-grandma is my Classmate


by Padmini Krishnan

hot chocolate


Judy jumped down from the bus; it was almost 8:30 am and she was just on time for the assembly. She noticed a decaying building next to the newly erected cellphone tower. She had never seen that old building before. A little confused, she ran to the school. Though the big gate of St. Mary’s School was open, there was no one on the school ground. Had everyone gone to the assembly? Judy tiptoed nervously to the prayer hall, but it was empty. Judy scratched her head, thinking. Her parents would have told her if it was a holiday. She took out her handphone. Should she call her mother? Judy gasped. She could not remember her parents’ phone numbers and the call log on her phone was empty.


Suddenly she heard somebody giggling. Judy ran out to find a couple of girls about her age, staring at her curiously. They had knee-length grey skirts and long grey socks and wore their hair in braids. The taller girl walked up to Judy. “Hello, I am Rosemary; I am the class leader of Grade 3.”


“Which school are you from?” gaped Judy, trying hard to work out which school had long grey skirts. “I am looking for my classmates.”


“St. Mary’s School”. The girl smiled.  “Our principal told us that a girl would come from the future. We were to make her welcome.”


Judy stared at them for a minute, “Am I from the future? Which year is this? My Principal didn’t tell me anything.”


The other girl who was examining Judy’s short hair and ankle socks said, “This is 1935. Our principal said that a girl from the twenty-first century would come the next day. We are to interact with her and find out things.”


Judy was angry that her principal had told her nothing. She would have worn her best dress and asked her grandma how to talk to kids from the 1930s. “Come on. Let us go to class. Our classmates are waiting for you.”


Judy shuffled uncomfortably as the third-grade girls stared at her. Some looked excited whereas the others seemed disappointed as though they were expecting something more. Mary and Judith peeped at the new girl from the last bench. They had been scared when their principal made a sudden announcement the day before that a girl from the future would visit their class. They did not understand how their classmates could take the news of a ‘future student’ so easily. Both of them had also noticed the big tower that stood on the left side of their old stock exchange building. Judith seemed fascinated by the steel tower. However, Mary thought the tower looked like a partially-constructed skeleton. Suddenly Mary exclaimed, “Judith, the new girl looks like you.”




Judith raised her head to look at Judy. Mary was right.


“Yes. If you cut your hair, you would look the same.”


Judy looked around. Her eyes stopped in the last row. A girl was bent over her book, apparently shy. She looked familiar. Judy walked over to her, “I am Judy,” she held out her hand. Judith looked up and Judy gasped. She felt as if she was looking into the mirror.


“My name is Judith,” the other girl said in a low voice.


“Can I sit near you?” asked Judy.


Judith made way for her and both the girls sat next to each other. Mary edged away to the corner of the desk, tears in her eyes. She felt betrayed that Judith no longer seemed scared of the new girl. They would be friends now that both of them looked like each other.


Judy found her surname in Judith’s note and sat quietly, thinking. Was it possible that this girl, Judith, was her great-grandma after whom she was named? She looked the same and shared her surname. Her great grandma had gone to St. Mary’s, her mom often told her. Judy looked at Judith, reluctantly. She did not want to tell Judith that she, Judy, was her great-grandchild for she did not know how the girl would take it.


Judith looked at Mary from the corner of her eyes. Mary tossed her head, staring at the first row, which was always unoccupied. Nobody sat there, until the teacher summoned them. In normal circumstances, Judith would have never befriended a new girl so soon, leave alone a girl from the future, but she somehow felt connected to this girl.


“Oh. I lost my Maths note. I wonder if I left it at home or lost it on the way,” a girl called Anita squealed from the third row.


“Why don’t you just call home and ask? “Judy handed her cellphone.


“What is it? A toy?” The girls crowded around her to take a better look.


“No. It is a handphone,” laughed Judy, “Did you notice the cellphone tower outside? You can call people, exchange text messages, play games and watch TV shows and movies.”


“Can we also watch talkies?” another girl asked.


“Are movies called talkies? I am sure you can.”


“Just imagine we don’t have to go to the theatre.” the girl reached out her hand and said, “Please, can I take a look?”


“Sure, but let us call Anita’s mom first,” Judy beckoned to Anita and asked for her number. The girls stared in wonder as Anita talked to her mom.


“Does it have no wires?”


“Will it give me electrocution?”


“Can we carry it anywhere?”


As Judy answered their questions, a hush fell in the room. The history teacher had come to the class. She had wavy hair, parted on the side. She welcomed Judy with a smile and asked her to take the front seat. Judy walked over followed by Judith. Mary glowered at this, moving to the center of the last bench.


They had a class about the First World War. Judy felt that it was a lot more detailed than her history classes. The history teacher also told them how they had to help with their family in these ‘tough’ times.


History was followed by Maths and Science. Science in 1935 seemed very easy. Judy was a little bored in Maths class as she had already mastered the problems a couple of years ago. The Maths teacher chatted with Judy. Her eyes widened when she learned that Judy knew multiplication and division. “What do they teach in secondary school, I wonder,” she said longingly. 


During recess, the other girls shared their food with the ‘new’ girl. Judy realized that she had never tasted anything as delicious as the homemade loaves Judith had brought. It was even better than the ones grandma made. After all, grandma would have learned from Judith.


Judith looked guiltily at Mary sulking by herself in a corner of the lunch hall. Mary had walked away earlier when Judith and Judy tried to talk to her. Judy looked a little amused as well as worried.


“Is she your best friend? She doesn’t like me?”


“Yes. She is scared of you as you are from the future. She wants me to be scared too.”


“But you are allowed to talk to whom you want.” Judy looked down as she said this. She remembered how possessive she had been when her best friend’s cousin had come for a visit.


“I would do the same if Mary befriends a new girl. But, I don’t want to miss this opportunity to be your friend. I will make it up to her later.” Judith smiled.


As the school came to an end that evening, Judith hugged Judy. The rest of the girls huddled around and bade her farewell. “It is your turn next. You have to travel to 2020.” Judy invited them to her world as tears threatened to trickle to her cheeks. The girls looked at her but did not reply which made Judy wonder if they knew something more than she did.


Judy felt drowsy as she walked to the bus stop. She turned back for a moment to see Mary walking over to a tearful Judith. They were going to be friends again, Judy thought with relief.


She was exhausted when she reached home. She ran to her grandma’s room with her schoolbag.


“You look so tired, dear,” her grandma said. “Your bag is heavy. Didn’t you eat your lunch?”


Judy felt that she had to share something important with her grandma, but her mind was blank.


It had something to do with homemade loaves and a girl, but what was it?


“I am tired, grandma. I think I will go to sleep.”


Grandma smiled suddenly; she looked years younger and her eyes sparkled.


“Goodnight, Judith.”


Judith?? Judy looked up in shock. Grandma knew. In a flash, Judy remembered everything that taken place throughout the day.


“Grandma, you knew everything. Why didn’t you tell me?”


“I am sorry, dear. Your school Principal called me in the morning and told me of the time travel. It takes place once in hundred years. It was to be a secret.”


“But, who told the Principal about the time travel? And why were those girls from the 1930s informed?” Judith looked cross.


“I have no answer to that, dear. The last time travel incident took place in 1921. A couple of boys from 1921 were selected to interact with school kids from 1830. The two boys were not informed too.”


Judy looked mollified as she processed this, “But why me, grandma?”


Grandma smiled at her, “You are the chosen one, Judy. I always knew that you are special.”


“But, Grandma…” Judy asked in a soft voice, “Didn’t you want to meet your mom? Weren’t you curious as to what she looked like as a child?”


“I badly wanted to go with you, Judy,” Grandma said, gently, “But rules are rules. You were the only one allowed to go.”


“Who makes these rules? The Principal?”


Grandma pointed to the sky, “It is beyond all of us.”


“God told the Principal to select me?”


 “Judy, it is getting late.”


“And who put that old building next to the cellphone tower?”


Grandma frowned. She never liked the idea of a cellphone tower so close to a school.


“I think I like the teachers from 1935 more than my teachers. They are so polite” Judy muttered, sleepily.


“Now I think you should go to sleep.” Grandma felt very tired all of a sudden.


Judy felt confused again as her head touched the pillow. Blissfully lost in her dreams of future, Judy completely forgot the occurrences of the day. 

About the author

Padmini Krishnan was raised in India and now resides in Singapore. She writes poetry and short stories. Her recent works have appeared in The Heron's Nest, Ariel Chart, Stonecrop Review, Page & Spine, and The Literary Yard. Her e-chapbook was published in Proletaria. She blogs at